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July 12, 2009
On the Beat
The theoretical, if not exact, first half of the season ends today. While it's a long way to the finish line, certain hitters and pitchers have already established themselves as strong contenders for the major post-season awards. Here is one observer sees the awards at the halfway point, leaning on some of BP's more popular measures in the decision-making process and blatantly stealing an idea patented by old friend Jayson Stark of ESPN.com by picking the worst hitter and pitcher in each league.
National League MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
American League MVP: Joe Mauer, Twins
National League Cy Young: Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
American League Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Royals
National League Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
American League Rookie of the Year: Brad Bergesen, Orioles
National League Worst Hitter: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
American League Worst Hitter: Dioner Navarro, Rays
National League Worst Pitcher: Manny Parra, Brewers
American League Worst Pitcher: Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi admitted this past week that he would listen to offers for ace pitcher Roy Halladay, who can become a free agent after the 2010 season. While Ricciardi later downplayed the idea of pulling the trigger on a deal, finances will likely dictate a trade.
The Blue Jays have an $80 million payroll this season, and already have committed more than $81 million to seven players in 2010, including $15.75 million to Halladay, who tops a list that includes third baseman Scott Rolen, first baseman Lyle Overbay, right fielder Alex Rios, center fielder Vernon Wells, left-handed reliever Scott Downs, and second baseman Aaron Hill. Furthermore, the Jays ate the roughly $15 million remaining on left-handed reliever B.J. Ryan's five-year, $47 million contract when they released him on Wednesday. Wells and Rios are both signed through 2014; Wells is owed $107 million unless he opts out after 2011, which is doubtful. Rios has $67.7 million coming to him along with a $13.5 million club option for 2015.
Halladay would at the very least command a contract similar to the five-year, $82.5 million deal that right-hander A.J. Burnett got from the Yankees last winter to leave the Blue Jays as a free agent. With that in mind, it seems nearly impossible that the Blue Jays can keep Halladay beyond next season.
"I don't think anything has changed. I just think, you know what, why not listen? The worst we can say is no," Ricciardi said. "If someone wants Roy and they're willing to blow us away, we'd be willing to listen, that's all I'm saying. That doesn't mean we'd trade him. That doesn't mean we're looking to trade him. All it means is we'd be willing to listen."
Ricciardi said he would drive a hard bargain, though: "It would take a lot for us to part with him. We've gotten a lot of calls from teams, but none of them are telling us at this point what they're willing to give up. If you're coming at us with a B-list of young players, don't bother. This is one of the five best players in baseball. It's going to take a significant package of players for us to even listen. As the teams call, we'll go through the ones we feel are the serious ones and then we'll start scouting their farm systems to see if there's anything we can do."
Halladay said he has not asked for a trade and didn't anticipate pushing for one in the future unless the Blue Jays go into total rebuild mode. "Whether or not our organization and my goals line up, it's (not) always going to be that way," Halladay said. "Sometimes teams have to take a step back, and I understand that."
Left fielder Ryan Braun spoke his piece last weekend after the Brewers lost three games to the Cubs in a four-game series at Wrigley Field. He has since made his peace with Brewers GM Doug Melvin. Braun had criticized the Brewers' pitching staff and challenged Melvin to make a trade to rectify the situation, something along the lines of the deal last July in which left-hander CC Sabathia was acquired from the Indians. Melvin took umbrage at that suggestion and called Braun's comments "irresponsible" and "inappropriate."
However, the two talked things out. "I take full responsibility for everything that I say, for all of my actions," Braun said. "At times I'm emotional, I'm passionate. It's derived from just wanting to win, but I definitely take full responsibility for that. I apologize if I offended anybody in the organization. That clearly wasn't my intent. I wasn't trying to disrespect anybody, wasn't trying to call anybody out. I was just basically responding to a question. I try when I'm dealing with the media to be honest, and sometimes I'm honest to a fault. It gets me in trouble. I recognize that. It's a strength and a weakness. It's something that I need to be more aware of at times."
Melvin said there would were no need for apologizes and no grudges to be held. "Both of us said what was said," Melvin said. "We know where each other is coming from."
Brewers manager Ken Macha was just glad the situation was resolved before it became a distraction. "He's pretty good at what he does," Macha said of Melvin said. "Last year, he wound up getting a pretty good pitcher for this ballclub. That's enough said."
Firing manager Bob Melvin and replacing him with farm director A.J. Hinch has not exactly had the desired effect the Diamondbacks hoped when they made the move May 8. The Diamondbacks were 12-17 under Melvin, and have gone 25-33 under Hinch as they are 38-50 and in fourth place in the NL West, 17½ games behind the Dodgers.
Perhaps the Diamondbacks should have named third baseman Mark Reynolds player/manager. Reynolds went off on his teammates after they committed three errors in a 5-0 loss to the Rockies on July 3 that dropped the Diamondbacks a season-worst 18 games under .500 at 31-49, accusing some teammates of "packing it in" and saying his team played like "the Bad News Bears." Hinch had held three team meetings in three weeks prior to Reynolds' tirade to little avail. Since Reynolds went off, the Diamondbacks have won eight of nine.
"You can give all the rah-rah speeches you want and have all the team meetings you want and yell at guys, but guys have got to (care)," Reynolds said in his July 3 remarks. "I don't really see it. I know I care. I'm out there busting my tail every night trying to win. Physical errors are fine, but guys loafing, guys not being where they're supposed to be or guys giving up on ABs, it's not acceptable at any level."
The July 3 games was "low-lighted" by rookie left fielder Gerardo Parra throwing so wildly to second base that Dexter Fowler came all the way around to score while trying to stretch a single into a double, as well as center fielder Chris B. Young missing an easy fly ball, and an instance when nobody covered second base on a stolen-base attempt, so the throw from the catcher sailed into center field.
MLB Rumors and Rumblings: Many executives and scouts believe the Angels are well-positioned to trade for Halladay, and they seemed poised to at least make an offer at some point; the Cardinals, Brewers, and Phillies are also expected to get involved, and the White Sox are considered a dark horse. … Second baseman Freddy Sanchez appears to be the next Pirates player to be traded, as the Giants, Rockies, Twins, and Mariners are all said to be suitors. The Pirates would prefer to swing a deal with the Rockies in which they would get second base prospect Eric Young Jr. … The Indians are going to cut payroll next season, which likely means two of their arbitration-eligible players, reliever Rafael Betancourt and catcher Kelly Shoppach, can be had in trade unless GM Mark Shapiro reverses course and decides to put left-hander Cliff Lee or catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez on the block. … The Royals are willing to deal right-hander Brian Bannister for offensive help. … The White Sox are more apt to trade right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel after acquiring Tony Peña from the Diamondbacks in a trade this week, and would consider giving up closer Bobby Jenks if they were overwhelmed by the offer.