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MLB 2011 Preview/Predictions

March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak contributing writer Kyle Howard:

Just about a month away from the offical start of the MLB 2011 season. Many offseason publicity and free agency moves make this year in the MLB very interesting. Crawford to the Red Sox, Cliff Lee back to the Phillies, Werth to the Nationals, and Rafeal Soriano are only some of the new faces, in new places from this years offseason transactions. Here is my run through on my projections for this year:

AL East:

1) Red Sox; It kills me to put the Soxs as my division winners being a diehard Yankees fan but the Red Sox really beefed up their line up with the acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Their line up is as good as any in baseball and their pitching staff when healthy is top 5 in the league. Look for the Sox to make it back to October with either a division title or a wild card spot.

2) Yankees; Many Yankee fans look at this offseason as a failure. Not being able to convince Cliff Lee or Zach Greinke to come to New York was a tough pill to swallow. Their line up is still as lethal as any in the game and with the acquisition of Rafeal Soriano to help set up Rivera in the 9th really helped the needs of the bullpen. The starting pitching is going to be the real question mark throughout the season. If Burnett can turn his season around, Nova can turn into an every 5 day starter and the Mark Prior project can make strides, the Yankees will be pushing for yet another division title. Look for them to contend with the Sox until the last month of the season and either walking away with a wild card spot or best case scenario a division title.

3) Orioles; The Orioles are my surprise team of the league this year. They have done a great job of loading up on young talent and I feel that 2011 is the year they start making some noise. With Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters being the focal points of this team, the pitching talent needs to step up and you may be looking at a very dangerous team in the next few years. Look for the Orioles to have an above average year and finishing 3rd in the AL East.

4) Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay is in a transitioning period. They lost Crawford, Garza, and Soriano to free agentcy/trades and that leaves some big holes to fill for some young talented players in their farm system. With the acquistion of Manny and Damon, the Rays bring in some experience to their club with a more risk/reward mentality. The Rays staff is still a dangerous one lead by David Price and Evan Longoria will only improve and maybe a darkhorse candidate for MVP this year. Give the Rays some time to develop and they will be back in the postseason within the next couple of weeks.

5) Toronto; With still lingering questions on what Toronto’s next move is going to be, look for them to have a down year this year. Jose Bautista coming off a 54 home run year campaign and getting an extention I could see having a downer year. With some young potential pitching talent, look for the Blue Jays to use those as trade bait especially strikeout specialist Brandon Morrow.

AL Central:

1) Twins; It is difficult for me to pick a winner in this division being as the parity is so well distributed, so I will take experience and choose the Twinkees as the division winner. With Morneau coming back and the ability to resign Pavano, who is an innings machine, the Twins are poised to be the front runners of this jam packed division. If Nathan comes back healthy from his season ending surgury last year look for the Twins to be the winners of this division.

2) White Sox; Last year was a disappointment for the White Sox. With much publicity hovering over Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox struggled for most of the season. With the key offseason acquistion of Adam Dunn and resigning Paul Konerko this team will have quite a powerful 4 and 5 spots in their line up. Also, Buerhle leading the staff followed by Floyd and Danks, look for this team to contend with the Twins for the division title and the loser will be in the wild card hunt.

3) Tigers; The Tigers 2011 season is on the shoulders of how healthy/sober Miguel Cabrera can be. The man has as much talent as their is in the MLB but, off field troubles have put the Tigers in a spin. Offseason acquistion Victor Martinez adds some power to a line up that was in desperate need for help around Cabrera.  Verlander leads this young staff, and when he is on is one of the most powerful pitchers in the league. A sophmore slump from promising young star Rick Porcello was a key difference maker in the Tigers 2010 season. If Porcello can get over his 2nd year struggles, look for the Tigers to contend for a majority of the season, but I feel the off the field publicity and inexperience in pitching will lead them to a 3rd place finish.

4) Royals; Its been a bad decade for the Royals but, this year,  I can see them making some strides to becoming a better squad. Alex Gordon needs to become the player we all thought he would become when he was drafted 4th overall in 2005. Luke Hochevar splashed onto the scene last year with a decent season and showing signs he could become a decent starter at the Major league level. The Royals still have a long way to go but, if their draft picks start stepping up the next 5 years could look promising for this squad.

5) Indians; The Indians are in the rebuilding stage as an organization. With many young prospects gained from the Cliff Lee trade and Victor Martinez trade, look for this team to show a lot of new faces this year. Shin soo Choo is a rising star in the outfield showing signs of power and batting average and a good piece to build around. This will be a struggling year for the Indians and will stay that way unless they make some noise at the trade deadline.

AL West:

1) Angels; Coming off a very disappointing season last year look for the Angels to make it back to the postseason this year. With a star studed staff lead by Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, and Ervin Santana look for the pitching to help carry this team into October. Kendry Morales maybe the biggest difference maker on this team this season. If he comes back as healthy as he was before his ACL accident, look for him to be another darkhorse MVP candidate.

2) Texas; Losing Cliff Lee to free agency crippled this teams potential for years to come. Coming off of the organizations first World Series experience the sky was the limit for this team. Led by MVP Josh Hamilton and power slugging OF Nelson Cruz, this team will go as far as these 2 stars can stay healthy. With questions surrounding the starting staff, look for the Rangers to pick up an arm at the trade deadline in hopes of making another push into October.

3) Athletics; The Athletics have one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball and they live and die on how well these young guns can do. Grant Balfour, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill,  Brett Anderson, and Andrew Bailey are the cornerstones of this young franchise. Dont be surprised if they A’s make a push at the deadline by moving one of these players for a bat in an often weak line up with an aging Eric Chavez. Look for the Athletics to continue rebuilding and continue improvement for years to come.

4) Mariners; The Mariners need power and they need it fast. The Mariners were last in almost every statistical batting category last year and they need to add some power to that line up. With much promise in former 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley from UNC, it wont be a surprise to see him starting by mid season. Felix Hernandez is just a decent offensive team away from being arguably the best pitcher and baseball and look for him to continue his dominence in 2011.

NL East:

1) Phillies; Many analyst have it already penciled in that the Phillies will be holding up another World Series Title come October in 2011. With possibly the best 4 starters ever to be assembled on a single team, look for them to dominate most of the teams in the NL. Additions such as Cliff Lee only make this team even stronger and a star studded line up to back him up it will be quite a challenge to take this team in a 7 game series. With Werth gone that opens up the spot for top prospect Dominic Brown to take the rains of right field. The Phillies will walk away with this division and by July be focusing on the Playoffs.

2) Braves; The Braves suprised many of us last year and this year are a team not to mess with. With Hudson, Hanson, and Lowe leading the staff and the emergence of Jason Heyward becoming a star in the MLB, and the acquisition of Dan Uggla,  look for the Braves to win a wild card and being on an upset alert come playoff time.

3) Marlins; The Marlins have been trying to develop young talent for most of the past couple of years in hopes of turning into a legit playoff squad. Lead by MVP candidate Hanley Rameriz and pitching stud Josh Johnson, the Marlins are looking for an additional bat and arm to help make a charge at a competitive East division.

4) Mets; I really do not know where to start with Los Mets. They have as much talent as a team would need to make an apperance in the postseason but, for some reason they never seem to all click at the same time. Look for this years Mets team to be centered around David Wright and a healthy Jose Reyes. Pitching is very suspect due to Johan having elbow surgery. Look for the Mets to try and compete but come up short in the East race.

5) Nationals; Being from Northern Virginia and having been to multiple Nats games its difficult for me to put them in this position. Strasburg is what brought this team alive and made them play with passion and pride but, with Tommy John Surgery dont look for Strasburg to be throwing until September, if they even decide to let him throw at all. With key acquistion of Jayson Werth, the Nats will be along the same lines of production as last year. The future looks bright in Washington and if Strasburg can come back as good as he left, and Harper doesn’t disappoint down in the minors, this team will be fun to watch in the coming years.

NL Central:

1) Cubs; I know its as shocking to you as it is to me that the Cubs are going to finish first in the division. The Cubs made a key move in acquiring Garza this winter, and if their young talent continues to produce look for them to be a sneaky good team come playoff time. This pick is definitely a stretch and my upset of the year.

2) Reds; The surprise team of the year in 2010, the Reds will be looking to capitalize on thier run last year and continue it into this year. Joey Votto is the leader of this squad and looks to duplicate is MVP year last year and transition it to this year. Pitching was a strong point for the Reds last year but, I feel that they will struggle this year with to much inconsistentcy. Look for the Reds to make it back to the post season and be a contender as a wild card.

3) Cardinals; The Cardinals would be first in the Central if it werent for the staggering news on Adam Wainwright out for the season. The loss of Wainwright equals trouble for this club. With the huge injury to the staff and an unhappy Albert Pujols, look for this club to have a difficult time with all the distractions and end up chasing a wild card spot.

4) Brewers; The Brewers have 2 young stars in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, arguably 1 of the best tandems in the league. With the line up set up to produce runs the Brewers made a huge trade in aquiring Zack Greinke to help with the staff. Look for the Brewers to improve and possibly take the Cardinals spot and fighting for a spot in the post season.

5) Astros; It is easy to say that the Astros are in a rebuilding year. Losing Roy Oswalt to a trade pretty much sums it up. With young talent in the minors and an aging outfield minus Hunter Pence, look for the Astros to struggle most the year and look to being sellers at the deadline

6) Pirates; This team is the only team that manages to get great prospects and trade them away. The Pirates have not had a well established club since the 80′s and I don't see that happening this year. Their one true star Andrew McCutchen is a lead-off hitter and you can’t build a team around that. Zack Duke will finish with a sub .500 win record and they will use many new arms from their farm system this year. Sorry so called “City of Champions” but you may want to concentrate on NFL happening in the fall and Crosby recovering over watching this squad this year.

NL West:

1) Giants; The defending World Series Champions have to be the favorites to come out of this jam packed West division. Offseason loss of World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, leaves a big hole at shortstop and Juan Uribe’s departure to division rival LA leaves a big spot open at the utility role. With the young guns on the pitching staff such as Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner leading the way and crazy Wilson closing out games, look for this team to make it back to the Postseason in a coinflip of a division.

2) Rockies; the Rockies struggled last year despite the fact they are known as being a second half team only 2 years removed from their prolific playoff run. With flame thrower Ubaldo Jimenez leading the staff and Troy Tulowitzki the captain of the team. Look for the Rockies to make some noise and be a strong challenger for being the wild card team come October.

3) Padres; the Padres had a banner of a year last season coming down to the wire last season with the Giants going into the last game of the season. The Padres have an underrated pitching staff lead by rising star Mat Latos, with verterans such as Jon Garland to help mentor the fire baller. Free Agency hit the Padres hard by losing their superstar first basemen Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. I can see the Padres relying on their arms to keep them in the race but with no one significant to replace Gonzalez, runs are going to be hard to come by for this club.

4) Diamondbacks; This team is tricky to pick. One day their hot the next day their not. After giving up Dan Haren to the Angels in return for some prospects, the diamondbacks are clearly a process in the making. Relying heavily on star outfielder Justin Upton is going to be too much for this team to overcome.

Playoff Predition:

AL                                           NL                                         World Series

Red Sox                              Giants                               Phillies vs. Red Sox

Yankees                            Cubs                                         Phillies win 4-2

Angels                               Phillies

Twins                                 Rockies

Friday's Morning Links:

December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

Red Sox Sign Bobby Jenks: Boston signed former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks to a two-year deal yesterday worth a total of $12 million. Overall it isn't a bad deal for the Red Sox, considering most relievers are signing for 3 years this offseason. While $6 million is pretty pricey, it helps make Jon Papelbon expendable in a trade. Jenks provides another good, quailty back of the pen arm, who at times has flashed dominance. I like this deal for the Red Sox and I think they will be greatly rewarded for picking up Jenks.

Chargers Crush the 49ers: This was a big game for San Diego as they moved to within half a game of the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West Division. Considering that the Wild Cards both have a game and a half lead on San Diego, the Chargers will need to win the West to go to the playoffs. San Diego showed just how dangerous a team they can be in the post season as they beat the 49ers last night 34-7. The Chargers controlled this game from start to finish, as the 49ers defense didn't have an answer for them. San Diego once again showed that they are basically unbeatable in December, and they look to be the Division champs when the season is over.

Tim Tebow Taking Snaps In Practice, Could Start This Week: The long awaited Tim Tebow era could begin this week in Denver as starting quarterback Kyle Orton is a bit banged up. Tebow took snaps with the first team offense yesterday, and should play a bigger role this week against the Oakland Raiders. Tebow has played in some special packages this season, but has yet to see the field for any significant game action. While Broncos fans have been clamoring for Tebow for sometime, I'd be a bit careful for what you wish for. While Orton's number have dropped this season, quarterback play is not why this team is in last place. The Broncos offensive line woes and lack of a running game are a much bigger reason for their struggles. To say nothing of their porous defense that really hasn't stopped anyone. Personally I doubt Tebow is ready, as I think he still needs developmental time to learn how to be a top quarterback. Broncos fans should be patient with Tebow and let him develop at his own pace.

Random Stream of Sport Thoughts

December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Guest Blogger John Manuel:

Since the Red Sox felt that Cliff Lee is going to end up with the Yankees, they went out and got Adrian Gonzalez and now Carl Crawford.  Now its the Yankees turn.  Guess they will up their offer significantly to lock up Lee, but where will it stop?  This has replacing an injured Aaron Boone with an A-Rod trade written all over it.  Yankees probably won't stop at Lee now with Crawford on the Bo Sox.  So who will it be?  Can they reshuffle to get Prince Fielder somewhere?  Would he DH for the Yankees?  Pujols has one year left, can the Yankees trade for him?  Then what?  Will the Red Sox then go get the kid from "Rookie of the Year" who threw smoke and was unhitable?  Then the Yankees have to one up them next.   Many are killing the Nationals for the contact they gave Jayson Werth, but they wanted him and had no choice.  Otherwise he would have been a Red Sox or Yankee for sure.  Can you imagine if Joe Mauer didn't resign in Minnesota.  What would he get from the Yankees or Red Sox?  As an Orioles fan, all I can say is that I hope I get hit with a Mark Reynolds bomb outta Camden Yards while I am walking from bar to bar in Federal Hill next season.

Many are gearing up this weekend for fantasy football playoff games.  Both my teams made the playoffs, one was quality and one with some luck.  But its a new season once the playoffs come.  Random teams can win with schmos like James Starks or Tashard Choice.  And what the f on Matt Cassel's appendix bursting.  My money team has Dwayne Bowe and now its a tough call to even go with him this weekend.  My favorite part of fantasy is still the sh*t talk.  Crushing someone is almost as good as winning your league.  You have to jump at your opportunities like having someone else in the league ask you for lineup suggestions.  Automatic kill them…you just don't do that.  Its fantasy football, not the Middle East Peace Process, make the decision on your own.  And you need help, read some of the 949955 different sit or start articles or at least ask someone not in your league.  Just another call out to my favorite fantasy warrior "Matzie."   Maybe by 2014 "Matzie" will be famous for his legendary fantasy moves.

The college basketball season is young, but regretfully I have to say that Duke looks tough to take down.  I hate Duke.  I hate Coach K, respect but hate.  I hate their fans.  Kyle Singler should have been a man and declared for the draft after winning the title.  I am pretty sure he probably got his degree by now. Kyrie Irving although currently hurt looks a like a solid one and done.  The horrible rule that a player must play one year in college is a joke.  Why shouldn't they be able to go pro out of high school?  Many are ready and going for a year is worthless.  I heard Bob Knight breakdown what it took to be eligible for the 2nd semester and you would be shocked.  Some of these guys are probably going to class and working, but why would you if you know your leaving?  I went to college.  I had better things to do than go to class.   Now back to Duke.  I look forward to the February 2nd game at Comcast.  Hopefully they come in undefeated.  Maryland is no where close to as talented as Duke right now, but with the Terps style and the Comcast energy I know we can knock them off.   My final thought on college basketball goes to ESPN.  Can you please start replacing Dick Vitale on big games with Bob Knight?  Or at least Jay Bilas?  But preferably Knight.  His game insight destroys Vitale telling us how many time Coach K is a hall of famer, or Kyle Singler is the best forward in the country.

I tried to get through this without any comment on Albert Haynesworth, but guess I can't make it.  He sucks in all aspects.  I have no problem with anyone who blames Shanahan, but Haynesworth is the most selfish athlete I can remember.  On one side I hope they get some of the guaranteed money back, but on the other I hope they don't.  Just to have the memory of this disaster of an acquisition.  #92 jerseys to soon be in the redskins.com store $5 bargain bin next to #55 Jason Taylors, #85 Brandon Lloyds, #40 Adam Archuletas and #30 Trung Canidates jerseys.

How The Carl Crawford Deal Hurt the Nationals

December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

From the Nationals perspective, the Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford for 7 years $142 million was an utter disaster. After the Nationals signed Jayson Werth, it looked as though Crawford might be out of the picture for the Red Sox, since they were already spending big money on Adrian Gonzalez. That meant that the Red Sox were likely suitors for the Nationals' Josh Willingham in the trade market. Also with the Red Sox making another big move, it just about forces the Yankees to increase their offer to Cliff Lee.

Despite needing a RH bat, the Sox likely won't have any remaining interest in Josh Willingham, and if they did it would be more of a role player than a starter. Despite trading away a couple of good prospects for Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox farm system had a lot of players that could interest the Nationals. It also hurts because it takes away a likely suitor, meaning that offers from other teams might not be as strong. While normally you'd say that the other teams who lost out on Crawford would be in on Willingham, but the Angels and Yankees haven't been linked too much to the Nationals outfielder. The Tigers were another Crawford suitor and they could get into the Willingham market, but considering they were a bit of a long shot for Crawford, they were already going to be a suitor.

Crawford's signing has a huge impact on the Cliff Lee negotiations, because it puts the Yankees into a deep corner. Had the Yankees missed out on Lee, their fall back plan was to sign Crawford and trade for a pitcher. Now with Crawford off the board, signing Lee is basically a must. The Yankees seemed to want to hold firm at a 6-year deal under the $150 million (i.e. $25 million a year) threshold, but with Boston making two huge moves how can they? If the Yankees held firm to 6 years under that $150 million mark, the Nats could have had a chance if they offered a 7th year or even just an option for a 7th year (and the $5-10 million buyout that would come with it). Now the Yankees are offering a 7th year and will likely increase their per year offer. While the Nationals could match that deal, it is unlikely they could really exceed it. At this point it is hard to believe the Yankees will miss out on Lee after the Red Sox have made additions like Crawford and Gonazlez.

I wouldn't say the Nationals are completely out on Cliff Lee, but things got harder with the Crawford signing. Losing the Sox as a suitor for Josh Willingham hurts as well, though I still think he will be traded in the coming weeks. The Winter Meetings obviously started out with a bang for the Nationals as they landed Jayson Werth, but the Crawford deal at the close definitely hurt the Nationals offseason plan.

Red Sox Land Gonzalez

December 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Deal: The San Diego Padres Trade 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Casey Kelly (AA), 1B Anthony Rizzo (AA), CF Reymond Fuentes (A-), and a PTBNL

Why This Makes Sense for the Red Sox: With a fairly set rotation, Boston is looking at impact bats this offseason and they don't get much better than Adrian Gonzalez in that department. Gonzalez had a .904 OPS last season, which was brought down by his Petco Park numbers (.821 OPS). Gonzalez should thrive in the American League East, which is full of hitters parks. He is a huge upgrade to the Red Sox lineup, and gives them the middle of the order hitter they have been looking for. Gonzalez is also attractive because he is willing (likely) to sign an extension, which the Red Sox are working out right now. While the Red Sox are trading really for only this one season (extensions are nice, but really don't save you that much money in the long run, so have little 'trade value'), but knowing that he is resigning gives the Red Sox and their fans piece of mind. In a way if the Sox hammer out this deal, you can say that Boston already signed one of the top free agents for next season. What further makes this a win for Boston is they didn't have to include any of their young major league ready talent like Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish or Daniel Bard (among others). While the players they gave up are good, I'd call this a solid win for the Red Sox.

Why this makes sense for San Diego: Now I realize the Padres were one game away from forcing a playoffs and making the postseason last year, but they made the right move (even if their fans disagree). San Diego's chances of repeated success were pretty slim, and if they held on to Gonzalez they risked the chance of an injury negating any potential deadline deal. While it may upset the fan base it is always better to make these rental deals in the offseason. Not only can you try to sell the 'extension' factor as part of the trade value, but it affords you extra money to put into areas to keep the team competitive. While the Padres didn't land anyone who can help them immediately they did pretty well in this deal.

Kelly is the centerpiece of the trade as he projects as a potential ace down the road. He is still a bit raw and probably needs at least 2 years in the minors before he is major league ready. Ace could be pushing it (though his numbers will look like one in that park), but he is a fairly safe bet to be a good number 2. Rizzo is the eventual replacement for Gonzalez at 1B and in the heart of the order for the Padres and he is one of the better 1B prospects out there. I wouldn't say he profiles as a first tier 1B (Pujols, Gonzalez, Votto etc.) but he is pretty close. He should be good for at least 25 HR's a year (would be more if not for his new home park) and should be a solid impact hitter. Rizzo should be ready by opening day 2012, though his debut could be delayed until June of that year. Fuentes, is the furthest away from the majors, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Already he profiles as a frontline defensive center fielder, with the speed to be an elite leadoff hitter. He still needs to work on his on-base skills and add some strength, but he has the profile to be a star. He is at least 3 years away from the majors (could be more), but if he keeps developing he may end up the best piece of this deal for the Padres. The PTBNL isn't expected to be a significant prospect and it wouldn't shock me if it is a potential middle reliever (Daniel Turpen would be my guess).

In all I credit the Padres for choosing upside and ceiling over immediate impact, but I think they could have gotten at least one more solid prospect from the Red Sox. Now, I'm not saying the Padres got fleeced, but I think their return is fair at best. Gonzalez headlined the trade market for power hitters, and I thought the Padres could have held out for a bit more.

Winner: I don't think the Padres lost this deal, but they definitely didn't win either. The Red Sox on the other hand got one of the best hitters in baseball, while at the same time didn't give up too much in terms of talent.

American League Teams' Christmas/Winter Meetings Wish List

December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

With baseball's Winter Meetings starting next week and X-mas just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to look at what is on every team's wish list this December. If a team is expected to make any significant signings or trades I'll feature them. But if they are likely sitting on the sidelines this winter, then they only have three wishes: good health, development by their prospects, and bargain shopping in 2011 before the season starts.

First up American League:

AL East:

New York Yankees:

Cliff Lee: There is little surprise on what tops their wish list, as landing an ace starting pitcher is their top priority.Lee is really the only guy available who fits the bill. New York needs to hope their money and winning reputation sway Lee away from his other suitors.

Derek Jeter: The Yankees negotiations with their 'Captain' haven't been too pretty and have in fact served as more of a distraction than anything else. The Yankees need Jeter to come to his senses quickly and sign his deal, before it looks any worse than it already is.

A.J. Burnett: New York invested big money into Burnett two years ago and already they are regretting their decision. Burnett needs to figure out his issues quick, as he can't afford to start off the season badly. Not only will it hurt the Yankees playoff hopes, but a bad start will doom him in New York, meaning the Yankees may have to eat his contract just to appease the fans.

Boston Red Sox:

Crawford or Werth: Boston is in hot pursuit of the top two free agent outfielders and they need to land one if the Yankees make a big move (i.e. signing Lee). Either OF will fit in well in Boston and continue to make that lineup one of the best in the league.

Gonzalez or Fielder: While it is a bit quite of late, I still think the Red Sox will end up with either Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder from the trade market this offseason. Both are impending free agents and likely to be dealt by their current team. Gonzalez is a better fit for Boston given his defense, and higher likelihood of negotiating a more team friendly extension. If Boston lands one of them, plus one of the top outfielders, they should pass the Yankees for the best lineup in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Trade Jason Bartlett: This could happen in the next few days, as Tampa does not want to pay Bartlett's arbitration salary this coming season. While Bartlett won't bring back a major haul, they should expect to get back a solid middle reliever, who is young and cost controlled.

Rebuild Their Bullpen: The Rays have a number of free agent defections from their bullpen and given their budget, they will likely have to build from within or through trades. In addition to the likelihood of  a Bartlett for middle reliever swap, I'd look for Tampa to make a bigger deal with their considerable prospect depth to add a back of the bullpen arm.

Add a Quality Bat: With holes at 1B, LF (could be filled by rookie Desmond Jennings) and DH, the Rays could use at least one bat to keep them on the cusp of contention. Since the free agent market is likely too expensive, the Rays will likely look for a bat on the trade market. I would count them out of the Gonzalez/Fielder markets given their salary price tags, and what it would cost in terms of prospects. Names like Billy Butler, Josh Willingham, Luke Scott could all be on their radar this offseason.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Make a Splash: The Blue Jays might be rebuilding, but this team was competitive without any of their top prospects making a significant impact. I think Toronto will make a bold move such as trading for Greinke or Justin Upton (Billy Butler could be on their wish list as well). Trading for a star caliber player could really make this team a threat in the East, though I don't think they should give up too much in the way of young talent.

Find a First Baseman: While Adam Lind is a distinct internal possibility, I would expect the Jays to find a new first baseman for next season. Trading for Billy Butler should be high on their list, but if they decide to move some of their young talent for a different star, the Blue Jays still have options on the free agent market (though they are dwindling fast). Adam LaRoche or Derek Lee would be good fits in Toronto, as could Carlos Pena if they expect a bounce back year.

Add a 3B/2B: Right now the Jays have a hole at 3B that they could fill by moving 2B Aaron Hill there, but that would only create an issue up the middle. The free agent market won't yield any great 3B (unless they buck up to sign Beltre), so a trade could be an option. They could also look to bring back Orlando Hudson to fill 2B and move Hill over. Hudson wouldn't be a long term fix, but he'd be a solid short term addition.

Add some relievers: The Jays are losing a couple quality relievers in the free agent market and will either need to add some arms via trade or from the market. Given their young staff, and the likely ascension of some young prospects, they could use a good bullpen to help protect their young arms.

Baltimore Orioles:

Add a 1B/DH bat: The O's have struck out with two of their top free agent options, Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn so far this offseason and they are likely to miss out on another one, as Paul Konerko is likely to resign with the White Sox. The 1B/DH market is drying up fast with Adam LaRoche, Carlos Pena, Derek Lee and Lance Berkman the only real options left. The O's need to land one of them, but at this point they need to make sure they aren't overpaying, since none of them are true stars. Baltimore should look to focus their money on their other needs such as 3B.

Go Hard After Adrian Beltre: At this point the O's are going to have to overpay to land a star, and Beltre is probably the best chance the O's have at landing one. Now they aren't alone in the market and it will cost quite a bit, but Beltre could be worth it. He is a very good defender at 3B, and at 32 should be productive for another couple of years. It still could be a pipe dream, but Baltimore needs to be aggressive.

Add Some Relief Pitching: The Orioles have a promising young staff, but their bullpen was a mess last year. They need to add a couple free agent arms to turn that into a strength and help protect their rotation.

Add a Shortstop: It is not a good year to be needing a shortstop, but the Orioles need to find someway to get better production out of that position. Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy head their list, but other options could become available. Who ever they find, Baltimore needs to ensure they offer some production from that area.

AL Central:

Chicago White Sox:

Bring Back Konerko: With the addition of Adam Dunn, the White Sox finally have the hitter who can help protect Paul Konerko in the middle of the lineup. Now they just need to ensure Konerko is in that lineup. I fully expect a deal to get done in the next couple of days, which will fully cover their DH/1B positions.

Find a LF: I know a lot of people like Juan Pierre for his speed and defense, but he is a bit of a liability in LF. He just doesn't get on base enough or have any power to speak of to justify a corner outfield spot. While his defense was exceptional in LF, you have to get better than a .312 wOBA from your LF if you want to be a contender. There aren't any real free agent options available, but don't be shocked if the White Sox target someone like Josh Willingham or Luke Scott. Alex Gordon could also be an option if they go for a more unproven player.

Add Relief Pitching: In their pursuit for adding Dunn and Konerko, the White Sox made a tough choice by releasing long time closer Bobby Jenks to save some money. While fiscally it makes some sense, it leaves that bullpen a little short right now. A couple relievers should be acquired by trade or through free agency to help offset the loss.

Kansas City Royals:

Make the Best Deal(s) Possible: The Royals are in an enviable position with the best farm system in baseball, and a number of quality trade-able pieces. The Royals have the best SP (Greinke), Closer (Joakim Soria) and one of the top bats (Butler) on the trade market. In addition to their big names, the Royals have Alex Gordon and Robinson Tejada, who are both good 2nd tier trade targets. Now I wouldn't expect to see all 5 dealt before the start of the season, but at least 2 should be moved by then, and all of them could be gone by the start of 2012. The Royals need to make the best trades possible and should target middle infield help, outfielders (in particular center fielders), frontline starting pitching, and maybe a 3B. Kansas City can basically name their own price.

Detroit Tigers:

The Tigers have already done most of their heavy lifting this offseason, with Victor Martinez their top prize. I don't think they are done just yet, but they might not make any more major moves. If they do here is what they might target:

OF help: The Tigers are rumored to still be in the Werth and Crawford sweepstakes, but I'm not too sure they can swing a deal. My guess is they will look to the trade market for a quality OF bat (usual suspects, Willingham, Scott etc.) to fill their need.

Relief Pitching: They have already added Benoit, but my guess is they add another solid arm before the start of the season. I don't see them adding a starter, but I think their staff could use some help.

Minnesota Twins:

The Twins aren't supposed to be too active this offseason beyond resigning Jim Thome and agreeing to a deal with the Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who can play either SS or 2B. The Twins could be trading J.J. Hardy, though that is far from being set in stone. The one thing the Twins could be looking at is making a big trade:

Make a Splash: In back-to-back years the Twins have gotten swept out of the Playoffs by the New York Yankees, so they need to find a way to get better if they want to advance further in 2011. The Twins have a quality system, so they do have the pieces to swing a major deal or two. Given their depth across the board, they could target any number of positions. Starting pitching is a top priority, but I don't see them getting in the Greinke sweepstakes (more because I really don't see the Royals trading him in the division unless the Twins vastly overpay).

Cleveland Indians:

Cleveland falls into the category of teams who are really not expected to do anything significant this offseason, and they will be bargain shopping this year.

AL West:

Texas Rangers:

Sign Cliff Lee: The Rangers are the Yankees toughest competition in the Lee Sweepstakes and if the money is close enough he could prefer to stay in Texas. If the Rangers land Lee, then they won't have much additional money to spend, but they should be pretty well set for another World Series run.

Trade for Zack Greinke: If the Rangers fail to land Lee, they should be one of the favorites to land Greinke. It will cost quite a bit in prospects, but his team friendly contract will allow the Rangers to add another free agent or two.

Add A DH: Vlad is gone, so it is time for Texas to find another decent designated hitter to insert into their lineup. The usual 1B suspects could be options, though most likely could find an actual 1B job. Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui could fit, but neither would have any impact in the field. The could go down the trade route for a Billy Butler (especially if they sign Lee) or a Luke Scott. Both are fairly cheap, while having the ability to help in the field as well.

Los Angeles Angels:

Carl Crawford: The Angels are expected to go all-in for Crawford and basically make him an offer he can't refuse. Crawford would be a huge free agent signing for the Angels and it would drastically improve their chances for reclaiming the AL West. If they miss out on Crawford, they will go hard after Werth, but he seems to be not nearly as high on their wish list.

Adrian Beltre: Whether they get Crawford or not, Beltre figures to be high on the Angels wish list. They need more power in their lineup and 3B is an issue for them. He won't come cheap and it is possible that he and Crawford would cost to much, but the Angels should be a serious suitor for him.

Add Bench and Relief Depth: The Angels have a good lineup and starting rotation, but they need to add better depth to ensure that injuries don't sink their season like last year. I'd look for them to have a couple known players on the bench/bullpen, as they look to build a playoff contender.

Oakland A's:

The A's have already done some of their hard work this offseason by adding David DeJesus to their outfield, but they still have a ways to go. For the most part I'd expect them to fill their needs from within, but they could make at least one significant move.

Add a DH: The A's seem poised to try power hitting 1B/DH prospect Chris Carter in the outfield (not too sure if that will work), and add a legitimate designated hitter this offseason. It is no shock that the A's need to generate power, but it might make more sense to play Carter at DH and add an OF. Right now I don't see that happening, so I'm guessing they end up signing one of the 1B/DH types on the market this year.

Outside of that 3B and RP could be an issue, but one that might not be fully addressed this offseason.

Seattle Mariners:

The Mariners are expected to sit quietly this offseason as they look to rebuild. One of two moderate signings may occur in January, but I think that is all you will see right now.

Check back later as I look at the NL's X-Mas/Winter Meetings Wish List!


Thursday's Morning Links

December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Red Sox Look To Counter Yankees Potential Cliff Lee Signing: The Red Sox seem to be working hard at trying to acquire a big named free agent to balance the Yankees likely signing of Cliff Lee. They are targeting the next two free agents on the market, OF's Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. The Red Sox outfield is their weakest unit and it will only get weaker when J.D. Drew leaves next year as a free agent. If the Red Sox can land either Crawford or Werth it will give them another impact bat for their lineup, and help offset the loss of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Both Crawford and Werth are going to draw significant interest on the market, with Crawford the top prize (and price tag). I think the likelihood the Sox land one of the two free agent outfielders is pretty high, and would help keep the balance of power between the Yanks and Red Sox in check.

Caps Have No Trouble This Time Against Halak: Jaroslav Halak was on a hot streak last postseason and he stopped the Capitals Stanley Cup dreams cold. But last night with his new team, the St. Louis Blues, Washington got the best of him. The Caps won 4-1, to improve to a league best 18-6-2, and they got a little revenge against their nemesis. The Capitals are on a 4 game winning streak since their goalie Semyon Varlamov recovered from and injury and look to be headed in the right direction again. Prior to his return, the Caps were not only losing games, but they were getting blownout in them as well. While Washington showed that they can overcome Halak, the best news is the fact that now they won't have to face him in the postseason unless the Blues make the Stanley Cup Finals (not too likely).

What The AL East Teams Are Most Thankful For:

November 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

There is little doubt that there are 'haves and have nots' in baseball as there are in any sport, but every team has at least one player, person or thing to be thankful for this holiday season. Here is a fun list of what each team in the AL East has to be the most thankful for:

New York Yankees: New York obviously has a lot going for them going forward. With a massive payroll, an All-Star lineup, and a very good farm system, the future is bright for the Yankees. The thing the Yankees are most thankful for though is the willingness of Cliff Lee to maybe come to the Yankees.

As good as the Yankees are, they have some serious holes in their rotation that will prevent them from competing in the tough AL East. Although the Yankees seemingly have unlimited resources, if Cliff Lee doesn't come to New York, the Yankees don't have a fall back plan. The starting pitching on the free agent market is extremely thin past Lee. No one else on the market is better than a number 3 starter, and a couple of the better options Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez, aren't likely to be welcomed back to New York with open arms. The trade market isn't any more promising for the Yankees as they don't seem to be a fit for many of the top arms out there. Zack Greinke has a no trade clause for the Yankees and seems to have little interest in waiving it, and the next couple of quality starters potentially on the trade market are from the Rays (possibly the Red-Sox if Dice K is available) and I don't see them helping fill the Yankees 'needs'.

The Yankees need Cliff Lee maybe more than possibly any other free agent in their history (unless another top pitcher comes on the market). He might not come cheap, but the fact that he is listening and is a favorite to sign in NY is promising.

Boston Red Sox: Boston is in a similar position with the Yankees, with money to spend, a great team, and a top notch farm system, but the thing they have to be most thankful for is good health.

Last year the Red Sox missed Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Mike Cameron, Mike Lowell, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett all missed significant time with injury. Despite so many starters missing time, the Red Sox still were competitive all season and finished with an 89-73 record (they would have only been 1 game out in the West). While the Red Sox will be looking to make some changes this offseason, the most important thing to them is getting healthy. Youkilis, Pedroia, Beckett and Ellsbury all are important cogs for Boston as they look to get back to the post season. Luckily, while all those injuries were devastating at the time none should have a long term impact on the Red Sox. Continued good health will be the key for the Red Sox this season, but right now things are looking up.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have a lot of young talented players, but there is little doubt what (who) they are most thankful for, Buck Showalter. Baltimore finished 66-96 last season split between three managers, but more than half of those wins (34) came when Showalter was at the helm.

In 57 games under Showalter the Orioles went 34-23, meaning the Orioles would have 97 games based on their winning percentage under him. That would have been good enough to win the AL East (as well as being the best record in baseball). Showalter also went 14-13 against the AL East (they went 10-35 before he started). Now I don't think they were legitimately a 97 win team, but they also weren't a legitimate 66 win team either.

Showalter completely revitalized that team and gives the Orioles hope going forward. They have a number of young talented pieces and Buck seems to be making the most out them. The addition of Showalter could be exactly what the Orioles need, as they look to become an competitive franchise once again.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays had the home run king last year as well as one of the best power teams in the league, but they are most thankful for their G.M. Alex Anthopoulos.

The Blue Jays had lost Roy Halladay, Scott Rolen and Alex Rios from the summer of 2009 to the beginning of last season, yet somehow the Blue Jays still managed to win 85 games. What's even more impressive than their win total is the collection of young talent that Anthopoulos has picked up. The young Blue Jays G.M. was in the unenviable position of having to trade their top player, Halladay, when his value was the lowest. Despite not having the leverage he would have wanted, Anthopoulos made a very good trade for the Blue Jays, and remained active all offseason to rebuild the Blue Jays farm. Combined with his shrewd trades and signings, as well as a top notch draft the Blue Jays 'rebuilding' process actually made Toronto a better team than they were before.

Tamp Bay Rays: The Rays won the division and if not for Cliff Lee and those pesky Rangers, very well could have been in the World Series. Things though aren't all rosy in Tampa as they need to slash their payroll, which will mean the loss of a number of star players including All-Star Carl Crawford. While it looks bleak, I wouldn't be too worried about Tampa as they have plenty of talent on the way from their bountiful farm system, which needs to be number 1 on their thankful list.

They Rays have already added a number of young players these last couple years, but should add a couple more uber-talents this season with RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings leading the way. Hellickson is the best pitcher in the minors and saw a little bit of time with the Rays last season. He profiles as a potential number 1 and should at least be a 2 or a 3 starter on a playoff caliber team. Jennings is one of the top young outfielders in the minors and he is capable of playing any position. He will likely start by replacing Crawford, but could eventually move over to CF and become the Rays lead-off hitter. In addition to the two stars, I'd expect to at least a couple more arms throughout the season, with LHP Jake McGee likely to start the year in their bullpen. The Rays system is loaded that they can not only absorb their impending losses, but make a couple big trades as well.

As I said, at the top every team has something to be thankful for this holiday weekend, but these are what I think the 5 AL East teams have to be most thankful for. What do you think?

Deadline Winners and Losers continued: Part II

August 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Winners:

San Diego Padres: The Padres have had a great year this season, despite having one of the worst offenses in the league. San Diego began to address that with trades for Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick. While they gave up solid prospects for them, they didn't give up any of their top guys or anyone who could help them this season.There might have been better bats on the market, but Ludwick ended up being one of the best ones dealt. It remains to be seen if they added enough offense to go deep into the post season, but it was a productive deadline for San Diego nonetheless.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies added one of the top pitchers on the market and did so without giving up much in the way of talent (or money). Oswalt isn't a true ace, but he is pretty close and should give Philadelphia a top of the rotation to match Atlanta, St. Louis and San Francisco. The Phillies did really well to get a lot of money thrown in, to ensure they have some financial flexibility next season. The fact that the Phillies accomplished this without giving up any of their top guys is even more impressive. Philadelphia would be higher if they added some bullpen and bench help, both of which have been issues for the team. But all around a solid deadline in Philly.

New York Yankees: The Yankees added Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood, and if this was 2006 would have had the best deadline of anyone. As it stands they added a platoon DH, a backup OF, and a middling bullpen arm. Given how talented the team is they didn't need much, and they did strengthen both their bench and bullpen, so that is a plus. The Yankees also kept their top prospects which is a major plus (and unexpected). On the downside though I don't think they shot high enough, especially when it comes to their pitching. With major questions in both their rotation and bullpen I'm not sure if Wood is the answer. The Yankees did well at the deadline, but by no means ensured another World Series title.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals sold a couple of redundant pieces and did a great job shedding salary and picking up some quality prospect depth. They didn't receive any major young stars, but made some smart baseball trades. The Royals didn't move any of their top players, which may end up being a mistake, but they will still have major value in the offseason if they want to revisit those discussions.

In between:

Los Angeles Angels: The Angels added two good players in Alberto Callapso and Dan Haren and did so at below market prices (esp. in Haren's case). The problem is the Angels didn't address enough of their needs, and probably didn't do so early enough that they are pretty much out of the playoff hunt this season. The good news is Callapso and Haren are under team control for the next couple of years at solid contracts so they are winners for the future, but not pulling the trigger on bullpen/1B help will keep this team at home in October.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox are similar to the Angels, they are looking at a big deficit and didn't do much to help their cause. While it is good they didn't overpay, Boston is basically conceding this season to the Yankees and Rays, and that's not good for business. They did pick up Jared Saltalamachia for some low minors prospects, so that could be a big deal for them going forward, but as it stands now Boston will be sitting out the playoffs.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers were one of the more active teams in the last week adding Scott Podsednik, Octavio Dotel, Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot. Unfortunately I don't know if they did enough to really get back into the playoff race. Dotel and Lilly are upgrades on the pitching staff, but might not be enough. Theriot is a bit of an upgrade over Dewitt whom he was traded for, but I wouldn't say there is a huge difference. And Podsednik is a 4th outfielder. Without an impact bat Los Angeles isn't going anywhere, and to make it worse Podsednik, Dotel, and Lilly will be free agents after the season meaning unlike some of the other teams on this list there isn't any future value. The Dodgers also gave up some of there better prospects, meaning these deals could really come back to haunt them.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-backs got rid of Haren, Edwin Jackson, Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder unfortunately they didn't get much in the way of return either. They did clean their payroll for next year and going forward (though I still don't get the Joe Saunders acquisition) and given their level of play they needed to be a seller. I just question their return for Haren especially. In fact I think they got almost as much for Edwin Jackson as they did Dan Haren, and he isn't half the pitcher Haren is (or has nearly as good of a contract). Arizona has a long rebuilding process, but unfortunately they didn't add much in the way of assets to their fire sale.

Houston Astros: The Astros parted with two of their most veteran players and biggest stars. While it was necessary, the Astros had to kick in money and at the same time didn't get major prospects in return. The best move the Astros made was trading one of those prospects (Anthony Gose), for a better and Major League ready player in Brett Wallace. The Wallace deal gives Houston a building block, but overall not nearly enough of a return considering what they gave up.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards did a great job strengthening their rotation, but did so at a fairly high cost of Ryan Ludwick. I've never been a Ludwick fan, but his loss does weaken their offense going forward. In addition to weakening their starting lineup the Cards didn't add any bench or bullpen depth, two things that could have helped them going forward.

Good Day In Boston

May 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

It's a good day in sports in your city if all three teams playing win. It's an even better day when two of those teams win playoff games, and the third snap a losing streak. Beantown had a lot to celebrate last night as the Red Sox offense finally erupted, the Celtics evened the series and the Bruins took a 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox came into this year as one of the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series, but haven't shown themselves of being a contender so far this season. Boston is in 4th place in the A.L. East and had just dropped three games in a row to the fifth place Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox had been banking on a more defensive approach this season, but that hasn't worked out too well as they have given up the 4th most runs in baseball. Their offense has been pretty much middle of the road, but erupted last night for 17 runs on 20 hits. While it is just one game, it could be a good sign for Boston if a couple of their everyday guys start hitting. They will still need to work on run prevention, since even in last night's victory they gave up 8 runs, but May could be a new month for the Red Sox.

The Celtics meanwhile forced a split in Cleveland with their impressive 104-86 victory over the Cavs last night. Evening the series was key for Boston since their next two games are at home. If they can win both of those they will head back to Cleveland with a commanding 3-1 lead. The Celtics were able to somewhat slow down LeBron James, and pretty much shut down the rest of the Cavaliers offense. It was also a statement game for Boston, since most people thought they didn't have what it takes to beat Cleveland again on their way to the Finals. While you still have to like the Cavs in the series, Boston showed that they will fight for this one, and to not count them out just yet.

The Bruins did exactly what the Celtics were trying to avoid, with their 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins are now up 2-0 in the series and in a commanding position. They now head to Philly, where if they can split the two games (I think a sweep might be pushing it) they can close out the series next Monday at home. So far the Bruins have just outplayed and outhustled the Flyers. Right now I don't really see Philadelphia coming back to win this series. Putting Boston into the Eastern Conference Finals.

It might be a bad day in some other sports cities, but for Boston fans they have plenty to cheer about right now. Maybe none of these teams will win their respective championships (If I had to pick one of these teams to do it, I'd still pick the Red Sox despite their 4th place record), but they are all at least competitive and give their fans the chance to hope and dream of winning the title.