Archive for October, 2011
With C.C. Sabathia widely expected to eventually work out a new deal with the New York Yankees, it seems that the jewel in the extremely thin 2012 free agent class of pitchers is CJ Wilson of the two time defending AL Champion Texas Rangers. Wilson has enjoyed a second year in a row of great success as a starting pitcher as he finished the 2011 season with 16 wins in 223 innings pitched, both career highs. Wilson struck out 206 batters, walked 75 and posted an elite 2.94 ERA (3.41 xFIP) in the walk year of his contract. Wilson has a few things going for him as he enters free agency; 1) He has had a career year, 2) He has shown the ability to succeed in the American League and 3) He is the best starting pitcher available other than CC Sabathia. However, Wilson also brings some baggage that might make teams think twice before giving him a large deal. 1) He will be 31 years old come 2012, 2) He struggled mightily in the postseason for the Rangers and 3) He does not have an excellent track record in terms of success as a starting pitcher. Teams will have to weigh these pros and cons before committing a potential huge deal to Wilson who will most likely be taking the most lucrative deal offered.
There are reasons for teams to be skeptical of Wilson as it is predicted that he could demand something in the area of the John Lackey and A.J. Burnett deal in 5 years and 82.5 MM dollars. As many of us know, both of these deals given out have turned out to be busts thus far as both pitchers have been huge disappointments. Not that either of these players have a direct effect on Wilson because they don’t, but teams will certainly be cautious of an overpay in his case. So what teams could be in the mix for the lefty’s services? Lets take a closer look at the hypothetical market for Wilson….
Texas Rangers- Obviously the Rangers will at least field a competitive offer for Wilson. However, it doesn’t seem that they will blow other teams away to keep their number one starter. It doesn’t seem that Wilson will be taking a hometown discount either. The Rangers have a lot of money to spend but will certainly be cautious about where they allocate it. There is still a decent chance that Wilson returns to the Rangers as they would be thin in the starting pitching department if he does leave the rotation. But then again, there seems to be signs that the organization will let him walk if another team tops their offer.
New York Yankees- You cannot talk about potential expensive free agents without mentioning the Bronx Bombers. If CC Sabathia does indeed stay in New York, the chances the Yankees make a play for Wilson are low to moderate. However, if the Yankees lose Sabathia to free agency they could make Wilson their number one target as their rotation would be left bare. The teams interest all depends on Sabathia but don’t be surprised to see the Yankees sign both of the top two pitchers available this offseason. New York probably cannot count on Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to contribute the way they did this season.
Boston Red Sox- It seems like the Red Sox are turning into the Yankees 2.0 in terms of the way they spend their money. John Lackey is now done for the season for he will need Tommy John surgery. Beckett, Lester and Buchholz will lock down three of the five rotation spots in 2012 but the back end of the order is up for grabs. Seeing that atrocious starting pitching was the main cause for their historic September collapse, Boston could turn to Wilson to bolster a rotation that would have toe potential to be dominant. However, after being burned on the Lackey and Matsuzaka contracts, Boston will think twice about committing to Wilson. Outside chance here but nothing more.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles rotation is in shambles so it seems that any addition would be an upgrade. The Orioles are a quiet bigger market team with lots of money to spend. But they are in a rebuilding process and most likely will not compete next year. So would it make sense to commit to Wilson knowing that you will not have him for the long haul when the team is ready to compete? Also, would Wilson even want to come to Baltimore? Again, an outside chance only because the O’s could afford him and could use him.
Toronto Blue Jays- One of the teams with the brightest futures in the coming years. The Jays rotation is solid but not great and Wilson combined with Ricky Romero would make a nice 1-2 punch. The Jays have money to spend and are rumored to be in on multiple big name free agents. Even if the Jays do add Wilson they are probably still another player or two away from seriously competing. But it would not surprise me at all if Wilson does end up in Toronto, it could be a nice fit for him and the Jays.
Minnesota Twins- Arguably the most disappointing team in 2011, largely due to the lack of injuries to star players and an inconsistent rotation. The Twins have fallen way behind the Tigers in terms of competitiveness so it does not seem that they are only a player away from getting back into playoff contention. But their rotation is a bit weak largely due to Francisco Liriano’s hot and cold streaks. Possible fit here but only an outside chance at best.
Los Angeles Angels- The Angels missed out on some big free agents last season and just missed the playoffs this year by a couple of games. Their rotation is already a strength headed by Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Their offense can use some work but particularly on the infield as their outfield is very crowded. New GM Jerry DiPoto must address the lack of offense somehow but adding Wilson from the rival Rangers could put the Angels back in the playoffs. They have the payroll flexibility to get a deal done and LA is a desirable place to play. Moderate to serious interest here.
Florida Marlins- With a new stadium ready for business in 2012 there are rumors that the Marlins could finally open their checkbooks and pursue top free agents. Josh Johnson is the clear ace of the staff but his health is always a concern. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are also decent arms in the rotation but adding Wilson combined with a healthy Johnson could turn Florida’s rotation into a strength. The only question is what the team wants to address first, the offense or defense. A big signing to ignite excitement of a stagnant fan base seems like a smart thing to do. Moderate interest.
Washington Nationals- The Nationals made huge strides towards competitiveness this year and are only going to get stronger with Stephen Strasburg healthy and Bryce Harper working his way up to the big leagues. Adding Wilson to an already solid rotation could push the team into the wild card race. The Nationals have the money to spend but it still looks like they are an arm and a bat away from competing. A move to the National League can only benefit Wilson also. It would not surprise me one bit if the Nationals made a play for both Wilson and one of the big bats available this winter. That could push them to 85+ wins next year. Moderate to serious interest.
Colorado Rockies- With a good offseason, the Rockies can push themselves right back into contention of a pretty winnable division in the NL West. Even though they lost Ubaldo Jimenez the Rockies still have the backs of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to jump on. Drew Pomeranz will join the rotation next year that seems to be headed by Jhoulys Chacin at this point.Without a true ace, Colorado could turn to Wilson to bolster their rotation. There have not been many rumors, if any at all, connection Wilson and the Rockies but his addition makes sense as their rotation is still a bit weak despite adding Alex White and Pomeranz from the Jimenez trade. This year the Diamondbacks showed that all you need is a few good bats and a few good arms to win the NL West (Kennedy, Hudson, Upton). The Rockies have the bats but still lack the arms. Limited to moderate interest depending on the asking price.
The Baltimore Orioles have recently graduated some top prospects into the big leagues in the past few years and have now fallen off a bit in terms of top minor league systems in baseball. However, in the 2010 draft with the 3rd overall pick Baltimore selected Manny Machado, a shortstop out of high school. After only a year of professional ball, Machado is considered by almost everyone within the business as the Orioles top prospect in their entire farm system and arguably the best infield prospect in baseball. Machado is a tall and lean 19 year old with a real chance to stay at the position despite his height. He is listed as 6’3” and weighs about 185 pounds. His physical make-up and frame at such a young age draw comparisons to a young Derek Jeter and Hanley Ramirez. While comparisons to these players might be a bit unfair and sort of a stretch, Machado has a great chance to be a future star, and a star that the Orioles desperately need.
First off, one of the biggest questions surrounding Machado is if he has the ability to hold down the shortstop position as he gets older and fills his body out more. As of right now all signs point to yes as he is constantly working on his fielding and has shown signs of improvement, both with his range and his arm. On the field Machado is a smooth defender with good range and a good arm. However, neither of these attributes seem great, but only a bit above average. Machado may not be as gifted of a defender as lets say, Elvis Andrus, but he has shown that he is more than capable of handling the position. While there may not be any gold gloves in sight for him, all that matters is tat he can play solid defense and make all of the plays he is supposed to make. Lets remember, there are 30 teams in major league baseball and not every one of them has a fantastic fielding shortstop. His glove is not what is going to make him a star anyway.
Machado’s offensive production is what many scouts think will turn him into the next middle infield star. It seems that Machado has the potential to hit for a very high average at the major league level. A potential .300 big league batting average is certainly attainable given the skill sets he possesses. He has a fluid swing and is a very good contact hitter, the only question is whether or not his power will develop into elite at his position. Machado can probably be expected to close in on and maybe exceed the 200 pound benchmark as he gets older and stronger. In a little over 350 at-bats in A-ball this year, Machado hit 11 home runs and 20 doubles. If you project that over an entire season as he develops as a hitter, and take into consideration an increase in strength, 20-25 home runs in a season seems pretty attainable for him. Although he isn’t a serious threat to steal bases, Machado has decent speed and can probably steal 15 bases per season.
Overall, it seems like the Orioles really have something in Manny Machado. He is not the typical 5 tool player with elite defense, power, speed and average, but his contact ability is definitely elite. A potential .300 + hitter with 20-25 home run potential, solid defense and solid speed at the shortstop position is really something to get excited about as an Oriole fan. He seems to have a very high ceiling with a relatively high floor. He is neither an all glove, or all bat player but rather a combination of both. Although he is still very young, Machado has the chance to be a special player and an All-Star shortstop. Expect to see Machado in 2014 and possibly late 2013 if all goes well.
David Wright has been the face of the Mets franchise for many years now since his emergence in 2004 as he burst onto the scene as a 21 year old. It seemed ever since his breakout season in 2005 that he was destined for stardom, and on pace to break many Mets franchise records. Wright flourished in the role as the #5 hitter, behind sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, where he was in a sense a compliment to a great top of the lineup that included Jose Reyes as the leadoff hitter. But Wright emerged as the best all around hitter and has taken over the role as being “the guy” in the middle of the order. However, it seems that David Wright, a perennial All-Star, has severely regressed since 2009 when Citi Field opened and he was drilled in the head by a fastball from Matt Cain.
Any Met fan with half of a brain can tell you that David Wright is not the same player he once was in 2007 and 2008 when he combined for an outstanding 16 WAR in those two seasons. Wrights strikeout rate is way up from where it had been in his younger years. The thought used to be that David Wright’s at-bats used to begin in an 0-2 count, for he was such a disciplined hitter and such a tough strikeout. But now, an 0-2 count is almost a sure K for him. What can this be attributed to? One theory is that Wright has been trying to become more of a power hitter, taking on more of the burden of being the big bat in the middle of the lineup. Another possibility is the fact that Wright has become a pull hitter. Earlier in his career, Wright had natural power to the opposite field. But now, you barely see him even attempt to go the other was. The obvious reason for this is that Citi Field is a wasteland for right handed hitters with power to right field. Unless it is an absolute bomb, an opposite field fly ball will turn into an out the majority of the time. So in a sense, you can’t really blame Wright for always trying to hit the ball to left field, where it is much easier to hit the ball out. But this approach is detrimental to his all-around game, for the Mets only play 81 games at Citi Field. Instead of a .300+ hitter that uses the whole field, Wright has now regressed to a .280 hitter that has become a strikeout machine.
So what should the Mets do with their All-Star 3rd baseman who is under control for another two seasons? Wright will be making 15 MM this season and has a club option for 2013 worth 16 MM. Under normal circumstances, that 2013 option seems like an automatic pickup for the Mets. However, with payroll coming down towards the 100 MM dollar range, New York could look to trade Wright this offseason. With the shortage of top players o the free agent market, Wright’s demand would surely be high even though he has come off a down year in which he struggled at the plate and also missed 9 weeks with a stress fracture in his back. If Wright is traded, his 2013 option is automatically voided, giving the recipient club only 1 season of team control. The Mets could still receive a significant return on Wright even for 1 year of control. The Rockies have expressed interest in Wright and have pieces that the Mets would be interested in return, namely Dexter Fowler, Nolan Arenado, Alex White and Wilin Rosario. Top pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz might be untouchable at this point but if the Rockies were to offer at least two of those four players in return, the Mets would have to consider pulling the trigger.
Another factor that could play into Wrights trade is impending free agent Jose Reyes. With Reyes almost certainly demanding a 100 MM dollar contract, the Mets will have to allocate a significant amount of their payroll to him if they do indeed resign him. One way to create space in the budget for Reyes’ potential 20 MM dollar annual salary is to non-tender Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey, which will open up approximately 10 MM dollars for 2012. But if the Mets also moved Wright and his salary, that would free up about 25 MM dollars and essentially making sure that New York can afford their All-Star shortstop.
So do the Mets have to deal Wright in order to keep Reyes? Not necessarily for a big market team who should be able to have the luxury of entertaining multiple 8 figure contracts. But the combination of a decrease in payroll, decreased production from Wright and a rebuilding mode in which the franchise is headed makes one wonder if Met fans have seen the last of the face of the franchise. The key to this whole question is what happens to Jose Reyes. If Reyes leaves via free agency, the chance that Wright is dealt severely diminishes. But if the Mets are able to indeed resign Reyes, Wright’s future may be up in the air. Just take into consideration that Wright will potentially be a free agent after 2012 and definitely after 2013. Can the Mets afford to resign Wright to another massive deal similar to Reyes? Possibly, but with a payroll hovering around 100 MM it is not likely that Alderson and company would tie up about 40 % of the entire budget on two players. So it seems that the Mets have to figure out who they want to commit the future to. As of right now Reyes is a much more important piece to the team in terms of offensive production combined with defense. But who will the rebuilding Mets commit the future to? Wright or Reyes? A few years ago the answer to that question seemed like “both”, but not anymore.
The mega-story of Albert Pujols’ impending free agency has dominated headlines from Spring Training all the way to the World Series in 2011. Pujols set a deadline for negotiations before the season that ended up passing after the future Hall of Famer turned down an 8-year 200 MM dollar contract extension from the Cardinals. Pujols didn’t want his free agency to be a distraction during the season but by this time next month, Pujols is fair game for any team that wants to fork up for him. The machine has had a great postseason so far, capping off the NLCS with a home run that was smoked over the left field fence in the Cardinals win over the Brewers. In comparison to his career averages, Pujols has had a down year in which he hit .299 with 37 HR’s and 99 RBI with a .906 OPS. The funny thing is, for most players that would be a career year. After a dismal start to the season, Albert showed everybody that he is not slowing down anytime soon. So what is going to happen to him? Will the Cardinals lock him up again? Theo Epstein and the Cubs could use a first baseman. It is a very interesting scenario that is too hard to predict at this time. But there are many factors that will play into where the best player in the game ends up.
First off, Cardinal fans will be thrilled that their team has come back from the dead after a historic comeback in the Wild Card. They are now in the World Series, and only 4 wins away from winning their second title in 6 years (last coming in 2006). This success will only be a positive for the team and put the organization in a favorable position to entice Pujols to come back. Adam Wainwright will most likely be back and ready by Spring Training along with Chris Carpenter to head the rotation. Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman will be in the lineup next year to protect Pujols and David Freese is emerging as a very nice complementary player. It seems that St. Louis will have the financial flexibility to afford a massive deal after extensions to Carpenter, Berkman, and some possible non-tenders. So the recent success will only help with negotiations and the Cardinals will again be a contender next season, regardless of what happens in the World Series.
Another sign that points towards Pujols coming back to is the fact that a few big market giants have no opening at first base on their current roster. The Yankees have Mark Teixeira in the midst of a 8-year 180 MM dollar deal and the Boston Red Sox extended MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez to a 7-year 154 MM dollar deal earlier this season. Both of these clubs have gold glove caliber players occupying first base and they are not going anywhere, not even to the DH position. Pujols is a gold glove candidate himself and would most likely prefer to stay in the field. These two teams are always involved to some extent in big ticket free agents but there is just no way Pujols could end up in New York or Boston.
Prince Fielder hitting the market in the same year as Pujols will also decrease the demand for him slightly. There is always going to be a few teams that are looking for an impact player, year in and year out, but having Fielder also available gives teams another option if they miss out on Pujols. Considering each players track records, Pujols projects to command a bigger deal than Fielder so Fielders contract will also be a bit less expensive. Pujols already rejected 200 MM dollars as he is seeking a possible record breaking deal, as he should since he deserves every penny of it. So Fielder can become a teams “plan b” if the Cardinals are seriously competitive with their offer. Lets remember, if only Pujols was available there is a greater chance a team comes out of nowhere and overpays for him in fear of missing out (a la Jayson Werth).
However, even though there are many positives, there is always the possibility that another team can come out of nowhere and blow Pujols away with a deal he cannot refuse. Pujols is a once in a generation (and possibly once in a lifetime) player so there will always be some interest in him, regardless of the price tag. We know that the Cubs will most likely be looking for a first baseman and there are some other organizations with a lot of money such as Texas, Washington, Toronto and a few others that could look to make a huge splash. However, the market is just too hard to predict right now and we will all have to wait another few weeks at least to see what decision Pujols makes. Right now it seems that the Cardinals are leading the sweepstakes but you never know what can happen. Who saw Jayson Werth ending up a National and Carl Crawford ending up with Boston last year?
After weeks of speculation, former GM of the Boston Red Sox Theo Epstein has become the new GM of the Chicago Cubs on a 5-year 15 MM dollar contract with a 3.5 transfer bonus. Epstein’s time in Boston has been extremely successful, winning two World Series and multiple playoff appearance’s. But Epstein did not leave Boston on a high note as the team he assembled crumbled in September and forfeited a 9 game wild card lead, arguably the worst regular season collapse in major league history. Epstein’s Red Sox were picked by many to win the World Series after acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Car Crawford in the winter of 2010. But now, Epstein has take on a new challenge in fixing the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have suffered the worst World Series drought ever, not winning a title since 1908. After a few years of being the trendy World Series pick out of the NL in the mid to late 2000′s, the Cubs are now an old, expensive, underproducing mess. Epstein surely has his work cut out for him and a quick turnaround would be a remarkable achievement.
First of, Epstein has to address a few very bad contracts in Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. Soriano is far from the player he was a few years ago and is widely considered one of the most unmovable players in the league. He is owed 19 MM for the next three years and is only going to get worse. However, he still provides marginal value for a platoon player with above average power. The only way that any organization would take Soriano off of the Cubs hands is with some serious salary relief. At this point, Soriano probably isn’t even worth half of the 19MM per year he is making. A Vernon Wells type deal could be possible as long as the Cubs take on a significant portion of his salary. But it is hard to imagine that there will be many teams who would be interested in Soriano at this point. As for Carlos Zambrano, the clubhouse cancer has a 18 MM dollar salary for 2012 and a vesting option for 2013 worth 19.25 MM dollars based on awards incentives. Zambrano has a full no-trade clause but seems that he is a bit more movable that Soriano. His vesting option is a bit out of reach considering that he would have to contend for the Cy Young for it to vest. But with teams always in need of more pitching, the big Z could make for an enticing reclamation project. But then again, the Cubs would have to take on considerable salary again for a move to happen and there aren’t exactly teams ringing Chicago’s phone off the hook with interest in either player. However, for a team in a rebuilding mode, if they could save a portion of the salary on either of these players in exchange for almost nothing, it would have to be considered a win.
Next, Epstein will have to address Aramis Ramirez and his mutual option worth 16 MM for 2012. It seems apparent that Ramirez will reject the deal in search for a multi year deal. In his case, you cannot really blame him for he has had a fantastic 2011 season on a bad team. There will definitely be a market for Ramirez (as explored in my previous post). However, with his skills diminishing a bit and his age increasing, Epstein may not view Ramirez as part of the future plans. One option could be to accept the mutual option and have Ramirez reject it. They could then offer him arbitration (which he would presumably reject) and then be rewarded with a sandwich pick for compensation in losing Ramirez via free agency. They could also possibly bring him back if the decision is mutual and then look to trade him. But this may be more complicated because not many teams will be interested in a 16 MM dollar salary. However, with the Cubs being a big market team that can support larger salaries, keeping Ramirez for another season would not be the worst thing to happen either. The last option of course is just to let Ramirez leave via free agency.
Another big void to fill will be the first base position. Carlos Pena had a pretty productive season considering his dreadful start. But he was only signed to a 1-year 10 MM dollar deal so he is eligible for free agency. Even though Pena is a great first baseman and provides power to the lineup, it seems more likely than not that the Cubs will not bring him back. Will Chicago be in the bidding for Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder? This is a certain possibility as the Cubs will be freeing up considerable salary with the departure of Kosuke Fukudome (14 MM) and likely departures of Pena (10 MM) and Ramirez (14.6 MM). The funds are certainly there to snag a big free agent but this will all depend on Epstein’s future plans.
The rotation is another place that needs to be addressed. Matt Garza had a quiet, but very good season and has established himself as the ace of the staff. But other than him, the rotation is very thin in depth. Ryan Dempster was a disappointment and Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez were mediocre to average at best. The Cubs have a very nice prospect in Andrew Cashner but his role as a starter or reliever is yet to be determined. Trey McNutt is also moving up the ranks very quickly but a move to the big league rotation at the beginning of 2012 may be a reach. It seems that if the Cubs are going to upgrade the rotation significantly, it will be from outside the organization. C.J. Wilson is an impending free agent but he will command a lot of money due to the weak starting pitcher market. Other than him, there are few if any impact arms on the market that would provide more than a marginal improvement.
However, if you are a Cubs fan, there should be reason for hope as the Cubs have some very nice young players. Starlin Castro already is establishing himself as one of the top hitting shortstops in the league. After 200+ hit season, it seems that Castro is the piece that Chicago should build around. Darwin Barney also looks to be like a solid second baseman and could make a nice combination p the middle with Castro. Barney has some room for improvement, especially in the OBP department, but he looks to be a nice, up and coming second baseman. Matt Garza also gives the Cubs a formidable pitcher to build the rotation around and is still under relatively cheap team control. Another important factor in the Cubs rebuilding process is the fact that they are a big market team, capable of supporting a payroll well above 134 MM dollars, which is where they are at now. With a few big free agent signings and the riddance of some bad contracts and dead weight, and the Cubs could come back into contention very quickly. Acquiring Theo Epstein has to be viewed as a step in the right direction for Chicago and it seems that the operations of the club are in the right hands.
For a good part of the past decade, Aramis Ramirez has been one of the most productive, and consistent players in the entire major leagues, occupying the hot corner for the Chicago Cubs. Depending on a mutual option in his contract worth 16 MM dollars for 2012, Ramirez could either play out the final year of a 5-year 75 MM dollar deal as a Cub, or become a free agent with a 2 MM dollar buy-out clause. Ramirez has had a real resurgent year in 2011 after having a disappointing 2009 and 2010 seasons that were hampered by injury and struggles at the plate. He has re-established himself as one of the premier hitting third baseman in the league and was arguably the best player this year on a pretty bad Chicago Cubs team. He posted a .306/.361/.510 line while hitting 35 doubles, 26 HR’s, scoring 80 runs and racking up 93 RBI. At the age of 33, that is very good production for a third baseman on a mediocre offense. Ramirez doesn’t really walk a whole lot (43 BB’s in 2011) but is also a pretty tough strikeout for a power hitter in the middle of the order (69 K’s). If you look even closer, Ramirez really did have a successful comeback season in somewhat of a make or break year for him, posting a .373 wOBA and 133 wRC+. However, if there is one big flaw in Ramirez’ game, it is his fielding. Not known for stellar defense at 3B, Ramirez finished the year with a -9.4 UZR and committing 16 errors.
But overall, if you take a good look at Ramirez’ body of work, you have to be pleased with the production he is still capable of in the middle of a lineup at a position that is not as deep as others. With another strong season and a great track record, he has put himself in a good position to receive a nice new contract via free agency if his 16 MM option is not exercised. The only problem is, how many teams out there will be willing to pay a hefty salary for a 33 year old third baseman who seems to be past his prime? It is hard to imagine a team that would pay Ramirez an annual salary more than the 16 MM he could potentially get from his 2012 option. A multi year deal is definitely on the table however, and in fact would be more likely than not. Ramirez really isn’t THAT old, he is just an aging veteran who still has a lot left to offer, or so it seems. If Ramirez were to agree to a multi year deal it would likely be at a bit of a pay cut. In comparison, a 32 year old Adrian Beltre had an outstanding season in 2010 at the plate and is a gold glove third baseman. He received a 5-year, 80 MM dollar extension with an average annual salary of 16 MM. This would put Aramis Ramirez somewhere in between a 2-4 year deal with an average annual salary somewhere between 8-12 MM, depending on the market of course. But is there really that big of a market for Aramis? Lets take a closer look…….
Philadelphia Philles- The achilles injury to Ryan Howard has yet to project what sort of time table the NL East champs are looking at towards a recovery. Ramirez would definitely add serious power to an already solid lineup (with Howard) in one of the best hitters parks in the league. Placido Polanco is on the books at 3B for at least one more season but he could be expendable. The Phillies are competitive and can also afford a bigger salary. A lot will depend on Ryan Howard’s situation and a potential Cole Hamels extension.
Chicago Cubs- There is of course a legitimate chance that the lowly Cubs bring Ramirez back for another season. 16 MM dollars is a lot of money for a club in transition, even for a big market. But the Cubs have Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena coming off the books for certain so there is still a lot of money to play with. Losing Ramirez without any serious additions could seriously weaken an already average offense.
San Francisco Giants- The Giants desperately need offense. Pablo Sandoval is currently holding down third base but Aubrey Huff was just awful this season and Brandon Belt’s position is still not completely decided. Could pieces possibly be moved around to accommodate Ramirez? Its certainly possible and there is not much else on the market that can improve the offense at a reasonable cost. And lets be honest, expensive veteran players is GM Brian Sabean’s specialty.
Colorado Rockies- Even though GM Dan O’Dowd publicly stated that the Rockies would not be pursuing Ramirez, he makes perfect sense for them. On the contrary, the Rockies are expected to pursue David Wright this offseason, who could cost top prospects and a 15 MM dollar salary. In terms of production, they are pretty comparable players and Wright is coming off of an awful year by his standards. The 3B position is currently up for grabs and Aramis could fit in Coors perfectly. O’Dowd must have other reasoning why he’d prefer to trade top prospects. Wright is a clear better long-term solution, but as of the short term, Ramirez is pretty comparable.
Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim)- The Angels seemed like the perfect fit for multiple free agents last year including Adrian Beltre. However, they chose to forego many top players on the market and instead acquired the aging, expensive Vernon Wells. With 3B occupied by Maicer Izturis, an upgrade is very possible. But, with at the Angels payroll at an all-time high, and a new GM taking over for Tony Reagins, its hard to call what direction the payroll will head. But the Angels were close to a playoff berth this year and Ramirez could bring them even closer.
Chicago White Sox- The White Sox are more than just a bat away from competing again as there are more underlying issues to a team that has underperformed. But their home ballpark is very hitter friendly and 3B could be cleared to accompany Ramirez. Although, the White Sox are a team that should be focused on getting younger. The Alex Rios and Adam Dunn contracts might make Chicago second guess themselves but if they are going for a quick fix then Aramis might just do the trick.
Wow, what another unbelievable season in baseball it has been. Im sure there will still be a few unexpected turns as the playoffs continue on. But now it is time to give out OOTB’s final awards which have been thoroughly discussed throughout the season. A lot of tough and close decisions to be made.
While so many players in the American League had great seasons such as Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson, the one player who truly had an unbelievable season is Jacoby Ellsbury. He started the season on fire and never slowed down one bit, even though many people were anticipating it (including myself). Lets start off with the power numbers. In a year, Ellsbury transformed himself from a slap hitter into a real home run threat by hitting 32, by far a career high. Fenway Park was not a huge factor either as Ellsbury hit more home runs on the road (17) than he did at home (15). His run creation and production is remarkable as well from the leadoff position. He scored 119 times this season and managed to rack up an outstanding 105 RBI from the top of the order. While “cutting back” on speed somewhat, he still managed to steal 39 bases. He finished 2011 with a .321 batting average and a .928 OPS. His power is for real and his 83 extra base hits ( 46 2B’s) speak for themselves. But Ellsbury was not only an offensive juggernaut as he shined in the outfield as well. His UZR was a fantastic 15.6 and he did not commit a single error all season. Put all of this together and you get a 9.4 WAR, a truly unbelievable season. Its a shame the Red Sox collapsed after all this guy did for them,
Yes, i know, Matt Kemp did not carry the Dodgers to the playoffs like Ryan Braun and Justin Upton did for their respective teams. But it is hard to argue against a 5 tool player that nearly won the triple crown in the NL for the first time in decades. Coming into the season nobody really knew what Kemp was going to give the Dodgers after his disappointing 2010 and the whole Rihanna situation. But Kemp lived up to the billing as the best all around outfielder in the league since Carlos Beltran in his prime. While a gold glove may not be in Kemp’s reach for this season, he seemed to take his 2009 success and immensely build off of it. He was arguably the best player in the National League in both the first half and second half of the season. He was only one HR shy of the 40/40 club by smashing 39 HR’s and stealing 40 bases, the most lethal combination of power and speed since a young Alfonso Soriano. Posting a .324/.399/.586 stat line is nothing to sneeze at either, actually its fantastic. Kemp raised his average 75 points from last season and drove in a league high 126 runs while scoring 115 on a rather average offense. He was only .013 batting average points away from winning the triple crown. If he had won it outright, he would automatically be the MVP, so why should a simple .013 points on an average make such a difference?
This selection was a no doubter. Ever since he threw the no hitter in the beginning of the season he has been the unanimous most dominant pitcher in the AL. If he was not a household name before he certainly is now. His 24-5 record should now actually be considered, only because many of the games he singlehandedly delivered the “W” for Detroit. A 2.40 ERA (2.99 FIP) and 0.92 WHIP should jump out because they are both fantastic. His 250 K’s in 251 innings of work indicate just how nasty he was to batters all year. His ability to get deep into games and turn it up a notch when the game is on the line is a quality that few pitchers, if any possess. I cannot think of another pitcher other than Nolan Ryan (and maybe Stephen Strasburg) who can hit triple digits with precision when they are deep into a game as Verlander so often does. We all knew he had the talent to dominate the league but this year he has just taken his game to a whole different level. It is not even fair for the hitter standing in the box most of the time.
What a season it has been for Mr. Kershaw. It is a shame that he and Matt Kemp had such brilliant seasons and yet still didn’t have a supporting cast to bring them into the playoffs. Kershaw out-dueled Tim Lincecum on opening day and never took his foot off the gas after that. As good as Verlander has been, Kershaw has been just as good, he just does not have the 2 no-hitters on his resume. Te 23 year old ace lead the league with a 2.28 ERA (2.47 FIP) and with 248 K’s in 233 innings. He would have outright won the pitching triple crown with his 21 wins if it wasn’t for Ian Kennedy of the Diamondbacks. Beating Tim Linecum one time in a season is difficult enough and Kershaw did it 3 times. He came into the league with massive expectations and is certainly living up to them. A 0.98 WHIP and a 4.59 K:BB ratio is just phenomenal. In terms of salary, service time, and results, Clayton Kershaw may be the most valuable asset a team can have out of every player in the league. He is only 23 and has already accomplished so much. He has some career ahead of him and Dodger fans have every right to be thrilled.
Another tough decision but putting wins aside, Michael Pineda has been a slight cut above the rest of a very good AL rookie crop. His main competition was Jeremy Hellickson and Ivan Nova for pitchers and it seems that both of them benefited from their respective teams much more than Pineda did. It is hard to finish with only a 9-10 record in 28 starts when you have pitched considerably well. But the Mariners really brought Pineda down and took him out of the spotlight that he deserved to be in. Pineda pitched to a 3.74 ERA with an even better 3.42 FIP in 171 innings of work. He struck out 173 batters which is just about at a batter per innings pace. A 1.10 WHIP is also very good for any pitcher, especially a rookie. His 55 BB’s this season is pretty reasonable and a bit above average for such a young pitcher with explosive stuff ad is good for a 2.89 BB/9 ratio. Not exactly on Cliff Lee’s level but I think the Mariners will be more than happy with that. The 1st half was clearly his better portion of the season as he began to wear down at the end of the season. This year’s innings total clearly exceeded all of his career high’s in the minors so it is not much of a surprise. But don’t let his overuse deter you, Pineda showed that he can be a top of the rotation pitcher with a little more experience and development. Him and King Felix could make for a scary combination, now if Seattle can just score for them.
This one isn’t even close, Craig Kimbrel had a phenomenal rookie season and was arguably the most dominant relief pitcher on the majors. Wow, the Braves have something special here with this kid. Its a shame his season ended on a bad not when he blew the save to the Cardinals on the last day of the season. He may have been overworked and showed a slight decline towards the end of the season as he appeared in 79 games, a huge workload. But he still managed to break Neftali Feliz’ rookie record of 40 saves as he recorded 46 of them.Whats fantastic is Kimbrel’s 18 earned runs allowed in the entire season in 77 innings pitched. Combine that with 127 K’s and only 32 BB’s, and you have the ingredients for a special season out of the pen. His K/9 rate is through the roof in 14.84 that only a reliever like Carlos Marmol could come near. Kimbrel finished the season with a 2.10 ERA and ensured the Braves that he definitely is the closer of the future. Him and Venters is about as good of a combo in the bullpen as you can get.
Joe Maddon may have threw his name in the hat for being the best manager in all of baseball after all he has accomplished with this young and talented Rays team. Despite some rough times during the season, including the Manny Ramirez circus act, Maddon has always had a positive attitude and never gave in one bit. His instinct and intelligence for the game is undeniable combine that with a winning mentality and positive personality and you have the recipe for success. Even when the Rays were 9 games out he never gave in and neither did his players. The result is the most unbelievable comeback in the history of baseball.With such a little budget and such a young team, Maddon has guided the Rays to 3 playoff appearances and 2 AL East titles in the last 4 seasons. A remarkable achievement and it doesn’t seem like the Rays are going away anytime soon. In fact, they are only getting better.
The Arizona Diamondbacks may just well be the story of the season in the entire league. After an offseason in which Mark Reynolds was shipped off and there was a power shift to new GM Kevin Towers, nobody could have imagined that the D’Backs could make the playoffs. In Gibson’s first year as manager he took Arizona from the basement of the NL West to a comfortable position at the top. There are some stars that are coming into their own on this team, with Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy coming to mind, but you still have to give a heck of a lot of credit for Gibson’s job. Regardless of what Arizona does in October, its been a fantastic season for Gibson and the young D’backs.
Everybody has heard of the baseball prodigy Bryce Harper, who was taken as the number 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB amateur draft. But not nearly as many people have heard about the young high school pitcher who was taken right after him. His name is Jameson Taillon and the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted him so much that they paid 6.5 MM dollars to sign him. The Pirates have historically done poorly with drafting pitchers with their top draft picks, but the general consensus around the league is that this 19 year old right hander is the real deal. So much that the Nationals considered drafting Taillon over Harper and the Pirates actually ranked him slightly higher than Harper.
Taillon is listed as 6’6” and 225 lbs which is huge for his age. He has the body frame of a strong, athletic pitcher who can be a workhorse. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot with all of his pitches which makes it very hard for batters to recognize what is coming. Taillon puts a lot of effort into his pitches in which he starts with a high, quick leg kick, and then drives hard towards the plate where he generates a little extra velocity. His repeated mechanics is very impressive for his young age and experience which makes him a very appealing pitcher to scouts, and that is without even getting to his pitches.
Taillon was arguably the best arm coming out of the entire 2010 draft class and it was so impressive that the Pirates could not pass him up, even though he was coming straight out of high school. The first thing that jumps out about Taillon when you watch him pitch is his explosive fastball. It seems that the ball just jumps out of his hand every time he pitches. His fastball is described b many scouts as a plus pitch that sits in the mid 90′s and occasionally will touch the upper 90′s, even as high as 99 once reported. Having the velocity is one thing but to be able to harness it and control it is another. Taillon has this ability to really command his fastball and locate with ease, something very impressive from a high school pitcher. He is projected to have plus command as he develops and already is tapping into it. he is not going to be a pitcher that walks many batters at all. Next comes his hard curveball that is also viewed as a plus pitch. He throws the curve from the same arm slot as his others, making it hard to pick up. Taillon also features a slider that also has plus potential because of its high velocity and movement. This is not just your ordinary “get-me-over” breaking ball. The slider could become the most devastating pitch in his arsenal. Finally, Taillon has to keep hitters onest with his change-up as a 4th pitch. This pitch is still in development but there is no reason to believe that it can’t and wont be an average pitch given time. With 4 pitches total and 3 potential plus pitches all from the same 3/4 arm slot, Taillon has the makeup of a potential ace when you combine that with his physical attributes.
Taillon is still a long way away from the majors as he just finished his first professional season in Class-A ball where he pitched to a 3.98 ERA (3.37 FIP) WITH 97 K’S and only 22 BB’s in 92 innings. That is a fantastic K:BB ratio for a young pitcher. Assuming he begins 2012 in either A or AA, it does not look like next season is a realistic timeframe to expect Taillon to break the majors. 2013 is much more of a plausible scenario and the Pirates are certainly in no rush to force their prized possession through the minor league ranks too soon. But he is still a player to keep a serious eye on as he could become the Pirates long needed ace of the staff in a few short years. Only time will tell but as of right now the Pirates have huge expectations and high hopes for Jameson Taillon.