Baseball Expert Tony DeMarco has been covering the big leagues since 1987, and been casting Hall of Fame ballots for the last 14 years. He answers questions weekly here:
Q. Ervin Santana and Dan Haren have pitched poorly this year. What is the best option for the Angels? Do they wait for Haren's return and hope his apparent season-long injury is behind him, and that he pitches well the rest of the way? Do they take a shot at somebody like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, and bump Santana out of the rotation?
— Shane, Las Vegas
A. General manager Jerry Dipoto is running out of time to make those decisions, as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.
Santana continues to mystify with his inconsistency, although his first start after the break was decent. Haren (back) is scheduled to return from the disabled list this weekend, and will have only 2-3 starts before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline for Dipoto and Co. to assess.
The good news is the Angels aren't locked into either pitcher beyond this season (they have club options on both), so as much as they need them to pitch well down the stretch in 2012, there is great flexibility moving forward.
Greinke isn't a big-market kind of guy, so I'd dismiss him. But Hamels is sitting on possibly the biggest contract in pitching history, and the Angels have to be players for the San Diego native if the Phillies can't sign him, and decide to move him before the deadline — as expected here.
The latest report has the Phillies apparently willing to offer around $120 million for Hamels, but if the 28-year-old left-hander plays his cards right, he's going to get much more than that.
You can argue the merits of putting that much money into Hamels, who never has won more than 15 games (but is on his way to doing so). But it's irrelevant because some team is going to offer him at least six guaranteed years at around $25 million per year annual average value.
Talk about an opportune time for an elite starting pitcher to hit the market — as the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies, and a handful of other, less-financially-able contenders all need Hamels.
In fact, CC Sabathia's seven-year, $161-million deal signed in 2009 could be within reach here for Hamels. Remember, the game never has been as flush in billion-dollar television contracts as it is now; salaries only are going up, not down.
All of that makes trading for Hamels now a tricky proposition, of course. But the Angels should be high on Hamels' list of potential new long-term employers, and they will be saving $28.5 million in options on Haren and Santana in 2013 (minus the $4.5 million in buyouts), so they can fit Hamels into their budget. (And you know they want to keep him away from the cross-town Dodgers, who also are a great fit).
One drawback to the Angels trading for Hamels now would be the likely inclusion of Peter Bourjos in a deal — something Dipoto has said he doesn't want to do. With Torii Hunter also in the last year of his deal (at $18 million), Bourjos could be looking at every-day playing time in 2013, and what an outfield it would be with Mike Trout in right and Mark Trumbo in left, if the Angels let Hunter move on.
Q. The four Giants in the All-Star Game looked good. In order to really be a threat to go deep in the playoffs, however, the team needs a legit cleanup hitter, another reliever or two, another reliable starter and a major-league shortstop. Realistically, what do you think they will be able to add?
— Robert Pyper, Phoenix
A. Can't say that I disagree with your assessment of the Giants' needs, but don't expect all of them to be addressed. Their system isn't deep enough for that — not that GM Brian Sabean would want to go all-in, anyway.
I'd prioritize the Giants' needs this way: 1) Bat; 2) Closer/setup type; 3) middle infielder; 4) starting pitcher. The first two really should be addressed, and since the third is a relatively cheap alternative, that could happen as well. As for the starting pitcher need, his name is Tim Lincecum. He simply has to turn it around.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
You have to stick with Brandon Belt at first base — especially since he's hitting around .400 against left-handed pitching since June 1 — and turn to a new corner outfielder for more production.
Santiago Casilla has done a commendable job filling in for Brian Wilson, but another closer/setup man option could make the late innings much more comfortable for Bruce Bochy.
So here are a just a few of the possibilities for Sabean: Josh Willingham, Matt Capps or Glen Perkins and Jamey Carroll from the Twins; Carlos Quentin, Huston Street or Luke Gregorson, and Everth Cabrera from San Diego; Jeff Francoeur, Jonathan Broxton or Greg Holland, and Yuniesky Betancourt from the Royals. Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson, among many others, also makes sense.
But remember, the longer-term costs for mid-season deals like these can be steep. Just look back a year ago, when the Giants sent elite pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran — who got hurt, didn't lead the Giants back to the playoffs, then left through free agency.
Wheeler could have been the guy the Giants turn to down the stretch this season — let alone for the next several seasons. So, bottom line, don't look for a rent-a-player deal again from Sabean. If the Giants get a bat, it's highly likely to be one who will be around for a couple of years.
Q. I have never understood why when a batter swings at a third strike and it gets away from the catcher, the batter can run to first base and be safe. To me, it's a third strike, and the batter is out. I can see if runners are on base, they can advance. Please explain.
— Donald Gill, Sierra Vista, Az.
A. Very simply, an out is an out because the baseball is caught by somebody — whether it be a first baseman taking a throw from an infielder who has fielded a ground ball, any fielder catching a pop up or fly ball, or a catcher recording an out at the plate, either by a tag, force out or catching a strike three.
In the situation you reference, there has been no out recorded, even though it was a third strike. But in a vast majority of these situations, the out simply is recorded by the catcher either tagging the batter/runner, or throwing to first base. It's pretty rare to see the batter/runner end up being safe at first.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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