Wednesday Wallpaper: Wandy’s a Pirate; Hanley to L.A.; Beware the Extra Wildcard

by Jason Epstein

Is there anyone out there who still believes the Pirates are not committed to winning? Locking up megastar center fielder Andrew McCutchen this past offseason should have convinced the doubters, but yesterday’s acquisition of veteran left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros for three prospects effectively ends the speculation.

Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe gives the trade a thumbs-up for Pittsburgh longer-term but cautions that general manager Neal Huntington ought to do more for the stretch run.

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The Marlins fire sale continues: shortstop-turned-third baseman Hanley Ramirez is heading west to Chavez Ravine, presumably to play his old position, and venerable LOOGY Randy Choate is accompanying him. In return, the Dodgers are sending to Miami young starter Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer.

Jaffe’s colleague Joe Sheehan was his usual restrained self this morning in assessing the Miami organization:

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It has been a season to forget in Philadelphia, but fans now know that Cole Hamels will remain in town for the foreseeable future. The Phillies have locked up the star southpaw, albeit at a steep price: $144 million over six years, plus a seventh-year option.

(Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors for the above items.)

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Beyond the Boxscore’s Satchel Price points out that, if baseball were being played at this year’s Olympics — and MLB permitted its talent to participate — the Venezuelan squad would be a potent force. With a roster including the likes of Elvis Andrus, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, and Felix Hernandez, he’s got a point.

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Dave Cameron of Fangraphs warns teams to think twice before investing in the hope of obtaining one of the two wild card slots per league:

There are now twice as many wild cards, but they are less than half as valuable as they used to be, as they only guarantee a ~50-50 shot at a real playoff spot, and, in order to secure that playoff spot, the team will likely have to burn through their pitching staff in order to win the one game playoff. Rather than entering the division series on even footing, the wild card may now very well be without their best starting pitcher until Game 3 or Game 4. Not only does a wild card entry no longer get you any guaranteed home playoff dates, it increases the likelihood that the wild card will be losing in the first round. . . .

It was one thing to trade a prospect for a guy who gave you a 10% chance at getting to the World Series, where the potential return could dramatically alter the trajectory of a franchise. But, now, with the required play-in game, teams that are hanging out in the wild card race but probably aren’t contenders for the division title should probably hold instead of buy. The play-in game is enough of a carrot to keep teams from repeating the White Flag Trade, but it shouldn’t be enough of a carrot to get teams to give up real long term value to chase a wild card spot.

More here.