Tracking Players In New Uniforms
(originally written 7/19/13)
The Major League Baseball regular season is closer to the finish than the start; by now, most baseball fans are caught up on all the significant player movements of the past winter and early spring. Eyeballs, bulging out upon reading the latest nine-figure deal handed out, have returned to their sockets; necks strained upon overhearing ESPN relay blockbuster trade news have healed, at last.
I would never have dreamed of writing a who's-where piece at this point in the season were it not for a friend's blissful ignorance regarding the Nick Swisher and Dan Haren signings, as well as the Astros' move to the American League.
And this guy is usually a very informed fan.
My bud's plight inspired me to put together an off-season recap of sorts for fans in the same boat as he. Nobody knows better than me how life can swallow us up; try as we might, it is not always possible to keep up with all the happenings (especially if rendered comatose by B.J. Upton's contract.)
This slideshow begins with a rundown of 77 notable players who were traded to or signed (major league) contracts with new clubs in the 2012-13 off-season, and how they're faring. (With the exception of Kyle Lohse, who I reserved a spot for, players who switched clubs after camp opened are omitted.)
Michael Bourn, Braves to Indians. 1 OF 98
Bourn, one of the unsung stars of the game, signed a 4Y/$48M deal with Cleveland, who finally gave up on ever getting Grady Sizemore healthy. The 30-year-old is a three-time NL steals champion with the Astros and Braves, plus a two-time Gold Glove winner in center field—even if he strikes out FAR too often for a player with 24 career home runs in seven-plus major league seasons.
The veteran was off to a hot start, with six multi-hit games in his first 10 before White Sox pitcher Matt Thornton accidentally spiked him at first base on April 14—costing him a month. Bourn has led off in every game he's started, made but one error (albeit a costly one) and hovered around .300 all season.
Josh Hamilton, Rangers to Angels. 2 OF 98
Rarely has a player of Hamilton's talent and credentials left a team wanting so much less. By his own admission, a cessation of tobacco chewing
contributed heavily to a miserable in-season swoon by the 2010 A.L. MVP—plus he gave Texas nothing in their one-game playoff vs. Baltimore. Adding insult to injury, the 5Y/$125M free-agent deal he signed was with the division rival Angels.
Whether due to payday pressure, moving to RF or his various health issues (sinus, back, wrist), Hamilton hasn't been the player LA hoped for until very recently. With an average that has not exceeded .230 at any point in '13 (he's at .224 overall thru the All-Star break; .156 versus lefties), he found himself dropped from cleanup all the way to seventh in Mike Scioscia's batting order at one point.
Hamilton showed signs of life in July. He cracked a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning against St. Louis on July 4, a walk-off home run against Boston lefty Craig Breslow on July 6 and exploded for two jacks and five RBI in a July 10 destruction of the Cubs. Maybe there's hope yet.
Zack Greinke, Angels to Dodgers. 3 OF 98
Thought the Dodgers were done spraying cash around like an overturned Brinks truck last year? Thought after playing below expectations following their 2012 spree that they would dial back?
You thought wrong.
Greinke, the erstwhile ace of the Royals and Brewers, was the 2009 AL Cy Young award winner. Though he hasn't quite matched that level of dominance (2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, only 11 HR in 229 IP), Magic Johnson and friends still felt a 29-year-old pitcher with a 31-11 record and over 400 K over the past two seasons was worth ponying up $147M over six years—more than any other free-agent RHP ever.
Greinke infamously separated his shoulder after being charged by San Diego's Carlos Quentin on April 11—his second start of the year. Out for a month, the veteran was up-and-down immediately following his return, but he entered the All-Star break with 16 straight scoreless innings over two starts—including a two-hit shutout of Colorado in his final start.
Overall, Grienke stands at 8-2 with a 3.49 ERA this year.
R.A. Dickey, Mets to Blue Jays. 4 OF 98
One of MLB's least likely Cy Young candidates three short years ago, Dickey didn't hit his stride in the big leagues until age 35 with the 2010 New York Mets, culminating in a 2012 Cy Young award-winning 2012 season (20-6, 2.73). So why would the Mets trade him? Simple—Dickey sought a $26 million extension to stay a Met past 2013, and the post-Madoff Mets only offered $20 million.
Next thing you know, Dickey was north of the border, quickly receiving the two-year, $26M extension from Toronto that he sought.
However, his stint up north hasn't gone terribly smoothly—battling back/neck inflammation, Dickey has allowed six or more runs in seven of his 20 starts and his 4.69 ERA thru the All-Star break is among the league's worst. The 38-year-old did spin a two-hit shutout at Tampa on June 26.
James Shields, Rays to Royals. 5 OF 98
Blessed with depth in their starting rotation but cursed with limited resources, Tampa made the ballsy move to ship "Big Game" James to Kansas City in exchange for megaprospect Wil Myers.
Shields, who has topped 11 wins and 200 IP each of the past six years, joined a Royals staff that has lacked such a pitcher since Zack Greinke's Cy Young award-winning 2009 season.
Were it not for paltry run support, the 31-year-old could have been a 2013 All-Star. Despite a 3.21 ERA, an average of just under seven innings per start and two earned runs or fewer allowed in 12 of 20 starts, Shields has only received four victories all year.
Jose Reyes, Marlins to Blue Jays. 6 OF 98
Following the 2011 season, the Miami Marlins made big splashes in the trade/free agent market—none bigger than the ex-Met Reyes, fresh off a controversial batting title (whether or not you legitimize it, the guy still hit .337) and back-to-back All-Star nods.
Following the 2012 season, the Miami Marlins cried "Nevermind!" and did what they do best—ship away high-priced stars faster than you can say "cellar". As a result, Reyes became a Toronto Blue Jay, for whom he batted .395 in his first two weeks.
The veteran SS badly sprained his ankle sliding into second base on April 12 and was out until June 26. In his first week back he recorded RBI in four of six games and homered in back-to-back affairs, eliminating any doubt surrounding his health.
Lance Berkman, Cardinals to Rangers. 7 OF 98
If you think back to Lance Berkman's first dip in free agency following the 2010 season, he was not sold on Texas as a candidate to return to the postseason—even though it had just wrapped up a pennant-winning campaign—and publicly said so, calling them average. A year later, Texas came within a pitch of defeating Berkman's Cardinals in the 2011 World Series.
He's an athlete, not a fortune teller.
Prior to 2013, the longtime Astro upped with the Rangers following a year spent mostly on the sidelines following knee surgery—the deal is for 1Y/$10M, with a club option for another. As Texas' regular DH, Berkman's bat cooled off after a solid start—the 37-year-old is slugging a career-low .377 as of the All-Star break, but owns a respectable .355 on-base percentage.
Ryan Dempster, Rangers to Red Sox. 8 OF 98
Boston went Dempster-diving in the off-season, adding the former Cubs ace for $26.5M over two years. Regardless of what he does on the mound—odds are slim that at age 36 he'll be a $13 million pitcher in either 2013 or 2014—the respected addition of Dempster to a Sox clubhouse wrought with controversy over the preceding 18 months may alone justify the investment.
Through the All-Star break the native Canadian has taken every turn, though he's been up and down (5-8, 4.24 ERA, 20 home runs allowed). He does lead the Boston staff in K's and did not allow more than three earnies in any June start.
Nick Swisher, Yankees to Indians. 9 OF 98
Swisher left behind the bright lights of New York for the luckless city of Cleveland, joining the new-look Tribe on a 4Y/$56M deal. Concealed behind more famous names during his Bronx stay, Swisher, 32, has quietly registered eight straight years of 20+ home runs (the first four coming with the A's and White Sox).
Upon his acquisition, the veteran outfielder/first baseman immediately became Cleveland's most recognizable name—until another ex-Athletic and Yankee by the name of Jason Giambi made the team.
Mostly manning first base with occasional starts in RF, Swisher was playing well as an Indian until an icy June in which he didn't homer until the 28th and suffered an 0-for-26 streak that helped drop his average 35 points. He is battling season-long soreness in his throwing shoulder that isn't guaranteed to subside.
Mark Buehrle, Marlins to Blue Jays. 10 OF 98
Buehrle did not hide his displeasure regarding the megatrade that sent he (and others) from Miami to Toronto after completing one year of his four-year deal, but at least he'll have a far better shot at winning in 2013. The longtime White Sox ace has thrown 200+ innings in every year of his 12-year career, and finished below .500 only once.
Beginning 2013 as Toronto's No. 3 starter, Buehrle owned a hefty 7.02 ERA after seven starts (of which he somehow lost only two) and served up 11 homers in the first two months—not shocking since he leads all active pitchers in the latter stat. But he settled down in June with a 3.50 ERA in six starts (2-2) and just a pair of big flies allowed.
In an accurate compendium of his 2013 season, Buehrle followed up seven shutout innings against the Twins with an eight-run shellacking at Baltimore just prior to the All-Star break.
Shane Victorino, Dodgers to Red Sox. 11 OF 98
Victorino, a sparkplug for the excellent Phillie teams of 2007-2011, was part of the 2012 mini-fire sale that also led to new addresses for teammates Hunter Pence, Jim Thome and Joe Blanton. After half-a-season with the Dodgers, the 32-year-old Victorino signed with Boston. He'll be hard-pressed to match the non-production of the last free agent left fielder signed by the Red Sox, that's for sure.
The veteran slid over to RF for the BoSox and immediately endeared himself to the tough New England fans by going 6-for-15 in his debut series—versus the Yankees. Recently, hamstring and back issues have benched him for nearly 30 games, but he did rip a smash through Jays (out-of-position) first baseman Josh Thole that secured a walk-off win June 30. He's batting .290 overall thru the All-Star break.
Ben Revere, Twins to Phillies. 12 OF 98
The fleet Revere, perhaps best known for (accidentally) somersaulting on his way to a triple in 2011, was quietly sent to the Phillies in exchange for P Vance Worley in December.
Owner of 74 steals in two MLB seasons, the 25-year-old opened 2013 as Philly's full-time center fielder, but—save for a spectacular diving catch at Cincinnati on April 15—he did not fare well early on and eventually lost playing time.
Aided by 21 infield hits (including six bunt hits), Revere boosted his average into the .280s by the end of June but still sought his first big league home run—still elusive despite calling Citizens Bank Park home. He sadly broke his foot with a foul ball just before the All-Star break, requiring surgery and a lengthy absence.
Russell Martin, Yankees to Pirates. 13 OF 98
Though he cracked a career-high 21 home runs in 2012, Martin's batting average continued to freefall for the sixth straight year—all the way down to .211 (and it took a late "surge" to even get it that high.) On a 2Y/$17M deal, he landed with a Pirates team that contended for most of 2011-12 and is shooting for more in 2013.
Hitless in his first seven games of '13, Martin has since become a key cog for the first-place Bucs—although only two of his eight homers thru the All-Star break have come since the end of April (one of those was a walk-off, however.) On June 30, his seeing-eye single sank Milwaukee in the bottom of the 14th.
The three-time All-Star and 2007 Gold Glover is a close second on the club in walks and has even started a game in the outfield.
Joel Hanrahan, Pirates to Red Sox 14 OF 98
The trade of a back-to-back All-Star closer to a high-profile team such as Boston would usually dominate the headlines, but when the closer is from Pittsburgh and the Boston team is coming off its worst season in decades, transactions like Hanrahan's can slip through the cracks. Hanrahan, 31, nailed down 76 contests in 2011-12.
Hanrahan started '13 strong, saving three of three before being deployed into a losing battle with the strike zone. Mercifully disabled (hamstring), the veteran made two final appearances before returning to the DL—this time for the season's duration (Tommy John surgery.)
His final 2013 stat line: nine games, 9.82 ERA, 4-of-6 in save opportunities and a WHIP over two. In other words, a completely lost year for the ace reliever.
Justin Upton, Diamondbacks to Braves. 15 OF 98
Going solely by rumors, Justin Upton played for five different teams in the 2012 season. Though his numbers were waaaay down in 2012 (17 HR, 67 RBI), it's a testament to Upton's abilities that he even managed that, given the distraction. A year away from free agency, Arizona did ultimately swap their star right fielder to Atlanta in the off-season.
Few hitters had their swing down as quickly as Upton did this year; the RF lapsed into unconsciousness from the minute camp broke (12 home runs in April.) As the month closed, he did expectedly "come to"—using level of consciousness as a measuring tool for his post-April production, one may suspect Justin's meals of being regularly spiked with high levels of RockStar.
Hitting a tick under .300 with the dozen homers entering May, Upton's numbers now stand at .255 with 16 jacks as of the All-Star break.
B.J. Upton, Rays to Braves. 16 OF 98
B.J. Upton, a former No. 1 overall draft pick and Justin's big brother, somehow managed to secure $75 million over five years from Atlanta coming off a season in which he hit .246 (his highest in four years) with a sub .300 OBP. Upton did come within two jacks of a 30-30 season, however, and when motivated he can run down most anything in center field. (Over the years he's had his hustle called into question more than once and even been benched in response.)
Now united with Justin in Atlanta, B.J.'s 2013 season to date can be summed up in one word: distressing. Watching the elder Upton brother trudge over and over again to a batter's box that has been so cruel to him this year (he hasn't topped .180 all year and has K'd in over one-third of his at-bats) can't be easy for his teammates—or the Braves executives who erroneously judged Upton as a $15 million player.
Fortunately for the Braves, they started '13 red-hot and remain atop the NL East despite the consistent chill emitting from the ex-Ray (no pun intended) 's bat. He has had moments—three of his eight homers thru the All-Star break came in the sixth inning or later and either tied or put Atlanta ahead, including a walk-off versus the Cubs.
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox to Rangers. 17 OF 98
When you think A.J. Pierzynski, the word "subtle" doesn't often come to mind. Yet, the erstwhile White Sox catcher somehow managed to rip 27 home runs in 2012 with nobody outside of Chicago realizing it (his previous career high was 18).
The 35-year-old parlayed his year into a $7.5 million contract with Texas for 2013, ending his eight-year stint with the SouthSiders. From the "dropped" third strike in the '05 playoffs to "Punch A.J." and beyond, it was quite a ride.
Though cold as of late, overall Pierzynski has played well for the Rangers. On April 22, he ripped a ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike bomb off of ace Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri to cap a four-run comeback win by Texas.
Wade Davis, Rays to Royals. 18 OF 98
One of the least heralded American League starters—even I admit to not having his face committed to memory prior to this article—in 2010-11 despite winning 23 games in that span, Davis spent 2012 posting a 1.10 WHIP and striking out 11+ batters per nine innings while working exclusively out of the Rays bullpen. He was traded along with James Shields to Kansas City.
Overall, it's been a tough transition back to the rotation for the 27-year-old (4-7, 5.42, 1.7 WHIP), but he has put up four quality starts in his last six leading up to the All-Star break (in the other two he coughed up 14 runs in six innings, however.)
It's not a question of stuff—Davis leads the rebuilt Royals rotation in strikeouts per nine IP (8.3) this year.
Kendrys Morales, Angels to Mariners. 19 OF 98
Has a player gone from such an exhilarating summit (a walk-off grand slam against a division rival) to a crashing nadir (shattering a leg touching the plate) in a shorter time than Morales? I can't think of any, not even George Brett. The Cuban 1B had just come into his own as an MLB slugger, leading the 2009 division champion Angels with 34 HR and 108 RBI, and was off to a similar 2010 when the injury occurred. It sidelined him through the 2011 season.
Fortunately, Morales was able to distance himself from the Conigliaros, Scores and Thons of yesteryear in 2012, cracking 22 jacks in 120 starts mostly at DH. His return to health created a glut of 1B/DH types on the Halo roster, leading to a swap with Seattle—the club against whom his injury occurred.
Finally healthy, the 30-year-old has only sat five games this year, splitting his time roughly 75/25 at DH/first base, respectively. He whacked .343 in May and, after struggling through June (one home run), opened July with a two-homer, six-RBI night at Texas.
Josh Johnson, Marlins to Blue Jays. 20 OF 98
In most cases where a ballclub acquired a 6'7", 29-year-old starter with a 3.15 ERA and .602 winning percentage in his seven seasons—and that pitcher made below $10 million annually in this era—said club would be over the moon.
But it's hard to celebrate when the pitcher in question has missed roughly 80 starts over those seven seasons with major elbow and shoulder injuries (including ligament replacement surgery), and you're really not sure what you're getting. Still, Toronto went into 2013 with a shot at having one of baseball's very best occupying the 4th spot in its rotation—an enviable position for sure.
So far it's been a rough introduction to the AL for Johnson; he's won one of 12 starts and lost all of May to a triceps injury. It should be noted that he's faced only one team with a sub-.500 record, including Boston and Detroit twice each, and did fire seven shutout innings at Coors Field on June 17 (but received no decision).
Torii Hunter, Angels to Tigers. 21 OF 98
The longtime fulcrum of the Minnesota Twins has reached the twilight of his career, and will spend the next (and perhaps final) two years of it holding down right field at Comerica Park. American League Champion Detroit, apparently not convinced playoff starter Avisail Garcia or (the later released) Brennan Boesch was the answer, handed its former division rival $26 million for those two years.
Shadowed by superstars like Vlad Guerrero (early) and Albert Pujols/Mike Trout (later on) during his Angel tenure, Hunter didn't "stand out" as he did once upon a time in Minnesota—but he was no less productive. Hunter gave the Halos 20 homers and 90 RBI per year, won a Gold Giove and made two All-Star squads along the way.
Now 37, the 15-year vet has enjoyed a very fine 2013 season—for a time he was even leading the league in hits—although recently his angry reaction to a plunking by Toronto's Todd Redmond cleared benches. Hunter was selected as a reserve to the 2013 AL All-Star team.
Dan Haren, Angels to Nationals. 22 OF 98
Haren, who can be very filthy when on, did not put up his best numbers in 2012 as he tried to pitch through a bad back. Still, the Nationals received a 32-year-old righty good for 34 starts and 220 innings in the seven preceding years, and one of the game's top competitors.
Signing a 1Y/$13M deal with Washington gave Haren a shot at a bigger payday should he prove himself healthy and return to his 2005-11 levels—while not hamstringing the organization should their investment fail to pan out.
To say things haven't panned out ideally is a severe understatement. Pitching through carryover hip and back issues, Haren has lasted six innings in less than half of his 16 starts—of which he's won four and lost 10—and has allowed a league-high 19 homers thru the All-Star break.
Chris Young, Diamondbacks to Athletics. 23 OF 98
Chris Young is a very talented player, no question, cut from the Bobby Bonds cloth of speedsters with power and alarming strikeout totals. After seven oft-inspiring, oft-frustrating years with Arizona, Young was traded to the Oakland Athletics in the off-season (in a three-team deal with Miami).
The third runner-up in the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Young is the owner of four 20-plus homer seasons along with three 20-plus steal seasons.
Though not a full-time starter anymore, the 29-year-old has still garnered over 40 starts at all three outfield positions and at DH in 2013—even with much of May spent on the DL. Young has been productive as an A (eight HR, 28 RBI in 205 AB thru the All-Star break) despite a batting average under .200 since the season's second week.
Mike Morse, Nationals to Mariners. 24 OF 98
The massive Morse was loping amongst the baseball dead in mid-2009 when Washington acquired him from Seattle in a trade so unnoticed, it's unclear if even the people responsible were aware of it. Morse, who'd amassed all of 70 MLB at-bats since receiving 50 starts at SS for the 2005 Mariners, spent most of 2010 as a part-timer before coming into his own in '11 with a 31-HR season—good for ninth in the league.
Unfortunately, a back injury cost Morse two months of 2012. The emergence of Bryce Harper, returns to health of Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth and the November acquisition of Denard Span rendered "The Beast" expendable; he was dealt back to Seattle in January.
No player was hotter out of the gate than Morse, who whacked four home runs in Seattle's first four games of '13 (en route to eight for April in total.) Then Tanner Scheppers of Texas crunched his pinky with a pitch—though he did play through that injury, he could not avoid the DL upon hurting his quad later on.
The 31-year-old has played just 32 games since April ended, with three homers and 11 RBI.
Jed Lowrie, Astros to Athletics. 25 OF 98
Nabbed by Houston in a December 2011 trade for CL Mark Melancon—who imploded in Boston—Lowrie, for a time, looked to be one of the steals of 2012. He had 14 home runs by the end of June, but flirted with the Mendoza line from that point forward. Still, Oakland made a deal to acquire the 29-year-old, who stepped in for the departed Stephen Drew.
Starting primarily at SS but also second base for the A's, thru 7/11 Lowrie ranks second on the club in hits, average and on-base percentage (all to Josh Donaldson.) He especially stood out in his first series back in Houston, terrorizing his ex-mates for seven hits in 13 at-bats, including two bombs.
Kevin Youkilis, White Sox to Yankees. 26 OF 98
Longtime Red Sox corner infielder Youkilis was never the very best at either position but certainly ranked high on the list, as his three All-Star appearances, 2007 Gold Glove (at 1B) and 2008 third-place finish in MVP voting prove. But after eight years and two World Series championships, Youkilis found himself criticized by his new (and since-deposed) manager and was eventually traded out of town.
As a free agent, the New York Yankees brought the 34-year-old in to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez at third base. He hit .219 in 28 games (including six starts at first base) before June back surgery shelved him as well—for the season.
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals to Brewers. 27 OF 98
Quick: which 2012 Cardinal starter finished 16-3, had a 2.86 ERA and led the league in winning percentage? Not Chris Carpenter, not Jamie Garcia and not Adam Wainwright. The answer: 34-year-old Kyle Lohse, who has added his name to a very long list of pitchers in the past decade to (re-)emerge from mediocrity in St. Louis.
Despite his numbers, Lohse went unsigned well into 2013 Spring Training before Milwaukee finally reeled him in for 3Y/$33M—with the hopes that he doesn't become a repeat of 2007 Jeff Suppan.
No other Milwaukee starter is within 1.24 of Lohse's 3.67 ERA (thru the All-Star break) and he's only gone fewer than five innings twice in 19 starts. Seven of his last nine starts have been quality, one exception caused by a long rain delay at Pittsburgh.
Mark Reynolds, Orioles to Indians. 28 OF 98
Mark Reynolds can hit a ball 475 feet at any given time. He can also whiff on three heaters down the pipe. He can make a spectacular catch over his shoulder that propels him into the crowd. He can take a routine two-hopper and uncork a throw that not even Clifford The Big Red Dog could reach.
You can love him like a son in one moment—and by the next moment, want him on the next bus to boarding school.
Reynolds finds himself in Cleveland for 2013, signed for 1Y/$6M after Baltimore passed on re-signing him. He carried over his power stroke to Cleveland, leading the league in home runs for a time, although his average has been in free-fall since a game-winning pinch-single on May 12 left him at .291 (he now hovers around .220). Reynolds has started extensively at both corner spots and DH for the Tribe.
Travis Hafner, Indians to Yankees. 29 OF 98
It is hard to not wonder how the fortunes of the past five Indian teams might have improved had "Pronk" not missed roughly 350 games over that stretch with various injuries. Once among the most feared DH's in the league, Hafner's decade-long stint with the Tribe ended when he signed a 1Y/$2M deal with the Yankees in February.
Though struggling with his average, Hafner has equaled his 2012 totals in just half a season in New York. Among his 12 home runs (thru the All-Star break): an eighth-inning game-winner off Arizona's David Hernandez in April and a game-tying ninth-inning solo off O's closer Jim Johnson in May (the Yankees won in extras).
The 36-year-old remains exclusively a DH, having not played defense since 2007.
Mike Adams, Rangers to Phillies. 30 OF 98
From 2008-2011 Adams (then a Padre) was arguably the NL's best setup man; he registered a 1.66 ERA in 209 games, with a WHIP of 0.903. However, by 2011 San Diego was out of contention and traded him to Texas, where he toiled thru 2012.
In December, Philadelphia gifted him with a 2Y/$12M deal—pretty serious bucks for a non-Yankee non-closer. Sadly, Year One goes down as a washout; Adams' shaky 2013 came to a premature close as he underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff in June. He was 1-4 in 28 games, and allowed five homers in only 25 innings. Get well soon, Mike.
John Jaso, Mariners to Athletics. 31 OF 98
2012 was a memorable year for the ex-Rays catcher Jaso; in his first year with the Mariners he doubled his previous career high in homers, set new career highs in RBI, average and slugging, and caught Felix Hernandez' perfect game. The lefty-hitting backstop was sent to Oakland in a three-team deal with the Nationals during the off-season.
Splitting time with Derek Norris, Jaso maintains a .269 average as of the All-Star break. The 29-year-old has only six hitless games in the past two months.
Skip Schumaker, Cardinals to Dodgers. 32 OF 98
Schumaker will live in infamy for being at-bat as the "Rally Squirrel" scampered about during the 2011 Division Series (baseball cards were even produced in response, much to Schumaker's chagrin). He has long been a valuable supersub of sorts for St. Louis—except he starts far more often than he sits and averaged over 100 starts at 2B for the 2009-11 Cardinals after years exclusively in the outfield.
In December, St. Louis traded the veteran to the Dodgers after eight seasons. He's started at DH, second base and in left and center field for Los Angeles, and he has even made two scoreless relief appearances.
Cody Ross, Red Sox to Diamondbacks. 33 OF 98
Taking full advantage of his cozy new digs, Ross rebounded from a down 2011 to rope 22 home runs (including three in one game), 13 of which came at Fenway Park. In fact, Ross hit 66 points higher at home than away, and even smashed three three-run home runs over the Green Monster in consecutive games.
Arizona, apparently confident Ross will feel equally comfortable at Chase Field, locked up the 32-year-old for 3Y/$26M. After opening '13 on the DL, Ross has provided boosts of offense and some flashy defense for the Snakes, including a five-hit game against Colorado.
His overall power numbers (expectedly) dipped away from Fenway, but "The Boss" did crack a late three-run home run to sink Miami on June 19 and a go-ahead 14th inning blast against the Mets (who eventually won) two weeks later. Ross boasts a .384 average against left-handers thru the All-Star break.
Michael Young, Rangers to Phillies. 34 OF 98
Not being privy to the behind-the-scenes ongoings of the Texas Rangers, it is unclear to me why their all-time hits leader and a man who changed positions no fewer than three times to accommodate others seemed so flagrantly unappreciated by the franchise in recent years.
What is clear: Young has quietly put up numbers that may land him in Cooperstown one day (he's only 769 hits shy of 3,000—although Craig Biggio disproved that number as an automatic barometer for election with help from unyielding writers).
Just for one last parting shot at Young, the Rangers only asked for a middle reliever and a so-so prospect from Philadelphia to acquire him in December. Starting full time at third base for the Phillies and batting in multiple lineup spots, the 36-year-old isn't going to post 200-hit season No. 7 this year, but nonetheless has been a .329 hitter in 2013—if you exclude his .172 May.
Edwin Jackson, Nationals to Cubs. 35 OF 98
It was a decade ago that Jackson was winning his MLB debut on his 20th birthday back in 2003. Ten years and eight teams later, the big righty didn't fulfill the superstar predictions that existed in '03, but he's still a quality arm with 59 wins over the past five seasons. The Cubs felt the 29-year-old Jackson—who's made 31+ starts for six straight seasons and was a 2009 All-Star for Detroit—was worth a four-year/$52 million investment.
As with almost every Cub, it's been tough for Jackson in '13. One start into June left the veteran with an ERA over six, but he seems to have "found something" in recent weeks—had Jackson recorded one more out against Pittsburgh on July 6, he'd be entering the All-Star break on a streak of three quality starts.
Brandon McCarthy, Athletics to Diamondbacks. 36 OF 98
It's a minor miracle that McCarthy is even alive. He began 2012 as the ace of an Oakland team expected to finish dead last—and closed it recovering from brain surgery as his teammates surged into the postseason, a victim of an Erick Aybar line drive to the head that fractured his skull. McCarthy memorably returned to the team (strictly as a spectator) as its magical run came to a close.
Having been given a clean bill of health, Arizona signed the free agent to 2Y/$15M deal. He has been up-and-down in his 11 Diamondbacks starts; McCarthy has coughed up six runs in three separate starts but also has three starts of seven-plus innings with one or fewer runs allowed.
The 30-year-old has been sidelined since the end of May with shoulder inflammation but is on course to return after the All-Star break.
Jonny Gomes, Athletics to Red Sox. 37 OF 98
Generations from now, someone will come across a dusty old Jonny Gomes baseball card somewhere and attempt to gauge his career strictly by the fluctuating numbers on the back. Stats don't tell everything, however—remember, Dave Kingman went unsigned after a 35-home run season in 1986 and never played again.
Gomes could well be the best teammate in the league; through good times and bad for he and/or his team, support and high praise is never far away when you share a dugout with this 10-year vet. Just ask David Price, who was nearly broken in two by Gomes' celebratory leap following Tampa Bay's clinching of the '08 AL pennant.
Make no mistake: though only a part-timer, he was vital in Oakland's unexpected postseason run in 2012, so valued that Bob Melvin went out of his way to grant Gomes a Game Five at-bat though the game was decided. He joined Boston on a 2Y/$10M deal. Among his six home runs in 2013: one walk-off each against the Rays and Padres.
Heath Bell, Marlins to Diamondbacks. 38 OF 98
Sure, Bell struggled badly in 2012, his first year in Miami. However, he was also victimized more than once by poor defense and his post-break numbers greatly improved. Only one season removed from back-to-back-to-back 40+ save seasons, the D'Backs saw no reason not to import the 35-year-old once Miami kicked off their most recent fire sale.
Initially a setup man behind J.J. Putz, Bell stepped in at closer when Putz' elbow sidelined him in early May. 11-of-12 in his first month as the stopper, Bell ran into hard times yet again, blowing three of five saves and allowing home runs in five straight games in one stretch—overall, he's surrendered eight in just 35 first-half innings. The Diamondbacks currently employ "no closer", according to their general manager.
Melky Cabrera, Giants to Blue Jays. 39 OF 98
Cabrera spent the first few months of '12 as the co-star of the Giants' offense, even making the All-Star team. In August, however, he was suspended for PED use, and didn't play again even after his suspension was up. Fortunately, rather than crumble, his teammates galvanized and went on to World Series glory.
Toronto signed Cabrera for 2Y/$16M in the off season. He's had a pedestrian first year up north (except when facing Giants pitchers, whom he terrorized in four games), with only three homers at the All-Star break and an average hovering around .280—some 60 points lower than in 2012.
Cabrera was starting to warm up at long last before a sore knee disabled him in late June.
Ryan Madson, Reds to Angels. 40 OF 98
Long a valuable, if somewhat inconspicuous, member of the five-time division champion Phillies from 2007-11, Madson turned his success as closer for the '11 club (32 saves, 2.37 ERA in his first full year in the role) into a 1-year, $6 million deal with Cincinnati—only to succumb to Tommy John surgery before throwing a pitch.
With Aroldis Chapman firmly entrenched as closer (well...kind of), Madson wasn't re-signed, but the Angels brought him in for one year/$3.5 million guaranteed, plus incentives. Expected back on the mound in early '13, the soon-to-be-33-year-old hit a setback in his rehab and may miss his second straight full year.
Denard Span, Twins to Nationals. 41 OF 98
Best known to casual fans as "the guy who fouled a ball off his own mom", the 29-year-old Span is also a pretty good CF with pop; he's manned the position for Minnesota since 2009 when healthy (he lost much of 2011 after being concussed in a collision, and broke his collarbone in '12).
Though only three years into a five-year deal, the Twins added Span to their long list of post-2012 dispatched veterans with a November trade to Washington. He's hovered around .260 for the past two months while battling aches resulting from repeated foul balls off his foot. Prior to the All-Star Break, Nats manager Davey Johnson dropped Span from leadoff to seventh in the batting order.
Joe Blanton, Dodgers to Angels. 42 OF 98
The former A's ace and later Philadelphia's much-maligned fifth starter from mid-2008 to mid-2012, Blanton's often-tumultuous Phillie career came to an end with a July trade to the all-in Dodgers. Big Joe won only two of 10 Dodger starts and was not re-signed.
The Angels imported their 32-year-old former division rival for 2Y/$15M in the off-season, but a return to the AL West hasn't inspired a return to his past glory. Blanton stood at 2-12, 5.33 heading into the All-Star break, with league worsts in losses, home runs allowed (23) and hits allowed (148). The Angels have won only four of his 19 starts.
Drew Stubbs, Reds to Indians. 43 OF 98
In Graig Nettles' 1984 autobiography Balls, he questions George Steinbrenner's acquisition of Omar Moreno, a "slap hitter who strikes out a lot," wondering if the owner got him so he'd have the only one.
Well, Stubbs—while not a slap hitter—is a guy who struck out over 200 times for the '11 Reds while mostly holding down the leadoff spot, and continues to often bat high in the order while racking up astronomical K totals. When he was cracking 22 jacks with a .773 OPS (as in '10), Stubbs' shortcomings were easier to overlook.
But when he fell to .214 with a mere .277 OBP and 14 homers in '12, Cincinnati swapped their center fielder to Cleveland—who use him primarily as a ninth-place hitter. Alternating between center and right fields for the Indians, Stubbs boasts a much-improved "slashline" than in 2012, although his K rate remains sky-high.
Martin Prado, Braves to Diamondbacks. 44 OF 98
2010 All-Star Prado has quietly settled in as one of the NL's better "gamers," the kind of guys who bring little glitz but are imperative to a winning team. It's no coincidence that Atlanta's rise in the standings coincided with increased playing time for Prado, who's spent extended time in the infield and outfield.
The 29-year-old Venezuelan, who hit over .300 in four of the past five seasons for Atlanta, was sent to Arizona in the Justin Upton deal—no doubt a very tough move to make by the Braves' decision-makers. After a hot introductory week, Prado has struggled to keep his average above .250—save for a 7-for-8 two-game burst in May. Still, Paul Goldschmidt was the only D'back with more home runs and RBI at the All-Star break.
Joe Saunders, Angels to Mariners. 45 OF 98
A 33-game winner for the 2008-09 Angels, Saunders' numbers haven't approached those levels since his trades to Arizona and Baltimore (though he's helped both clubs reach the postseason), but he still "takes the ball" and even hurled his third career shutout in 2012.
Seattle brought in the 32-year-old lefty on a 1Y/$6M deal for 2013. Hung with an ERA over six near the end of May—including one four-start stretch where he allowed seven-plus runs in three of them—Saunders has been on fire ever since, firing off eight quality starts in his final nine leading up to the All-Star break. He's won five of them, including the past three over Texas, Cincy and the Angels.
Shin Soo Choo, Indians to Reds. 46 OF 98
The return in the Stubbs trade with Cincinnati, Choo was on his way to potential superstardom three short years ago, when he wrapped up back-to-back .300, 20/20 seasons for the Tribe while showcasing a Gold Glove in the outfield.
Sadly, a broken thumb in 2011 (witnessed live by me, as then-Giants LHP Jonathan Sanchez caused it with an errant pitch) halted his momentum, and though he was healthy and productive in '12, he wasn't quite the same...yet.
However, Choo's first half of 2013 has been arguably All-Star worthy—he's started all but three of Cincy's 95 games in center field, cracked 13 home runs from the leadoff spot (including four leading off games and a walk-off against Atlanta), leads the league in plate appearances and plunkings and is second in on-base percentage behind teammate Joey Votto. He entered the break on a 12-game hit streak.
Carlos Pena, Rays to Astros. 47 OF 98
Carlos Pena is slowly becoming the Rob Deer of the 2010's—a guy who will either hit the ball 400 feet or whiff. He has fallen below .200 in two of the past three years, including 2012 when he batted a Deer-like .197 with 182 K.
Pena's power, eye and glove keep him in the league, however. After spending five of six years with Tampa Bay (Pena was a Cub in 2011), the big Dominican native took his big stick to a rebuilding Astro team for 1Y/$2.9M.
Alternating between DH and first base, Pena's 2013 numbers aren't very good—it's never a good sign when a team's leadoff man has more RBI at the All-Star break than one of its alleged run producers. Pena was even "demoted" to leadoff himself just before the break—his first such experience in a 13-year career. Pena has just 15 hits since the end of May, although one of them was a walk-off home run versus Milwaukee June 20.
Francisco Liriano, White Sox to Pirates. 48 OF 98
In Liriano, Pittsburgh received a big, strong lefty with a no-hitter to his credit, a 14-win season for a pennant winner under his belt, an All-Star nod as a rookie and stuff so electric he blazed through 201 hitters once.
They also imported a guy who's been removed from two starting rotations in recent years due to ineffectiveness, a history of arm issue and a 23-45 record from 2009-12 if you subtract the '10 season.
At 1Y/$1M, it was certainly worth gambling on a 29-year-old lefty, and so far it has paid off for the Bucs. After beginning the year on the DL, Liriano has gone a nifty 9-3 with a microscopic 2.00 ERA in 12 starts; only his early-season absence kept him off the All-Star team. He leads the surging Pirates in wins and ERA, and is their only starter to twirl a complete game in '13. *Cough* extension *cough*
Mike Napoli, Rangers to Red Sox. 49 OF 98
Mike Napoli can wallop a baseball; he has knocked 146 baseballs over the fence in seven MLB seasons despite the fact he was only a part-timer in many of said seasons.
Primarily a catcher with the Angels and Rangers, Naps was signed to play first base and DH by Boston at $5 million for 2013. Freed from the rigors of catching—he hasn't caught at all this season—the 31-year-old has started 85 of Boston's 97 games. Oddly, only one of his 11 first-half home runs came off of a left-handed pitcher. Napoli already has two grand slams in 2013.
Joakim Soria, Royals to Rangers. 50 OF 98
With news like Josh Hamilton's tobacco habits, the new postseason format, Mariano Rivera's injury, Chipper Jones' retirement, etc. clogging up the sports pages, lost among the headlines was the season-long absence of one of the game's better relief pitchers.
Joakim Soria racked up 115 saves with an ERA below 2.00 from 2008-10 with the Kansas City Royals—which is why the average fan has never heard of him. He ran into trouble in '11 and was demoted from closing temporarily, then underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2012.
Not re-signed by KC, Texas brought the 28-year-old in for 2Y/$8M, obviously confident he can return to his old form. He finally returned to the mound on July 7 and has thrown three shutout innings for the Rangers.
Juan Pierre, Phillies to Marlins. 51 OF 98
He's back! One of the heroes of Florida's shocking 2003 championship team, Pierre returns to the franchise after stops in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Needless to say, nothing is as it was during Pierre's initial stint—not even the team name and colors.
But after gutting the roster of practically all notable players save for Giancarlo Stanton and Ricky Nolasco during the final six months of 2012, Miami needed veterans. Pierre returned on a 1Y/$1.6M deal in search of his 600th career steal—which he achieved on May 2. Pierre was a .218 hitter entering June but a 13-game hit streak helped bump his average.
He has lost playing time to Justin Ruggiano in recent weeks.
Ervin Santana, Angels to Royals. 52 OF 98
In some ways Santana's career has almost mirrored the aforementioned Francisco Liriano's—electric stuff, a no-hitter to his name, and rough periods mixed in with dominant ones.
Overall, Santana's had the more successful career (three 16+ win seasons and 96 lifetime wins by age 30) and the Royals traded for him hoping that pitching in a contract year elicits the "good" Santana, not the one who coughed up 39 home runs in 2012—one behind the all-time Angels club record.
Santana enjoyed a strong first half in '13 and could have repped KC as an All-Star if shoddy run support hadn't impinged his win-loss record. Santana's 3.37 ERA would be a career low if it holds up, and his 1.114 WHIP leads the KC starting staff by far. Furthermore, the nine-year vet has only plunked three batters as of the All-Star break—no small feat for a man annually among the league leaders in that department.
Alexi Casilla, Twins to Orioles. 53 OF 98
Casilla cracked the game-winning hit in one of the greatest games ever played—the 2009 one-game playoff for the American League Central division title between his Twins and the Tigers—but the diminutive middle infielder has had few moments in the spotlight since as the Twins regressed into mediocrity and Casilla was bounced between second base and shortstop.
Still just 29, Baltimore snagged him off waivers as insurance for middle infield starters Brian Roberts and J.J. Hardy; he got plenty of run during Roberts' latest injury-related absence but has accrued only 26 at-bats since the start of June.
Overall, Casilla is hitting .233 in 44 games, and his lone home run was a three-run game-winner off Indians ace Justin Masterson on June 25.
Jordan Walden, Angels to Braves 54 OF 98
In 2011, Walden was one of the most talked-about rooks in the game; the massive 24-year-old settled in as the Angels' closer following the departures of incumbents Fernando Rodney and Brian Fuentes, saving 32 games and making the All-Star team.
Though he pitched well for the most part in early '12, he was displaced as closer by the even-more effective Ernesto Frieri and dealt in the off-season to Atlanta. Owner of one of baseball's most unconventional deliveries, Walden has been very effective as a setup man for the Braves in 2013—if you omit a tough, injury-plagued May.
Entering the All-Star break, Walden had allowed a single earned run in his past 16 games (that June 29 run, a homer by Miguel Montero, gave Arizona a late lead but Walden's offense immediately dropped a seven-spot in response).
Rafael Soriano, Yankees to Nationals. 55 OF 98
Soriano is living proof of the imbalance between the haves and have-nots of Major League Baseball. Fresh off a record-setting season closing games for Tampa Bay in 2010, the New York Yankees signed the veteran righty to a 2Y/$21M contract—to set up Mo Rivera.
Obviously they had no way of knowing Rivera would blow out his knee in May 2012, increasing Soriano's value ten-fold from that point forward. He wound up nailing down 42 contests in '12 but then opted to join Washington for two years and $14 million.
Soriano is 25-of-29 in save opportunities for the middling Nats; recently, he allowed a game-tying, ninth-inning homer to Miami's Stanton in Washington's penultimate game before the All-Star break—but re-mounted the horse and nailed down an extra-inning win the next night.
Jeff Keppinger, Rays to White Sox 56 OF 98
If you are a team that strikes out too much, you need a guy like Jeff Keppinger, a former "utility guy" who's since established himself as a solid hitting semi-regular for several teams over the past five years. (The strikeout-plagued Houston Astros did have Keppinger and let him go. Suppose he wasn't pulling his weight in that department.)
After batting .325 with nine homers for the Rays in 2012, the White Sox locked up the 33-year-old veteran for 3Y/$12M; he's started over 70 games at four different positions after being projected as Chicago's primary third baseman—a role since filled by Conor Gillaspie.
Keppinger didn't get his average over .200 to stay until late May and still lags in the .240's, but has not committed an error since the season's first week—a fact not lost on a team with the third-highest E total in the American League.
Fausto Carmona, Indians to Rays. 57 OF 98
(No, I'm not calling him "Roberto Hernandez". Roberto Hernandez was a closer for the White Sox and D'Rays in the '90's as far as I'm concerned. He is still Fausto Carmona to me.)
Carmona survived for years on the strength of his 19-8 sophomore season with the 2007 division champion Indians; he is 34-63 lifetime if you exclude that year (albeit with a 2010 All-Star nod during a brief rebound).
The huge righty, who was out most of 2012 while dealing with his identity issues in the Dominican and serving an MLB suspension, signed with Tampa for 1Y/$3.25M. Though he was only 5-10, 4.90 entering the break, Carmona has given Tampa innings (he's averaging exactly six per start) and entered the All-Star break on a streak of four quality starts.
Coincidentally, the other veteran MLB pitcher sidelined by identity issues in 2012—the former Leo Nunez; now officially Juan Oviedo—became a teammate of Carmona's this year, though he has yet to pitch while recovering from elbow surgery.
Mike Aviles, Red Sox to Indians. 58 OF 98
The question almost always heard upon mention of a player established as a Kansas City Royal. Aviles has a little game, though—his rookie season average of .325 ranked third in the A.L. among players with 400+ plate appearances—and though he's had some setbacks since then, Aviles is a guy who cracked 13 homers as Boston's primary shortstop (123 starts) in 2012.
Cleveland signed the 32-year-old for two years at just under $6 million, with a club option. Aviles returned to a backup role at the season's outset (the Tribe had Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher around the infield) but has gradually accumulated over 50 starts in the wake of injuries and demotions.
Eric Chavez, Yankees to Diamondbacks. 59 OF 98
At the end of the 2006 postseason, Eric Chavez already laid claim to an impressive MLB career, one which had just begun its prime. He was the franchise face on a perennial contender and while his offensive numbers didn't quite rival those of Mike Schmidt, they were right there with any other third baseman of his era not named Rodriguez or Jones. He won defensive hardware annually.
In fact, had he maintained consistency and health throughout the '00's—and the process for induction wasn't tainted by PED's—Chavez could have been a dark horse Hall-of-Fame candidate by now. Sadly, a spate of physical setbacks limited him to 64 games and 230 at-bats from 2008-2010. He hit exactly three home runs during that span.
Chavez has managed to re-discover health since then, and even smoked 16 home runs in a part-time role for the Yankees in 2012. Now 35, the D'backs signed him for 2013, at $3M. He is slugging a robust .531 in a part-time role—only 11 other National Leaguers with over 150 plate appearances rank higher—and enjoyed a four-hit game on May 17.
Overall, Chavez stands at .303 with seven home runs in just 145 official at-bats.
James Loney, Red Sox to Rays. 60 OF 98
Loney is a solid hitter overall, but not all that powerful for a first baseman (career high in home runs: 15). The Dodgers started him at first base for several years hoping their #1 pick in the 2002 draft could blossom into that slugger, but when he actually regressed in 2012, the new Dodger management wasted little time in upgrading to Adrian Gonzalez via trade with the Red Sox.
Loney finished that season with lowly Boston before signing a 1Y/$2M deal with Tampa Bay for 2013—a signing that will go down as one of the year's biggest bargains. Loney has played every one of Tampa's 96 games and is batting a solid .315 with a .466 slugging percentage, which would be his highest in seven years if it holds up.
The 29-year-old has only six fewer hits at the All-Star break than he had in all of 2012; he leads the Rays in that category as well as average and on-base percentage.
John Buck, Marlins to Blue Jays to Mets. 61 OF 98
A solid catcher primarily for the Royals and Marlins during his eight-year career, Buck became a casualty of the latter's latest fire sale, packaged to Toronto in the Jose Reyes trade. The Jays quickly shipped him to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal (which likely generated a sigh of relief), returning him to the NL East. Buck, 33, is good for double-digit home runs annually and was a 2010 All-Star.
Out of the gate, Buck's hot bat turned many heads—thru 10 games, Buck was ripping .351 with six home runs, including four-baggers in four straight games. Buck's average dipped but he owned 10 homers by May 3. Over the next two months, however, the veteran catcher hit .190 and quashed any shot he had at another All-Star berth.
An encouraging sign for Buck and his team: he entered the All-Star break on a seven-game hit streak that has upped his average 14 points. An oddity: in 2013, he's hit three home runs in the bottom of the ninth without any of them winning or even tying the game—something he's done six times in his career without a single walk-off.
Delmon Young, Tigers to Phillies. 62 OF 98
Dmitri's little brother made a bit of history last fall when he became the Tigers' all-time postseason home run hitter (the old mark was five; Young advanced it to eight), although it wasn't enough to bring the World Series title back to the Motor City. The 27-year-old Young, who's also played with Tampa and Minnesota, has come a long way from his infamous bat-throwing incident as a minor leaguer, and developed into a dependable major leaguer.
After the 2012 season, Philadelphia signed the 2012 ALCS MVP for the low price of 1Y$750K; he'd just undergone bone spur surgery on his ankle which lowered his price and delayed his Phillies debut until April 30. Slow initially, Young has batted .300 over the past two months while settling in as Philadelphia's right fielder and No.5/6 hitter.
His most recent home run turned around a two-run, eighth-inning Padres lead and keyed a Phillie comeback win on June 26.
Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays to Marlins to Rays. 63 OF 98
The 30-year-old Escobar gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons as 2012 drew to a close. From a strictly on-field standpoint, however, he's been an above-average shortstop for the Braves and Blue Jays for several years since coming north from Cuba. He was acquired by Miami from Toronto in the Jose Reyes megadeal, then quickly sent to Tampa for a prospect.
Escobar didn't get his average over .200 to stay until mid-May but has hit capably ever since, batting mostly ninth for the Rays since late April. He sank the Tigers with a walk-off single on June 30, and ripped a two-run double (up Tal's Hill in Houston, a home run anywhere else) in the 11th to down Houston on Independence Day.
The hamstring strain suffered by the veteran shortstop just before the break isn't considered serious.
Scott Hairston, Mets to Cubs. 64 OF 98
Having spent most of his career with the Padres and Diamondbacks, I've seen a lot of Hairston killing my Giants over the years (once even watched him get ejected in person during his rookie season). He appeared to be headed for stardom during said rookie season but instead spent most of the next two years in Triple-A, transitioning from second base to the outfield.
Since then, the 33-year-old veteran has re-defined himself as one of MLB's best role players. In 2012, he tallied a career-high 20 home runs in a career-high 134 games played for the Mets, parlaying his effort into a 2Y/$5M deal with the Cubs.
Hairston never got it going in Chicago. Whether his struggles cost him playing time, or his lack of playing time led to his struggles, the fact is Hairston only accumulated 99 at-bats with the Cubs. Though he smacked an impressive eight home runs—one of which was a May 31 grand slam—his average never topped .200 and he was traded to Washington just before the All-Star break.
The third-generation big-leaguer smoked a pinch-hit home run against the Pirates in his final Cubs at-bat.
Tommy Hanson, Braves to Angels. 65 OF 98
Hanson came up in mid-2009 for Atlanta and dazzled down the stretch (11-4, 2.83). But by 2012 he'd lost his mojo; though he won 13 times, he averaged well under six innings per start and recorded a WHIP nearly 0.3 higher than in any of his previous three seasons. With arbitration looming, Atlanta opted to deal the 26-year-old to the Angels.
It's been a difficult '13 for Hanson on-and-off the field; he was twice out of action while dealing with the death of his stepbrother in April/May, then he hit the DL in late June with a forearm injury. The Oklahoma native has given Los Angeles nine starts and 47.2 innings this year.
Raul Ibanez, Yankees to Mariners. 66 OF 98
Ibanez' tale is reminiscent of former teammate Rickey Henderson: reach the bigs and make your name with one team, leave the nest for awhile, return "home", pack up once more, lather, rinse, repeat. 2013 represents Ibanez' third stint with the Mariners after mostly successful runs in Philadelphia and New York (Yankees).
Now age at 40, it's unlikely Ibanez will record three consecutive 100+ RBI seasons for Seattle as he did for them from 2006-2008. The Mariners signed him for 1Y/$2.75M, simply hoping he could out-produce the last outfielder/DH they brought back to end his career—which wouldn't be difficult.
Instead, Ibanez has reached deep into the fountain of youth. He enjoyed a binge of six homers in seven games in early May and thru the All-Star break, is hitting .267 with team-highs of 24 homers (fourth in the AL), 56 RBI and a .578 slugging percentage (also fourth in the AL). Despite his offensive prowess, the Florida native did not come close to making the All-Star team as an outfielder or DH.
One of Ibanez's bombs extended a game from 11 to 13 innings (Seattle eventually won) and his fifth one of the second half will represent career Big Fly No. 300.
Shaun Marcum, Brewers to Mets. 67 OF 98
Marcum has long toiled in obscurity; only Toronto and Milwaukee fans are aware that he won 13 games for them in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Although on the disabled list for a third of the 2012 season, the Mets imported the veteran right-hander for 1Y/$4M after the Brewers severed ties.
It was not been a smooth year at all for Marcum. Between season-opening (neck, bicep) and season-closing (shoulder) disabled list stints, Marcum racked up an ugly 1-10 record and only five quality starts out of 12.
Placido Polanco, Phillies to Marlins. 68 OF 98
As a vastly underrated but critical second/third baseman for the Cardinals, Phillies and Tigers, Polanco racked up over 2,000 hits, claimed a LCS MVP award, won three Gold Gloves, once finished second in the majors in batting average and accumulated a lifetime average just under .300.
Additionally, the 37-year-old Dominican did all of this while usually being the smallest man on his team, and often bouncing back and forth between infield positions. Polanco, who hit .257 in 90 games for Philadelphia in a 2012 season derailed by back problems (which disabled him twice), signed for 1Y/$2.75M deal with Miami in the 2012-13 off-season.
Polanco started hot for Miami, but after taking a 1-for-8 in their 20-inning win over the Mets on June 8—which was sandwiched around a week-long illness and a back injury suffered falling over a dugout rail—his average stood at .227 (an 0-for-7 in a previous 15-inning marathon didn't help).
Polanco has lost playing time in July, starting only five times after racking up 60 starts from April-June. Given his 2013 statline (.251 average, one homer, 15 RBI) and his age, the 16-year vet might not be long for the big leagues.
Vance Worley, Phillies to Twins. 69 OF 98
In 2011, Worley was one of the pleasant surprises of baseball. The beefy right-hander began 11-1 for the Phillies (ultimately finishing 11-3) but his encore season was marred by bone chips in his elbow that he attempted unsuccessfully to pitch through.
Still only 25, the Phils sacrificed Worley in order to acquire CF Ben Revere from Minnesota. He made 10 starts—including Opening Day for Minnesota in 2013, winning one and posting a WHIP just under 2.0 (with an ERA over 7). He was demoted to Triple-A in May, where he's won six of nine starts and drastically curbed the home run ball that so badly plagued him with the Twins.
Worley was recently disabled with shoulder inflammation. Before his injury, the Twins offered no timetable on a potential return to Target Field.
Ty Wigginton, Phillies to Cardinals. 70 OF 98
Once upon a time, "Wigs" was the Mets' everyday third baseman. Then a guy named David Wright came along and...yeah. Not to suggest Wigginton is a scrub—far from it.
He's a poor man's Matt Stairs, only with more versatility and less swing. Every year he'll land somewhere for one or two years, mostly start, and usually finish the season with around 15-20 homers and 50-70 RBI, depending on how many AB's he's granted.
The Cardinals imported him from Philadelphia for 2Y/$5M, but Wigginton barely lasted half of year one. Younger, cheaper Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso absorbed most of the playing time usually reserved for Wigginton; he managed only 63 PA's under Mike Matheny and hit .158 with no home runs.
For his part, Matheny—who regularly played against then-Pirate Wigginton in 2004 when still a Cardinals catcher—was quick to praise the veteran, whose July 9 release cost him his best shot at his first postseason appearance.
Jason Bay, Mets to Mariners. 71 OF 98
Holy Denny Neagle! It's easy to forget that three short years ago, Jason Bay's name was among the most mentioned in MLB. He was among the league's top free agents that winter of 2009 and landed a four-year megadeal from the New York Mets.
It never came together for Bay in New York; by 2012's end Bay was a forgotten man. After that 70-game, .165 catastrophe, the Mets opted to eat the last year of his deal. At the cost of $1 million to them, Seattle landed the 34-year-old, who as recently as 2009 whacked 36 homers and drove in 119 runs (at Fenway, but still).
Bay has had an, uh, interesting year for the M's. Starting about half the time at both corner outfield spots, Bay is somehow batting 100 points higher at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field than on the road. After batting third or fourth in 60 percent of his career starts prior to '13, he has not batted in either spot all year—instead making the first dozen leadoff appearances of his career. All 11 of his homers thru the All-Star break were solos.
But most importantly, Bay's healthy, and playing closer to his British Columbia hometown than ever.
Philip Humber, White Sox to Astros. 72 OF 98
In the mid-2000's, Humber was among the Mets' top prospects, eventually traded to Minnesota (with others) for Johan Santana. But it wasn't until hooking up with the White Sox in 2011 that he made any major league impact. The 30-year-old threw the 22nd perfect game in MLB history (I count Armando Galarraga's), shutting down the Mariners on April 21st of 2012.
By year's close, however, Humber had pitched his way out of the rotation and eventually, out of the Chicago organization entirely. Houston signed him for 1Y/$1.3M for 2013. Sadly, the 30-year-old's career continued its accelerated descent—on an Astro team that only asked for innings, not domination, Humber failed to win a single one of his seven starts.
In fairness, he started decently enough, with 18.2 innings and a 2.89 ERA after three starts. Then Humber coughed up seven or more scores in three of his next four starts, sparking a demotion to the 'pen. That lasted two games until a May 11 massacre against the Rangers cost him his roster spot.
Outrighted to Oklahoma City, Humber's aggregate W/L record with the Astros and Redhawks is 0-12. All I can say is...wow.
Scott Baker, Twins to Cubs. 73 OF 98
After quietly going 38-22 over a three-year (2008-10) period for the Twins—and before that, barely missing a perfect game—the veteran right-hander underwent major reconstructive elbow surgery in 2012, and Minnesota cut ties. Undaunted by his full year off the diamond, and after any quality arms they could get, the Chicago Cubs signed Baker to a $5.5 million deal for 2013, with the opportunity to up that to $7 million in performance bonuses.
Baker has not pitched in the majors yet in 2013, but has begun his minor league rehab.
Casey Kotchman, Indians to Marlins. 74 OF 98
Miami makes it seven teams in the past six seasons for the veteran Kotchman, who (on the strength of his record-setting fielding) continues to find work in the big leagues despite 71 lifetime home runs in 10 years from the first base position. A .306 hitter for Tampa in 2011, "Kotch" fell all the way to .229 with Cleveland in '12 and was let go.
The 30-year-old joined the Fish on a 1Y/$700K contract, but 2013 is shaping up to be a lost year. Kotchman shredded his hamstring in the Marlins' second game and missed two months. Less than a week after returning, he returned to the DL with an oblique injury (June 10) and hasn't played since.
Kotchman is 0-for-20 in six games this season.
Jason Frasor, Blue Jays to Rangers. 75 OF 98
It's rare that a non-closing reliever spends all, or even most, of a significant career with one team. Other than Scot Shields, I'm drawing a five-minute blank on examples. But Frasor bucked the trend, toiling eight-and-a-half of his first nine seasons as a Toronto Blue Jay. There were periods where he was asked to slam the door but for the most part, Frasor's role was middle and setup relief.
Originally traded out of Toronto in 2011, the 35-year-old was quickly re-acquired after that season, but landed in Texas for 2013 on a 1Y/$1.5M deal. Used more-or-less as a righty specialist—Frasor has 26 innings over 35 appearances—he's enjoyed a good year down south. Frasor has been especially tough lately, with only two earned runs allowed since the end of May.
Frasor is the latest to prove that dismissing short guys in the draft (the 5'9" veteran was a 33rd-round pick) can be unwise.
Jason Vargas, Mariners to Angels. 76 OF 98
If asked who was Seattle's winningest starter in 2012, any casual fan instantly assumes Felix Hernandez. On the no-brainer scale, the answer seems to rank right up there with the Orioles' career games leader and the Braves' career home run leader.
However, King Felix stood one behind lefty Jason Vargas in this category. Vargas, in his third full season as an M's starter, went 14-11, 3.85 in 2012. One reason Hernandez only won 13 games—not enough thump in the Seattle lineup; addressing the problem, they sacrificed Vargas to bring in Kendrys Morales from the Halos in an uncommon intra-division swap.
Vargas was a deserving AL Pitcher of the Month for May 2013; he went 5-0, 2.30 in six starts. When he hit the disabled list with a blood clot in his pitching armpit, he was 6-4, 3.65 overall. Vargas' rehab from surgery is reportedly on course and the team hopes for an August return, per the Los Angeles Times.
Key Non-Roster Adds. 77 OF 98
They're dimmed stars who no longer put up the huge numbers that once made them indispensable. They're established veterans coming off tough seasons. They're guys trying to prove they're healthy enough to contribute to a major league squad. They're youngsters fighting hard just for a shot at being the 25th man.
They're the non-roster invitees: they're not on the 40-man roster, they're not guaranteed anything financially or otherwise, and unlike the Fielders and Stantons and Cains and Sabathias of the league, they're not afforded the luxury of "working on a pitch" or "playing their way into shape"—they have to make an impact, or they're gone by Opening Day.
Every team has multiple NRI's but on average, only one to three win spots (many because of injuries to rostered players) per club, if that. Following is a rundown of the more familiar names to win spots in 2013 and how they've fared so far.
Miguel Tejada, Royals. 78 OF 98
I'm opinionated, but I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong. And I was dead wrong about the wisdom of my Giants hiring Tejada to be their 2011 shortstop. I felt that, even at 37 and no longer the superstar who won the 2002 AL MVP award, registered four 30-homer seasons, and didn't miss a game for seven years, Tejada would make an adequate stopgap.
Again, dead wrong. No baseball insight I've ever offered has ever strayed further from reality. Miggy had a great career—had he enjoyed it in any other era without questions surrounding its legitimacy, it might have earned him a plaque in Cooperstown. But the Tejada who wore the Giants uniform didn't resemble the one who dazzled in the A's and O's unis in any way. After being cut in August '11 and unsigned afterward, he seemed done.
Tejada never expressed anything but a desire to continue his career, however. The Royals gave him a shot this spring, he capitalized, and through the All-Star break was batting .278 in 35 games for KC.
Chad Qualls, Marlins. 79 OF 98
Qualls made his name as a key bullpen contributor to the 2005 NL Champion Astros, and has gone on to make 70+ appearances in six of the past eight seasons, most notably for Houston and Arizona. In fact, he was the D'backs closer in 2009 before injuring his knee.
Since then, he's been a traveling man, having made stops through seven organizations—including three in 2012 (Philadelphia, Yankees and Pittsburgh), none of which he fared particularly well for any stretch.
Age 35 in August, Qualls still has a rubber arm and loads of regular-and post-season experience; those guys don't grow on trees, and Qualls won a roster spot in the depleted Miami 'pen for 2013. He owns a 2.89 ERA in 2013 and is unscored upon in July (as of the All-Star break).
Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies. 80 OF 98
This one wasn't a shocker. Torrealba was one of the leaders of the infamous 2007 NL Champion Rockies (and 2009 Wild Card Rockies) whose stock had fallen in the years since departing Denver. He'd played on the 2011 AL Champion Rangers but drew serious scorn for slapping an umpire in the Venezuelan league during that off-season. Three MLB clubs let him go in 2012.
Colorado, known for bringing past heroes back into the fold, gave the 34-year-old Torrealba a shot at a part-time role. He won it, and is ably teaming with young Wilin Rosario. Thru the All-Star break, Torrealba was hitting .287 and has erased 34 percent of attemtped base stealers.
Jason Giambi, Indians. 81 OF 98
This move? One of the off-season's most surprising, at least to me. What surprised me most? That Giambi wanted to continue playing, that anyone made him an offer or that he ended up making a roster (Cleveland's)? Answer: all of the above.
Don't get me wrong; I'm happy for the Giambino, the popular and productive A's and Yankees superstar of the 2000's who was knocked down by health and PED issues. Rather than fade away, he re-invented himself as a valuable reserve over the past three+ seasons in Colorado (even enjoying a three-homer game as a 40-year-old in 2011).
The now-42-year-old Giambi, who actually did interview for the Rockies' managerial position before signing with the Tribe (Walt Weiss got the Rox job), has smacked six home runs 115 at-bats (thru the All-Star break) after opening 2013 on the disabled list. His career total stands at 435.
Jonathan Sanchez, Pirates. 82 OF 98
As a member of my beloved Giants in 2009, he no-hit the Padres (on a very sad day for me personally; I could not join in on the celebration). In 2010, his 13-9, 3.07 performance helped the Giants to a World Series title. Yet Sanchez continues to be one of the most frustrating players in the league not named Liriano.
When the lean lefty is on, he cannot be hit. But command and focus escaped him throughout his Giants tenure, and after a highly disappointing 2011 season, they swapped him to Kansas City for an unnamed left fielder—a trade which ranked as the steal of the year until said left fielder failed a drug test.
Sanchez completely fell apart in Kansas City and was eventually cut. Next, Colorado unsuccessfully tried to restore his confidence and mechanics. After the season, the 30-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, winning a rotation spot in the spring. Sanchez was 0-3 in five games, with an ERA nearing 12 and a WHIP nearing 2.5; the Bucs quickly sent him back to the unemployment line.
The Dodgers took Sanchez on a minor league deal in May. He has not returned to the majors as of the All-Star break.
John Maine, Marlins. 83 OF 98
The Mets' primary return in the Kris Benson (remember him? Or at least his wife Anna?) trade with Baltimore, Maine was perpetually on the Mets' radar but only in 2007 (15-10, 3.91 in 32 starts) was he a season-long contributor. Injury after injury set the big right-hander back; he totaled 49 starts over the next three years.
New York finally ran out of patience and let Maine go after a (not surprising) injury-shortened 2010; he was out of the majors until winning a spot with Miami this year. Sadly, he didn't last three weeks with the Fish, cut after posting a 2.7 WHIP three weeks from his 32nd birthday.
Scott Kazmir, Indians. 84 OF 98
Kazmir was the greatest pitcher in Devil Rays history, which on its face isn't much of an achievement when you recall the hordes of stiffs (Delvin James...Ryan Rupe...Dewon Brazelton...Rick Gorecki) trotted out during that era.
Scott Kazmir, however, was very good by any measurement. He was cut from the bantam Billy Wagner mold: lefty with fire-breathing fastball known to be confused for his team's batboy (Kazmir attended high school in his native Houston while Wagner was busy becoming the Astros' all-time saves leader nearby.)
From 2005-07, Kazmir won 33 games for a D-Rays squad that finished dead last all three of those years, averaging nearly 100 losses per. He chipped in 12 wins for the revitalized Rays of 2008—then simply fell apart. It wasn't quite a Dontrelle Willis-level fall, but close.
Out of the majors for basically all of 2011-12 as he re-learned how to pitch in the minors and independent leagues, Kazmir—still just 29—sought and won a spot in the '13 Indians rotation. Disabled until 4/20 by a ribcage strain, he lacked immediate consistency (3-4, 5.89 ERA thru June 15) but has gone 2-0, 4.06 in his last five starts entering the All-Star break.
Leo Nunez, Rays. 85 OF 98
(Legally, he is Juan Oviedo; personally, he is indefinitely Leo Nunez) Nunez was a mostly effective under-the-radar fireman for the Marlins from 2009-11, saving 92 games in that stretch. He spent the first half of 2012 dealing with the identity fallout; upon re-gaining eligibility to pitch in the majors, he blew out his arm while on minor league rehab.
Cut loose by Miami (inevitable with or without his health/identity issues; these are the Marlins we're talking about), Tampa took a flier on the 31-year-old, who is expected to spend most if not all of 2013 on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Cesar Izturis, Reds. 86 OF 98
In the early-mid 2000's, Izturis was among the top defensive shortstops around, earning and sustaining the starting gig with the Dodgers for four seasons until blowing out his arm in 2005. He was traded out of Los Angeles not long after recovering.
Since then Izturis has made the rounds in mostly regular roles, most notably Baltimore (where he started at SS for two years) and most recently a pit stop in Washington. Still just 33, the Reds brought Izturis in on a minor league deal; he won a spot and though he hasn't hit much, he is errorless in 28 defensive games for Dusty Baker.
On April 22, his walk-off single in the 13th capped a miracle comeback win for the Reds over the division rival Cubs.
Marlon Byrd, Mets. 87 OF 98
Three years ago, he was an All-Star, making a memorable defensive play to help preserve the NL's streak-busting win. That day initiated a long stretch of misfortune for Byrd—he was viciously beaned, cut twice, and suspended for illegal PED use between then and 2012's close.
35 years old and unemployed, the New York Mets agreed on a minor league deal with the outfielder. He secured the Mets starting right field job on the strength of his hot bat (15 homers, 51 RBI, .502 slugging thru the All-Star break), evidence of which includes a two-homer game on June 5 and an eighth-inning clutch grand slam on July 9.
Byrd has only gone hitless twice in July 2013.
Jayson Nix, Yankees. 88 OF 98
The three most shocking discoveries of my adult life: George Peppard and Mr. T didn't care much for each other, unrefrigerated mashed potatoes are hard on the nose and the Nix brothers have combined for over 1,100 major league games and over 100 career home runs.
Laynce has been around longer and has the more impressive resume; 31-year-old Jayson seems to be cut every other week but stuck with the Yankees in 2012, and won a spot with the '13 club (didn't hurt that three-fourths of their starting infield opened the year on the DL).
As one soldier in the small army of substitute third basemen used in Alex Rodriguez's absence, Nix was hitting .236 with two homers thru the All-Star break. He currently resides on the disabled list with a bad hamstring.
Brandon Inge, Pirates. 89 OF 98
Inge spent over a decade as a Detroit Tiger, during 119-loss seasons and pennant-winning seasons. By 2012, however, it was clear change was needed—and Inge joined the surprising Oakland A's. Though he hovered around .200 all year, Inge came through with several big hits for his new club (many of them clearing the fence) before his season ended prematurely due to injury.
Said injury dropped his stock and he settled on a minor-league deal with the Bucs. After a disabled list stint, the 36-year-old Inge made their roster as a reserve and though his overall numbers are unimpressive, he did poke a pinch-hit single to break up a Julio Teheran (Braves) no-hitter in the eighth inning in early June.
Inge cracked his first NL home run June 26, ending a nearly-year-long drought.
Derek Lowe, Rangers. 90 OF 98
He's pitched in eight postseasons. He's thrown a no-hitter. He's saved 40 games. He's won two of the most memorable playoff games in MLB history. He's had one of the most interesting, unconventional careers of his era and in early 2013, Derek Lowe brought his sinker to the Lonestar State.
Lowe had signed with Cleveland prior to 2012 after seven years chewing up over 1,420 innings for the Dodgers and Braves; his year started off well enough but when the Tribe found themselves losers of 11 straight games, Lowe—who'd been slumping—became a casualty. Signing with the Yankees, Lowe returned to full-time relief, which he hadn't done since 2001.
The 16-year-vet, who turned 40 in June, auditioned for (and won) a spot in the Rangers' bullpen for 2013. He threw four emergency shutout innings when starter Nick Tepesch was injured April 20 but eventually lost his roster spot. Lowe, in so many words, retired during the All-Star break.
Austin Kearns, Marlins. 91 OF 98
It's always been a matter of health for the big outfielder, who wet his feet with the early-2000's Reds—even once jacking 24 home runs for them (2005)—but had difficulty staying on the field. Ex-Red GM Jim Bowden brought him to DC in an eight-man trade the following year, but dumped him following a two-season stretch of DL stints and non-productivity.
Following stops in Cleveland and the Bronx, the former 7th overall draft pick spent 2012 in a reserve role for the Fish, and after winning a spot on new manager Mike Redmond's roster, becomes one of few veteran Marlins to return in 2013.
Now 33, he's been forced off the field due to an irregular heartbeat and personal matters; Kearns has just 27 AB's so far this season thru the All-Star break but remains in Miami's employ—though their team president doesn't expect him back on the field this year.
Jon Garland, Rockies. 92 OF 98
A former back-to-back 18-game winner for the White Sox (for whom he pitched eight seasons), Garland spent 2008-12 blowing through the nation's southwestern-most MLB teams (Angels, Dodgers twice, Padres, D'backs) like a tumbleweed—and recovering from major shoulder surgery. The tall right-hander made 32-plus starts for nine straight years before his operation.
Out all of 2012, Garland signed a minor league deal with Seattle for '13 but wound up with Colorado instead when the Ms opted not to promote him. Now 33, he started very strong for the Rox but hit a losing streak and was let go by the Rockies in early June, finishing 4-6, 5.82 in 12 starts.
LaTroy Hawkins, Mets. 93 OF 98
Hawkins is one of those guys who has enjoyed three different careers: he began his career as a high-ceiling, low-output starting pitcher, developed into a reliable closer and for the past few seasons has worked as an effective set-up man for several clubs—most notably the 2007 NL Champion Rockies, and most recently the 2012 Los Angeles Angels.
Now 40, the 18-year vet won a spot in the Mets bullpen despite not signing until about two weeks before camp opened. His first appearance notwithstanding, he's been mostly productive in a middle relief role, though he allowed runs in each of three appearances leading up to the All-Star break.
Lyle Overbay, Yankees. 94 OF 98
Fifteen years from now, unless he A) splits his pants on the field, B) somehow plays until he's 60, C) becomes MLB's first designated fielder or D) some other absurd accomplishment, only the hardest of die-hards will remember that Lyle Overbay ever existed—even quite possibly in Toronto and Milwaukee, where he's enjoyed the most success in his career.
The 2004 NL doubles champ, Overbay's career high in homers is 22 and he has never enjoyed a 100-RBI season in seven years as a regular—atypical for first basemen of his era. He's batted exactly four times in the postseason, with zeroes across the board. Unless you're discussing failed megatrades of the 2000's (as a youngster he was part of the 2003 Richie Sexson deal), there's practically no reason to mention Overbay's name ever again once he quits.
For now, though, he has value to the depleted Yankees. Starting regularly in place of injured Mark Teixeira, the 36-year-old has had ups and downs but in 86 games thru the All-Star break, hit as many home runs (11) as he did in 186 games from 2011-12.
The 36-year-old enjoyed a four-hit, five-RBI game May 10, ripped an 11th-inning solo jack to down division rival Tampa on May 25 and smoked his first grand slam in seven years on July 10.
Rick Ankiel, Astros. 95 OF 98
We can all recite Ankiel's story from memory now: among MLB's top rookies in 2000 for St. Louis. Falls apart and can't throw a strike in 2000 postseason. Blows out arm; heals. Still can't throw strikes. Switches to outfield. Blows out knee. Plays exactly 11 MLB games from 2001-2006 before finally returning to majors in 2007; takes MLB by storm down the stretch. Linked to PED's. Now a journeyman.
Ankiel hasn't come close to duplicating that magical 2007 run (although he did rope 25 jacks for St. Louis the following year) but continued to find work in the majors. He won a job with the lowly Houston Astros in '13, but their team-wide outbreak of K's afflicted Ankiel worse than anyone (62 AB, 35 K) and led to his May release. He was briefly a New York Met, but they also cut him loose.
Now 33, Ankiel may have run out of teams.
Ryan Raburn, Indians. 96 OF 98
Raburn, overmatched in his initial 2004 MLB exposure, had to toil in Triple-A for two full years before getting another shot in Detroit. From 2009-11, he was a valuable Chone Figgins type, starting extensively at second base and both corner outfield spots (plus a handful of games at third).
Raburn averaged 116 games and 15 home runs annually over that period (one of those games was the classic Game 163 of 2009; Raburn was a defensive goat and hero in the 10th inning of that memorable affair, which his Tigers lost).
The 32-year-old had a very rough 2012, and Detroit opted not to re-sign him. Cleveland acquired their former division rival, who made the club and is batting .267 with 10 homers in 150 at-bats, basically in the same role he played across Lake Erie.
In his past three games against his former Detroit teammates, Raburn has clobbered three homers and driven in six of the nine total Indan runs.
Erik Bedard, Astros. 97 OF 98
A top lefty starter for the Orioles in 2006-07, Bedard was swapped to pitching-starved Seattle prior to 2008. While the O's continue to reap the benefits of said swap (Adam Jones, Chris Tillman), health limited Bedard to 30 starts in his initial three Mariner seasons (including an entire one spent sidelined).
The 34-year-old Ontarian began '12 pitching well for resurgent Pittsburgh, but when they swooned, Bedard—who'd also fallen into a deep slump—became a casualty in August. He made the Astros as a non-roster invitee this year, didn't eclipse four innings in any of his first five starts, but enjoyed a 3-1 June with five quality starts out of six.
Bedard's season ledger reads 3-6, 4.61—not all that terrible for an aging lefty pitching at Minute Maid Park.
Kevin Slowey, Marlins. 98 OF 98
Though never topping 160 innings in any season, Slowey won 35 games for the 2008-10 Twins before completely falling apart in '11. Dealt first to Colorado, then Cleveland in the months to come, the 29-year-old didn't see MLB action in '12 as he sandwiched a handful of Triple-A starts around two DL stints.
Miami gave Slowey an audition for their '13 rotation; he passed and posted a 3.30 ERA in his first 10 starts—with a deceptive 1-5 won/loss record. Then he hit a wall, leaving him ripe for a rotation spot takeover by top prospect Nate Eovaldi.
Since then he's alternated between starting and relieving; in Miami's laborious 19-inning win over the Mets in early June, Slowey tossed seven scoreless innings...in relief.