A trio of intriguing, midlevel Tuesday deals answered a few questions here at baseball’s winter meetings, but left many more unanswered. Here's a look at what each deal means for the teams involved — and for the notable outfielders and starting pitchers still in limbo.
Arizona Acquires Mark Trumbo in a Three-Team Trade
The highlight move was the three-team trade that sent Adam Eaton to the White Sox (from the Diamondbacks), Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago to the Angels (from the Diamondbacks and White Sox, respectively), and Mark Trumbo, minor league pitcher A.J. Schugel (via the Angels), and minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs (via the White Sox) to the Diamondbacks.
Who needs the winter meetings? Apparently not Major League Baseball’s general managers, who, while evidently hopped up on krokodil, executed a flurry of trades and free-agent deals a week before the sport's offseason confab at Disney World. The 48-hour swirl of signings and swaps saw Jacoby Ellsbury commit the ultimate heel turn, the Nationals further solidify their starting rotation, and the A's begin filming their audition tape for Hoarders: Bullpen Strong. Tuesday's action was largely a series of middling moves and “my garbage for your trash” trades, but taken cumulatively, the effect was, well, startling.
As with any period of great upheaval, the stunned citizenry must have questions. Let's try to answer five of them, starting with the big one.
In the first blockbuster trade of this offseason, the Detroit Tigers sent Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This deal makes a ton of sense — for both teams.
Still, a one-for-one trade has rarely been so complicated. Given all the repercussions likely to follow, let's simplify this by examining the impact one team at a time.
What This Means for the Tigers
The Tigers had the most inflexible roster in baseball last year, and it wasn’t even close. In Miguel Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez, they carried three designated hitters who all needed to be in the lineup. That meant Fielder playing below-average defense at first base and Cabrera showing statue-like range at third. It all came to a head during the playoffs. Groin and abdominal issues further degraded Cabrera’s already poor defense, but the Tigers couldn’t shift their injured but still potent star to DH with Martinez raking and Fielder providing their biggest source of left-handed power. Trading Fielder loosens that logjam. Now Cabrera can move back to first base, where he’ll do less harm to Detroit’s defense. And if new manager Brad Ausmus decides to give Cabrera a bit of a breather, he can slide the two-time MVP to DH and let Martinez play first base, a position he has shown he can play semi-competently.
In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In case you were rocking a CFL jersey in court, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts once again used their comeback magic to eke out a 30-27 win over the Tennessee Titans. "Wow, we were pretty fortunate to get that win," Luck said after the game. When asked by reporters to phrase his comments another way, Luck replied, "It was a hell of a fortuitous outcome, that's for sure. Chance favored us, as we were blessed with kismet." When asked again to phrase what he was saying in perhaps a simpler and more headline-friendly way, Luck said, "Oh, I see. Well, I would say we struck gold with this team. I would say the win was in the cards. Some may say we caught the breaks, that our run has been a fluke, that the gods were smiling upon us, that victory and my team were joined by serendipity. I mean, we got horseshoes on our helmets and clovers in our pockets, so what would you expect?" Luck then glared at the assembled media and added, "Suck it, for me."
Andre Iguodala's buzzer-beater was the difference as the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-115, in a riveting Western Conference battle. "Another tough loss, but we're so close," an optimistic Kevin Durant said at the postgame press conference. "I mean, we're just one player away from being really good. And it's no one's fault that we don't have that guy. This front office and ownership group has only made smart decisions." Durant then went to take a sip of water, when things went horribly awry. Durant started shooting sparks out of his mouth, and saying in a horrific robotic voice, "FAILURE, ROBOTIC FAILURE, MUST POWER DOWN, WHY WOULD YOU PROGRAM ME TO FEEL PAIN?" before collapsing to the ground and bursting into flames. Suddenly, a human Durant burst into the room yelling, "They drugged me! They didn't want me to talk," before looking at his robotic double dying on the ground at his feet. "You tried to play God, you monsters!" Durant yelled, as he held his robot double's head in his hands. "All to save a couple million bucks on the Harden deal. This robot must have cost that much. Curse you, Clay Bennett! Curse you!"
In case you were busy waiting for some good news in the world of football, seriously, any good news, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In a chippy Western Conference matchup that saw Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka get ejected, Blake Griffin's double-double proved the difference as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-103. "It's not fair!" Ibaka yelled in the Thunder locker room after the game. "It doesn't make sense! Barnes pushed me. Why do I get ejected?" Thunder head coach Scott Brooks sat down next to his furious center, put his hand on Ibaka's back, and said, "Hey bud, sit down. Why do you think they ejected you?" But Ibaka snapped back, "Don't talk to me like that. I'm not a kid anymore, Scott! We're not kids anymore. We're grown men, and it's time you started treating us that way." Brooks smiled and said, "I know, Serge, come on," but Ibaka continued on, saying, "No! You don't know. They say you're a bad coach. They say you've always been a bad coach. Our offense is a joke. Griffin was laughing at our offense. They all were laughing. They all were laughing!" Ibaka balled up his fists and clenched his eyelids shut. Brooks looked at him and said, "Hey, bud. I get it. No one likes to be laughed at. But you don't fight my fights. We're all grown-ups here, Serge. Hey, Serge, look at me." Tears were visible in the corners of Ibaka's eyes as he shook his head, unable to look his coach in the eyes. "Sorry, Scott," Ibaka managed. "I just got carried away." Brooks touched Ibaka's head, told him, "No need to apologize," and started to walk away before turning back and adding, "You got ejected because they caught you fighting back. If you want to fight, you have to start it. That's part of being a man. Time to grow up, ace. Time to grow up."
In case you were busy trying to solve the Heat's chemistry issues using stoichiometry, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
It was a weekend of big comebacks in the NFL as contenders Seattle and Indianapolis mounted stunning symmetrical rallies behind their Pro Bowl second-year quarterbacks to beat Tampa Bay and Houston, respectively, 27-24. When asked if they were disappointed to have fallen behind relatively poor opposition, both Seattle's Russell Wilson and the Colts' Andrew Luck replied, "It's easy to look at records and dismiss an opponent, but every team in the league is good." Then both men said, "There are no excuses in this league. Sure, we lost a top receiver to an ACL injury last week, but every team deals with injuries, and it's on me to avoid mistakes," before both said, "But what's special with this team is its belief and resolve." When asked if they were considering a presidential run after their careers were over, both men laughed and replied, "Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself but who knows?" Then both men pointed directly at the camera and said, "But I do know this: There's only one man standing in my way. And he knows who he is. And I will stop at nothing until I am the most powerful man in the world." Then both men let out uncharacteristically evil maniacal laughs, before clearing their throats and adding, "Go Hawks," and, "Go Colts."
In a battle of ACC unbeatens, Florida State throttled Miami 41-14 as they narrowly moved back to no. 2 in the BCS standings. "Don't worry, folks," said Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher after the game, "we're not gonna run up the score for no BCS computer. No siree, Bob." Fisher then pulled his sunglasses down to the tip of his nose, peered out over them, and said, "We're gonna run up the score because scoring lots of points is real fun."
Your wife is too good at recognizing actors' faces. Since moving to L.A. she keeps experiencing false-positive IDs. Sometimes she'll see someone in a store or across a crowded restaurant and become convinced it's someone she knows, maybe an old coworker, a friend of a friend, and then she realizes it's a third-season Top Chef loser, or the suspiciously grief-stricken father from an old CSI. Never mind. Forget it, it's Silver Lake. You tell people it doesn't feel like the rest of L.A. because it's not an industry crowd, but a third of the moms at your kid's school probably have at least a pilot on their résumés.
The cousin of that phenomenon: You keep seeing West Coast versions of East Coast people. You know this is because you moved from the actual Park Slope to Los Angeles's Park Slope. Or from Brooklyn's Park Slope to Los Angeles's Carroll Gardens. Same kind of milieu ergo same kind of hip beardy dads and tastefully tattooed moms. But it feels at least a little bit supernatural when it happens. Like for example there's a West Coast version of C. who comes to Ye Rustic some Sundays. One of the people Janet saves a stool for. She's a whole head taller and probably five years older, but that somehow makes it more eerie, like you're seeing two different actors playing the same character.
In case you were busy keeping a drumroll sound going for 28 hours (and counting) in anticipation of the NCAA's announcement of its findings in the Nevin Shapiro investigation, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
For some reason ESPN preempted coverage of the Monday Night Football game between the Giants and Vikings to show a blooper reel titled Monday Night High Passes and Soft Hits LIVE, a so-called Gaffe Battle in which The Jersey Boys outscored the Lake County Hornheads 23-7. In a particularly thrilling twist, after the Jersey Boys had scored big in the Fumblerooski-Off, surprise guest host Drew Carey emerged to tell both teams that the points they accrued didn't matter, and that Eli Manning and Josh Freeman would have to compete in a hoedown centered on the theme of "Weird First Dates" to determine the game's winner. While Manning was nervous, and turned in a lackluster performance in which he rhymed "wine" with "whine," he was bailed out by Freeman, who was unable to complete a single English word and found himself making guttural sounds and grunts for a soul-crushing 15 minutes.
In case you were busy pouring one out for the Dawgfather, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
After a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty call went against New England, Jets kicker Nick Folk hit a 42-yard field goal in overtime to give New York a come-from-behind 30-27 win. Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended the officials when asked about the penalty after the game, saying, "Look, it was a new rule, and besides, we all got to see some more kicking out there as a result. So how is that not a win for everybody? I know I just love the kicking game; it's absolutely at the core of why I love football. Gotta love the kicking of the football." Ryan then adjusted himself and added, "Now if ya'll excuse me, I have to contrive a reason to leave right now."
The Red Sox won a nail-biter Thursday, topping the Tigers, 4-3, and moving to within one game of claiming the American League pennant. In a game that featured a few spectacular plays, it was the handful of squandered opportunities that stood out most of all.
The Tigers failed to recognize Miguel Cabrera's injuries. That hurt them badly.
Runners on first and second, two outs, bottom of the first inning, scoreless tie. Jhonny Peralta lashes a single to left field. With two outs, you generally want to be aggressive and send the runner home from second, hoping his speed, an errant throw, or both will be enough to score the run. Problem is, the runner headed toward third is Cabrera, whose health has improved enough to make him a threat again at the plate, but not enough to make him much better than a statue at third base and especially when running the basepaths. Lining up the play in left is Jonny Gomes, who isn't a Gold Glover by any means. Still, Cabrera is running so slowly and so gingerly these days, you can't possibly send him.
In case you were busy frantically shorting Arian Foster futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Mike Napoli hit a monster home run as the Boston Red Sox got to Anibal Sanchez and beat the Tigers, 4-3, to take a 3-2 ALCS lead back to Fenway Park. When asked how big a moment the home run was for him, Napoli shrugged, scratched his hairy face, and said, "Smallish? Scale of 1-10? I honestly don't care enough to rate it." When asked where he'd place the team's win in the context of Red Sox franchise history, Napoli yawned, drooled a little into his mustache, and said, "I couldn't care less about history. The only thing more boring than new baseball is old baseball." When asked why he has devoted his life to a pursuit he apparently thinks little of, Napoli stroked his beard and said, "Duh, beards." When told he didn't have to play baseball to grow a beard, Napoli chortled, filling his beard with spittle and sunflower-seed detritus, and asked, "Now who's being naive?" Napoli then ignored a text message from his girlfriend and said, "Now if you don't mind, my beard and I would like a little alone time," before walking into a supply closet at Comerica Park carrying a gilded comb.
Kicking the Momentum Fairy in the ass, the Dodgers and Tigers shrugged off tough losses, hoisting themselves back into their respective series with convincing wins Wednesday.
Here's what went down.
The Dodgers showed that spending a quarter-billion dollars can have some advantages after all.
Absorbing $260 million worth of salary and surrendering multiple quality prospects for three veteran players of varying health and skill level was never going to win the Dodgers any WAR-per-dollar championships. Delving into the details, in many ways, makes last summer's blockbuster deal with the Red Sox look even worse.
In case you were busy preparing to take back a national park from the bears, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Jim Leyland's decision to move Austin Jackson down in the batting order could not have worked out better, as the Tigers outfielder broke out of his slump, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances in Detroit's ALCS-equalizing 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Or could it have worked better? See, Jackson's suddenly hot bat raises this question: Why did Leyland demote his best hitter, costing him a valuable fifth plate appearance? Leyland clearly must now rectify his obvious mistake and move Jackson back up to the top of the order. However, because the outcome of every at-bat is at least somewhat dependent on the context in which it occurred, the question arises as to whether Jackson would have been able to succeed were he given a different set of at-bats. Which means that it's quite clear Leyland should bench Jackson for the remainder of the series lest he make another huge managerial blunder. But doesn't that theory apply to every offensive player on the Tigers' roster? Who is to say any of them can be expected to simply slot into a batting order and play baseball effectively? Which leaves Leyland with only one rational choice as manager: forfeit the remaining games of the series and resign in disgrace. So I think it's fair to say Leyland's decision to move Jackson down in the batting order could have worked out better.
Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs and Zack Greinke threw seven strong innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers staved off elimination in the NLCS by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4. "How dare they?" asked Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game, as his lip quivered with rage. "We go to their stadium and we expect to be hosted with a little bit of decency. But no. Instead we're treated to home runs and fast pitching and no winning! Don't they know we deserve to win? Isn't that a thing they know? How much winning we deserve? We deserve it. Because we care and we're better and we're the best and honor and America!" Matheny then balled his hands into fists and exclaimed, "Ri-ooo! Poon-toe! Puuu-eeg!" as if swearing in short high-pitched bursts.
Two more close, low-scoring battles, two games closer to the World Series. And a few thoughts on a tense Tuesday doubleheader:
There's a belief in some corners that teams must do the little things well to survive in the postseason. The Tigers do them terribly.
Detroit led the majors this season in batting average (.283), finished seventh in home runs (176), and was second in overall park-adjusted offense. The Tigers also ranked last in stolen bases and Baserunning Runs, making them the kind of homer-dependent team that doesn't manufacture runs and hence could run into trouble in the lower-scoring environment of October. They do have a stupendous starting rotation, of course, one that has generated 35 strikeouts in 21 innings over the first three games of the American League Championship Series. But when opponents do put balls in play, Tigers pitchers get very little help, with the team ranked just 24th in Ultimate Zone Rating.