TSN Baseball Analyst Steve Phillips answers several questions each week. This week's topics include the Red Sox winning the trade deadline with a slew of great deals, the Blue Jays' disappointment about standing pat, new Hall of Fame rules and the new-look Detroit Tigers.
1) The Boston Red Sox jettisoned bodies at the trade deadline but somehow managed to recoup MLB talent in return, including an All-Star in Yoenis Cespedes. What's your take on Ben Cherington's approach? Should he have gone for prospects or was he right to retool instead of rebuild?
The Boston Red Sox were among the group of winners at the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. They realized that they were not going to be able to resign Jon Lester to an extension so they had to trade him. They shocked everyone by finding a buyer willing to part with proven major league talent. No one even considered that Cespedes was even available. The Red Sox have no interest in a complete rebuilding of the team that won the World Series a year ago. They want a quick reconfiguration of the personnel with a hope and expectation of being in contention next year.
Even though Cespedes' performance has declined over the last year and half of his three-year career; he is still fairly productive. He has 17 homers this year, which is more than all Red Sox outfielders combined (14). He should benefit from the friendly confines of Fenway Park. Deep fly ball outs that he hit at the Oakland Coliseum will bang off the green monster in Boston. However there is more to the story; his on base percentage, batting average and slugging percentage have all fallen. The two-time Home Run Derby champ is certainly an offensive upgrade but I wouldn't get too carried away.
In a deal sending John Lackey to the Cardinals, the Red Sox acquired right field Allen Craig and starting pitcher Joe Kelly. This was not a big loss to the Cardinals as Craig had struggled miserably and they had a replacement in rookie Oscar Taveras. Plus, Kelly had barely pitched this season as he is coming off of the disabled list. But the Sox do get a hitter who drove in 97 runs in 2013 while hitting .313. They will need a big bounce back performance in 2015.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington found two teams willing to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. The A's and Cards had offence to spare and parted ways with it to get the quality pitching they wanted. In one day, Cherington upgraded his outfield offensive production from almost non-existent to formidable.
Neither Cespedes nor Craig are having monster years. But the talent is in there for both of them to perform better than this season. Remember you don't get great players when they are playing well; you get them after they have played poorly. The Sox are counting on the offence returning to the top of baseball in 2015.
I love the other activity from Cherington too. He was able trade away smaller pieces. For instance they were able to get prospects in return for Andrew Miller from the Orioles. They gained financial flexibility too by dumping part of the Stephen Drew contract on the Yankees.
So all-in-all, the Red Sox are a better offensive team. But Cherington's work is far from done as he needs to aggressively address his starting pitching for next year.
Now if Cherington resigns Lester for next season and adds Max Scherzer to the rotation as a free agent while Cespedes and Craig play to potential, he may go down as a genius. Time will tell.
2) Jose Bautista was critical of Alex Anthopoulos' inactivity on Thursday. Do Jays' players have the right to be upset with the non-waiver deadline passing without a big-time addition?
I absolutely understand why Blue Jays players, led by Jose Bautista, are disappointed by the inactivity of Anthopoulos and his staff at the deadline.
When is the last time the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays were all in the bottom of the AL-East? Actually, this is the only year that they are 3-4-5 in the division since the Rays' inception. You have to go back to 1992 to find when the Yankees and Red Sox were in the bottom half of the division. The Rays were only a twinkle in Bud Selig's eye at that time as they had not even been born.
This is the year for the Jays (and Orioles) to go for it. The Yanks and Rays and Red Sox are going to retool for next year. We already saw signs of that at the trade deadline. It may actually be another 22 years before we see all three of those teams at the bottom of the division again.
Teams ask their players to go out and play hard and do all they can to win games. When the club has a chance to win a division or a Wild Card spot it is not asking too much of an organization to go out an improve the team to strengthen that shot.
The players compete on the field to try and win. Owners and GM's can't catch the ball, throw the ball or hit the ball for the players. The trade deadline is actually the one area where the guys in suits can compete. The Jays' stuffed shirts chose to avoid the competition.
What a let down for the players!!!
There are all kind of rumors around the deadline. This team is talking to that team. This team covets this player or that player. Sometimes the rumors are true and sometimes they are not. There were rumors about the Jays having interest in Jeff Samardzija before he was dealt from the Cubs to the A's. There was speculation they were in on the discussion about Jon Lester. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon's name popped up at some point as did Rays infielder, Ben Zobrist. All of these are good names. Have no doubt that Anthopoulos called on all of these players but he called knowing he had absolutely no chance of affording any of them. He just had to hope that somehow some way the market disappeared for them and the other team was willing to pay a huge portion of the salaries. With so many teams in the playoff hunt sellers didn't have to swallow much salary.
General managers are desperate to buy at the deadline. They all want to improve their teams. If they have the need and wherewithal to fill a hole they will vigorously pursue it. The Jays' players need to understand that if Alex Anthopoulos could have made a deal, he would have. He just didn't have any extra payroll to spend.
Don't blame Anthopoulos, blame ownership.
3) The Hall of Fame changed its rules this week, shortening eligibility to 10 years instead of 15. Many saw it as a direct challenge to the achievements of "The Steroids Era." What's your take?
The change in rules for Hall of Fame consideration will certainly streamline the process a bit and reduce the number of players who will be considered each year. This will cut out some of the "dead wood' on the ballot. Remember voters can only vote for 10 players at most each year so when the ballot is cluttered it makes the process cumbersome.
The steroid era has clearly complicated the Hall of Fame election process for the voters. The Baseball Writers Association of America has made a clear statement that if a player has any ties to PEDs that they are not going to vote him into the Hall. The Writers have also chosen to bar players for whom there is no direct evidence of cheating but just a hunch or suspicion. The writers feel protected by time. They believed that they could wait to see if any evidence of cheating ever pops up on a guy because they had 15 years. With that number reduced to 10 years, we may get players' legacies addressed much sooner.
It may turn out to be good news for the players who fail to get elected in the ten-year time frame. Now after 10 years, players will be considered by the expansion era committee for induction. That means a fresh set of eyes and agendas will be able to rule sooner.
If these new rules lead to more steroid players being inducted into the Hall of Fame, then it will be a success in my mind.
4) A few weeks ago I wrote that the Oakland A's were baseball's best team. I would like to take a mulligan on that pick and go with the Detroit Tigers now instead.
Tiger's President and GM David Dombrowski proved once again that he is the best GM in the game. He just acquired the best player available at the deadline. It had seemed that the Rays had decided not to trade Price, only to change their minds. Dombrowski was standing there waiting when that happened.
So much has been said and written about how little the Tigers gave up in the three-way trade, which landed Price in Motown. I don't disagree with any of it. I think the Rays got fleeced. If this was all that they could get at the deadline they should have waited until the off-season when teams not in the playoff races are in a buying mood too. With a guy like Price the more teams buying the better.
The baseball evaluation of David Price is easy. Dombrowski isn't a genius because he thinks Price is good. He is a genius because of what the acquisition did for his team this season and beyond.
The Tigers now have the last three CY Young Award winners (Scherzer, Verlander and Price.) They also have the AL ERA champ (Anibal Sanchez) from last year and Rick Porcello (12-5, 3.24 ERA) as a fifth starter. The Tigers have put together an Atlanta Braves starting staff from their heyday. This is D-City's version of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Neagle and Avery. Pretty Amazing.
Just as important as what Price can do on the field for the Tigers is the impact he will have this off-season. Remember, the Tigers offered Max Scherzer a six-year $144M contract extension, which he rejected. Don't ask me why. It may actually be one of the worst financial decisions ever made. David Price now gives Dombrowski leverage in dealing with Scherzer. Don't be surprised if Dombrowski tells Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, to take it or leave it. If Boras rejects the deal then Dombrowski can turn to Price and offer him the same money. Even if Scherzer leaves and Price doesn't want to sign an extension the Tigers still have a great rotation in 2015 which includes Price, Verlander, Sanchez and Porcello. That is good enough to win the AL pennant again.
This deal reinforces why Dave Dombrowski's name comes up as a candidate for the Commissioner of Baseball.