MLBits: Aces Working Their Way Back, Retiring Yankees, Lucroy and Pirates Explain, More

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MLBits: Aces Working Their Way Back, Retiring Yankees, Lucroy and Pirates Explain, More

Chicago Cubs

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We are about a quarter of the way through August already, can you believe it?

This season has really flown by.

But many of the best parts – like, you know, October – are still to come. So strap in and hang on. We’re approaching the final stretch of the season.

  • In case you managed to miss this, Alex Rodriquez will play his final game in the Major Leagues this Friday against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Following the game, the Yankees and A-Rod announced Sunday, Rodriguez will be unconditionally released from his player contract, in order to serve as a special advisor and instructor for the Yankees through the end of the calendar year. Although the decision reportedly came from the Yankees, A-Rod is at peace with it and was “humbled and flattered,” to be asked to continue on in a supporting capacity. Of course there’s also the fact that – because he’s being released – Rodriguez will receive all of the $27 million owed to him through the end of a 10-year deal. That should help. Rodriguez will end his career 4 homers short of 700, behind only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714), overall.
  • And just because it’s interesting: Alex Rodriquez has finished six (6!) seasons with 9.0 WAR or more. That’s insane. He’ll finish with a grand total of 113 WAR, which is 13th in history, nestled between Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle. [Brett: I completely agree with Michael there on A-Rod’s crazy production, but try this on for insane – Mike Trout already has three seasons with 9.0 WAR or more, and he’s on pace to do it again this year. He turned 25 yesterday.]
  • Of course, Rodriguez’s news comes just days after teammate Mark Teixeira announced his own retirement, effective at the end of the season. Teixeira, 36, is coming to the end of an eight-year, $180 million deal. Teixeira hasn’t quite been himself this season (.200/.288/.343), but he’s had quite the career:

  • According to Jack Baer at, Clayton Kershaw (out with a herniated disk) played catch at Dodger Stadium for the first time since his setback in mid-July. Any possible return this season will definitely still take him into September, but this was a very big first step. Of course, thanks to the early conclusion of the Minor League seasons, manager Dave Roberts said that a return for Kershaw will have to come without a rehab assignment. Instead, Kershaw would do bullpen sessions, live batting practices, and simulated games until he’s ready to return. So, then, you can see how this might get a little tricky. The Dodgers are currently one game behind the Giants for first place in the NL West, but have a three-game lead on the first Wild Card. Should Kershaw be back for the playoffs, there are obvious and significant Cubs-related implications here.
  • His former teammate, Zack Greinke, is a bit ahead of him, and is set to be activated in time to make his start on Tuesday against the Mets. Greinke, you’ll recall, has been on the disabled list with a left oblique strain since June 29. To make room for Greinke, the D-backs optioned reliever Evan Marshall down to Triple-A Reno. Unlike Kershaw, however, Greinke isn’t returning to quite the same level of success. In 109.1 innings pitched this season, Greinke has a 3.62 ERA, which is more than double the mark he posted last year. And actually, he is just one of many formerly studly starting pitchers to go through, what can only be classified as, the Space Jam effect. Check out the numbers from some big names in 2016, compared to their career marks:
    • Shelby Miller: 7.14 ERA (career: 3.64 ERA)
    • Sonny Gray: 5.74 ERA (career: 3.43)
    • James Shields: 5.43 ERA (career: 3.84)
    • Adam Wainwright: 4.34 ERA (career: 3.10)
    • David Price: 4.34 ERA (career: 3.21)
    • Chris Archer: 4.26 ERA (career: 3.52)
    • Gio Gonzalez: 4.13 ERA (career: 3.66)
  • As the Trade Deadline came and went on August 1, we were able to follow the logic behind nearly every teams’ trade decisions, with pretty much just one exception: The Pittsburgh Pirates. How so? Travis Sawchik puts it simply. “The Pirates were in an awkward position,” Sawchik explains, “in playoff contention but with an unlikely path to the postseason, perhaps better positioned to contend in 2017. As the clock melted to the deadline, the Pirates chose to buy and sell, trying to balance the present and future.” Ah the infamous, frequently suggested, but rarely executed buy AND sell deadline strategy. In the last hour of the deadline (after trading closer Mark Melancon a couple days before), you’ll recall, the Pirates dealt Jon Niese to the Mets for left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, acquired rental starter Ivan Nova from the Yankees for two players to be named later, and traded away Francisco Liriano and two prospects for Drew Hutchison. The plan is explained in greater detail here at the Trib Live and I encourage you to give it a read. GM Neil Huntington explains the Liriano decision in particular as a combination of not quite believing he’ll return to form, the desire to rid themselves of his remaining contract, and, most importantly, the desire to acquire Drew Hutchison.
  • Aside from the Pirates, another intriguing 2016 trade deadline mystery has since been explained in the fallout: Jonathan Lucroy’s vetoed trade to the Cleveland Indians. At ESPN, Robert Sanchez gets the story first hand from Lucroy (which is all kinds of interesting for the pure “player X is being traded to team Y” purposes), and it’s mostly what we’ve come to expect. Lucroy was willing to go to Cleveland (calling them winners with a great team and a great shot this season), but was concerned about playing time in 2017. When his camp called to ask the Indians about it, they received confirmation about their biggest concern. “We were right,” Lucory said via Sanchez at ESPN. “Antonetti (Indians’ President) told Doug (Lucroy’s agent) that the Indians couldn’t make any promises on me catching next season. There was no way they’d drop the team option, either, because I’m pretty inexpensive in 2017. I don’t blame them. I would have been mostly at first base and designated hitter. In the end, that was the deal killer.” To me, there are absolutely no bad guys here. Lucroy worked hard to get a limited no-trade clause and he used it. Cleveland was open and honest about their intentions (when they really didn’t have to be), and Lucroy responded accordingly. What are you gonna do? Ultimately, Lucroy was traded to the Texas Rangers, where he plays today.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami