Jeff Passan

  • Sources: Royals acquire utilityman Ben Zobrist from A’s

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 hrs ago

    The Kansas City Royals continued their uncharacteristic trade-deadline shopping spree Tuesday, acquiring utilityman Ben Zobrist from the Oakland A’s for top pitching prospect Sean Manaea and right-hander Aaron Brooks, sources familiar with the deal told Yahoo Sports.

    The deal, in which Oakland will also send more than $2 million to Kansas City, comes on the heels of the Royals’ trade for ace Johnny Cueto. After getting Zobrist and Cueto, Kansas City, long the American League laughingstock, has positioned itself as a significant AL favorite a year after a surprise run to the World Series.

    While the addition of Cueto helped fortify a rotation in need of a frontline starter, the Zobrist trade might be an even better fit for Kansas City. The 34-year-old Zobrist, who, like Cueto, is a pending free agent, has played every position except catcher. With left fielder Alex Gordon on the disabled list, Zobrist can help man the position until his return, at which point he’ll almost certainly take over second-base duties from Omar Infante, who has struggled all season.

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  • Inside the shocking trade of Troy Tulowitzki

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 23 hrs ago

    There was always an agreement between Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort and his star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, spoken out loud so as to be abundantly clear: If the Rockies were to trade Tulowitzki, they were going to ask for his blessing first. Then came the blockbuster deal that sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays late Monday night, and Tulowitzki, according to sources inside the Rockies' clubhouse, found out not via a phone call but when teary-eyed manager Walt Weiss yanked him from their game in the ninth inning.

    The story of how Tulowitzki was treated, relayed by people aggrieved with his departure and how the Rockies broke their word to the longtime face of their franchise, is actually a fitting end to a multiyear trade-him-or-don’t saga that wound up with Tulowitzki fetching his passport and heading to Canada along with LaTroy Hawkins for shortstop Jose Reyes and a trio of right-handed pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco.

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  • 10 Degrees: A trade deadline primer, with the Royals going all in (yes, really)

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    Rather than glorify itself for two consecutive years of success, Kansas City has shown the sort of adaptive skills that weren’t present early in Dayton Moore’s tenure as Royals general manager. No longer are the Royals making decisions looking solely inward. Their place in the baseball world – atop the AL Central by 7½ games, better than the rest of the league by four – brought not a greater sense of security but one of urgency. The Royals could win a pennant with the team they had before Sunday. They should win it with the one they have after it.

    Even if Kansas City manages to lock up two of them, the planets aligning as they have this season in either of the next two is no given, particularly with the approach of free agency bumping their salaries via arbitration and hamstringing Kansas City’s ability to bring in big-time free agents. All of which is to say: Getting …

    4. Cole Hamels was made quasi-available by the Philadelphia Phillies. At this point, the Phillies might as well be the DMV, because they’re made people wait such an interminably long time they’re tired of the inefficiency.

     

  • Pedro Martinez's poignant Hall of Fame speech perfectly sums up pitcher's brilliance

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

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    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – There is a man, a father to five and a son to a nation, a beacon and a pillar, an overflowing heart and an expansive brain, a deep, vivid human being who fulfills others more than they could ever fulfill him. And this man has 30 minutes to encapsulate a life so rich there's not enough fire in the world to boil it down to its essence.

    This is complex. This is real and tangible, life outside of the bubble in which the ability for a quarterback to read a Cover 2 defense or ornamental lettering on a diploma connotes intelligence. This was Sunday for Pedro Martinez, in front of his family and everyone watching back in the Dominican Republic, showing the world what he grew into and how others could do the same, digging into the deepest reservoirs of himself to imbue others with the sense that even the poorest kid could find himself here, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his face on a plaque alongside the finest players in the sport, forever a part of the game.

    "When you see me," Martinez said, "you can see a sign of hope, of faith, of determination, of strength, courage, with dignity."

     

  • Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson appropriately enter 'Hall' together

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    They are so different. One is right-handed and the other left-handed. One is uncharacteristically short and the other cartoonishly stretched out, like products of a funhouse mirror. One is Dominican and the other Californian. One is typically boisterous, bombastic, ebullient and the other measured, contemplative, surly.

    They are so similar. Both are mononymous, known simply as Pedro and Unit. Both turned batters into dithering fools. Both threw a baseball at speeds incomprehensible to those standing 60 feet, 6 inches away. Both turned craft into art through the unlikely pairing of intimidation and precision. Both ushered in the era of the strikeout. Both changed baseball forever.

    And it's not because of the struggles, the hardships, the issues, though those do make them more fully fledged characters than pitching automatons. No, it's simpler than that. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, maybe more than anyone, did things they simply weren't meant to do.

    ____________________

    "I wanted to actually see if I could get just a small chance, even though I felt like I had no space to fail," Pedro said. "And I was able to pull it off."

    Pedro. Forever Pedro.

  • Astros acquire left-hander Scott Kazmir from A's

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    The resurgent Houston Astros traded for Oakland A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir on Thursday, kicking off a weeklong march to the July 31 deadline still teeming with gridlock because of persistent questions about which teams are buying and selling.

    The 31-year-old Kazmir, struggling in an independent league as recently as 2012, joins an Astros team in need of pitching depth as it tries to catch the red-hot Los Angeles Angels, who surged to the American League West lead on the back of a seven-game winning streak. For two months of Kazmir, a free agent-to-be, Houston sent Class A right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham to Oakland.

    In 18 starts this season, Kazmir is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109⅔ innings. Because he was traded midseason, he will not be subject to a qualifying offer and thus will enter free agency unrestricted, a huge boon for him.

    Oakland’s next moves are obvious: With Kazmir gone, utilityman Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard could follow in the coming days.

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  • Lorenzo Cain has the best smile in baseball and wore it for good reason against the Pirates

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the 6.3 seconds between the time he released the ball and the umpire at home plate punched his fist to signal an out, Lorenzo Cain leaned against the center-field fence, lips pursed, silently cursing himself. It was the ninth inning of a late-July game between the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates that felt like it wouldn't at all be out of place in late October, and what unfolded in front of him existed only because of the rarest kind of play: a Lorenzo Cain misread.

    Cain in center field is baseball sonar, tracking every ball hit with precision and speed, and he had malfunctioned in the worst moment. Even after letting Jung Ho Kang's fly ball soar over his head, Cain managed to embody these Royals in six seconds of delirium. The perfect throw to shortstop Alcides Escobar. And his perfect relay to catcher Salvador Perez. And his perfect tag on Starling Marte for the first out of the inning.

    And, finally, the smile.

    "This thing," Royals manager Ned Yost remembered thinking, "can go a while before either team scores."

    "It's like he was stuck in the mud," Dyson said.

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  • 25 Degrees: It's Mike Trout's world

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    Six years ago, the first version of this column grew from the kung-fu grip Manny Ramirez held on the baseball world. Everything revolved around him, swallowed whole by his immense orbit. The second half of 2009 started with him ready to carry the Dodgers and ended with him missing the ninth inning of a playoff game to shower.

    Today, the centerpiece of the baseball world is there for a different reason. It’s certainly tiresome after nearly four seasons of fawning over …

    1. Mike Trout to keep coming up with ways to describe what we’re witnessing. Perhaps it’s best to be simple with it then: This is perhaps the greatest start to a career ever. Trout’s evolution into a destructive slugger took time, but his 26 first-half home runs are almost as many as he hit in 2013, when he should’ve won the MVP award. He’s got 124 career homers, 30 shy of passing Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews for the most through an age-23 season. In fact, Trout’s numbers could practically mirror Alex Rodriguez’s by the end of the year.

  • It’s time for Rob Manfred to end All-Star Game’s absurd World Series tie-in

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    Giving all the credit to luck would be wrong, though, because Manfred has positioned himself as a baseball progressive, thorough and open-minded, not resistant to change so long as the change is pragmatic. He oversaw the successful new Home Run Derby format. He has sliced nearly 10 minutes off the average game time. In anticipation of the upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations – the informal discussions will turn formal after this season, according to sources from both sides – Manfred has embraced the possibility of all sorts of modifications, from relatively easy ones like instant replay and the strike zone to massive undertakings like a 154-game season and expansion.

    All of this serves to show that as a man with ideas and the conviction to implement them in a baseball landscape so historically averse to evolution, Manfred can end the farce perpetuated by his predecessor and return the All-Star Game to its rightful place as an exhibition with zero bearing on anything of significance.

    [Play a Daily Fantasy contest for cash today!l]

  • How a clock – and a free-swinging kid from Jersey – saved the Home Run Derby

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    Absent a Josh Hamilton reckoning, the Derby had fallen into a stale stasis, a few minutes of oohs and aahs yielding to a few hours of the same … thing … over … and over. Small tinkering in past years lent little improvement, so baseball this year overhauled the whole thing and watched its finest Derby since Hamilton took New York in 2008 and one of its best ever.

    Almost certainly that wouldn't be the case if Todd Frazier hadn't stormed Great American Ball Park with the backing of 43,587 fans who cheer him daily as one of the only things on the Cincinnati Reds worth cheering. The symbiosis of Frazier and the clock was perfect: It pushed him and he pushed it, ramping up the drama, tamping up the enjoyment and crescendoing with a memorable Derby victory over Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, whose performance was nearly as impressive as Frazier's.

    In the new format, eight participants were bracketed for one-on-one matchups against other players. Rather than 10 outs, each player was given four minutes of swings, an all-you-can-hack buffet that included one timeout for breath-catching. Whacking two home runs at least 425 feet added 30 seconds of bonus time at the end.