Tag:Yunel Escobar
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
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Spring primer: Toronto Blue Jays



By Matt Snyder

The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.

Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch

Probable lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

Probable rotation
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan

Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen

Important bench players

OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel

Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.

Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.

Pessimistic outlook
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.

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Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:10 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Atlanta Braves

Elvis Andrus

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Braves have seemingly always believed in developing talent from within and occasionally supplementing from the outside. It's a formula that's worked for many years and has become a blueprint for most of baseball. However, that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes from time to time, and if you're a Braves fan, you probably already rue the date July 31, 2007, already. On that day, the Braves sent Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. The Rangers have been to two World Series since the trade and the Braves none.  

Lineup

1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Brian McCann, C
4. Chipper Jones, 3B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Freddie Freeman, 1B
7. Jason Heyward, CF
8. Kelly Johnson, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Brandon Beachy
4. Matt Harrison
5. Mike Minor

Bullpen

Closer - Craig Kimbrel
Set up - Neftali Feliz, Jonny Venters, Matt Belisle, Julio Teheran, Charlie Morton
Long - Bruce Chen

Notable Bench Players

Adam LaRoche, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Furcal, Yunel Escobar, Wilson Betemit, Andruw Jones, Jordan Schafer, Tyler Flowers, Brayan Pena and Garrett Jones give this team an acceptable backup at every spot on the diamond and more. 

What's Good?

The depth is incredible -- in the pitching staff and the position players. Even if Wainwright weren't available because of his injury, the team has Chen, Morton or the rookie Teheran to step in, or they could move Feliz to the rotation without even having to look anywhere else for its closer.

What's Not?

Heyward is playing out of position in center -- it was between him and Francoeur, so I went with Heyward. Other than that? Well, Wainwright might still have been injured and the rotation is young, but talented.

Comparison to real 2011

There's no chance this team would have missed the playoffs, like their real-life counterparts did. The rotation is solid (even without Wainwright) and would have given first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez more innings, meaning he may not have run Kimbrel and Venters into the ground. The lineup has enough punch to aid that goal. Does this team win the World Series? Maybe. The rotation isn't a postseason killer -- yet, but there's certainly potential.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:00 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Toronto Blue Jays

By Matt Snyder

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: Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 81-81, 4th place in AL East, 16 games back
Manager: John Farrell
Best hitter: Jose Bautista -- .302/.447/.608, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 R
Best pitcher: Ricky Romero -- 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 178 K, 225 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Jays played .500 ball pretty much throughout the season. By month, they were one game under .500, two over, three under, four over, two under and two under, respectively. That's the very definition of an average baseball team, but there are mitigating factors. Namely, the Jays are playing in the best division in baseball, trailing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. If you removed those three teams from the schedule, the Jays went 60-48. So you can argue this is already a very good baseball team caught in the wrong division. Of course, they aren't going to be getting out of the AL East anytime soon, so there's no use in thinking about what could be.

R.I.P. series
The good news is that the 2011 Jays saw lots of reasons for optimism moving forward. The young nucleus is really strong and has the potential to get even better with lots of good talent sitting in the minors. J.P. Arencibia proved a solid catcher and Brett Lawrie is a future star. Meanwhile, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar and Eric Thames, among others, are all 28 years old or younger. At 30, Jose Bautista still has several years of his prime left -- and 2011 was huge for the Blue Jays as they discovered 2010 wasn't a fluke for Bautista. He's a legitimate superstar and the face of the franchise, until Lawrie surpasses him in a few years.

2012 AUDIT

They're actually set up to have a legitimate shot at the division. The Yankees are aging and have pitching questions, the Rays have monetary issues, the Orioles aren't close yet and who knows what happens with the Red Sox? The Blue Jays will need steps forward from young players like Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil and either Colby Rasmus or Travis Snider. They also need to shore up the bullpen. The Blue Jays were ninth in the AL in bullpen ERA. Saves and blown saves are flawed stats, but 33 saves against 25 blown saves doesn't bode well in close games. Only the Astros had a worse save percentage in 2011. I'm not necessarily of the opinion that a team has to have one closer and always use him in save situations, because sometimes a three-run lead in the ninth doesn't need maximum protection, but each team should have one reliable guy to shut down the opposition and Toronto lacked that for most of the season.

The good news for the Blue Jays is that they are in position to increase the payroll, reportedly pretty significantly, in the next two seasons. That doesn't mean it's all happening now, but a big splash is coming.

FREE AGENTS

Jose Molina, C
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B/DH ($3.5 million club option)
Shawn Camp, RP
Frank Francisco, RP
Jon Rauch, RP ($3.75 million club option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • It's folly to spend big money on late-inning relievers for the most part. Mariano Rivera is a rare case. Most closers have a short shelf life. Thus, let Casey Janssen be the guy. He had a good season (2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.6 K/9) in 2011 and it's possible he sticks. In front of him, though, the Blue Jays need more. Jesse Litsch has the chance to develop into a good setup man and Joel Carreno showed great promise. If the Blue Jays still see a need to dip outside the organization here, Michael Wuertz and Chad Qualls could work if their respective options aren't picked up. Juan Cruz wasn't great in 2011, but he has good enough stuff to be an option as well. Maybe sign one veteran and plug the rest of the holes from within. It wouldn't be shocking to see the Blue Jays a major player for someone like Heath Bell, it just seems like their money would be best spent elsewhere (we'll get to that).
  • Keep an eye on Adeiny Hechavarria. The 22-year-old shortstop hit .389/.431/.537 in 25 Triple-A games in 2011 after promotion. Whenever he's ready, Yunel Escobar could be traded for more bullpen depth. 
  • By the same token, keep an eye on Travis D'Arnaud. The catching prospect hit .311 with 21 home runs and a .914 OPS in Double-A this season. The Blue Jays need to decide if they want Arencibia or d'Arnaud and eventually trade the other.
  • There's no need to make a big splash with starting pitching just yet. Romero is a clear ace, albeit an underrated one. Morrow is firmly planted in the rotation and Drabek will improve. The rotation can be filled out behind the three for now with some combination of Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan. Waiting in the wings are promising prospects Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchinson and Nestor Molina. With the starting pitching free agent class this season a bit underwhelming, the Jays can hold off another year before focusing on how to shore up the rotation -- and by then, maybe everyone pans out and they don't need to. But if they do, next season's free agent class could include the likes of Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and James Shields.
  • Let Encarnacion walk, go with Lind at DH and pursue Prince Fielder. I've said a lot of teams should pursue Fielder in these R.I.P.s, and that's because a lot of teams should pursue him. The Prince sweepstakes are wide open, as there are no real favorites. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Dodgers are likely out for various reasons. And who knows the Cubs' direction. That leaves the possibility open for teams like the Orioles, Nationals and Blue Jays to make a serious run. Can you imagine this Blue Jays offense with Bautista, Fielder and Lawrie together for the foreseeable future? The Blue Jays are really close to seriously competing in the AL East. They are a sleeping giant with tons of young talent on the rise and are ready to start spending some money. This signing would announce their presence with authority to the rest of baseball and take a huge step toward bringing a World Series title back to Canada.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 11:05 am
Edited on: July 27, 2011 3:28 pm
 

3-team deal sends Rasmus to Toronto


Colby Rasmus

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Edwin JacksonThe deal that sends Colby Rasmus from Tony La Russa's doghouse to Toronto is done, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It's a three-way deal that was set in motion when the Blue Jays sent starter Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen from the White Sox to Toronto for reliever Jason Frasor and minor-league reliever Zach Stewart. And then the Cardinals got involved. When the dust cleared, here's what went down:

Blue Jays get: OF Colby Rasmus, 3B/OF Mark Teahen, LHP Brian Tallet, RHP P.J. Walters
Cardinals get: RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Octavio Dotel, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, OF Corey Patterson, three players to be named, cash
White Sox get: RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Zach Stewart, LHP Trever Miller

A free agent after the season is Jackson, who is 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA in 19 starts for the White Sox. He was redundant in the White Sox rotation that had six starters for five spots.

The Cardinals have been shopping Rasmus. who has clashed with his manager and the rest of the coaching staff. Rasmus fits Alex Anthopoulos' M.O. -- young, talented and disgruntled. Last year, Anthopoulos acquired Braves problem child Yunel Escobar. St. Louis needed help in the rotation and bullpen and this move would address both needs. St. Louis also has Jon Jay to replace Rasmus. Jackson can slide into the rotation for the Cardinals, moving Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen, which is strengthened by the additions of the right-handed Dotel and lefty Rzepczynski.

Jason FrasorThe move makes sense for the White Sox, who need help in the bullpen. The right-handed Frasor has a 2.98 ERA in 42 1/3 innings this season, striking out 37 and walking 15. Frasor is a free agent after the season. 

Stewart was ranked No. 5 on the Blue Jays' Top 10 prospect list by Baseball America  before the season. The right-hander made his big-league debut earlier this year and started three games for the Blue Jays, going 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA. He's 5-5 with a 4.20 ERA at Double-A this season. He was the key piece in the Scott Rolen deal with the Reds two years ago.

FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal added in a tweet that the White Sox have also placed Jon Danks and Gavin Floyd on the market.

The White Sox also called up Alexander De Aza, who will start today in center field.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 14, 2011 8:34 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 12:59 am
 

Colon rocked by Jays

Bartolo Colon

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Has Bartolo Colon's magic worn off?

In his first start of the second half, the Yankee right-hander turned in a stinker, his second in a row. Colon gave up six hits and eight runs -- three earned -- in just 2/3 of an inning against the Blue Jays on Thursday before being replaced by Luis Ayala, who didn't help matters when he balked in a run to give Toronto a 9-0 lead after just one inning.

Colon walked two -- he was averaging just 2.2 per nine innings before Thursday --   and didn't strike out any, throwing 42 pitches to get two outs. Well, actually, he used fewer to get two outs, as seven straight Blue Jays reached with two outs before Colon was lifted.

Several Yankee beat writers speculated on Twitter that Colon could still be dealing with a hamstring injury, something that's not out of the realm of possibility. Colon went on the disabled list last month with a strained left hamstring and didn't look good coming off the mound to try to field two balls hit back at him by Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar -- not that the 38-year old, 265-pounder (that's his listed weight) ever looks too good coming off the mound.

After the game, Colon told reporters he had no pain, but was tentative on his hamstring.

"I feel good, but sometime I feel a little bit nervous," Colon told reporters through an interpreter, according to the New York Times. "I'm afraid to push."

After coming off the disabled list, Colon pitched six scoreless innings against the Mets on July 2 and then picked up the loss in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays that lifted his ERA from 2.88 to 3.20. Thursday's outing put his ERA at 3.47, with thanks to third baseman Eduardo Nunez's error on J.P. Arencibia's grounder that loaded the bases with two outs.

Now, two bad outings happen -- it's not exactly unheard of for a pitcher to struggle at this point of the season. But Colon wasn't in baseball last season and was 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA over his last four seasons before missing 2010, so it's natural to wonder if he will regress to the mean. The Yankees are covered; Phil Hughes has returned to the rotation (with his rediscovered fastball) and Ivan Nova is in the minors just in case someone else in the rotation goes down.

Even if all Colon does is give the Yankees a great first half (6-4, 3.20 ERA), he will have been one of the best signings of the season. (He signed a minor league contract in January that pays him just $900,000 this season.) For the Yankees, $150,000 a win is like ordering off of the dollar menu. Last year the team paid $1,095,238.10 for each of CC Sabathia's 21 wins and $1,650,00 for each of A.J. Burnett's 10 victories. Between Colon and Freddy Garcia's $1.5 million contract, the Yankees could have appeared on Extreme Couponing with their bargain hunting -- even if they were stocking up on boxed macaroni and cheese to put in the pantry at their beach house.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.







Posted on: July 11, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Killer lineup paces AL East All-Stars

Bautista
By Evan Brunell

2011 All-Star Game
SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL Central | NL West

This just in: The talent assembled in the AL East is really, really good.

Just take a gander at the lineup for the AL East All-Stars on your lower right. Where exactly is there a hole? It's so deep that Curtis Granderson leads off despite boasting the second-most homers in all of baseball, tied with teammate Mark Teixeira with 25 apiece behind only Jose Bautista. It's so deep that Yunel Escobar, who leads off for the Blue Jays, is slapped into the nine spot as a second leadoff man. No matter how good any of the other division all-stars are -- the NL East, NL Central and NL West, along with the AL counterparts in the Central and West -- there simply is no stopping the offensive barrage this lineup has.

Let's take a look at who makes up the lineup, plus whose strolling to the mound and getting a win virtually any time this team plays.

WietersC Matt Wieters, Orioles: Russell Martin got off to a strong start, but tailed off. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek have recovered from a lousy April, but April counts, plus the two split playing time. J.P. Arencibia is hitting .216/.280/.424. The Rays catchers... who are they, again? That leaves Wieters, who is hitting .267/.323/.410. Not great, but miles better than the average catcher is producing (.236/.305/.378 in the AL). He also receives strong marks for fielding and has caught 24 of a potential 54 would-be basestealers, a percentage that no other catcher is close to duplicating.

Gonzalez1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
: Freed from Petco Park, Gonzalez is annihilating pitchers in his first season with the Red Sox, rapping out a .352/.412/.589 line, slamming 17 home runs and contributing in virtually every facet of the game except stealing bases. And that's not necessary at all for Gonzalez to be one of the best players in the league.

Pedroia2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: Entering play Sunday, Pedroia and Cano were virtually the same hitter on offense, with a .373 mark in wOBA, essentially a better version of OPS, scaled to OBP. So why did Pedey get the nod? Because hitting's not the only part of the game -- fielding is. And there, Pedroia is flashing leather that could win the Gold Glove while Cano has slipped to being below average after showing progress in recent years.

ineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Curtis Granderson NYY CF
2 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B
3 Jose Bautista TOR RF
4 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1B
5 Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B
6 David Ortiz BOS DH
7 Ben Zobrist TB LF
8 Matt Wieters BAL C
9 Yunel Escobar TOR SS
Rodriguez3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: A-Rod may be 35 -- 36 later this month -- but that doesn't matter when throwing up a .295/.366/.485 mark in 344 plate appearances, showing that the possible eventual home-run king has plenty left in the tank. While Rodriguez just underwent the knife for knee surgery and will miss the next 4-6 weeks, he's still outproduced every third baseman in the division, which is no small feat with Kevin Youkilis in Boston and Evan Longoria down in Tampa. For those counting, A-Rod's 13 home runs bring him to a career 626.

EscobarSS Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays
:
In the midst of what can only be characterized nicely as a bad year in 2010, Escobar was traded to the Blue Jays among questions about his maturity and commitment to the game. I think Toronto's happy with his commitment, as the Cuban has a cool .292/.368/.441 line. Yes, the AL East is rather thin on productive shortstops (sorry, Derek Jeter), but Escobar would deserve this spot in almost any other division.

ZobristLF Ben Zobrist, Rays
:
One could argue that Zobrist has been the most valuable Ray this year. While he's been primarily playing second base, he's also been one of the best hitters with a .272/.359/.480 line, stealing 10 bases and being a fantastic fielder. Zobrist has moved around the diamond so much, playing every position over his career other than catcher. He only played one game in left last year of a career 24, but you make the All-Star team not just on hitting, not just on fielding, not just on stealing, but how valuable you are. And the ability for Zobrist to move around the diamond and play any position is ginormous.

GrandersonCF Curtis Granderson, Yankees
:
As mentioned above, Granderson trails only Jose Bautista in home runs, having knocked 25. He's leading off because... well, just look at that lineup. But it also helps that he's corrected his struggles against left-handers, boasts a .362 OBP and has swiped 15 bags on the year. When New York first acquired Granderson prior to the 2009 season, many felt he had at least one 40-homer season in store thanks to the short right-field porch in (new) Yankee Stadium. That didn't happen last year, but barring injury or a major dropoff, Granderson will reach that mark this season for the first time in his career.

BautistaRF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
(pictured): File under "Duh." Joey Bats has been the best player in baseball by far this year. That's what happens when you have an unconscionable (in the post-steroids era, that is) 31 home runs by the All-Star break with a sterling .468 OBP. If his .702 slugging percentage holds up, he will be the first player to crack that mark since Barry Bonds with .812 in 2004. And if you don't count Bonds because of his "alleged" steroids use -- nor Sammy Sosa, the last person is Larry Walker way back in 1999 with a .710 mark. But the dude had Coors Field helping him. So let's move on and bypass Mark McGwire too. You land on Jeff Bagwell's .720 way back in 1994. That's nearly two decades ago. Two other players also broke the .700 mark in '94 -- Frank Thomas with .720 and Albert Belle with .714. Before that, you have to trot all the way back to 1957 and Ted Williams' .731 mark. And that's why he bats third in this lineup.

OrtizDH David Ortiz, Red Sox
:
Surprisingly -- at least, surprisingly to those who jumped in a time machine from any time prior to this April -- this was an easy choice. Big Papi has raked all year and will represent the AL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday as the starting DH. Showing power not seen since 2007, the lefty has blasted 19 home runs in 343 plate appearances and has trimmed his strikeout rate to 13.4 percent. That's a career low for Ortiz, who is hitting .304/.391/.579 overall.

ShieldsSP James Shields, Rays
: Let's take a look at where James Shields ranks among all pitchers entering play Sunday. Seventh in innings pitched with 134. Ninth in ERA with a 2.47 mark and sixth in xFIP (ERA minus all the things pitchers aren't entirely responsible for, such as qualify of the defense behind him) with a 2.87 line. Ninth in K/BB ratio with a even 4.00 mark on the strength of 132 strikeouts against just 34 walks (one intentional). He's also tied with Roy Halladay in complete games with six. But we've got to put that in past tense, as Shields registered yet another complete game on Sunday, allowing just one unearned run to drop his ERA to 2.33. There's no question he belongs here.

RobertsonRP David Robertson, Yankees
:
Roberson has really come on this year and brings the heat with an average fastball velocity of 93 mph, pairing it with a curveball that befuddles batters. All that's handed him 56 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. We'll forgive his 23 walks given he's causing batters to windmill enough to power all of New York City, if not the state. Potentially Mariano Rivera's successor down the line, he has a 1.27 ERA on the year, with a more sane -- but still excellent -- 2.57 xFIP.

RiveraCL Mariano Rivera, Yankees
:
If this feature had been running since Rivera first became closer way back in 1997, he's probably working on a 15-year streak. Oh well, he'll settle for being the inaugural AL East closer. Rivera has had some triceps issues lately, but that hasn't prevented him from being his usual automatic self, racking up 22 saves with a 1.85 ERA -- his fourth straight season with an ERA under 2.00 and eighth of nine seasons.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Escobar signs extension with Blue Jays

By Matt Snyder

Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is having a solid offensive season, and he's been rewarded for it. The Blue Jays announced Sunday on their official Twitter feed that the 28 year old has signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension. The extension also includes club options for $5 million each for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Escobar wasn't set to be a free agent until 2014, but the deal eats up the remainder of his arbitration years, so that potential headache goes away for both sides.

Escobar was traded last season by the Braves to the Blue Jays as part of a five-player deal, but it was essentially a swap at shortstop for the Braves, as they chose to go with Alex Gonzalez. Escobar has come out and put up numbers this season, as he's hitting .281 with eight home runs, 42 runs and a .359 on-base percentage -- better than Gonzalez across the board, and Escobar is six years younger. Of course, by most measures Gonzalez is superior defensively. Regardless, Escobar seems to have found a home in Toronto, where he could be playing through 2015 under his new contract.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 9, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Pepper: Appreciating Manny's talent

Ramirez

By Evan Brunell

MORE MANNY: Stop me if you've heard this before, but Joe Posnanski has written a great story. And as you may have gathered by now, it's about Manny Ramirez. Here's Poz:

In my own romantic view of baseball and the world, I tended to see Manny as baseball’s Mozart — an often vile personality who did one thing so beautifully that you could not turn away. ... [I]t was clear that these tough old baseball men who had no respect at all for the way Ramirez treated the game were almost absurdly awed by his talent. They talked of games he would play with pitchers during spring training to set them up later in the year. They talked of adjustments he would make pitch-to-pitch that were so remarkable they could only compare it to chess grandmasters. Bill James ... insisted that Manny Ramirez would purposely get into 3-2 counts with a runner on first so that the runner would be on the move with the pitch and could then score on the double MannyBManny planned to hit.

There's no question that Manny's legacy is stained beyond repair. He's effectively failed three drug tests now, and we're all left to wonder just how long this has been going on. But despite steroids, Manny was a revelation. After all, how many people took steroids to get ahead and how many turned out like Manny? While there's no excuse for Ramirez's actions, it's always been clear that he had an incredible, uncanny ability to hit, both mentally and physically. Those talents come along once in a generation and while Ramirez deserves every ounce of blame for sullying his magical talent, you can't help but marvel at what he's done in the game. (Sports Illustrated)

OWNERS NARROWED: The Mets have narrowed their search for a new minority owner to eight candidates. "They are very happy with the numbers they're seeing. There's a range - the low end is marginally acceptable and the high end is very acceptable," a source said of the Wilpons, who are expected to bring in the new owner by July. (New York Daily News)

ROTATION QUESTIONS: Shaun Marcum seems as if he will be able to make his next start on Tuesday, so Marco Estrada appears ticketed for the bullpen. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

LOVING BASEBALL: The president of Harvard University takes to the newspaper pages to write about why she loves baseball. (Philly.com)

UP, UP AND AWAY: For the first time in his life, Brandon Belt's father stepped onto a plane, all to watch his son play a game in San Francisco. Darrell and wife live in Texas. (San Jose Mercury News)

PLANE SCARE: Tony La Russa and four players were flying to a charity event for La Russa when their plane's cabin failed to pressurize. The plane returned to the airport and did not climb above 10,000 feet. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ESCOBAR IMPROVING: Yunel Escobar is taking encouraging steps back from a mild concussion suffered Wednesday. He could be back in the lineup as early as Sunday, but new concussion guidelines means he must undergo a final round of testing Saturday before he can take the field. (MLB.com)

RAMOS WINS JOB: Wilson Ramos will become the full-time starting catcher in Washington as Ivan Rodriguez's role is phased back. Don't be surprised to see Pudge eventually traded. (MLB.com)

ALZHEIMER'S: No matter who you are or what you did, no one deserves the agony of Alzheimer's. Yet, that's what Stan Musial is battling as a new biography of Stan the Man details. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

NO MORE HAT FOR LONGORIA: The New Era commercial with Evan Longoria losing his hat was rather popular last season, but this year New Era is going forward with Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock and John Krasinski from The Office, creating another solid commercial. (Big League Stew)

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