Teams have until Aug. 31 to add to their rosters through waiver deals. After that, the only options come from within the organization.
The Tigers, one would think, need to make one more deal. If not, they will roll the dice with a shaky Joe Nathan to finish off games and they will go into the postseason with a lineup that leads the American League (.272) in hitting but is hardly frightening.
No team is perfect. The flaws can be covered up or they can kill you. The bullpen always seem to do in the Tigers when it counts the most.
Miguel Cabrera, though having a good season, has not been dominant and the Tiger lineup has included two rookies — Nick Castellanos at third and Eugenio Suarez at shortstop. Ian Kinsler broke a 43-game homerless drought on Friday, and Detroit seems to miss Austin Jackson, who was dealt to Seattle in the three-team trade that landed David Price.
So how can a team this good be in a struggle for the second wild card?
One move that would help the Tigers: Acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies. Yes, the Phillies are often unreasonable in their demands, but Papelbon is a player they want to move. For all his faults (mostly his mouth), he has had a good season and he’s an adrenaline pitcher who feasts on big moments.
The Tigers also need a bat. Daniel Nava would fit. Andre Ethier has cleared waivers but is probably too costly. Michael Cuddyer would be ideal except he’s dealing with a hamstring injury.
The Tigers aren’t the only team that must win now. The A’s acquired three-fifths of their starting rotation before the non-waiver trade deadline, adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs and Jon Lester from the Red Sox. But guess what? The A’s dropped out of first place in the AL West.
Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston and its offense hasn’t clicked since. Where can the A’s find help? Though he’s lacked power, Alex Rios is still a good contact hitter and outfielder, and he’s already cleared waivers.
Let’s take a look at the other playoff contenders:
1. Baltimore — With Manny Machado undergoing season-ending knee surgery, the Orioles may shop for a third baseman/infielder who has made it through waivers. Adrian Beltre may be too rich for Orioles ownership, but he would be the perfect solution. They were able to survive the loss of Matt Wieters and the bust season of Ubaldo Jimenez — whom they have under contract for the next three seasons. And they were able to find a dependable closer in Zach Britton from within, always the best way.
2. Kansas City — The Royals acquired Josh Willingham to help the lineup and they still have scouts looking for more. But their starting rotation and back end of the bullpen is very good.
3. Los Angeles Angels — They have lost ace Garrett Richards as well as Tyler Skaggs. A veteran pitcher to the rescue? Bartolo Colon, who has pitched there before, could be a fit, though he still hasn’t been put on revocable waivers by the Mets, who may want to bring him back as a veteran presence for the young pitchers. The Angels could take a chance on A.J. Burnett, who hasn’t pitched well but could be energized by a pennant race.
4. Seattle — An excellent pitching staff. The issue is always hitting. The Mariners should seek to add a DH/1B who’s better than Kendrys Morales.
5. Washington — The Nationals got their infielder in Asdrubal Cabrera and their lefty in Matt Thornton. They seem to be a team that could stand pat in a lackluster National League.
6. Atlanta — Justin Upton has carried their offense while big brother B.J. has been a complete liability. The Braves need another bat, preferably someone who can play center field, but those options are few and far between.
7. Milwaukee — The Brewers need an impact righthander in a setup role. A lot of blocking has prevented the Brewers from cashing in.
8. St. Louis — The Cardinals made their pitching moves by adding John Lackey and Justin Masterson, and will likely stand pat.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers — Hindsight is 20/20, and competing for Lester or Price at the non-waiver trade deadline was probably the way the Dodgers should have gone. But at the time there were no issues with Hyun-Jin Ryu or Zack Greinke, so GM Ned Colletti went the cheaper route and obtained Kevin Correia to replace the injured Paul Malholm. Colletti could definitely be back in the pitcher market.
10. Pittsburgh — It’s a lineup that could use another significant bat, and there are those in the organization who love Nava. The Pirates have a lot of outfielders, so whomever they go after would have to be a pinch-hit threat. They gave a thumbs down on Adam Dunn. They also want a reliever after trading Jason Grilli. They’ll be looking hard.
11. San Francisco — When scout Pat Burrell shows up, it means the Giants are looking for a hitter, likely one with oomph. Mike Napoli would make sense, but Boston is likely not willing to move him.
DEAL THEM IN
Dodgers ready toearn their dividend
Would you do it again?
The answer for Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is yes.
“We needed to do it for a variety of reasons,” Colletti said. “And it looked like the Red Sox needed to do it as well.”
Of course we’re talking about the deal on Aug. 25, 2012, that sent Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, and James Loney.
The Red Sox so far. The deal, which shed $265 million of mostly underperforming contracts, enabled Ben Cherington to sign seven free agents who helped Boston rebuild and win a championship in 2013.
Now, should the Dodgers win it all this year, they’ll at least even it up.
Gonzalez has slightly underperformed this season when compared with his careeer averages. But he is among the National League leaders in RBIs and he entered the weekend hitting .317 with runners in scoring position.
Crawford has been injured and hasn’t contributed much. Beckett has gone 8-14 with a 3.39 ERA in 35 starts with the Dodgers — including a no-hitter — but he’s missed time this season and last. A hip injury has him on the disabled list and contemplating retirement.
The Red Sox were fortunate to have the Dodgers come along and take those players off their hands. The Dodgers have always contended that their focus was Gonzalez, and they took on the rest to make the deal happen.
The Dodgers were in the early stages of new ownership and needed to prove to their fans that they were big-time players. They were in the process of signing a multibillion-dollar TV deal and needed big names to make it happen.
The Red Sox will continue to benefit from the deal if De La Rosa and Webster can be effective starters. If the Dodgers get to the World Series, then they will have reaped benefits as well.
Crawford says he’s happy in LA, but the Dodgers would love to find a team willing to deal for him, even if it means absorbing a large amount of the $62 million remaining on his contract.
Apropos of nothing
1. The Red Sox would not give the Cubs lefty prospect Henry Owens in trade talks back in early July for Jeff Samardzija, according to a major league source. Owens has drawn rave reviews at Double and Triple A, but there’s a cross-section of scouts who love Owens and those who feel his lack of fastball velocity will not play well in the majors.
2. Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a doubles machine. He has 42 and could become the first primary catcher to lead his league in that category.
3. The Twins have suffered with injuries to their top prospects. They lost third baseman Miguel Sano in spring training to Tommy John surgery, and Baseball America’s No. 1 overall prospect, center fielder Byron Buxton, 20, missed the early part of the season. One game into his promotion to Double A New Britain last week, Buxton sustained a concussion in an outfield collision, and he won’t return this season. On the flip side for the Twins, youngsters Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas have played well at the major league level.
4. The Indians acquired infielder Zach Walters in the Asdrubal Cabrera deal with the Nationals. Walters, 24, has eight hits with the Indians, five being home runs. Between the minors and majors, he has 25 homers on the season.
5. Hank Aaron never struck out 100 times in a season. His high was 97 in 1967. He also never struck out more than 63 times over the last nine seasons of his career. He also never walked 100 times in a season.
6. XanderBogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. may not be lost causes. Back in 1973, as a 23-year-old rookie in his first full season for the Phillies, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt hit .196 (though he did produce 18 homers). Barry Bonds hit .223 in his rookie season. Roberto Clemente hit .255 with five homers and a .666 OPS. As a 21-year-old rookie in 1973, Dwight Evans hit .223 with 10 homers and and a .703 OPS. In 1958, a 21-year-old Brooks Robinson hit .238 with three homers and a .597 OPS. Yes, he was a vacuum cleaner then as well.
7. I love WAR, but where we part company is that on the day Bradley was sent to Pawtucket, his WAR was 1.4 and David Ortiz’s was 1.5.
Updates on nine
1. Greg Colbrunn/Victor Rodriguez, hitting coaches, Red Sox — They did a terrific job with the lineup last year. This season, not so much. Colbrunn also had the in-season brain hemorrhage. But is it their fault rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were busts? Or that Will Middlebrooks has not made much improvement offensively in his quest to nail down the third base job? The answer is it’s on the players. But in a year where the results weren’t there, does one or both take the fall?
2. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers — Beltre is one of the head-scratchers during this waiver period. He cleared waivers even though he’s having a phenomenal year for a last-place team. Beltre is owed about $34 million over the next two years, but for a contender needing an impact bat, why not Beltre?
3. Bartolo Colon, RHP, Mets — He will likely be placed on revocable waivers this weekend, but it doesn’t appear he’d ever get through the National League. And Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi is of the opinion that Colon could be a solidifying presence with the team next season. “Bartolo has been a tremendous influence on our young kids and a veteran who can give us 200 innings while the young guys develop,” he said.
4. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Red Sox — One National League scout who has watched Buchholz lately said he can’t believe how “cutter-happy” the righthander has become. “That pitch has sunk so many pitchers,” said the scout. “Buchholz has more talent than most of the pitchers in the game. To see him not use that arsenal he has like he used to is just amazing. He had one of the best changeups I’ve seen and now you rarely see it.”
5. Chris Carter, DH/OF, Astros — Carter was pulled back on waivers by the Astros, but when he was available before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline there was hardly any interest. Carter has hit 30 homers and driven in 72 runs despite being a high-strikeout guy. “Lots of sniffs after the fact,” said one major league source.
6. Jonny Gomes, OF, A’s — The A’s are masters of the platoon, but Gomes hasn’t worked out for them yet, entering the weekend with a .211 average since his trade from Boston. For sure, Gomes is a streaky hitter, but the A’s need Gomes to make up for some of Yoenis Cespedes’s run production and it just hasn’t happened.
7. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox — Another outstanding season for Ortiz. He won’t say it publicly, but Ortiz left money on the table when he signed his current deal. Ortiz was clearly a $20 million player who settled for $16 million in 2015. If he continues to be productive next season, we’ll likely hear more about his contract. He’s proven once again that he’s one of the most feared hitters in the game.
8. Yu Darvish, RHP, Rangers — Hard to decipher what’s going on with Darvish. His elbow issue will likely keep him out for the rest of the year. Texas GM Jon Daniels said he doesn’t want Darvish out there risking further injury with nothing on the line, while some blame Darvish for shutting it down. There’s also a side that says Darvish wants to go home to Japan, that the poor showing by the team has made him upset. It was surprising Darvish cleared waivers, but the elbow issue scared everyone off.
9. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners — Cano sent Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa a Rolex watch just to show his appreciation for the work Bowa put in to make Cano a good second baseman when they were together with the Yankees. “Forty-five years in baseball, no one’s ever done anything like that for me,” Bowa said. “I’m really touched. Every day in spring training and during the season, we went out there and worked. He did the work. I was happy to help. He never forgot and that’s nice. He’s a good friend and I appreciate it.”
From the Bill Chuck files: “Since April 18, when Ike Davis was traded to the Pirates, he has hit .240 with seven homers and 34 RBIs; Lucas Duda, who became the Mets first baseman, since the trade has hit .253 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs.” . . . Through June 30, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Abreu were tied for the major league lead with 25 homers. Since July 1, Cruz has nine homers, Abreu eight, and Encarnacion two. But Chris Carter has 17 . . . Happy 50th birthday, Kip Gross.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.