AL West Preview

15 02 2013

Oakland Athletics

Projected 2013 Finish: 2nd

  • Acquisitions: The A’s filled the biggest hole in their lineup, when they signed Japanese superstar Hiroyuki Nakajima to play shortstop this coming season. In eleven seasons in Japan, Nakajima became a three time Gold Glove winner and was named an All-Star eight times. He’s posted a lifetime batting average of .302 and hit 20+ home runs four times. The A’s have had minimal production from shortstops Cliff Pennington, and Stephen Drew in recent years, so the potential offensive threat that Nakajima represents has Oakland’s management excited.
  • Departures: Oakland lost a large piece of their starting rotation, when Brandon McCarthy elected to become a free agent, but they should be able to do just fine without him, seeing that they won the division last year with McCarthy hurt most of the season. Shortstop Stephen Drew was traded, but management quickly replaced him with Nakajima. Versatile fielders Jonny Gomes, and Brandon Inge were lost to free agency also, but their replacements we most likely be pulled from the A’s farm system.
  • The Verdict: I like what the A’s have done so far this off season, considering they have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. They let go of what they had to, but still managed to bring in some much needed offensive firepower, as well as filling the biggest hole in the depth chart, shortstop. This team is carried by young players, strong pitching, and reigning AL Manager of the Year, Bob Melvin. Just like last year, the A’s will find a way to win in 2013, but in a stacked division with the Angels and Rangers, they won’t come out on top. Look for the A’s to sneak in the playoffs as a Wild Card, finishing second in the West to the Los Angeles Angels.

Texas Rangers

Projected 2013 Finish: 3rd

  • Acquisitions: Texas had a fairly quiet offseason. They made some key veteran acquisitions in AJ Pierzynski, Lance Berkman, and holstered the bullpen with Joakim Soria. Pierzynski will take over as starting catcher, and Berkman will see time as DH until young slugger Mike Olt is ready to be a full time major leaguer (Adrian Beltre or Mitch Moreland would most likely take over DH in that case). Soria, one year removed from finishing 10th in AL Cy Young voting, will bring a lot of potential to a below average bullpen. Through five years in the majors, he has averaged an excellent WHIP of 1.04 and 2.40 ERA. 
  • Departures: Fan favorites Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli made headlines after choosing to leave Texas as free agents, but the Rangers also lost several veteran pitchers including Mike Adams, Roy Oswalt, Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe, and Koji Uehara. They definitely took a hit as far as pitching depth goes, and lost some serious power in the middle of the order.
  • The Verdict: While the Angels had an exciting offseason that included stealing Hamilton away from the Rangers, Texas chose to lie low. They missed on opportunities to acquire Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke, and Justin Upton, and in doing so, might’ve missed their chance to compete in a division full of up and coming contenders. There’s no question that the Rangers got worse this winter, but they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of highly acclaimed prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. While they are an older team, the Rangers have a bright future ahead of them. I don’t see them continuing the success of recent years in 2013.

Seattle Mariners

Projected 2013 Finish: 4th

  • Acquisitions: With the addition of Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse it’s clear that Seattle was looking to add some power to their lineup. Some depth has also been added to the pitching staff, signing Joe Saunders, Jon Garland, and Kameron Loe. Almost all of the players brought in by Seattle’s front office this winter have struggled with injuries throughout their career, and many of them are just getting old.
  • Departures: Jason Vargas and John Jaso were traded away in the deals for Morales and Morse. In addition, veterans Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo, Kevin Millwood, and George Sherrill parted ways with Seattle. None of these players were game changers for the Mariners, and they should be ok moving on without them.
  • The Verdict: The M’s had an excellent offseason, but I don’t think it will be enough to put them in contention for this season. The AL West is just too strong right now for them to have a shot at a division title, but in a year or two, they could be a legitimate threat. Morse and Morales have the skill to become perenial 30+ HR 100+ RBI players. There’s no doubt that there was some risk in some of the guys (Bay, Ibanez, Garland) that they brought in, but if the newest Mariners perform anywhere close to their potential, this could be a very strong team for years to come.

Los Angeles Angels 

Projected 2013 Finish: 1st

  • Acquisitions: Well, it’s safe to say that the Angels have done an excellent job of putting together a group of players that are fully capable of winning a World Series right now. Josh Hamilton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Joe Blanton, and Jason Vargas will all be joining Los Angeles this year. Hamilton will form a ” big 3″ with fellow MVP candidates Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols, while Hanson, Madson, Burnett, Blanton, and Vargas will join a rotation that is already home to Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson.
  • Departures: Even though the Angels brought in a fantastic group of players this winter, they also lost Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Maicer Izturis, and Torii Hunter. While Greinke will be tough to replace in the rotation, Haren struggled mightily last year and should be replaced easily in the starting five. Izturis’s versatility will be missed, but they were willing to give him up to gain Hamilton and co. As for Hunter, he’s getting old, and Los Angeles had no problem removing him from an outfield that will be home to Hamilton, Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Peter Bourjos.
  • The Verdict: The Angels have put together a team that has the potential to run over one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Offensively, the have a fantastic balance of power and speed, and in addition to that, their pitching has incredible depth, especially in the bullpen. If this group isn’t playing deep into October something will have gone horribly wrong. Expect big things out of the 2013 Angels.

Houston Astros

Projected 2013 Finish: 5th

  • Acquisitions: Something’s not right when your biggest signing of the offseason is Carlos Pena. Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard will also join Houston this coming season.
  • Departures: Jed Lowrie, who they traded a decent group of prospects for not too long ago, was traded just weeks ago. Jordan Schafer was claimed off waivers by Atlanta. Fernando Abad, one of their best relievers, elected free agency, and Chris Snyder joined him.
  • The Verdict: The Astros are really just a sad franchise and an embarrassment to pro sports in general. They spend no money, they don’t seem to be developing any kind of successful farm system, and now they’ve moved to the AL West, one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Houston has no hope this year, and they probably won’t have any for a long time. They seem to be content with winning less than sixty games every year. They will finish last in their division this year, without question.

NL West Preview

24 12 2012

Los Angeles Dodgers 

Projected 2013 Finish: 2nd

  • Acquisitions: The Dodgers have had a very busy offseason. In addition to picking up Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, and Hanley Ramirez during last summer, Los Angeles has continued to be active, signing Zack Greinke, Ryu Hyun-jin, giving Brandon League a contract extension, and trading for utility-man Skip Schumaker. Thanks to Greinke and Hyun-jin, they now have plenty of depth in their rotation.
  • Departures: The Dodgers didn’t lose much this year. They let former Phillies Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton walk, and they have both already signed with new teams. Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, Adam Kennedy, and Randy Choate were also not asked to return. For the most part, this is the same team that took the field last year, but with a better pitching rotation.
  • The Verdict: Los Angeles has made a lot of flashy moves in the last several months, and they definitely have the pieces in place to make a postseason run. Can they pull it all together though? The Dodgers have a very pedestrian bullpen, but if the rotation performs as expected, the relievers may not be seen that much. No doubt the talent is there right now, but between Crawford, Ramirez, and Ethier, they are horribly inconsistent. All that can be seen right now is potential. They’ll probably win 85-90 games on raw talent. I think they’ll finish 2nd in the NL East.

San Diego Padres

Projected 2013 Finish: 4th

  • Acquisitions: The Padres have had a pretty quiet winter to this point. They resigned Jason Marquis, who originally opted to become a free agent. Other than that, no major moves have been made.
  • Departures: No significant departures
  • The Verdict: San Diego is essentially bringing back the exact same team from last year, that won just 76 games in 2012. However, this team is very young, and very talented. If they played in a different, not as tough division, I would expect them to have more success, but it’s hard to win, when you’re going up against the Giants, Dodgers, and D-Backs. The Padres are led by a great manager, Bud Black, and they should definitely have hope for the future.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Projected 2013 Finish: 3rd

  • Acquisitions: The D-Backs have had a wild offseason, signing free agents and making multi-team trades. They quickly traded for Yordy Cabrera, a young shortstop prospect. Recently, they signed Cody Ross to provide even more depth to an outfield already filled with talent. Next, in a trade with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, Arizona picked up young prospects Lars Anderson, Didi Gregorius, as well as veteran reliever Tony Sipp. Prior to that trade, they signed starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, and third baseman Eric Chavez. They also added a great pinch hitter, Eric Hinske. Relievers Heath Bell, and Matt Reynolds were brought aboard to holster the bullpen.
  • Departures: In the process of making all their new acquisitions, the D-Backs lost quite a bit. Veterans Chris Young, and Cliff Pennington were traded away, as well as top-flite pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. All three of those guys played significant roles in Arizona’s organization, but they will gladly accept the return for them.
  • The Verdict: The Diamondbacks are an extremely underrated team, and talent covers the field. The have plenty of depth across the diamond, especially in the outfield. They have been claiming to try to trade Justin Upton, a true five tool player, but he’s still there. So, expect him to lead the offense this year, while providing great defense. Arizona’s staff is stacked with young talent, top to bottom. However, the bullpen could stand to be better. Again, if they weren’t in a division with the Giants and Dodgers, I would predict a much better finish. With that said, the D-Backs are fully capable of winning 88 games.

San Francisco Giants

Projected 2013 Finish: 1st

  • Acquisitions: The Giants successfully signed free agents Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, and Andres Torres. Other than those three signings, the Giants haven’t done much, and they are looking to bring back a similar team to the group that just won a World Series.
  • Departures: Former batting champion, Freddy Sanchez, will not be returning to San Francisco this year, as he elected to become a free agent. In addition, Melky Cabrera will not  be returning either. Many people wondered if the Giants could win without him after he was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and the Giants clearly proved the doubters wrong, going on to win the World Series. Finally, relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson also elected to become a free agent, and did not resign with the Giants.
  • The Verdict: In 2013, the defending champion Giants will be led by reigning MVP Buster Posey. This is a young team that, however, has tons of experience, returning many players from both of their championship teams. With young stars Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford covering first and shortstop respectively, Scutaro replacing Sanchez at second, and Sandoval returning at third, the infield is primed to lead the Giants back to the postseason. In the outfield, San Francisco has plenty of speed, and another impressive bat in Hunter Pence. The starting rotation speaks for itself, lead by Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. In the bullpen, Sergio Romo has finally been anchored as the closer, and even with the departure of Wilson, the Giants’ bullpen is loaded. They should continue to be one of the best teams in baseball. I’m predicting anywhere from 92-96 wins, and another championship would not surprise me.

Colorado Rockies

Projected 2013 Finish: 5th

  • Acquisitions: No significant acquisitions made
  • Departures: Both starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, and veteran first baseman Jason Giambi elected to become free agents and will not return to the Rockies next season.
  • The Verdict: The Rockies have the talent offensively to win ballgames, but the pitching just is not there. Colorado will struggle to find free agents willing to sign with them because Coors Field is such a tough stadium to pitch in due to the high altitude. Because of that, the Rockies are forced to find most of their pitching through their own farm system, and they have not been successful with that in recent years. Even with sluggers Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez leading the offense, the pitching is bad enough to make them obsolete. This is a rotation that claims that their number one starter is Juan Nicasio, who went 2-3 with a 5.28 ERA last season. Until the Rockies can find some pitching to support their offense, they won’t win more then seventy-five games, and it doesn’t help that they’re playing in a very tough division. That is why I predict that they’ll finish last in the division once again.

Swisher To Join Tribe

24 12 2012

The Cleveland Indians have signed a corner outfielder. With hopes of improving upon 94 losses last season, the Indians inked former Yankee Nick Swisher to a four year, $56 million contract that potentially holds an additional $14 million in 2017 if certain requirements are met during the 2016 season. Cleveland has had an aggressive winter so far, and Swisher is just the most recent piece to their puzzle. The Tribe, led  by new manager Terry Francona, has already signed Mark Reynolds to fill first base, and also acquired Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer in a three team trade. Swisher will really help the Cleveland offense, bringing power to both sides of the plate. He does strikeout a lot, but the Indians will deal with that in return for an impressive OBP. For his career, Swisher has posted a .361 OBP and shown the ability to lay off of off-speed pitches and work the count. For the near future, this is a great addition for struggling franchise, but it is a somewhat puzzling move. The Indians seemed to be a team that was making a serious effort to turn over players and build on youth. However, signing Swisher doesn’t exactly fit that mold. He is already thirty-two years old, and could potentially still be playing for them when he’s thirty-six. Sure, he can be expected to produce for a year, or two, but what will come after that? I expect Swisher to be on the market by his second or third season with the club, depending on how he performs. So, Swisher is a good corner outfielder, who can be expected to bring solid numbers at the plate, as well as play decent defense, but he doesn’t fit Cleveland’s long term plan. Hopefully he can provide enough in 2013 to make the Indians relevant again. Otherwise, what was the point?

Cubs Ink Edwin Jackson

20 12 2012

The Chicago Cubs have signed starer Edwin Jackson to a four year, $52 million contract. Jackson is coming off of a 10-11 season with the Nationals in which he posted a 4.03 ERA. He will join a rotation that does not have a lot of depth, picking up Jackson is not really gonna change much for them. Expect him to fit into the middle of an already weak staff. Don’t get me wrong. Jackson is a quality starter, in terms of back of the rotation guys, but he does not stand out in any areas. Throughout his career, he has really struggled to limit base runners, he doesn’t have the stuff to fan a lot of hitters, and he is not great defensively. About the only up side to Jackson is his ability to consistently pitch around 200 innings, when he’s healthy. Will Jackson be asked to do more than he is capable of in Chicago? Probably. I expect that he will be placed above Jeff Samardzija and behind Matt Garza in the rotation, but Jackson just isn’t a number two starter. Although he was one of the top available free agent pitchers, someone like Kyle Lohse would’ve been a better signing here, seeing as the Cubs clearly have the money to spend. How do you think Jackson will fit into the Cubs’ system next year. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Red Sox Add Drew

19 12 2012

The Boston Red Sox have finally found a shortstop. Twenty nine year old, Stephen Drew, has agreed to terms on a one year, $9.5 million contract. Drew had spent all of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, before being traded to the A’s earlier this season. He has been a very average shortstop throughout his stint in the bigs, posting a .265 lifetime batting average, and he has not blown anyone away defensively. Drew does not show good speed either, stealing only 34 bases in his entire career. He has struggled to stay healthy as of late, and that has also not helped his running game. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, this years free agent shortstops consisted of Ronny Cedeno, Alex Gonzalex, Drew, and Maicer Izturis. None of these guys are top-of-the-line players, but Drew was probably the best of the bunch. Some might say that Izturis would have been the better signing, but they missed out on him, when he signed with the Blue Jays a few weeks ago. It is also tough to argue that Gonzalez is not one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, but he’s beginning to get a little old. In the end, the Red Sox signed Drew, filling a position need of theirs during this rebuilding time, and that is all that really matters. No matter who they had signed they were looking at anywhere from $7-10 million per year, so Drew was a good choice for that price. I don’t think that anyone is really impressed with Drew, but understandably, the Red Sox had to do what they had to do. After all, it is just a one year deal.121218124904-stephen-drew-ap2-single-image-cut

Dickey To The Jays

17 12 2012

The New York Mets have agreed to send the reigning NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey, to the Toronto Blue Jays, pending a contract extension. Dickey is under contract to make $5 million in 2013, but has been seeking a two year, $26-28 million extension. If a deal can be agreed upon, the Mets would receive  baseball’s top catching prospect, Travis d’Arnaud, catcher John Buck, a minor league pitcher, and cash. In return, the Jays would receive Dickey, and catcher Josh Thole. Dickey is thirty eights years old, and prior to this season, had only one ten win season in his career. Although he is coming off of a phenomenal season, it was just one good year in a nine year career. Does he deserve the extension that he is expected to get? No, but will he get it? Probably. There is no doubt that Dickey had an unbelievable season, going 20-6 with a 2.73 era, and 230 Ks in 233.2 innings pitched, but a $28 million extension is too much for a thirty eight year old guy, who has only had three winning seasons in his whole career. It doesn’t matter that he is the reigning Cy Young winner.

It’s good to see the Mets make this deal, because they are going to receive a great prospect in d’Arnaud. He has the potential to be a star for many years to come, while fans should not expect Dickey to do much for more than a year or two, at most. Last season with Triple-A Las Vegas, d’Arnaud hit .333 with 16 HRs and 52 RBIs. He showed great discipline at the plate, posting a .380 OBP, and he is also very strong defensively. At 6’2″ 190lbs., he shows plenty of athleticism behind the plate, and has good enough arm strength to limit the opponent’s running game.

Assuming that Dickey joins the Blue Jays, he will land in a much improved rotation featuring Ricky Romero, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, and J.A. Happ. This Jays team has been completely rejuvenated this offseason. With the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Johnson, Buehrle, and Maicer Izturis, the Jays are looking like potential front runners to win the AL East. How do you think the addition of Dickey will help their chances in 2013? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Did The Tigers Pay Too Much For Sanchez?

16 12 2012

Anibal Sanchez recently signed a five year, $80 million deal to remain with the defending AL Champions, Detroit Tigers. Sanchez is a twenty eight year old, right hander, who was acquired from the Marlins late last season. His numbers are very mediocre. He has never pitched 200 innings in a season, and has only registered 200+ strikeouts once in his career. Sanchez will likely settle down in the middle of the Tigers’ rotation, along with Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer. At first glance, an $80 million contract seems like a little much for an average starter. Sanchez is not lighting up the radar gun, or blowing anyone away with overwhelming stuff. Although, he does have an effective slider that opponents only hit .198 against last year, and impressive command, nothing about Sanchez says that he deserves a deal of this length, or value. However, what baseball fans must begin to realize is that due to mega-television deals, and increased payrolls, Major League salaries are rapidly becoming inflated. What used to be considered big money in baseball is now typical. Superstar players are no longer rewarded with $100 million contracts, but $180 – $200 million contracts instead. Consider these deals: Albert Pujols- 10 years, $240 million; Joey Votto- 10 years, $225 million; Prince Fielder- 9 years, $214 million. Since the best players set the bar for the contract value, average players are getting paid more as the best players’ salaries increase. That said, baseball fans now live in a time when Anibal Sanchez-a number two, or three starting pitcher, coming off of a 9-13 season- is getting an $80 million contract. Sounds ridiculous right? That is just the way the sport is headed, so get used to it. What do you think about the Tigers bringing back Sanchez for this price? Leave your thoughts in the comments.