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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

This second week back from the break has been a wild one. With the expanded playoff format, the trade deadline has taken on a different sheen. Locally, it cannot have been more fun or exciting with the Athletics grabbing four straight from the first place Yankees, at least temporarily tying the Angels for the second playoff spot (as I wrote, that Angels and Rangers are just getting started, and an Angel loss would give the Athletics possession of the spot at least till end of play Monday).

It is truly amazing as the A's had never before swept the Yankees four straight at home, let alone with three of the games in walkoff fashion. Anyway, with Cliff Pennington on the shelf with elbow tendinitis, Oakland recalled infielder Eric Sogard. I actually had pretty high hopes for Sogard after his .302-3-9 spring, thinking he could grab the bulk of third base time vacated by the injured Scott Sizemore. So much for that, but Sogard has a chance to show his stuff for a couple of weeks. Clearly he is only of value in an AL only format, and value is contextual. Personally, I like Brandon Hicks better, but even that is not saying much.

With some trades and moves, the bulk of focus this week is more on veterans with new digs, so let us go next to Jeremy Guthrie, formerly of the Rockies, now with the Royals. I have always been a fan of Guthrie: I always have a soft spot for those Stanford alum. And, I think if nothing else Guthrie will prove to be an acceptable starter in American League formats. Truth is he has managed 32 or more starts and 175 innings since 2007, so Guthrie is dependable. He is also, probably just a place holder, but should you need AL rotation help for the rest of this year, gamble away. And track in mixed formats for Guthrie can ride a streak.

OTOH, it is hard to imagine Jonathan Sanchez having a bigger fall from grace. When with the Giants, I always thought he had the best stuff on the team. Unfortunately, coupled with that electric arm was a general lack of control, making it so that the lefty was never really steady. If that was not bad enough, Sanchez is injury prone to boot, and adding to the KC frustration, they swapped Melky Cabrera--now an All Star hero--for the pitcher they designated and traded away after a 1-6, 7.76 record over 12 starts and 53.1 innings. That includes 65 hits, and 44 walks to 36 whiffs. Truth is I am now in LABR NL, and I could use a starting arm, with Tim Stauffer and Shaun Marcum on the DL. But, at this point, I am not that desperate for wins or innings, and somehow I don't think Sanchez will help my WHIP or ERA in Colorado.

Former--as in as of two days ago--Oriole Brad Bergesen is now a member of the arm damaged Diamondbacks. Bergesen had his moments like when he went 7-5, 3.43 with a 1.28 WHIP over 123.1 innings as a 23-year old, but since those moments have been few and far in between. However, with Arizona struggling for starting arms, all it will take is a stumble in the rotation for the likes of Josh Collmenter, something that is more likely than not. I actually think in the new environment Bergesen is worth a nab and stash for now.

J.A. Happ is a little older at 29 than most of the reclamation pitchers listed today, but his success has been a lot more recent, and up until this year, even more consistent. Injuries did plague Happ after his solid 12-4, 2.93 2009 with the Phils, fostering a swap to Houston, where he was 6-4, 3.40, albeit with an inflated WHIP (1.38) over half a season's work. But last year the bottom fell off as it were, with 6-15, 5.35 totals that also "boasted" a 1.54 ratio. Those numbers are 7-9, 4.80, with a 1.44 ratio over 105 innings, and considering Houston is not a very good team to begin with, that is a pretty remarkable improvement. Add to that Happ is going to a better--somewhat contending even--team in Toronto, and things seem to bode well for the righty. The problem, though, as I see it, is that Happ cannot keep his hits below his innings pitched, or at least he has not over the past couple of years. He makes an ok gamble for now as the tall (as in 6'6") hurler goes into the pen, but expect starts. You could get a nice Travis Blackley payoff, although I am more inclined to think of it as closer to a Jonathan Sanchez meltdown.

Brandon Lyon, however, has 53 saves since 2008, and since he is setting up for the more dubious Casey Janssen, Lyon makes a potential nice back end gamble for some conversions. Lyon has a nice 37 IP:37H:36 K mark, with a 1.30 ratio., and the down side right now suggests maybe 3-5 saves if Lyon owns largely the eighth inning. But, in this crazy closer of the month mode, I am guessing it will be better than that. Like between 5-10.

Just another sentence on closers. Now is the time for Sergio Romo, the best set-up man in baseball, with the best slider in baseball. With Santiago Casilla struggling, look for Romo to get the big nod first. Although truth be told, I like Romo setting up better, especially behind Brian Wilson. But, that ain't happening, and Romo has 246 whiffs over 206 major league innings, allowing 133 hits and an Eckersly-like 46 walks with an 0.869 WHIP (and that was more than a sentence, but you get the point).

Finally, with all the trade movement, Ben Francisco, now on Houston, is the one hitter we might look at for potential NL only help. Though really just a journeyman, Francisco did go to the Phils along with Cliff Lee a few years back, and then was swapped during the off-season to Toronto (for Frank Gailey). Toronto, who have burned through Travis Snider and Mike McCoy and now promoted Anthony Gose clearly felt that was a better direction than a 30-year old with a career .259-45-176 line over 1398 at-bats. I placed a gamble bid on him in LABR, but I am desperate for offense in that league (emphasis on desperate).

The thing with a lot of this week's offerings is they virtually all represent that gamble. Will they produce is one part of that equation. The second is what will the trade deadline actually deliver inter-league with more teams still being in the hunt? Your guess is as good as mine, so I suggest bidding on the gambles that are there while you can, rather than waiting for either less in the way of pickings, but slimmer ones with likely more bidding.

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