MLB Insider: Tigers haven't lost Travis-Gose trade yet
Devon Travis appears to have taken to Canada like gravy to french fries.
The former Tigers prospect is on an absolute tear 21 games into his major-league career, batting .342/.405/.658 with six homers and 19 RBIs — a big bright spot for a Blue Jays team that can hit like crazy, but can't pitch too much.
All this, of course, has Tigers fans worried they maybe Dave Dombrowski got snookered in his November trade that landed him Anthony Gose.
I say, hold that thought — for a while.
Sure, Travis, 24, a 13th-round pick out of Florida State in 2012, is off to a red-hot start, and he's teeing off on everything, from 98-mph fastballs to 78-mph sliders, and everything in between. All this from a guy who prior to Opening Day this year, never played a second above Double-A ball — and when he was at Double-A Erie in the Tigers' system last year, he hit only 10 home runs in 100 games.
There's not much of a scouting report, yet, on Travis. Let's see how he does when the scouting report makes the rounds. He might do swell. ESPN's Keith Law last summer told me Travis was the Tigers prospect with the most upside.
But even if he keeps it up, and eventually wins American League rookie of the year honors, Dombrowski shouldn't take too much heat.
Remember, where was Travis going to play in Detroit? Ian Kinsler is signed through 2017, and is playing well enough on offense and defense that you could see him playing in Detroit in 2020 and beyond. The Tigers flirted with the idea of moving Travis to the outfield last year, but he wasn't going to play center field at Comerica Park, nor would you take Travis over Yoenis Cespedes in left or J.D. Martinez in right.
So Travis was the ultimate trade chip, and by the way, he landed the Tigers a pretty special player in Gose, who's slash line has been plenty respectable, as well: .314/.352/.471. He also brings Detroit exceptional defense in center field, which, again, Travis couldn't provide.
Gose, also 24, has slowed a bit at the plate, and he'll strike out, but he stands to be a significant reason the Tigers are a much better base-running team, and a much-better defensive team. And speed and defense are major reasons why the Tigers have started the season 15-7, despite losing Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Torii Hunter over the offseason.
Right now, the trade is a win-win — a success for both teams.
Tigers fans, of course, aren't used to that. They're used to Dombrowski swindling the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, and later Anibal Sanchez, and robbing the Diamondbacks of Scherzer, and on and on and on.
So Dombrowski didn't rip off the Blue Jays. He still got good value for a guy who wasn't going to crack the Tigers roster anytime soon, any way.
Home with the Rangers
Good to see Josh Hamilton back home in Texas.
The Los Angeles Angels sure lost that battle, at least in the court of public opinion.
Look, I'm not removing blame from Hamilton. He's a grown man, and must accept responsibility for his latest relapse with drugs and alcohol. He handled the situation pretty well, admitting to MLB that he messed up — and then staying quiet.
The Angels, however, handled this about as poorly as possibly, with owner Arte Moreno and GM Jerry Dipoto publicly bashing MLB for refusing to suspend Hamilton for his actions. There was zero compassion from their end, just a front office looking to protect its bank account.
Don't be surprised if their actions in the Hamilton saga — looking out for themselves, and not their employee — affect their talks with future big-named free agents. Stars want the money, sure, but they also want to play somewhere they'll feel comfortable, and it's not comforting to know that your owner will turn on you in a nano-second.
For Hamilton, 33, and the Rangers, this worked out great. He's back where he has a support system, and the Rangers get him for only $7 million over the next three years. Even if he'll never again be the star he was, once he returns from shoulder surgery, he'll certainly be worth $2.33 million a year.
Target Field, O.Co Coliseum and Safeco Field aren't exactly the friendliest places to hit home runs.
But three sluggers made them look very small Wednesday, with three homers traveling a combined 1,402 feet. All three landed in the upper deck, where few homers every land in those ballparks.
Mariners dynamo Nelson Cruz led the way with a 483-foot blast in Seattle, for the longest homer of the young 2015 season.
"It was just another homer, you know," Cruz told the Seattle Times. "I hit it pretty good."
After a pause, Cruz added with a smile, "You don't see that very often, do you?"
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cbarera launched a 465-foot shoot in Minneapolis, and Angels outfielder Mike Trout hit a 454-foot bomb in Oakland.
Statcast provided the measurements, reporting those three home runs were among the longest 11 hit so far this season.
Cruz, by the way, is on his way to becoming the best free-agent signing for a second year in a row.
Last season, he had 40 homers and 108 RBIs for the Orioles, who got him on a nifty one-year, $8-million deal — the penance he paid for having been suspended for PED use the previous season.
This winter, Cruz got a four-year, $57-million contract from the Mariners, and has 10 homers, 22 RBIs and a league-best 1.148 OPS through 21 games.
The Mariners needed more offense, and outside of Cruz, nobody's really hitting. Not even Robinson Cano.
In fact, Cruz has hit 10 homers and the rest of the Mariners have hit 15, total. He's responsible for 26 of their 77 runs.
The bigger surprise, though, is that the Mariners aren't pitching all that well, outside of Felix Hernandez. Taijuan Walker has been a bust so far, and closer Fernando Rodney, the ex-Tiger, has been a mess. That's a big reason Seattle is four games back of upstart Houston, a team that's playing way over its head — but not be able to pick off the AL West title given the big issues facing the other four teams.
Around the horn
Clearly, we learned what can speed up pace of play more than anything — just eliminate the fans. With a paid attendance of zero Wednesday, the Orioles beat the White Sox, 8-2, in a speedy 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Overall through Wednesday, the time of games has dropped 8.5 minutes, thanks to the new time clock between innings, and the cracking down of batters leaving the box between pitches. Starting May 1, hitters will be fined for not following the rules. (That means you, Nick Castellanos.)
... MLB.com is continuing its "Franchise Four" voting until May 8, and the winners will be announced at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati in July. My four picks for the Tigers, in order: Cabrera, Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline.
... All-Star Game voting has begun, by the way, and for the first time, it's online only — no more paper ballots at the ballpark. (Al Gore approves this message.) I'm banking on four Tigers representatives: Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, David Price and Joakim Soria.
... MLB announced this week that the Cubs have been cleared of tampering allegations for their hiring of manager Joe Maddon, who, this offseason, shockingly left the Rays — leading to accusations of funny business. The Rays were seeking at a player or draft-pick compensation or money.
Three up ...
1. D.J. LeMahieu: The Rockies second baseman (and ex-Brother Rice star) is still hitting over .400, and could be heading to his first All-Star Game.
2. Yankees: Give 'em credit. They're old, but they're still a proud bunch — and, buoyed by a big series in Detroit, they're leading the AL East.
3. Dallas Keuchel: The Astros lefty had a breakout season last year, and he could make a Cy Young bid this year. He's 3-0 with a 0.730 WHIP.
... Three down
1. Braves: Since starting 5-0, they're 5-11 — which isn't much of a surprise, given the firepower they've dealt away. This will not be their year.
2. Nationals rotation: All this talk about how it might the best in a generation? Max Scherzer is their only starter with fewer hits allowed than innings.
3. Joe Nathan: Tough way for his Tigers tenure to end, with Tommy John surgery Wednesday. He vows to come back, but it'll be a long shot at 40.
3 — Catchers who in the last 36 years who've made an inside-the-park homer their first career homer, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Detroit's James McCann did it Wednesday, Minnesota's Chad Moeller did it in 2000 and Pittsburgh's Angelo Encarnacion in 1995.
4 — RBIs in the leadoff spot for Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis on Wednesday. Michael Bourn's days at No. 1 appear to be all but over.
8 — Runs the Braves led by Tuesday against the Nationals. Atlanta eventually lost the game, 13-12, in extra innings — and adding insult to injury, the ninth-inning, winning homer was hit by ex-Braves dud Dan Uggla.
5/1/12 — The $2.15-billion sale of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt to Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Co. is finalized.
He said it
"The most awkward part of the game is that there was no Kiss Cam."
Caleb Joseph, Orioles catcher, talking to the New York Daily News about playing a game at Camden Yards with no fans present.