Despite what the Dodgers-Red Sox megadeal might lead you to believe, there's very little chance of a huge trade being worked out in August. It's the nature of the beast. Teams are only able to exchange players who have passed through waivers (or are forced to deal claimed players to the teams that won the waiver claim). The best players, with the most tolerable contracts, are all claimed, but there's little incentive to make a deal when the team trying to acquire the veteran has no one to compete against as they try to build an acceptable offer, teams are able to block their rivals by making claims they have no intention of following through on, and the teams with veterans on waivers can pull their players back at any time. The structure, except in the rarest of cases (such as over last weekend), doesn't exist to allow for real blockbusters. But due to the complicated rules of August trading, that's not terribly apparent to the casual fan.
So when news leaked yesterday morning to Ken Rosenthal that Joe Mauer had been placed on trade waivers (even though such things are supposed to be confidential), Twins fans understandably (but not justifiably) freaked the freak out.
So let's get this out of the way: There's almost no chance that Joe Mauer will play for any other team in 2013. For one thing, his contract is a huge deterrant for a team that's acquiring him. Joe's going to be paid $138 million between 2013 and 2018, when his current deal expires. That's a long time and a lot of money to be on the hook for a player with as many injury problems that Joe's had. So even if a team does claim Mauer, there's even less of a chance that that team will give the Twins enough of a return to make unloading the future Hall of Famer worthwhile for the Twins.
That's not to say, by the way, that the Mauer contract is a bad contract. I mean, it's a dirty little secret that most long-term contracts don't wind up paying for themselves. You tend to have to overpay for future production as a type of penance for young players being underpaid relative to their value in their early years. Elite talent becomes expensive.
But elite talent also performs at an elite level...at least for a while. And that's what Joe's done this year. Mauer's hit .312/.405/.431, good for a 132 OPS+, while playing more than half of his games behind the plate, and starting 118 of his team's 130 games. According to FanGraphs, he's been worth 3.8 WAR this year already.
So no, Joe Mauer's contract is not horrible (unlike what some people might have you believe). And it certainly isn't the reason the Twins are losing in 2012. As long as Joe Mauer is productive and healthy, and even after he isn't, he'll be a Minnesota Twin. So settle down Twins fans, this is exactly the sort of reason why trade waivers are supposed to be secret in the first place. Dozens and dozens of players that clubs have no intention of parting with go on them, and their revelation only results in a lot of sound. So feel free to direct your fury at those reporting this as actual news and stirring up a panic.
Pitcher of the Night: Samuel Deduno, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 9 K, 0 R
Going into last night, Sam Deduno had walked 37 batters in 51 innings, and struck out just 30, and it seemed unlikely I'd have to come through on my offer to buy everyone a pizza if his ERA finished below 4.00. Then he goes and shuts out the Mariners over 7 innings with no walks and 9 strikeouts. I'm just baffled. Baseball is a funny game. If Deduno ever figures out what he's doing out on the mound, he's got some crazy movement on his pitches.
Hitter of the Night: Yunel Escobar, 4-5, HR , 3 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI
Like the rest of the Blue Jays, Escobar has been brutal over the last month. While the team went 6-22 from July 29-August 28, Escobar had hit just .209/.265/.242 with just three extra base hits, all doubles, and only 2 runs scored in the entire month of action. But Escobar broke out big time yesterday. Hopefully the Jays can do likewise, because watching them is just depressing at this point.
Play of the Night: Jarod Dyson
I realize that I have a weakness for plays in which a guy goes an exceedingly long way to catch a baseball. If that's a flaw, I'll wear it. Dyson starts out in deep right-center, and winds up in mid left-center on a sinking line drive. Just a tremendous play. I wish we could embed it.
Injuries of Note:
Kenley Jansen, heart
No joking. Get better, Kenley.
Dodgers: Ronald Belisario, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 R, Sv
Belisario's outing was a true save last night, in that he came in with his team in big trouble in the 8th, and shut the Rockies down for almost two innings. I suppose it's tempting to rip Bobby Valentine for trying to get a multiple inning save from Alfredo Aceves on Tuesday. Matthew Pouliot certainly did, saying "If this were 1982, Valentine’s handling of Aceves may have been pretty typical. But the fact of the matter is that hardly anyone is sent out for two-inning saves these days." Well, Belisario fell just one out short of that magical two-inning plateau, but seriously, this is what Valentine was trying to do. Let's not slag on the concept of two-inning saves just because Alfredo Aceves isn't an elite reliever.
Rockies: Adam Ottavino, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 R
Ottavino's tremendous August continues. He's now thrown 23.2 innings and given up three runs, for a 1.14 ERA. As you can tell, I'm a little obsessed with this guy.
Reds: Chris Heisey, 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI
After last year, I think a lot of us were really excited to see more of Heisey, but with the re-emergence of Ryan Ludwick, and the increasingly strange obsession with Drew Stubbs (who has a .288 OBP, but don't worry, he's a great leadoff hitter), there hasn't been much room for the best 4th outfielder in baseball.
Braves: Tommy Hanson, 4.2 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 4 R
Tommy Hanson hasn't actually looked sharp for more than two months now, and at this point probably shouldn't even be in the playoff rotation, if the Braves get in. It's a sad decline for a young man who seemed to be one of the game's bright young stars two years ago.
White Sox: Dylan Axelrod, 7.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 R
It's perfectly ok to wonder who the hell this is.
Phillies: Ryan Howard, 0-3, RBI, 1 K
I'm not going to use this to slag on Ryan Howard, but I will say that a .318 OBP is not going to get it done when the Phillies are hoping to reload for next year. Hopefully, he'll impove with more reps.
A's: Yoenis Cespedes, 3-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI
Because he plays in Oakland, and because he's been overshadowed as a rookie by Mike Trout, we haven't been talking much about Yoenis Cespedes and his .298/.358/.504 slash line while playing almost exclusively in cavernous ballparks.
Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI
Alvarez smacked his third homer in two days and is now hitting .249/.328/.494 with 25 bombs. Was I wrong about him? Well, his walk rates have been greatly improved, and there's no doubt that when he's hot, he has one of the biggest bats in the game. And he's been hot for the plast three months or so. But he also continues to strike out in almost a third of his plate appearances, and it's really hard to see how that's sustainable over the long term. Alvarez has struck out in every 2.9 plate appearances in his career, and that's 9th on the all time list (among players with more than 1000 PAs) behind Dave Nicholson, Melvin Nieves, Jack Cust, Kelly Shoppach, Russell Branyan, Mark Reynolds, Rob Deer, and Bo Jackson.
Rays: Evan Longoria, 2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Since coming off the DL, Longoria has hit .253/.301/.467, but has only played 3B four times in 21 games.
Nationals: Bryce Harper, 2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI
I want this to be the first sign of a Harper resurgence, but both shots came off of 21 year old Jacob Turner, who seems a lot like cannon fodder at the moment.
Brewers: Mike Fiers, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 R
In a terrible season, Fiers has been a revelation for the Brewers, striking out more than a batter an inning and putting up a 146 ERA+ in 16 starts. He and Yovani Gallardo should form a really interesting 1-2 for the club next year.
Royals: Bruce Chen, 8 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 R
Oh man, the Tigers got #BruceChenned. As you'd probably expect, BruceChennings have been way down this year thanks to the concept of regression to the mean not just being a fun catch phrase. Even the Twins have only been BruceChenned once this year.
Giants: Hunter Pence, 1-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB
While the Giants have increased their lead in the NL West, Hunter Pence has been a huge disappointment since coming over from the Phillies. He's hit just .219/.274/.352 and managed just his second homer in 117 PAs last night. At least it was a big one.
Angels: CJ Wilson, 6 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 3 R
Wilson ends what had been an abysmal month (7.99 August ERA) with a decent outing. The Angels are now 3 back in the Wild Card race, but are going to have to get past three of the following four teams to do it: the Tigers, Rays, Orioles, and A's. It's not looking good.