[I had this report kicking around in my head yesterday, but after the awful news out of Boston, I decided it wasn’t time to write about baseball. A few friends suggested otherwise, and I polled you guys on Twitter last night to see what you thought. The response was overwhelming in favor of wanting a distraction. A trace of normalcy. Part of me (most of me) didn’t want to write, but I did. And it actually helped me a little bit.
There’s no mention in what follows about Boston. In fact, I took out a paragraph near the top and another near the end that included the word “marathon,” which I’d used in a totally innocuous, sportsy way before realizing that it’s not a very innocuous, sportsy word any more, at least for now.
Hug the kids, do it again tonight, and help someone today.
If you’d rather not read about baseball this morning, stop here.]
It’s a fairly easily defined time of the year on the basketball and hockey and golf and even football schedules, but as far as baseball is concerned, a little over two weeks in, the season has moved itself out to about the eight-yard line, and yet we can’t help but grasp for conclusions.
At this point in the schedule in 2011, only three of the eight eventual playoff teams were in line to earn post-season spots. In 2012, five of the 10 clubs who would have played past 162 had the season ended at this point actually made it that far.
That’s not to say that win-loss records are meaningless at this point, of course. Had Texas managed to win one more of those 69 regular-season games it lost in 2012 and Oakland lost one more, there is no one-and-done game for the Rangers against Baltimore on October 5th, and maybe everything’s different.
The Angels went 4-9 through their first 13 last year. From that point forward, they were one of baseball’s best teams at 85-64, but still fell four games short of extra baseball.
They all count.
The Angels are 4-9 now (same as last year, when Mike Trout was still in AAA), and not only is that the worst mark in the American League but it’s also a reflection of the league’s worst run differential (-25) – with the loss of Jered Weaver costing only one start so far – and if you choose to spend more energy right now on whether the A’s win or lose their games, be my guest, but while I don’t blame you for focusing on the division champs and their hot start, it’s still Los Angeles whose losses and whose mess feed my schadenfreude (at a time when one of the club’s two mid-April victories over Houston out of four was being characterized as a potentially galvanizing moment), and it’s not even close.
I’ll worry about Oakland once school’s out. Or maybe once school is back in.
Even as injuries to key players mount around the league (Weaver, Zack Greinke, Jose Reyes, Johnny Cueto, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harrison), and as team-only and players-only meetings make headlines, and as stories start to proliferate about managers and executives whose seat temperatures could be getting uncomfortably warm, it’s too early for teams to start making impact trades – particularly since nobody’s going to start chucking 2013 out the window yet.
Of course, I say that, and then remember that San Diego tossed Ernesto Frieri to the Angels last year on May 3 – which in 2012 was only four weeks into the season.
The point is that trade season is most likely a good ways down the road, but in spite of that Twitter never rests, and even during a month that you might rank along with September as the least likely to generate significant rumors with any amount of momentum, they are out there – with the usual caveats.
First, Andy Martino (New York Daily News) suggests the Mets don’t know if the Marlins would trade Giancarlo Stanton but “continue to monitor the situation,” and of course that’s a sentence that could easily be written about 28 other teams as well. Martino adds that one Mets official would include catcher Travis d’Arnaud and righthander Zack Wheeler in a Stanton deal “in a heartbeat” but concedes that the official willing to share that opinion “is not in [Mets GM Sandy] Alderson’s inner circle of decision-makers,” at which point you ask yourself what we’ve learned today, even when Martino quotes another “Mets person” as hinting “[t]here is heat there” between New York and Miami before he writes that the “Mets aren’t getting Stanton anytime soon.”
Then comes a tweet of reason over the weekend from Peter Gammons, who shares that “[t]eam after team – from Boston to Mets to Rangers and on and on – have checked in with Miami on Stanton, with [a] ‘not interested’ response” from the Marlins. And Buster Olney chimed in on the same day, noting that “[t]he Rangers are doing early reconnaissance and prep work on what it would take to land Giancarlo Stanton down the road.”
“Reconnaissance” is a ten-dollar word, but again, the real news would be if there were a Major League franchise not exploring the idea of Stanton internally.
It’s also not news that Stanton (shoulder) hadn’t played since April 10, and that Jurickson Profar (left side) hadn’t played since April 10, either, but it did generate plenty of tweets, most of which we can safely assume were typed with tongue in cheek.
But Jim Bowden means business when he tweets, and among his prolific contributions the last few days was that the Marlins “will listen to offers, but according to sources are not interested in a Profar-for-Stanton deal,” a note that will only embolden Bowden to continue to tweet and write and talk about his idea that Profar for St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras makes too much sense for both teams, considering their strengths and holes, not to think about and talk about in the Baseball Operations suite and lose sleep over, which I suppose qualifies as “reconnaisance.”
Make what you want of the fact that Profar (who did return to action on Sunday but sat out again on Monday) has played shortstop seven times and second base only once at Round Rock (last year at Frisco: 95 games at short, 25 at second), and what logic might lead you to conclude as a result. Ask yourself whether Leonys Martin might be an important piece of any talks between the Rangers and Marlins, even though Miami’s top two position player prospects, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, are both center fielders. (And ignore it if Yelich plays some left field when he finally gets his 2013 season underway – he’s sidelined with plantar fasciitis. Marisnick, incidentally, is shut down as well, rehabbing a hand fracture.)
Second baseman Rougned Odor’s eye-opening start to the Myrtle Beach season is huge, as far as any mid-season trade talks are concerned – whether it means he’s moving himself onto a second tier for the other club or is in the process of making Texas more open to including someone else (who may not hit as much) on such a list. Frisco righthander Neil Ramirez continuing to reestablish himself would be a really good development. Mike Olt will get right, soon enough. (Right?)
But as far as any fit with the Marlins on Stanton is concerned, I keep coming back to a shortstop being involved, and Martin, and probably Luke Jackson. And more.
Jason Martinez, in a Bleacher Report piece that ran yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, spitballs Stanton for Profar, Olt, center fielder Lewis Brinson (who would have to be a player to be named until June 12), and first baseman Ronald Guzman (who is sidelined after March knee surgery).
When prospect-laden Hickory visits Greensboro next week, I’d like to think Marlins officials might charge some of their own folks with an added assignment for those few days. There’s a lot more than Brinson on that club worth targeting.
They can look at catcher Jorge Alfaro but they can’t touch. At least not if Profar is in the deal.
Then again, Ken Rosenthal, asked simply on Twitter what the chances are that Texas makes some sort of “blockbuster move” this season, responded: “Don’t see it.”
And I don’t even know if I’d consider a trade for Houston righthander Bud Norris in that category, at least at this point, though if this keeps up he’s going to command a haul, and may be one of the only impact commodities that wouldn’t include a demand for a top-tier middle infield prospect.
Though if the Phillies decided in July to trade Cliff Lee, that would qualify, and Bowden predicts it will make Lee an Angel – or a Ranger again.
Speaking of the Phillies and trades, Michael Young has a very good surface line (.356/.420/.511). So do Josh Lindblom (one run on six hits and two walks in 12 Round Rock innings, 11 strikeouts), Lisalverto Bonilla (one run on three hits and one walk in 5.2 Round Rock innings, seven strikeouts), and Lance Berkman (.389/.500/.611). Yes, it’s early.
And while Mike Adams and Koji Uehara have, not unexpectedly, been fantastic, the Texas bullpen has been just fine – so far – and that $9 million-plus that Adams and Uehara will earn this year, if paid by the Rangers rather than the Phillies and Red Sox, might have made it more difficult for Texas to budget its upcoming July business.
As for a story that’s not premature to focus on, Olney tweets that the Orioles “have interest in the Rangers’ Julio Borbon, but have found the asking price to be high,” the takeaway from which is (1) of course Baltimore is considering a Texas player, (2) thumbs-up to the Rangers for letting the defined window to trade Borbon play out, and (3) when Buster Olney tweets about a player who fits in a certain category in which Borbon fits, it’s different from Jon Heyman tweeting about a player in that particular category.
The Borbon note that interested me the most was T.R. Sullivan’s over the weekend that the Rangers “are growing confident they can find a trade partner” for Borbon. The way the procedure works, we can probably expect that to happen today. Sullivan does suggest that “the Rangers aren’t expecting a big return” for Borbon, possibly something along the lines of “a reliever who could be a Major League option at some point this season.” You never have enough pitching depth, and so you don’t get comfortable just because you expect to add Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz to the bullpen picture, and perhaps Nick Tepesch or Justin Grimm once Colby Lewis is back.
(Notably, the Rangers have positioned themselves to take on a 40-man roster member in exchange for Borbon, as long as the player has options. Reliever Justin Miller was transferred to the 60-day disabled list a few days ago, clearing a spot on the 40.)
There’s a suggestion from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (via Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors) that Minnesota, fighting through a tough acclimation for blue-chip center fielder Aaron Hicks, is “kicking the tires” on Borbon, but probably wouldn’t trade for him, instead hoping Texas would end up running him out on waivers and that he’d get by the Astros, Cubs, and Rockies and to the Twins. But there are two extreme unlikelihoods in that sentence, both after the word “instead.”
I think back to Borbon’s electrifying big league debut (.312/.376/.414, 19 stolen bases in 46 games in 2009), less than two years after signing out of college, and I suppose it should temper my enthusiasm over the way Nick Tepesch and Leury Garcia and Fearless Joe Ortiz have contributed over their first few opportunities as big leaguers.
Still, I will never get tired of watching this.
Or of seeing schadenfreude-y things like Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura leading the National League in hitting, nine months after fronting the Angels’ trade to get Greinke, who left them with no draft pick compensation since he was with them for less than a season when he bolted to pitch somewhere else.
Though neither Greinke nor Segura will make the cut for Casey Affleck, who already has far more material than he’ll be able to cram into a two-hour movie, as the Angels’ new right fielder keeps on giving.
Maybe it’s a reality show instead.
It’s just half a month, and we can’t bank on the arrow pointing even higher for Segura, or for Tepesch or Garcia or Fearless Joe, and if you need a reminder on how those things sometimes work out differently than we thought, the Borbon narrative is fairly useful.
If you’re ready to bury the Angels’ season, you’re probably also giving up on Olt and Cody Buckel in the middle of April, and I’d suggest you tap the brakes on all of that.
It’s the time of the baseball year to overreact, but just as you don’t grade an off-season in early December, you don’t draw conclusions on a baseball season in April.
Moves at the Winter Meetings do start to define the off-season, though, and along similar lines April wins and April losses count, just as much as the ones in September do, even if the standings themselves matter as much at this point as a December 10 column labeling that winter’s “Winners & Losers” among the 30 front offices.
I’m capitulating to cliché in suggesting that while you can’t win a pennant in April, you sure can lose it, and while my radar is up on whether the 4-8 Rays will be able to stay with the four teams ahead of them in the AL East long enough to put off the thought of trading David Price, and on when the 2-11 Marlins will look honestly in the mirror and the stadium and accept what they see, in this April moment I’m intensely interested in the day-to-day drama playing out in Anaheim, in whether Texas can turn Julio Borbon into a piece that might fit down the road, and in the next time the skipper hands Joe Ortiz the ball or the next time Leury Garcia kicks that 80 run into gear to cut off a baseball more than 100 feet away, to make a play, to help win a game, because they count just as much in the first month as they do in the sixth.