Sabean Doesn’t Want Attention, Just Wins

Shortly after Brian Sabean became general manager of the Giants he orchestrated a trade that was arguably one of the most unpopular in franchise history. He sent third base fan favorite Matt Williams to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that brought back at the time little known second baseman Jeff Kent, infielder Jose Vizcaino and reliever Julian Tavarez.

The outrage among the folks in the Bay Area, including the media, was so strong that Sabean finally called a news conference to explain, “I’m not an idiot.’’

And 18 years later he has proven it.

The Giants were honored in a parade in San Francisco on Friday, celebrating the franchise’s seven-game World Series triumph over the Royals, making the Giants only the second NL team in history to claim three world championships in five years, and adding to the resume of Sabean, who has a longer tenure in his current job than any other general manager in baseball.

He has been running things with the Giants a year longer than his cross-Bay contemporary, Billy Beane, has with the A’s, two more years than Brian Sabean with the Yankees, five more than Dave Dombrowski with the Tigers, and six more than Doug Melvin with the Brewers.

And under his guidance the Giants, in the last 19 years have:

–Third best winning percentage in the NL (1,556-1,358, .534) behind the Braves (1,651-1,263, .567) and Cardinals (1,545-1,319, .547).

–Played more post-season games (76) than any NL team other than the Cardinals (121) and have a better post-season winning percentage (.605) than any team that has played at least 34 post-season games.

–Have made four World Series appearances, the only NL team other than the Cardinals, who also have made four, to have been in the World Series more than twice, and have won an NL-best three World Series in the last 18 years.

And don’t forget he took advantage of the San Diego Padres decision to fire manager Bruce Bochy by quickly signing Bochy to oversee things at AT&T Park.

Not bad for a franchise being run by an “idiot.’’

But then that moment 18 years ago when Sabean, less than two months into the job, publicly defended himself was a rare public outburst for him.

In a look-at-me-world where chasing big-name free agents is an off-season past time, Sabean stays out of the public view, looks for players who fit holes the Giants may have and is adamant that there is little, if any, self-promotion, particularly of prospects in the Giants farm system.

He’s not worried about being a media darling. He’s focused on winning.

Think about it. In his 18 years on the job the Giants have signed only one big-time free agent – left-handed pitcher Barry Zito. His critics will point out Zito didn’t perform anywhere near a level necessary to justify the seven-year, $119 million guarantee he wasn’t given (63-80, 4.62). They ignore that the signing of Zito was the result of then owner Peter Magowan’s infatuation with big-name players and the fact Barry Bonds was about to retire.

Sabean’s preferred method of operation would have been to find three or four players for that payout so he could patch multiple holes.

That’s why with teams able to start signing free agents on Monday there aren’t a flurry of rumors about what star-quality free agent the Giants will pursue, but rather whether they are going to be able to keep third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Now it’s not like the Giants cut corners. They opened the 2014 season with the seventh highest payroll, have been among the top eight each of the last five years, and have failed to be in the upper half in payrolls only once since 2001.

That’s not to say everything the Giants do works. This year, alone, they decided to take a gamble on veteran Dan Uggla and see if a change of scenery could help him return to his productive ways. It didn’t, and after 12 plate appearances in late July he was released.

It’s all a part of the Giants method of mixing-and-matching to find the right roster.

Consider how the 25-man Giants post-season roster was assembled.

A farm system too often accused of having gone fallow produced 13 of the players, including World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, and four of the eight every day players – catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Sandoval. That doesn’t include Travis Ishikawa, who emerged as a key factor in left field and was originally signed by the Giants, but left the organization for two years and then re-sign a minor-league deal early in 2014.

The big-league free agent additions were left-handed relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, outfielder Michael Morse, who was signed to a one-year deal, and two pitchers initially signed to fill out the rotation, Tim Hudson, who became the oldest pitcher to ever start a Game 7 in the World Series, and Ryan Vogelsong, who signed after a tour in Japan to resurrect his career.

There were trades for right fielder Hunter Pence, who became so entrenched with the Giants that he made the Giants an offer to re-sign in order to avoid free agent, and in-season addition Jake Peavy, acquired to fill the void created by Matt Cain requiring surgery. And there were a flurry of minor-league deals over time that, among others, brought closer Santiago Casilla.

No bright lights and banner headlines.

Sabean may have been labeled old school because he doesn’t talk a lot about his analytical department that provides statistical data that is one of the tools the Giants use in making decisions.

That doesn’t bother him though.

Just don’t call him an idiot.

Bumgarner At Top of Starters Providing World Series Relief

Madison Bumgarner got the call out of the bullpen in the fifth inning of the Giants 3-2, World Series Game 7 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night.

And he answered big time. Bumgarner turned into five scoreless innings, earning a save to go with two victories he picked up in earlier starts in the World Series, and for the first time in their history the Giants won a World Series Game 7. They came up short the four previous times.

Bumgarner gave up two hits, and stranded Alex Gordon on third base when he got Salvador Perez to pop up and end the game. e threw 68 pitches, 50 for strikes.

Bumgarner’s five innings of work gave him a record 52 2/3 innings of work in the post-season. Curt Schilling had the previous record of 48 1/3 innings with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

Wednesday was the 36th deciding Game 7 in World Series history, and Bumgarner became the 56th pitcher to in one of those World Series and then work in relief in Game 7 of the same series. At least one starter has been used in relief in 30 of the 36 winner-take-all Game 7s, including eight times when the winning and losing team both called on a starter.

Seven Starters, other than Bumgarner, who impacted a World Series with a Game 7 relief appearance:

 Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, 2001. After giving up a go-ahead home run to open the eighth inning, and then a one-out single, Curt Schilling told manager Bob Brenly he was done. Miguel Bautista came in to get a fielder’s choice, and then Johnson, who had pitched seven innings for the victory in Game 6 the night before, got the call.

Johnson got the final out in the eighth, and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. That set the stage for Tony Womack to double home one run and score the game-winner on a Luis Gonzalez single off all-time save leader Mariano Rivera, who was attempting to earn a two-inning save.

 Harvey Haddix, Pirates, 1960. Bill Mazeroski gets the attention for hitting the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history, but Haddix played a role in the Pirates 10-9 victory against the Yankees. Best known for losing a perfect game against Milwaukee in 1959, Haddix went 6 1/3 innings in a 5-2 victory in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, and wound up earning the win in relief in Game 7.

After Hal Smith, the uncle of Giants third base coach Tim Flannery, hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth for a 9-7 Pirates lead, Bob Friend, who had started Games 2 and 6, got the call from the bullpen. Two batters and two hits later, Haddix was brought in. With one out, he gave up an RBI singled to score Bobby Richard and move Rocky Long to third.

When Yogi Berra grounded to first, Rocky Nelson stepping on the bag, Mantle was able to race back to first, avoiding a tag, and allowing pinch-runner Gil McDouglad to score the tying run. That set the stage for the Mazeroski home run that gave the Pirates a world championship and Haddix the Game 7 victory.

 Walter Johnson, Senators, 1924. In the last game of the last championship won by a team in the nation’s capital, both the Senators and Giants used three relievers, and each of the six pitchers had started earlier in the Series, including Firpo Mayberry who blew the save in the sixth inning. The Senators, however, rallied to pull out a 4-3, 10-inning victory thanks to four shutout innings of relief by Johnson, Johnson had started and lost complete-game efforts in Games 1 (4-3 in 12 innings) and 5 (6-2).

 Bob Turley, Yankees, 1958. Turley was knocked out in the midst of a seven-run first inning of a Game 2 start, charged with four runs while retiring one batter. He, however, returned in Game 5 to pitch a shutout, earned a save by getting the final out in Game 6, and then got the call to relieve starter Don Larsen with one out in the third and worked the final 6 2/3 innings to earn the victory.

 Allie Reynolds, Yankees, 1952. Reynolds started and lost Game 1 of the World Series, 4-2, and came back with a four-hit shutout in Game 4. After a day off, he earned the save with a 1 1/3-inning effort in Game six, and then took over for starter Eddie Lopat and pitched three innings for the victory in relief in Game 7.

 Danny Cox, Cardinals, 1987. It was the first World Series in which the home team won every game. Unfortunately for Cox, the Twins had the home-field advantage. The Twins knocked out Cox in the midst of a six-run fourth inning in Game 2. Cox rebounded by allowing two runs in 7 2/3 innings in Game 5 at Busch Stadium.
Cox got the call again early in Game 7, replacing Joe Magrane with a 2-1 lead, one out and one on in the bottom of the fifth. Kirby Puckett greeted Cox with a game-tying double, and Greg Gagne singled home ahead-run in the sixth, sending the Twins on their way to a 4-2 victory and world championship.

 Catfish Hunter, A’s, 1972. Hunter worked 8 2/3 innings for a 2-1 victory in Game 2, and wound up with a no decision in a 4 2/3 inning effort in Game 5. He turned over a 4-3 lead to Rollie Fingers, which he couldn’t hold in what was the last weekday World Series game played. It had been a scheduled night game but a rainout of Game 3 forced the middle three games to be push back a day and Game 5 was rescheduled as a day game to give the teams a break traveling back to Cincinnati for the remainder of the Series.

Hunter, with a save from Fingers, came through in Game 7, working 2 2/3 in the 3-2 victory that gave the A’s their first world championship since 1930, and was the start of a three-year run of World Series wins.

Giants Flannery Has a Game 7 History

The following was part of a column I wrote prior to Game 1 of the NLCS between the Giants and Caridnals earlier this month:

Giants third base coach Flannery grew up in an underdog-can-survive world.

His uncle, Hal Smith, was a catcher with the 1960 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bill Mazeroski is remembered for that World Series, hitting the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history. Smith, however, capped a the five-run eighth which briefly gave the Pirates an 9-7 lead.

Flannery turned three years old two weeks before that game, but the memories of it did shape his life.

“We had the reel-to-reel films at home, all the glasses with the players’ autographs, pennants, everything you can think of,” he said. “And I have my uncle. He would talk to me about what it took to succeed [in baseball], and he would write me letters.

“I took one of those letters with me when I went to the Minor Leagues. He wrote about the long bus rides, and the long season, and how people break down. He wrote that you have to overcome it. You have to rise above it.'”

And over the years, there has been good-natured kidding, too.

Flannery was in the World Series as a player with the Padres in 1984. They lost to the Tigers in five games. He returned as a coach with the Padres in 1998, and they were swept by the Yankees.

“My uncle would stick his ring finger in my face and say ,’You don’t have one of these,'” Flannery recalled with a laugh, referring to that 1960 Pirates World Series championship ring. “After 2010 [and the World Series win against the Rangers], I tell him, ‘I’m the other guy in the family with one of those.”‘

His uncle is 83 now, living in Brownsville, Tex., doing well, Flannery said, considering he has undergone 12 surgeries, most of which stem from “catching a long time. But he watches every game.”

He’s seen his nephew celebrate two World Series championships, so far.

He’d like to see a third.

Royals Have Bit of Edge Despite World Series Deficit

The Royals go into Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium facing elimination.

The Giants hold a 3-games-to-2 edge in the best-of-seven series.

The Giants, however, are in a seemingly must-win situation, as well.

Yes, they have two games to win one.

Or do they?

Of the 31 times a World Series in the current seven-game format has reached a point where a team up three-games-to-two goes on the road for the final two games the visiting team has won 18 times. More recently, however, the home team has rallied to win Games 6 and 7 in eight of last 10 matchups.

In the two exceptions – the Marlins over the Yankees in 2003 and Braves against the Blue Jays in 1992 – the visiting team won Game 6.

Not since 1975, when the Reds beat the Red Sox, has a visiting team managed to win a Game 7 on the road.

The Giants were the visitors that saw a 3-games-to-2 edge disappear in 2002. The Angels, in the only previous matchup of wild-cards, rallied to wins Game 6 and 7 at home and claim the only world championship in franchise history. More recently the Cardinals won Games 6 and 7 at Busch Stadium against the Rangers in 2011.

The Royals pulled off the feat in 1985, the last time they were in the post-season. They rallied to win Games 6 and 7 at home against the Cardinals in a World Series in which the Royals became the first team to rally after losing the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home.

The team with the 3-games-to-2 lead had the edge prior to the addition of divisional play in 1969 when the LCS was added to the post-season.

Only four times out of 15 World Series prior to 1969 did a team needing to win the final two games of a seven-game series under the current format claim a world championship — Cardinals against the Red Sox in 1946, Reds against the Tigers in 1940, Pirates against the Senators in 1925, and Senators against the Giants in 1924.

The team on the road had the biggest edge in an 26-year stretch from 1947 through 1972 when the visiting team turned a 3-games-to-2 edge into a world championship in all 11 seasons.

In 1945, the Cubs did come within a victory of winning that world championship that has eluded the franchise, winning a Game 6 at home, but losing Game 7. Due to travel restrictions because of World War II, however, that World Series was played under a format in which the first three games were at Briggs Stadium, where the Cubs won two, and the final four at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs lost three.

ROAD WARRIORS

Since the expansion of the post-season in 1969, with the addition of the LCS, home teams have gained a stronger advantage in the World Series. From 1903 through 1968 the home team won only .514 per cent of the World Series games (196-185). Since the addition of the LCS, the home team has won .612 per cent of the games (156-99).

In the 44 World Series prior to this year there have been three times that the home team won all seven games, including Twins becoming the first world champion to win all four games at home in 1987 against the Cardinals, and repeating that against the Braves in 1991. The Diamondbacks also went 4-0 against the Yankees in 2001.

The home team had a losing record in only seven of the 44 World Series since the LCS was added.

ROYAL QUESTION

Can the Royals dominate for two games at Kauffman Stadium? The Royals were 42-39 at home during the regular season, the worst home record of the 10 teams that advanced to the post-season, and tied for 16th among the 30 major-league teams. At the other extreme, the Dodgers were 53-39 at Dodger Stadium, and the Cardinals, Pirates and Nationals were 51-30 at home.

By contrast, the Giants were 43-38 on the road, third best road record in the NL, behind the Dodgers (49-32) and Nationals (45-36).

MR. OCTOBER II

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has thrived in October.

Two years ago he became the fifth player in post-season history with 24 hits, one shy of the post-season record of 25 hits shared by Darrin Erstad with the 2002 Angels, David Freese with the 2011 Cardinals, and Marquis Grissom with the 1995 Braves.

This year, he has 22 hits, tied for 11th with nine others, including Derek Jeter, who reached 22 in 1996, 2003 and 2009.

Sandoval is one hit shy of tying Steve Garvey of the 1981 Dodgers and Grissom with the Braves in 1996 for the No. 9 spot on the all-time list, two shy of equaling his total of two years ago, which was also reached by Albert Pujols with the Cardinals in 2004 and 2012, Tino Martinez with the Yankees in 2000, and Marty Barrett of the Red Sox in 1986.

NO KC MASTERPIECE

Giants Game 6 starter Jake Peavy has had his problems at Kauffman Stadium. He is 1-6 with a 6.50 ERA in his career in the ballpark, the highest ERA of any active pitcher who has at least 40 innings of work at Kauffman Stadium. Gavin Floyd is second at 5.84.

All-time Peavy ranks 15th. Jim Slaton (8.12) and Sean Lowe (8.10) have the highest all-time ERAs at Kauffman Stadium.

Stats Don’t Always Compute

The Houston Astros decided at the spring of training that not only did J.D. Martinez not fit on their big league roster, but he didn’t fit in their minor-league system, either.

Orginally signed by the Astros, Martinez had spent all or part of the three previous seasons in the big leagues with the Astros, an organization that is tied into strict stastical analysis.

The computer wasn’t complimentary to Martinez.

That’s the problem with relying on stats as a decision-maker instead of as a part of the decision-making process.

What a statistical analysis of previous years can’t take into consideration is that last season, when he was on the disabled list, Martinez studied videos of the game’s better hitters. He saw how long thier bat stayed in the hitting zone.

Martinez spent the off-season revamping his swing, including a successful term in the Venezuelan winter league. He, however, only had 18 at-bats during the course of the spring. Nineteen other Astros had more at-bats than Martinez. And his at-bats came over the course of 14 games, meaning there was little opportunity to gain consistency.

That, however, did not compute. That was an intangible and those stats didn’t fit into previous years.

So it was at the end of a spring he was told he had been released, and there was no room in the minor leagues for him.

Now he’s a key figure for the AL East Detroit Tigers.

Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila had known Martinez since his youth in South Florida, and Tigers third base coach Dave Clark was an Astros coach. They pushed for the Tigers to give Martinez a chance at Triple-a Toledo.

Martinez capitalized on that chance. In 17 games he hit 10 home runs and drove in 22 runs, earning him an in-season call-up. At the big-league level he started out platooning, but finished the season hitting fifth, behind Victory Martinez.

Martinez hit .315 during the regular season with the Tigers with 23 home runs and 76 RBI in 441 at-bats. And now he has homered in each of the first two games of the AL Division Series against Baltimore, including the three-run, go-ahead shot on Friday.

Grand Time and Other Post-Season Notes

Brandon Crawford of the Giants became the first shortstop to hit a grand slam in post-season history in Wednesday’s NL wild-card win against Pittsburgh. It was the 58th grand slam in post-season history.

There have been six hit by second baseman:

–Tony Lazzeri, Yankees, Game 2 1936 World Series vs. Giants.

–Gil McDougald, Yankees, Game 5, 1951 World Series vs. Giants (first rookie to hit a grand slam in the World Series).

–Bobby Richardson, Yankees, Game 3, 1960 World Series vs. Pirates.

–Chuck Hiller, Giants, Game 4, 1962 World Series vs. Yankees (first NL player to hit a grand slam in the World Series).

–Kaz Matsui, Rockies, Game 2, 2007 NLCS vs. Phillies.

–Robinson Cano, Yankees, Game 1 2011 ALDS vs. Tigers.

SOMEONE IS MISSING

This is the first time in 20 years that neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees are in the post-season. The Yankees appeared in 17 of the last 19, and the Red Sox 11. They both were in the post-season nine times – 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

HARD HIT

Oakland lefty Jon Lester gave up a post-season career high six runs in the A’s 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals in the AL wild-card game. Lester has allowed six or more runs in a regular-season game 14 times, including 11 runs in four innings of a July 22, 2012 start for the Red Sox against the Blue Jays.

STOP THIEVES

The Royals tied a post-season record with seven stolen bases against the A’s on Tuesday. The Cubs had seven stolen bases on Oct. 8, 1907 against the Tigers in the World Series. The Reds had seven against the Pirates in the NLCS Oct. 5, 1975. The Cubs were caught stealing twice in that game, the Royals once, and the Reds were not caught stealing by the Pirates.

It must be something about Bay Area teams. The Royals regular season high was seven stolen bases against the Giants on Aug. 10. They did not have more than four stolen bases in any other game during 2014. The franchise record for stolen bases in a game is eight against the Orioles on Aug. 1, 1998.

NATURAL RIVALRIES
The 10 post-season teams each had their natural rival also in the post-season: Royals and Cardinals; Tigers and Pirates; Dodgers and Angels; Orioles and Nationals, and A’s and Giants.

ELIMINATOR

The A’s 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals in the wild-card game on Tuesday left the A’s with 13 consecutive losses in elimination games dating back to their seven-game victory against the New York Mets in 1973. They have won post-season series since then, but none of them went to the full game allotment.

Rangers Officially Eliminated; Rockies On the Verge

The Rangers have become the first team officially eliminated from the post-season this year. The Astros are the only other team that has been eliminated from either a divisional or wild-card race. They are officially on the outside looking in at the AL West, like the Rangers.

The Rockies, however, could be the next team to be totally eliminated. They go into the weekend with a tragic number of one in the NL West — a Dodgers win or Rockies loss and it’s over. They also have the lowest remaining tragic number in a wild-card race — six. With the Brewers and Braves tied for the second NL wild-card spot, the Rockies will be officially eliminated when any combination of their losses and Brewers wins totalling six, and Rockies losses and Braves wins totally six are reached.

The Astros, along with the Twins and Boston, both have tragic numbers of seven — combination of their losses and Tigers wins totally seven — for wild-card elimination. While the Astros already are eliminated in the AL West, the Twins have a tragic number of seven in the AL Central — combination of their wins and Twins losses — and the Red Sox tragic number in the AL East is two — combination of their losses or Orioles wins.

The battle for the No. 1 draft choice in next June’s draft right now features the Rangers (53-87) and the Rockies (56-84). The No. 1 pick has a bit more value this year because the team that finishes with the second worst record will get the No. 3 pick in June, not the traditional No. 2 selection.

 

Houston will be awarded the second pick in next year’s draft for its failure to sign overall No. 1 Brady Akin, who is expected to enroll in a junior college so he can be eligible for next year’s draft.

The Astros, however, won’t be a factor with Akin. After the bad feeligns created during negotiations this summer Akin will not sign a reconsent that would allow Houston to select him again.

De La Rosa and Coors Field a Perfect Match

Common sense prevailed.

Jorge De La Rosa and the Rockies agreed to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday. It’s worth $25 million according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com.
It’s a bargain — for both sides.

De La Rosa never could make things click with the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Brewers and Royals.He has been a success with the Rockies.

De La Rosa joined the Rockies in 2008 and is 44-14 at Coors Field in his career, a 759 winning percentage. That’s the second best home winning percentage among big-league pitchers since 2008 to Zack Greinke, who is 58-17 at his home ballpark in that time, a .773 winning percentage. Greinke has called Kauffman Stadium, Miller Park, Anaheim Stadium and Dodger Stadium home during that time.

De La Rosa’s .759 winning percentage if one of only five above .500 at Coors Field among starting pitchers with at least 30 decisions all-time. Ubaldo Jimenez is (30-19, .612), Jason Jennings (31-22, .585), Jeff Francis (34-29, .540) and Aaron Cooks (36-32, .529).

De La Rosa says the key to his success is that he has better command of his breaking ball at Coors Field. He says on the road he has trouble limiting the movement. What scouts say, though, is that De La Rosa is confident in his off-speed pitch, and that is vital to pitching at Coors Field.

It is an amazing turn of events consdidering for all his success at Coors Field he is 39-53 with a 5.03 ERA while pitching in every other park.

He is 68-44 with a 4.24 in his Rockies career after going 4-7 with a 6.23 in parts of three years with the Brewers, and 11-16 with a 5.64 ERA in two years with the Royals. He never got to the big leagues with the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox.

He has spent time in 11 different seasons in the minor leagues, where he is a combined 31-32 with a 4.05 ERA.

Pirates on Reds Alert

The season hasn’t gone well for the Reds.

This weekend they can share their angst with the Pirates.

The Pirates host the Reds in a weekend series, looking to improve their efforts to claim at least an NL wild-card berth for the second year in a row. The Pirates go into the weekend in third place in the NL Central, four games behind division-leading Milwaukee, and 2 1/2 back of second-place St.Louis. The Cardinals lead the NL wild-card race with San Francisco holding the second spot right now, two games ahead of the Pirates. Atlanta is No. 3 in the wild=card running, a half game ahead of the Pirates.

The Reds have fared well in their recent visits to Pittsburgh, winning nine of the last 13 games with the Pirates at PNC Park. That is despite the fact that in that same time span, dating back to May 31, 2013, the Pirates have a .630 home winning percentage (68-40) against all other teams, according to STATS LLC.

The Pirates are coming off back-to-back divisional series in which they took two out of three at Milwaukee and then at home against St. Louis. Andrew McCutchen, back after a stint on the disabled list earlier in the month because of a broken rib, went 8-for-23 with five runs scored, two home runs and four RBI in those six games.

The Reds, meanwhile, are in fourth place in the NL Central with a 65-69 record. They are 8 1/2 games back of division-leading Milwaukee and 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates. The Reds are 14-25 since the All-Star Break.

The Reds offense has been in a post-All-Star funk, ranking 29th in the major leagues in runs (132) and average (.224). Only the Mets have scored fewer runs (125) and hit for a lower average (.216). Brayan Pena and Kristopher Negron (.274) have the highest averages among Reds regulars since the Break. Todd Frazier (.254) is the only other regular hitting higher than .231.

Cuban Inflation

Boston’s signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castilla to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal adds to pressures for including foreign players in a draft.

The Cuban market has increased markedly in the last few years.

Consider that in 2010 Cincinnati signed Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million deal. Three years ago, Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $35 million contract with Oakland.

Now comes Castilla.

The signing of Castilla gives the Red Sox an overload of outfielders. It could, however, all be part of the Red Sox plan to make a quick fix for 2015.

There has been talk they will attempt to re-sign Jon Lester, who was dealt to Oakland at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, and possibly James Shields. Both are potential free agents.

Knowing they need several veteran starters, they are in position to try to make an impact trade if they come up short in the free-agent market.

Given that Castilla is signed for seven years and that the Red Sox have indicated a desire to sign Cespedes to an extension past next season and also recently added Allen Craig, the Red Sox have the type of depth they could off a package that might even include elite prospect Mookie Betts.

Would that get Philadelphia’s attention and be the basis for a deal involving Cole Hamels, who has four years after this season remaining on his contract?

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