Trade Notes: Cubs, Gallo, Tigers, Fulmer, Norris, Reyes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The draft is now over, which means teams will soon shift their focus to the trade deadline. The way things are going right now, the Yankees are much more likely to be sellers than buyers this summer. We’ll see what happens. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, both past and present.

Cubs scouting Yankees’ top relievers

According to George King, the Cubs had a scout at Yankee Stadium last week taking a look at New York’s big three relievers. The Cubbies already know those guys are awesome. They’re just doing their due diligence. Chicago could really use a shutdown lefty reliever, and I’m guessing they’d prefer Andrew Miller to Aroldis Chapman. Miller is under contract two more years and is willing to pitch in any role. Also, Theo Epstein and Miller have a connection dating back to their time with the Red Sox.

I’ve already written about the Cubs as a possible trade partner a few times (here and here) and something tells me I will end up writing about them a few more times before the trade deadline. As always, it’s going to come down to what Chicago is willing to give up in a trade. We’ve already heard they won’t trade Kyle Schwarber straight up for Miller. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were involved in trade rumors all offseason, so I imagine they’re available.

Rangers won’t trade Gallo for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Rangers are unwilling to trade third base masher Joey Gallo straight up for Miller, reports Jon Heyman. The Rangers have the best record (40-25) and worst bullpen ERA (5.12) in the AL, so yeah, a reliever or three figures to be on their trade deadline shipping list. It’s the glaring need right now. Manager Jeff Banister has to hold his breath each time he signals for a reliever.

Texas GM Jon Daniels has a history of making big moves at the trade deadline, and no team will have more bullpen help to offer than New York, so I expect to see a ton of Rangers-Yankees rumors these next few weeks. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will push for Jurickson Profar. They’ve had interest in him in the past, and it appears the Rangers have no place to play him. That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting, anyway.

(Fulmer)
(Fulmer)

Tigers were unwilling to part with top prospects for Miller

Prior to the Justin Wilson trade in December, the Yankees and Tigers were discussing a Miller trade, reports Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Detroit was not willing to move their top prospects, specifically righty Michael Fulmer and lefty Daniel Norris, so nothing happened. The Tigers then shifted their focus to Wilson, and that trade eventually came together.

This jibes with everything we heard about the Miller trade talks over the winter. The Yankees wanted high-end young pitching in return. They talked to the Astros about Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, for example. Fulmer and Norris are cut from a similar cloth. When it comes time to take offers for Miller again — I imagine the Yankees will listen even if they’re unwilling to sell — I assume they’ll again prioritize young power arms.

Yanks didn’t offer Mateo for Reyes

Remember a few weeks back when we heard the Yankees reportedly offered the Rockies shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo for Jorge Reyes last year? That didn’t pass the sniff test at all. As it turns out, the report was wrong. Tracy Ringolsby says the Yankees did not offer Mateo for Reyes, but Mateo’s name did come up during talks about a larger multi-player trade. That makes much more sense.

I wonder who else the Yankees could have been targeting in such a deal? The Rockies don’t exactly having pitching to spare — Jon Gray had not made his MLB debut at that point, and I can’t imagine Colorado was willing to trade him anyway — and the Yankees had no other massive needs since Reyes would have presumably replaced Stephen Drew at second. Maybe Mateo and stuff for Reyes and prospects? I have no idea what it could realistically be otherwise. Intrigue!

Yankeemetrics: It’s getting late early [April 25-27]

Nasty Nate (Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports Images)
Nasty Nate (Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports Images)

Near No-No Nate
Nathan Eovaldi‘s chance to make history fell just short on Monday night, but he still established a new level of pitching dominance for Yankee starters this season and helped the team start its road trip with a 3-1 win over the Rangers.

Eovaldi dominated the Rangers lineup, holding them hitless through six innings until Nomar Mazara led off the top of the seventh with a single. He finished with a stellar line of seven-plus innings, no runs, two hits, six strikeouts and one walk, becoming the lone Yankee starter to produce a scoreless outing in 2016. His Game Score of 77 also set a new benchmark for the rotation.

He consistently got ahead in the count, and while pitching with the advantage, was able to get hitters to chase his diving splitter out of the zone. The Rangers went 0-for-12 in at-bats ending in his split-fingered fastball; six of those outs were swinging strikeouts, and five were harmless grounders. His command of his slider was just as impressive: he threw 19 of them, 17 for strikes, and none resulted in a hit.

Although Eovaldi missed out on etching his name in the record books, he did put himself on a couple lists with some pretty good names. The last Yankee to throw at least seven shutout innings while giving up no more than two hits against the Rangers in Texas was Ron Guidry (1980). It was also his eighth straight game with at least six strikeouts, the longest streak by a Yankee right-hander since Roger Clemens in 2001.

From best to worst
One day after Eovaldi spun a gem, Luis Severino produced the exact opposite – a terrible performance in which he was pummeled by the Rangers’ bats and allowed twice as many runs (six) as innings pitched (three). Severino’s Game Score of 20 was the worst for any Yankee starter this season, and it was also the shortest outing for any pinstriped starter.

The Rangers ultimately cruised to a 10-1 victory, handing the Yankees their worst loss in Arlington since a 13-3 beating on August 21, 2001.

The most frustrating part was that numerous times the Yankees seemed thisclose to escaping an inning with no harm done, but were stung by several crushing two-out hits. Nine of the 10 runs allowed by the Yankees came with two outs, continuing a troubling trend for the team.

After Tuesday’s disaster, they had surrendered 49 two-out runs, by far the most of any AL team (the Tigers were second with 39), and the Yankees easily led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS allowed with two outs.

Dead Bats Society
Following their 3-2 loss on Wednesday night, there are few words left to describe the magnitude of the Yankees’ near-historic offensive struggles this season, so let’s just recap with some facts (because numbers never lie):

• Yankees have scored 72 runs, their fewest thru 20 games since 1990. And that season ended … um, not good.
• They’ve tallied two runs or fewer in 10 of 20 games, the most for any Yankee team this early into the season since 1966. Yuck.
• Yankees are the only major-league team this season that’s scored two-or-fewer runs in at least half of their games. Disgusting.
• They’ve scored three runs or fewer 15 times this season. Over the last 100 years, no other Yankee club has ever done that more times in the team’s first 20 games. Ugh.
• Since their game in Detroit was postponed on April 10, the Yankees have played 15 games and scored more than four runs just once. Gross.

On a more positive note, A-Rod returned from his oblique injury and produced his best game of the season, going 3-for-3 with a homer, double and single. It was his 543rd career double, tying Tony Gwynn for 32nd place all-time. Next up on the list is The Captain, Derek Jeter, with 544. A-Rod also scored his 1,000th run as a Yankee, the 12th player in franchise history to reach that milestone, and is one of nine players to total at least 1,000 runs and 1,000 RBIs in pinstripes. The other guys? Mattingly, Bernie, Jeter, Yogi, Mantle, DiMaggio, Ruth and Gehrig.

4/25 to 4/27 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

(Mike Stone/Getty)
(Mike Stone/Getty)

The Yankees really need to get out of the Bronx for a little while. They just went 3-6 (3-6!) on a nine-game homestand and looked pretty bad doing it. I don’t know if the change of scenery will help anything, but I can’t imagine it’ll hurt. The Yankees start a nine-game road trip with the first of three in Texas tonight.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rangers, who snuck in and won the AL West in the final series of the season last year, are currently 10-9 with a +1 run differential in the early going. They were just swept by the White Sox in Chicago, so Rangers fans must be talking about the Rangers the same way Yankees fans are talking about the Yankees right now. They suck, they won’t contend, etc.

Offense & Defense

It always seems like the Rangers have a good offense, doesn’t it? They’re currently tenth in baseball in runs per game (4.44) despite being 17th in wRC+ (91). Texas is pretty banged up at the moment. They’re without their starting corner outfielders (Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton) and top two catchers (Robinson Chirinos, Chris Gimenez) due to injuries. None are expected back this weekend.

Nomar. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Nomar. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Manager Jeff Banister, who was named Manager of the Year as a rookie skipper last year, has a pretty set lineup. This isn’t a team that uses many platoons or mixes up the batting order on a daily basis. The team’s lineup generally looks like this:

  1. CF Delino DeShields Jr. (98 wRC+)
  2. RF Nomar Mazara (160 wRC+)
  3. 3B Adrian Beltre (143 wRC+)
  4. DH Prince Fielder (37 wRC+)
  5. LF Ian Desmond (73 wRC+)
  6. 1B Mitch Moreland (96 wRC+)
  7. SS Elvis Andrus (123 wRC+)
  8. 2B Rougned Odor (81 wRC+)
  9. C Bryan Holaday (40 wRC+)

Any changes day-to-day are usually subtle. Beltre and Fielder will be flip-flopped, or Desmond and Moreland will be flip-flopped, that sort of thing. UTIL Ryan Rua (43 wRC+) will see at-bats against lefties, usually in place of Moreland. IF Hanser Alberto (-35 wRC+) and C Brett Nicholas (75 wRC+) are the other bench players. The Rangers are currently carrying eight relievers and three bench players.

Defensively, the Rangers are a very interesting team. They have a 73.2 Defensive Efficiency Rating — that means they turn 73.2% of balls in play into outs — which is seventh best in baseball. Yet when you look at their runs saved visualization, it doesn’t look like they should be that good. From Sean Dolinar:

Rangers defense There’s a disconnect here. First of all, Choo is hurt and Mazara is playing right field, and that’s a big upgrade defensively. Secondly, the Rangers are quite good at shifting, which helps them on the infield. I also think Odor is a bit better than the numbers based on the eye test. There’s a lot of red on that infographic, but Texas seems to be better defensively than expected.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (vs. NYY)
The Yankees are catching a break tonight. Cole Hamels, who is perpetually overlooked as one of the game’s great pitchers, was scheduled to start tonight’s series opener, but he has been scratched with a minor groin injury. He won’t start in the series at all. Ramos, the former Rays lefty, is coming up from Triple-A to make the spot start. The 31-year-old had a 3.18 ERA (3.55 FIP) in three Triple-A starts this year, though it’s worth noting he did not throw more than 4.1 innings or 79 pitches in any of his three games. That means he’ll throw six scoreless tonight, I’m sure. Out of the bullpen Ramos posted average strikeout, walk, and ground ball numbers all throughout his career, and he’s historically fared a bit better against lefties than righties. Ramos sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker — he didn’t throw any sinkers with the Angels last season for whatever reason — and backs them up with a mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-70s curve. He’s always had the stuff to start, but never really did get an extended opportunity in a big league rotation.

Tuesday (8pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (vs. NYY)
Griffin, 28, is back in the big leagues after missing the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons due to Tommy John surgery and subsequent complications. He has a 3.18 ERA (4.60 FIP) in 17 innings across three starts this year, though his strikeout (16.7%), walk (11.1%), grounder (34.6%), and homer (1.06 HR/9) rates are all below-average. Lefties have hammered him early on too. Back in the day Griffin had an average strikeout rate with very low walk and grounder rates. After missing two years with arm problems, I’m not surprised his strikeout and walk numbers are out of whack early on. Through three starts this season Griffin is averaging 89 mph with his four-seamer and 85 mph with his cutter. His changeup is in the low-80s and his hilarious slow curveball still sits in the mid-to-high-60s. Look:

A.J. Griffin curve

Griffin throws the slow curve regularly too, roughly 16% of the time both this year and historically. It’s a different look, that’s for sure.

Wednesday (8pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Martin Perez (vs. NYY)
Like Ivan Nova and Matt Moore, the 25-year-old Perez returned from Tommy John surgery in the middle of last season. He pitched better than those two (4.46 ERA and 3.40 FIP) following the surgery, though this year has not gone well (4.50 ERA and 5.11 FIP). Perez has more walks (13.1%) than strikeouts (11.1%) through four starts and 24 innings, and that’s always bad. His grounder (54.3%) and homer (0.75 HR/9) numbers are right in line with his career norms. Righties have hit him pretty well this year and throughout his career. Perez sits in the low-to-mid-90s range with his sinker, which he throws about twice as often as his straight four-seamer. A mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup are his go-to offspeed pitches. His overall numbers are not good this year, but Perez can be very tough to handle when his sinker is working.

Bullpen Status

The Rangers are currently without two of their better relievers right now. RHP Keone Kela just had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, and RHP Tanner Scheppers is out long-term following knee surgery. Well, Kela is one of their better relievers. Scheppers is more big name than big production. Here is Banister’s relief corps:

RHP Tony Barnette: 8.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
LHP Alex Claudio: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 HR
LHP Jake Diekman: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR
RHP Sam Dyson: 9 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HR
RHP Phil Klein: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HR
RHP Nick Martinez: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0 HR
RHP Shawn Tolleson: 7 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen: 6 IP, 13 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 4 HR

One of those guys is going to be sent down for Ramos today. Claudio is the obvious choice because he threw 31 pitches yesterday — he was the only reliever used Sunday — but the Yankees are so susceptible to left-handed pitching that I wonder if the Rangers will keep him around for the second and third game of the series and send down Martinez instead. We’ll see. (UPDATE: Martinez was send down for Ramos.)

Tolleson is the closer and don’t be fooled by the numbers. He had one horrible meltdown (five runs, no outs on April 6th) but has been very good otherwise. Wilhelmsen has had two huge meltdowns and has been fine the rest of the time. Dyson and Diekman are Banister’s go-to setup crew. Dyson has a crazy sinker (68.2% grounders) and Diekman is one of the hardest throwing lefties in baseball. He runs it up to 98-99 mph regularly.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in good shape heading into the series, though neither Kirby Yates nor Nick Goody figure to be available tonight following their multi-inning outings yesterday. Our Bullpen Workload page has all you need to know about the Yankees’ recent reliever usage.

Let’s try to find a bad contract-for-bad contract trade for Jacoby Ellsbury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jacoby Ellsbury is a problem. Following last night’s 1-for-3 game, he is hitting .263/.321/.383 (95 wRC+) with 4.8 WAR in two years and 13 games as a Yankee. He’s now 32 years old, his defense is kinda sorta slipping, and he is still under contract for another four years and 149 games. Ellsbury is talented and he could certainly turn things around, but yeah. Outlook not so good.

Trading Ellsbury is far-fetched. He’s owed roughly $110M through 2020, and very few teams can and will be open to taking on that much money. Did you see how long it took good outfielders like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes to sign this past offseason? Ellsbury’s value is down well below those two. And oh by the way he has a full no-trade clause, so he can shoot down any deal. Not great, Bob.

Unless the Yankees eat a ton of money, which just isn’t happening, any Ellsbury trade would have to be a bad contract-for-bad contract trade. Those trades are surprisingly rare — straight salary dumps are much more common — but they do happen from time to time. At Ellsbury’s pay grade though? Forget it. It’s never happened at that salary. Moving Ellsbury in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal would be unprecedented. Not impossible, just unprecedented.

The number of teams with a similar bad contracts to trade are limited — there are lots of bad contracts out there, but few have over $100M remaining — and even fewer need a player like Ellsbury. Finding a match is tough. Here are four possible fits — I guess it’s five, but there’s no sense in listing the Red Sox and some ridiculous Pablo Sandoval scenario — for a bad contract-for-bad contract trade that sends Ellsbury elsewhere. The teams are listed alphabetically.

The Team: Los Angeles Angels
The Player: Albert Pujols
The Remaining Money: $165M through 2021

Does It Make Sense For The Angels? Oh yes. The Halos would shed more than $50M in future salary obligation and get a more dynamic two-way player. They could stick C.J. Cron at first base full-time, put Ellsbury in the leadoff spot and in either center or left field (Mike Trout has played a ton of left field), and then find a cheap DH. Angels GM Billy Eppler may have some lingering affinity for Ellsbury dating back to his time as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Nope. Even if the two teams finagle the money so the Yankees don’t take on any additional cash, New York would be acquiring the older and much more one-dimensional player. The last thing they need is another lumbering DH type on the wrong side of 35. Sure, they could stick Pujols at first base and let Mark Teixeira leave next offseason, then put Pujols at DH and Greg Bird at first when Alex Rodriguez retires the offseason after that, but yuck. This one doesn’t work for the Yankees at all. That Pujols contract is the worst contract in baseball.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The Team: San Diego Padres
The Players: Matt Kemp and James Shields
The Remaining Money: $117.75M through 2018 plus another $20.25M in 2019

Does It Make Sense For The Padres? It might! They’re currently rebuilding and looking to both shed money and add prospects. Ellsbury for the Kemp/Shields duo wouldn’t net them any prospects, but it would wipe almost $30M off the books, reduce their annual payroll through 2018, and also land them an upgrade in the outfield. Kemp has a degenerative condition in his hips and is a year or two away from being a first baseman or DH, and DHs do not exist in the NL. Ellsbury gives them the kind of speedy contact hitter who would ostensibly thrive in spacious Petco Park.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Again: it might! Shields’ contract complicates things because he can opt-out after the season. If Shields opts out, the the Padres would actually end up taking on money in this trade because he would be walking away from $44M. I suppose the two sides could work out a conditional trade — if Shields opts out, the Yankees send a prospect or two over, or kick in more money — but when things start getting that complicated, bet against it happening.

If nothing else, Shields would give the Yankees an innings guy even though he’s dangerously close to a Sabathia-esque decline. Kemp would fit in decently. They could put him in left this year to replace Ellsbury, then put him and Aaron Judge in the corners next season since Carlos Beltran will be gone, and then put him at DH once A-Rod retires. Kemp would also add another righty bat. Would the Yankees take on money to move Ellsbury and take two declining players in return though? Seems unlikely.

Kemp alone would not work — the Padres owe him only $73M through 2019, so significantly less than the Yankees owe Ellsbury — so Kemp plus Shields it is. The Yankees would be taking on more money in the short-term, screwing up their plan to get under the luxury tax threshold, but the contracts would be off the books a year sooner. That’s not something that should be glossed over. They’d get out of the bad deal(s) sooner.

The Team: Seattle Mariners
The Player: Robinson Cano
The Remaining Money: $192M through 2023

Does It Make Sense For The Mariners? Yes if the only goal is shedding approximately $80M and three years worth of contract. No if the goal is improving the roster. Cano is a better player than Ellsbury, there’s no doubt about that, and the difference in the contract commitments is massive. Seattle doesn’t have a ready made second base replacement and they don’t really need another outfielder, so Ellsbury doesn’t fit their roster, at least not in the super short-term. Their motivation for a Cano-for-Ellsbury deal would be dumping all that money.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? No for a few reasons. One, that’s way too much money to take on. The Yankees had a chance to re-sign Cano and balked at that price. I personally would rather have Cano for ten years and $240M than Ellsbury for seven years and $153M, but that’s just me. Obviously the Yankees feel differently, otherwise Robbie would still be wearing pinstripes.

Two, the Yankees now have Starlin Castro at second base, so they don’t really need Cano. An Ellsbury plus Castro for Cano deal would be fun in an lolwtf way — it would also even out the money slightly — but c’mon. The Yankees aren’t going to add Castro to the trade and still take on $40M or so just to get rid of Ellsbury. Not happening.

In a vacuum where positions and things like that don’t matter, I’d trade Ellsbury for Cano in an instant. This ain’t no vacuum though. That stuff matters and neither player fits the roster of their would-be new team. Ellsbury for Cano seems like the kind of trade none of us would even consider had Cano not been a Yankee once upon a time.

The Team: Texas Rangers
The Player: Shin-Soo Choo
The Remaining Money: $102M through 2020

Does It Make Sense For The Rangers? Finally, a trade that seems remotely plausible. Ellsbury and Choo both signed seven-year contracts two offseasons go, and while Ellsbury received an additional $23M in guaranteed money, Choo’s deal was back-loaded, so the two are owed similar dollars from 2016-20. Bridging the gap between the $102M left on Choo’s deal and the $110M left on Ellsbury’s doesn’t seem like it would be a huge issue, right?

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Rangers GM Jon Daniels has reportedly coveted Ellsbury for years, so I’m sure there’s still some level of interest there. The problem? The Rangers have a good young center fielder and leadoff hitter in Delino DeShields Jr., who is making close to the league minimum. Texas also has a top flight center field prospect in Lewis Brinson at Triple-A. They have options at that position, so it’s not a pressing need.

Either way, the Rangers will have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year through 2020 on their roster. The question is whether they prefer Choo or Ellsbury, who are very different players. Ellsbury is the two-way threat and Choo is the bat first guy. They both have their pluses and minuses. This would almost be like a change of scenery trade.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? I think so, even if the money is evened out. The Yankees need Choo’s offense — he’s hit .259/.360/.419 (114 wRC+) with the Rangers, including .276/.375/.463 (127 wRC+) in 2015 — more than they need Ellsbury’s two-way skill set. Choo slots in perfectly in left field in the short-term, then at DH in the long-term once A-Rod is gone. As with the Rangers, the Yankees are going to have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year on their roster no matter what. Would they prefer that player to be Choo or Ellsbury?

* * *

It goes without saying those four bad contract-for-bad contract trades above are all pretty unrealistic and very unlikely to happen. This just goes to show how tough it would be to move Ellsbury without eating a significant chunk of money. It’s not impossible, crazier things have happened, but his trade value is very low for the time being. And of course there’s the whole no trade clause thing.

My sense is the Yankees really like Ellsbury as a player and wouldn’t look to move him in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal. Their best course of action is to remain patient and hope he shakes off his slow start, and gets back to being the dynamic leadoff hitter he was prior to his knee injury last year. Ellsbury’s contract is really bad, and while trading him seems like a good idea, it’s very possible the best bang for all that buck will come from Ellsbury, not a declining player on another team’s roster.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The new season is upon us. Opening Day is Monday, which means it’s time to wrap up our annual Season Preview series. As always, we’ll end the series with a quick look around the league. Some of this is serious, most of it isn’t. Enjoy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Why They’ll Suck: The middle infield is a mess and their corner outfield defense is going to be pretty bad if Yasmany Tomas plays left everyday. Also, they’ll probably trade some good players to unload a bad contract again.
Bold Prediction: Shelby Miller actually pitches well. I have no idea why so many analysts think he’s bad.

Atlanta Braves
Why They’ll Suck: Because they are trying to suck. Rebuilding is just a nice way of saying tanking.
Bold Prediction: Nick Markakis beats his ZiPS projection and slugs .370.

Chicago Cubs
Why They’ll Suck: They’re going to strike out way too much. It’s also only a matter of time until someone gets bit by some wild animal Joe Maddon brings into the clubhouse.
Bold Prediction: Adam Warren is their best starter. Boom!

Chicago White Sox
Why They’ll Suck: They lost their leader, Drake LaRoche.
Bold Prediction: We find out Adam LaRoche was the one who complained about Drake LaRoche being in the clubhouse all the time.

Cincinnati Reds
Why They’ll Suck: Their rotation is Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and John Lamb. No, wait, that’s the list of their injured starters. Now they have to turn to the B-team.
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto finally loses his mind, but in a polite, Canadian way. He’s already doing this between pitches:

Joey Votto

Cleveland Indians
Why They’ll Suck: In all seriousness, their entire starting outfield is either hurt (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall) or suspended (Abe Almonte). They’re a Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco injury away from 85 losses. Beware.
Bold Prediction: Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR.

Colorado Rockies
Why They’ll Suck: The Rockies exist in a perpetual state of suck. Fun Fact: They have never once won a division title. They’ve finished as high as second place only three times in their 23 years of existence.
Bold Prediction: They finally trade Carlos Gonzalez. I’m thinking … Orioles.

Detroit Tigers
Why They’ll Suck: They’ve punted defense at the four corner positions and, inevitably, the relievers they acquired this winter will stink.
Bold Prediction: Justin Verlander bounces back and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Houston Astros
Why They’ll Suck: Karma for doing very little in the offseason outside of adding a new closer and fifth starter. The rebuild is supposed to be over.
Bold Prediction: Carlos Correa is more Alex Gonzalez than Alex Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals
Why They’ll Suck: They replaced Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist with Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon. Like, on purpose.
Bold Prediction: Kennedy wins 18 games and Colon hits .310. Eff the Royals, man.

Los Angeles Angels
Why They’ll Suck: The Angels have surrounded Mike Trout with as little position player talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: Jered Weaver’s fastball hits 84 mph once or twice.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Suck: The Dodgers have surrounded Clayton Kershaw with as little pitching talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: It becomes clear Yasiel Puig peaked early.

Miami Marlins
Why They’ll Suck: The fans and players are doomed to pay for Jeffrey Loria’s evil villian-ness. Fun Fact: They’ve never won a division title either. They’ve also never lost a postseason series.
Bold Prediction: Christian Yelich breaks out and puts up Andrew McCutchen numbers. I’m serious about that one.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why They’ll Suck: They’re another team that is going to suck on purpose. Before long they’re going to trade Jonathan Lucroy too.
Bold Prediction: Ramon Flores hits 15 dingers with a .350 OBP.

Minnesota Twins
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know, but I’m sure Twins fans will blame it on Joe Mauer.
Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano plays right field better than Torii Hunter did last year.

New York Mets
Why They’ll Suck: They’re still the Mets. Case in point: the recent Matt Harvey bladder story. Last year’s pennant didn’t change anything in that regard.
Bold Prediction: They have to trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline.

Oakland Athletics
Why They’ll Suck: No joke, I can name only one A’s starter (Sonny Gray) and one A’s infielder (Marcus Semien). Is Bobby Crosby still playing?
Bold Prediction: Josh Reddick gets traded for a holy crap package at the trade deadline. I’m thinking … Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies
Why They’ll Suck: Still reeling from the 2009 World Series, obviously.
Bold Prediction: Someone not named Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard hits a home run.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why They’ll Suck: The baseball gods will not let John Jaso’s hair go unpunished.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bold Prediction: Mark Melancon is traded at the deadline. I’m thinking … Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals
Why They’ll Suck: The Cardinals will never suck. The only thing they suck at is sucking. Their ace made four starts and their highest paid position player hit four home runs last season, and they still won 100 games. The Cardinals, man.
Bold Prediction: Three years after learning to play second base and one year after learning to hit for power, Matt Carpenter picks up pitching and saves 46 games.

San Diego Padres
Why They’ll Suck: I’m not entirely convinced the Padres exist at this point. Are we sure MLB still lets them into the league? What an amazingly nondescript franchise.
Bold Prediction: Someone throws the first no-hitter in franchise history. I’ll go with Colin Rea, who is a real player and definitely not someone I just made up.

San Francisco Giants
Why They’ll Suck: They buy into the “even year trend” a little too much and give Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner weeks off at a time this summer.
Bold Prediction: Bumgarner out-slugs the starting outfield.

Seattle Mariners
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know how it will happen exactly, but they’ll suck. The Mariners are the Wile E. Coyote of MLB. Every time they looked poised for success, they crash into the mountain with a tunnel painted on the side of it.
Bold Prediction: Bob Cano mashes 30 taters and finishes in the top three of the MVP voting. I’m expecting a big year from Robbie.

Texas Rangers
Why They’ll Suck: They won’t suck. They’ll be just good enough to get thisclose to winning something meaningful before having it ripped away again. Think Game Six of the 2011 World Series, or the seventh inning of Game Five of last year’s ALDS. That’s how the Rangers roll.
Bold Prediction: Josh Hamilton leads the team in home runs.

Washington Nationals
Why They’ll Suck: They’re the NL version of the Red Sox. They have talent and everyone buys the hype. It should work! But it doesn’t.

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.

Heyman: Rangers sign Ike Davis to minor league deal

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Rangers have signed first baseman Ike Davis to a minor league contract. Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees talked to Davis’ camp in the wake of Greg Bird‘s shoulder injury, but obviously they couldn’t work out a deal, so Texas it is.

Davis, 28, hit .229/.301/.350 (83 wRC+) with three homers in 74 games for the Athletics last season. He is one year removed from a .233/.344/.378 (109 wRC+) line with eleven homers in 143 games, however. As a lefty pull hitter with power, Davis would have been a fine Bird replacement for Triple-A.

It is sorta weird Davis went with the Rangers over the Yankees. With New York, Mark Teixeira is his only obstacle to MLB playing time, and Teixeira hasn’t played a full season since 2011. With the Rangers, both Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder are ahead of him on the first base depth chart. Eh, whatever.

The Yankees do still need to dig up a Triple-A first baseman at some point. Deibinson Romero is one candidate, and there’s always Tyler Austin, but Cashman said they don’t consider him as candidate for the job at this point. Chris Parmelee and Matt Clark are still unsigned. They could do the job.

Yankeemetrics: Deep in the heat of Texas (July 27-30)

Over the hill but still raking. (Getty Images)
Over the hill but still raking. (Getty Images)

Al’s birthday bash
Alex Rodriguez certainly has a flair for the dramatic, eh? A-Rod celebrated his 40th birthday in style with a homer in the sixth inning of Monday’s 6-2 win over the Rangers, etching his name in the record books once again.

It was the sixth homer he’s hit on his birthday, the most birthday dingers by any player in MLB history. The solo shot also gave him 16 career RBI on his birthday, tied for the third-most all-time, behind only Lou Gehrig (17) and Al Simmons (19).

He is just the sixth player in baseball history to homer on his 40th birthday, joining the quintet of Chipper Jones, Tony Phillips, Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan and Bob Thurman, and is the oldest Yankee to go deep on his birthday.

A-Rod is also now a member of an even more exclusive group of major-league players to hit homers in their teens, 20s, 30s and 40s — Rusty Staub, Gary Sheffield and Ty Cobb are the only others to do that. Will he become the first to also do it in his 50s? LOL.

Although A-Rod stole the headlines with his birthday blast, Didi Gregorius was the real offensive star of the night, breaking out for a career-high four RBI and his first home run against a left-handed pitcher as a major-leaguer. Before the home run, his 264 career plate appearances vs. lefties without a homer were the third-most among active players.

”It didn’t suck”
Yeah, I think that quote from Chris Young pretty much sums up Tuesday’s 21-5 shellacking of the Rangers. There’s so much statistical awesomeness from this game, let’s just get right to the Yankeemetrics.

The game obviously did not start well for the Yankees, who were down 5-0 early as spot starter (and thankfully DFA’d) Chris Capuano allowed five runs on three hits and five walks before being removed with two outs in the first inning. With that performance, Capuano became the only Yankee starter in last 100 years to allow at least five runs and five walks in less than one inning pitched.

Remember when the Yankees couldn’t score on the road and couldn’t put together big comebacks? Ha! Of course, the Yankees then exploded for 11 runs (and somehow no home runs) in the second inning, their highest-scoring frame since putting up a 12-spot on the Orioles in the bottom of the first on July 30, 2011.

The Yankees knocked Rangers starter Martin Perez out of the game before he could record an out in the second inning, which somehow made Capuano not even the worst starting pitcher in this game. It was the first time that both starters pitched one inning or fewer and allowed at least five runs in a Yankee game since April 23, 1932 against the Philadelphia A’s. The starters that day were Gordon Rhodes for the Yankees and Rube Walberg for the A’s.

The Rangers then turned to Wandy Rodriguez to stop the bleeding, but the Yankees showed no mercy and tagged him for another seven runs. Like Perez, he got just three outs, making this first time in the last 100 years that two pitchers have lasted an inning or fewer and allowed at least seven runs in the same game against the Yankees. In fact, the only other team to do that since 1914 was the Blue Jays on Sept. 28, 2000 against the Orioles.

Sure, the offensive highlights were fun and all. But the MVP of this game was Diego Moreno, who cleaned up Capuano’s mess in the first inning and tossed 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run or a hit. He’s the first Yankee reliever to pitch at least five hitless innings since Bob Shirley on Sept. 21, 1986 against the Tigers, and the first to do that and get the win since Tom Morgan in 1956 against the Indians.

So, in the end, the Yankees scored 21 runs after being down 5-0, the most unanswered runs they’ve scored in any game since August 12, 1953 against the Senators.

Finally, because many of you have asked, let’s cap it off with this gem from the Elias Sports Bureau: the Yankees are the first team in MLB history to allow the first five (or more) runs of game and then score 21 or more unanswered runs.

Back to reality
The Yankee bats were humbled by the Rangers in the third game of their four-game series, scoring just two runs on eight hits in the 5-2 loss.

Tuesday’s outburst was the 17th time in franchise history they scored 21-or-more runs, but Wednesday was just the second time that they failed to score more than two runs in their next game. It also happened July 25, 1999 when they beat the Indians 2-1, one day after they crushed them 21-1.

If there was anything positive that came out of the game, it was probably the debut of pitcher Caleb Cotham. The former fifth-round pick struck out four and walked none in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to not allow a run or a walk and strike out at least four guys in his first career major-league game was Stan Bahnsen in 1966. Bahnsen would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1968.

Tex hot, CC not
For the first time since the first week of July, the Yankees have an official losing streak. They lost again on Thursday night on a game-ending single by Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the ninth inning, their first walk-off loss against the Rangers since Sept. 11, 2010.

CC Sabathia’s decline is really hard to watch. He turned in yet another poor outing in this game, one that included three homers over five innings pitched. Two of those longballs were by left-handed batters, the first time he allowed multiple homers to lefties in a single game since Aug. 12, 2011.

Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead with his 25th homer of the season in the first inning, the 10th time in his career he’s reached that milestone. The only other switch hitters in MLB history with 10-or-more seasons of at least 25 home runs are Eddie Murray (12), Chipper Jones (10) and Mickey Mantle (10).

Tex wasn’t finished after that blast, though, giving the Yankees a 6-5 lead with another solo homer in the seventh. This was his 40th career multi-homer game, tied with Jones for the second-most all-time among switch-hitters; the only guy with more is Mantle (46).