Tuesday, August 4, 2015

11th Hour Moves Shape the MLB Race to the Finish

Firstly, apologies are in order for those of you whom lambasted us back in June when we went on record stating that strange names on the top of the divisions like the Astros, Twins, and Mets were here to stay. Well, here we are in August and three of the four clubs we highlighted are on top of their respective divisions. Moreover, they look like they have their sights set on taking the flag not just the division crown. However it’s not just the young guns that are making strides to the top, the clubs that have become synonymous with fall baseball the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants have all made big moves. Ironically, everyone but the Yankees, who seem to always be wheeling and dealing, have made moves but the Bombers seem content with their club that currently holds a five-game lead in the East and believes they have all the components to make another glory run. The Cards, who seem to perpetually have the league’s best record only have to fear peaking too early and to prevent a repeat of falling short in the NLCS like last year, GM John Mozeliak reconfigured the roster with the additions of first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss and relievers Steve Cishek and Jonathon Broxton. Moss will hopefully be the bat Cardinal fans were hoping for, though naysayers think the team overpaid by sending single-A lefty and former first rounder Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland. The Dodgers whom have the second best record in the National League made a ton of moves to not only get them over the hump and back to the world series for the first time in over two decades but justify that massive payroll. The first thing they needed to do was acquire anyone else that can throw the ball over 50 mph to help Greinke and Kershaw and fill in the gaps until they can take the bump again. They countered by making only one move, but a massive one, a three-team, 13-player blockbuster that added four above-average pitchers to a staff desperate for reinforcements. Having lost Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy to season-ending arm surgeries early in the year, the Dodgers finally landed replacements in Mat Latos and Alex Wood, the latter of whom has four team-controlled years remaining, and to a bullpen that has been shaky all year, they added rejuvenated former closer Jim Johnson and lefty Luis Avilan. In addition to all of that, they brought in highly-regarded 21-year-old infield prospect Jose Pereza, who could be starting in the middle of the diamond for L.A. next year, and the best player they gave up was a 30-year-old Cuban defector with a sketchy injury history who has never played a game in the major leagues Hector Olivera, that they paid handsomely for the rights to in the off-season. Meanwhile the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard. That’s an impressive haul for a team that has been paralyzed by financial concerns in recent seasons and developed a reputation for never making the big move it needed to make to get better. The Mets desperately needed a bat, and they got three, led by All-Star slugger Cespedes, whose Home Run Derby win in 2013 stands as one of a limited number of memorable moments from Citi Field’s first seven seasons. Uribe and Johnson may not appear in the lineup together very often, but both veterans have been swinging hot bats this season and represent upgrades for a Mets lineup that was last in the majors in run scored prior to their acquisition. cespedes Following a 92-loss season last year and three straight last-place finishes before that, the Astros slipped behind the Angels into second place in the American League West on July 12, marking the first time since mid-April that they didn’t occupy the top spot in their division. Their confidence did not waiver. The Astros struck the first blow of the deadline period by acquiring Houston native Scott Kazmir from the A’s late last Thursday, and promptly swept the Angels to take over first place in the AL West for the first time in franchise history. The Astros completed a second deal, bringing centerfielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers to Houston, the former representing a significant upgrade from the slumping Jake Marisnick. With Kazmir and Gomez in place, the Astros are in excellent position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005. These are the teams in the spotlight but the slipping under the radar are the Blue Jays whom may be 7 games out of first place but are only two back in the wild card race and I guarantee you are a club nobody wants to see in the post-season. Toronto arguably landed the best pitcher and position player to be dealt at this deadline in David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, the latter of whom is under contract for six more seasons. In adding set-up men La Troy Hawkins (acquired in the Tulowitzki deal) and Mark Lowe, they drastically improved their bullpen. And they upgraded their fourth outfielder slot by acquiring Ben Revere (who has two team-controlled years remaining) to boot. All of this adds up to a stretch run that should have a number of clubs fighting for those final playoff spots and making another case for how great the world is since the Wild Card came into play. So now we’ve seen the river card and now it’s a matter to see who was drawing dead and who has a shot to still be playing when the season turns.

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