Why Do the Cleveland Indians Want Johnny Damon?

This is old news in today’s world but Johnny Damon signed a deal with the Cleveland Indians for $1.25M with another possible $1.4M in incentives. MLBtraderumors writes that deal includes a full no-trade clause and would allow Damon to “explore other opportunities”  if he loses playing time if or when Grady Sizemore returns from injury.

When or if Sizemore comes back from injury it will create a very crowded outfield, first base, and designated hitter situation so why would the Indians even want Johnny Damon? Continue reading


MLB Top 50 Free Agent Predictions


MLB Trade Rumors recently released their top 50 free agents and where they think each player will sign. They had a competition where fans could submit their predictions to win prizes. Here are my predictions for the top 50 free agents.


1.  Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals
2.  Prince Fielder Chicago Cubs
3.  Jose Reyes Milwaukee Brewers
4.  C.J. Wilson New York Yankees
5.  Yu Darvish Texas Rangers
6.  Edwin Jackson Washington Nationals
7.  Jimmy Rollins Philadelphia Phillies
8.  Aramis Ramirez Los Angeles Angels
9.  Carlos Beltran Boston Red Sox
10.  Jonathan Papelbon Boston Red Sox
11.  Michael Cuddyer Seattle Mariners
12.  Mark Buehrle Florida Marlins
13.  David Ortiz Boston Red Sox
14.  Ryan Madson Philadelphia Phillies
15.  Hiroki Kuroda Los Angeles Dodgers
16.  Carlos Pena Pittsburgh Pirates
17.  Francisco Rodriguez Baltimore Orioles
18.  Roy Oswalt Baltimore Orioles
19.  Javier Vazquez Retirement
20.  Heath Bell Florida Marlins
21.  Coco Crisp Chicago White Sox
22.  Hisashi Iwakuma Minnesota Twins
23.  Kelly Johnson Toronto Blue Jays
24.  Josh Willingham Tampa Bay Rays
25.  Paul Maholm New York Mets
26.  Grady Sizemore St. Louis Cardinals
27.  Bartolo Colon Texas Rangers
28.  Erik Bedard Seattle Mariners
29.  David DeJesus Chicago Cubs
30.  Jason Kubel San Francisco Giants
31.  Ramon Hernandez Pittsburgh Pirates
32.  Jeff Francis Colorado Rockies
33.  Chris Capuano San Diego Padres
34.  Tsuyoshi Wada Toronto Blue Jays
35.  Clint Barmes Detroit Tigers
36.  Casey Kotchman Cleveland Indians
37.  Freddy Garcia New York Yankees
38.  Aaron Hill Los Angeles Dodgers
39.  Johnny Damon Cleveland Indians
40.  Aaron Harang Los Angeles Angels
41.  Jamey Carroll Houston Astros
42.  Rafael Furcal St. Louis Cardinals
43.  Juan Pierre Cincinnati Reds
44.  Frank Francisco Arizona Diamondbacks
45.  Jason Marquis New York Mets
46.  Joel Pineiro Los Angeles Dodgers
47.  Jonathan Broxton New York Mets
48.  Joe Nathan Cincinnati Reds
49.  Kerry Wood Retirement
50.  Bruce Chen Pittsburgh Pirates


Trade Deadline Head Scratchers

Earlier today I wrote about the trade deadline winners so I feel the need to write, not about the losers, it’s too soon to tell, but about the deals and non-deals that made me scratch my head and wondering what the team was thinking. With that said, here are the trades that left me in wonder:

The Giants trade for Cabrera: The Giants traded Thomas Neal, a prospect in that has a good chance to be a solid 4th outfielder for Orlando Cabrera, a guy with -0.7 fWAR and a -7.2 UZR. Yes, the Giants need middle infield help but Cabrera should not be playing on any contending team and the fact they gave up a prospect for him makes the deal even worse. This is after they traded Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. Sure, Beltran was the best position player available but they get 2+ months of Beltran and no compensation pick and lose a potential top-of-the-rotation starter with 6 years of control.

The Dodgers give Robinson away: The Dodgers apparently love to give legit prospects away for bulk prospects with bench potential. They traded Trayvon Robinson who was hitting .293/.375/.563 with 26 homeruns in his first season in AAA. He has great raw power but swings and misses a lot and is still raw for a guy who will be 24 on September 1st. He has the wheels to play center but is better suited for left and could have been starting there next year for the Dodgers but they wanted a future back up catcher in Tim Federowicz with no bat and two future right-handed relievers in Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez. On top of this they are holding on to aging veterans when they need to save money and rebuild.

The Twins proposal of Span for Storen and not trading Cuddyer: Why would the Twins, who need to be selling high on Michael Cuddyer, be trying to trade Denard Span, a true center fielder who was well on his way to a 5 fWAR season, for Drew Storen, a potential 1 fWAR reliever? Don’t get me wrong, I really like Storen, but Span was having an All-Star year and has that potential moving forward and Storen is a reliever. You don’t make trades like that. What you do is make trades that involve soon-to-be free agents named Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel who are hitting .298/.370/.477 with 16 homeruns and a career high 138 wRC+ while  playing multiple positions and .303/.356/.444 with a 126 wRC+ all while the market is hot for hitters.

The non-moves by losing ball clubs: I have no idea why the only move the A’s made was trading Brad Ziegler. I do like the trade because they got Brandon Allen in return but they held on to too many pieces that could have netted solid returns like Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham, Conor Jackson, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes, and Grant Balfour. The Cubs also held on to guys like Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Pena. I can only imagine the return they’d get for Ramirez who has 19 homeruns and passable defense at one of the worst hitting positions in 2011. The Royals held on to Melky Cabrera, 2010’s worst player who is having a career year hitting .304/.340/.466 with 13 homeruns and 14 stolen bases and, amazingly, passable defense in center and, amazingly, great base running with a +3.9 Bsr. They also held on to Jeff Francoeur who was hitting .272/.326/.464 and an excellent +4.1 UZR in right.

The non-moves by winning ball clubs: The Yankees decided to stand pat and not add a needed starting pitcher for the second deadline in a row. In fact, the most talks surrounding them were about reliever Heath Bell and it was wise of them not to pay heavily for something they did not need. The Angels sat around and complained about the price during the deadline rather than adding a legit bat. The Rays, who had pieces to sell and buy, did absolutely nothing. They could have been the biggest buyers with their farm system and not even traded their top 3 prospects. They desperately need bats and I do not blame them for holding on to B.J. Upton, Casey Kotchman, or Johnny Damon if they think they are still contenders in the AL East. But, if they happened to be sellers why did they not make a deal involving Upton, Kotchman, Damon, Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, or Alex Cobb? Heck, why didn’t they make a trade imvolving a pitcher for a bat anyway. They could have still been contending and helped their 2012 club with the right bat.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt

The 4000 Times on Base Club

There is a lot of attention on Derek Jeter and his quest for 3000 hits. He currently sits at 2981 and needs just 19 hits to become only the 28th member of the 3000 hit club. The attention is warranted but what most people don’t realize is that Jeter is, and has been, more than a slap-happy swinging batter, and became the 41st member of the 4000 Times on Base club last year. Also joining him last year was as the 42nd member was Manny Ramirez.

There was no press made when Alex Rodriguez became just the 43rd member of the exclusive 4000 Times on Base club back on May 18th against the Baltimore Orioles. But mark my words, there will be at least 6 months of press in 2013 when he is approaching 3000 hits.

This coming week we will more than likely see the newest member of the 4000 TOB club and most people won’t pay attention because he has done it with “only” 2233 hits so far. That man’s name is Jim Thome and he needs only to reach base 4 more times to join this exclusive club. Not far behind him we will see Chipper Jones join the club in the month of June, having to reach base only 16 times to be part of the exclusive club. Oh, Chipper Jones will be only the 4th switch hitter to join the club. Again, no major press will pick up on this.

This is pretty big news because looking down the line the next closest people to join this club are the 44 year old part-timer Omar Vizquel (116 more), the 37 year old Bobby Abreu (276 more), the 37 year old Johnny Damon (385 more), and the soon-to-be 38 year old Todd Helton (449 more). After that the next best possible member will be Albert Pujols who has reached base 2966 times. I find it hard to see Vizquel, Helton, and even Damon joining the club.

The 4000 Times on Base club may not be as exclusive as the 3000 hit club but it is still very exclusive. Every eligible member of the 4000 TOB club is in the Hall of Fame except Rusty Staub, and those with an asterisks next to their name: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmeiro. Recent retirees such as Craig Biggio (one of only 17 player to reach base 4500 times), Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, and Ken Griffey Jr. all have HOF credentials. Now, I don’t mind the hoopla that surrounds the 3000 hit club but some of it needs to go to the 4000 Time on Base club because they have been neglected far too long.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert

Where Did Damon’s Patience Go?

The Rays have had some recent struggles getting offense out of their Designated Hitter spot. In 2010 the Rays DH spot hit .238/.322/.391 with 17 homeruns and 7 stolen bases. So far this season, the Rays DHs are hitting .250/.283/.432 and a large chunk of that is thanks for the combined 1-26 by Manny Ramirez and Dan Johnson while DHing. Since the abrupt retirement of Ramirez the primary DH has been Johnny Damon who has hit .272/.303/.478 with 7 homeruns and 3 stolen bases from the DH spot. Here is a full chart of the Rays DH at-bats:

Elliot Johnson 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 1.000
Felipe Lopez 2 8 8 2 3 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 1 .375 .375 .875 1.250 .333
Sam Fuld 1 5 5 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 .400
Johnny Damon 32 143 136 18 37 5 1 7 25 3 0 5 19 .272 .303 .478 .781 .273
Dan Johnson 3 12 10 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 .000
Manny Ramirez 4 16 16 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4 .063 .063 .063 .125 .083
Team Total 42 185 176 22 44 6 1 8 30 3 0 7 26 .250 .283 .432 .714 .254
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2011.

Johnny Damon, the Rays primary Designated Hitter is doing a much better job than previous DHs in recent Rays history at hitting for average, power, and stealing bases but he has a ways to go to catch up at getting on base, which is odd because that has been a major part of his offensive repertoire for his career.

Damon’s overall performance so far sits at .260/.296/.442 with a miserable 4.3% walk rate. Damon’s career walk rate is 9.2% and he has had five consecutive seasons of double-digit walk rates including back-to-back career best marks of 11.3% in 2009 and 2010.

The Rays, who paid for this on-base skill are not getting it. Sure, they are getting a power and speed resurgence from Damon thanks to his 7 homeruns and 5 stolen bases in 164 plate appearances (he had 8 homeruns and 11 stolen bases in 613 PAs last year) but the .296 OBP is inexcusable for a player who has hit #2 or #3 for most of the season.

So, what is Damon doing differently? He’s not seeing more strikes. He has seen 46% of pitches in the zone this year compared to 51.8% for his career. He’s not seeing more first pitch strikes either, 52.4% compared to 54.7% for his career. What he is doing is swinging… a lot.

Damon is swinging at 51.4% of all pitches thrown to him compared to just 43.8% in his career. He is only seeing 3.88 P/PA (pitchers per plate appearance) compared to 4.05 for his career. That includes a 75.1% Zone Swing rate compared to just 65.3% for his career and most notable is his 31.2% Out-of-Zone Swing rate compared to his 20.7% O-Swing% for his career. That last number is hugely inexcusable for him and a large reason he has swung and missed at 8.3% of pitches compared to his career mark of 5.9%.

Now that I am done thrashing Damon’s plate discipline I bring some good news: Damon is due to bounce back. A player with a career as prolific as his is bound to correct his form. No, I do not have any statistical evidence to prove that Damon will correct it other than looking at his past which presents plenty of evidence that he is, in fact, a disciplined hitter. While physical traits like bat speed and leg speed may regress as a player ages, plate discipline is not a physical trait, it does not disappear with age. Damon’s BABIP currently sits at .268, almost 40 points lower than his career mark of .307 but that has to do with his lack of discipline and swinging at bad pitches, not luck. Once he harnesses that discipline Damon should put up the best DH numbers they have seen in years.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert

The Legend Of Sam Fuld

The Legend of Sam Fuld is something that is sweeping the Rays fan base and is a popular tag on Twitter right now. Sam Fuld Eats Chick Fil-A on Sundays. The Red Sox check under their bed for Sam Fuld. Sam Fuld is bored by The Most Interesting Man in the World, who bows whenever Sam Fuld enters the room. Sam Fuld routinely puts Baby in a corner. Sam Fuld made Murray Chass like bloggers. Sam Fuld once let a ball drop in the outfield just to see what it felt like. Sam Fuld was walked while in the batter’s box. Sam Fuld can delete the Recylce Bin. Sam Fuld does not dive, he flies.

Most of those very true statements were where most of the population’s Legend of Sam Fuld began, but not mine. The legend started for me when Sam Fuld got his first start of the season on April 3rd and threw Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy out at the plate with a perfect throw that beat Hardy by close to a mile. He wouldn’t start again until April 6th when he 2-3 with a double and a stolen base. His bandwagon gained a few that night.

That same night I wrote my first piece for DraysBay titled “Is It Time To Replace Dan Johnson?” My replacement idea had Johnny Damon moving to first base and Sam Fuld getting the playing time in left field. The post went on to get 263 comments, most bashing me for wanting to bench Johnson and some for me wanting to play Fuld, but there were a few who were on the Fuld bandwagon already.

Now it’s April 7th, the day of my post, Fuld goes 1-3 with a walk at the plate and steals 3 bases! The bandwagon tripled in size that day. Some still believe Sam Fuld to be a myth.

Skip ahead to April 9th. Fuld will end the day 1 for his last 9 including the game on April 8th and today’s game but he makes what might be the best catch of the season, erasing everyone’s memory of his 1-9 mini-slump and momentarily allowing the Rays fan base a glimmer of something to cheer about.

Now jump to last night, April 11th, the day that will forever be remembered as April Fuld’s day, where on national television the Legend of Sam Fuld breaks wide open on ESPN against the Red Sox and the bandwagon becomes overflowing with new fans. Fuld goes 4-6 at the plate with a homerun, a triple, two doubles, and another great catch. The Legend hit its high point when Fuld needed only a single to become the 2nd Ray to ever hit for the cycle and put his name in the Rays history books. In his last at-bat he laced a line-drive down the leftfield line and rather than stopping at first to collect his “cycle” he strolls into 2nd with a stand up double, erasing his name from the Rays history books but embedding it in our minds and in our hearts so that one day, sitting in a rickety rocking chair, telling our grandchildren stories, we can recall the Legend of Sam Fuld, allowing it to live on forever rather than fade away and deteriorate on dead trees.