2016 National League Preview & Predictions

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The Major League Baseball season is only four days away, so as Opening Day rosters get their final tweaks and additions, is there a better time than now to preview the season for the National League?

There is a lot of disparity between the American and National League this season, as almost every team in the American League is in position to attempt to compete for a playoff spot, while several National League teams are in rebuilding mode.

NL EAST

1. New York Mets (95-67)

The Mets are built to win now. They have one of the deepest, if not the deepest, starting rotations in baseball. It will only get boosted further when P Zack Wheeler returns mid

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Mets’ 3B David Wright will be a key player for the team this season.

season after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. The team added SS Asdrubal Cabrera in the off season, and he will prove to be a major upgrade both offensively and defensively. With OF Yoenis Cespedes returning and a full year of OF Michael Conforto in the outfield, the Mets’ offense should be improved. The X-Factor for the team will be if 3B David Wright can stay healthy and contribute at a competent level. It will be interesting to see if back injuries have sapped Wright of his power.

2. Washington Nationals (85-77)

I’m not as high on the Nationals as most are. First off, they are a perpetually injury plagued team. 1B Ryan Zimmerman will inevitably miss some time. OF Jayson Werth, P Stephen Strasburg, and 3B Anthony Rendon have shown themselves to be injury prone as well. Without P Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals are down a No. 2 starter, putting a lot more pressure on Strasburg to perform in a contract year. With one of the game’s best pitching prospects, P Lucas Giolito, set to debut at some point in the summer, the Nats will receive some reinforcements, but I don’t believe it will be enough to make the playoffs.

3. Miami Marlins (81-81)

The Marlins are a work in progress. They are moving in the right direction, but it will take another off season of positive momentum to put this team in position for the playoffs. First, the Marlins must get OF Giancarlo Stanton and P Jose Fernandez through the season healthy. While I believe they will make it through 2016, I don’t see the back end of the Marlins’ starting rotation or bullpen holding its own through the year, limiting the team to a .500 record.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)

Fresh off a season as the worst team in baseball, the Phillies are primed for an improvement. It’s not a monumental improvement, but one nonetheless. This season is a critical one in the rebuilding process for the Phils, as many of their top prospects will debut one after another during the summer. If veteran players perform, like 1B Ryan Howard and Ps Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, expect Philadelphia to be players at the Trade Deadline to add even more depth to an already deep farm system.

5. Atlanta Braves (62-100)

The Braves are built to lose. The goal for the season is to continue to build the farm system in hopes of building a semi-competitive team for the opening of a new ballpark in the coming seasons, in order to build a winner in the future. 1B Freddie Freeman and P Julio Teheran are the best pieces that the team has, and while they have repeatedly said that neither will be traded, if they receive an offer that blows them away, they will take it. I fully expect the Braves to be the worst team in baseball this season. Expect them to be players at the Trade Deadline, shipping any and every veteran with value away for prospects.

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago Cubs (98-64)

I believe the Cubs will be the best team in the National League. They are too deep to not win. This is the best team that manager Joe Maddon has ever had, and he will be able to

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The Chicago Cubs are looking to build off of their success from 2015.

mix and match his way through the season. The team added OF Jason Heyward and P John Lackey from the rival Cardinals, and both moves will prove to be critical down the stretch. This team could be an offensive juggernaut that has just enough pitching to make a deep October run. I’d expect the team to add a relief arm or two around the Trade Deadline to solidify the end of games.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (95-67)

The Cards are in the middle of one of the best divisions in baseball. I believe they will come up just short of the Cubs for the division crown, but still have what it takes to take a Wild Card spot. In comparison to the Cubs, the Cardinals don’t have the same offensive firepower, but have great starting pitching depth. If P Adam Wainwright can make it through the season healthy, the Cardinals top four starters rival any other team’s foursome in the game today. That will be enough to carry them through most of the season, as Cardinals’ hitters are notoriously timely and clutch, with OF/1B Matt Holliday leading the way offensively.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (93-69)

Another year, another spot in the Wild Card game for the Bucs. While this team doesn’t have the financial power that its rivals do, the Pirates may still manage to have the most balanced squad in this division. The pitching staff is led by P Gerrit Cole, who is looking to cement his ace status with another terrific performance this season. The team will receive a boost from top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon debuting at some point this summer, giving the Pirates the potential for a deep rotation. On offense, the team is led by OF Andrew McCutchen, but it is OFs Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte that are primed for big, breakout campaigns. Look for the Pirates’ outfield to be one of the best in baseball.

4. Cincinnati Reds (70-92)

The Reds have the unfortunate task of rebuilding in one of the deepest divisions in baseball. The team’s pitching staff is young, but extremely inexperienced. This will hurt the team all season long. With aging veterans 2B Brandon Phillips and OF Jay Bruce occupying roster spots that are better suited for prospects needing to prove themselves, expect the Reds to move them at the Trade Deadline. 1B Joey Votto is still one of the best hitters in baseball, but will be plagued by having no help around him offensively.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (64-98)

Baseball won’t be fun to watch in Milwaukee this summer. Another team in rebuilding mode, the Brewers are even worse off than the Reds in this division. The Brewers have little to no starting pitching depth, and boast only OF Ryan Braun as the lone intimidating offensive threat. C Jonathan Lucroy is a valuable piece, but I fully expect the Brewers to move him before the Trade Deadline for a return of prospects. It will be a few seasons before the Brewers are in position to compete again.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants (94-68)

It’s an even year, so the Giants are set to win the World Series, right? Well, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, as the Giants have one of the best starting rotations in

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Giants’ OF Hunter Pence plays a vital role in energizing the team.

baseball. Led by P Madison Bumgarner, the Giants added Ps Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardizija to the mix. With P Matt Cain returning from injury and Jake Peavy as a holdover the Giants have the makings of a dominant rotation. On offense, the team is led by C Buster Posey and OF Hunter Pence. The team is depending on Pence remaining healthy through the summer, but also betting on repeat performances from SS Brandon Crawford and IF Matt Duffy. I like those odds, and believe the Giants will find their way into the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)

The Dodgers aren’t a bad team, but just not good enough to make the playoffs. Unable to make it out of Spring Training without a significant amount of injuries to its starting rotation, the Dodgers are already starting off the season in a deficit with a first-year manager. P Clayton Kershaw will still be a dominant force, and I expect P Kenta Maeda and SS Corey Seager to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, but pitching is what will ultimately keep LA out of the postseason.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)

All of Arizona’s big, flashy moves in the off season have to work, right? Wrong. Yes, bringing in P Zack Greinke is a huge plus, and P Shelby Miller would’ve won 10 more games had he been in Arizona last season, but the team still plays its home games at Chase Field. That is not the easiest place for pitchers to succeed, and I believe their additions will find that it is a bit difficult to perform in that environment. On offense, 1B Paul Goldschmidt is still carrying the load, and I don’t believe that DBacks have added enough around him to make a truly elite offensive club. The team is hoping for 3B/OF Yasmany Tomas to have a big season, but I don’t think that will be enough in this pitching heavy division.

4. San Diego Padres (73-89)

The Padres are in a curious position. After GM A.J. Preller made moves like acquiring OF Matt Kemp and P James Shields last off season, the team appeared to be primed to compete. However, when those moves proved to be faulty, as Shields gave up far too many home runs, and Kemp showed that he may never truly regain his previous form from his heydays in LA. Now, I expect the Pads to try and move veterans, like Shields and Kemp, in an attempt to offload payroll and acquire prospects. This team is simply not good enough to compete in any facet of the game.

5. Colorado Rockies (68-94)

The Rockies are stuck in the cellar of the NL West. It isn’t necessarily their fault, as they are in the midst of a rebuild without much good pitching. The team is hoping for P Jon Gray to get healthy and on track to make good on his previous top prospect form. P Jeff Hoffman, acquired in last season’s Troy Tulowitzki trade, may very well debut this season, and outside of 3B Nolan Arenado, that is the most excitement that Rockies’ fans will have this season. Wait on those prospects, they’re coming.

Look out for my American League preview & predictions, which will be followed by my 2016 MLB Postseason Predictions.

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Trade Possibilities for Gonzalez, Tulowitzki

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The Colorado Rockies are a franchise at a crossroads. After being out of the race for a few seasons now, the Rockies decided to finally make an organizational change, and have embraced new front office staff and philosophies. With new front office staff usually comes many new players, but sometimes a franchise may hold onto their current stars to build around them. This is the decision the Rockies’ face regarding OF Carlos Gonzalez, and SS Troy Tulowitzki this off season. The team can either build around these oft-injured stars, or try and trade them now while they are still have years left on their contract, and their value is high.

Before this off season, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki were mentioned as “untouchable” players that the Rockies would never

Troy Tulowitzki (above) is being mentioned in trade rumors as the MLB off season begins.

Troy Tulowitzki (above) is being mentioned in trade rumors as the MLB off season begins.

think about trading. Now, with a new General Manager and direction, the idea is being tossed around. To me, this signals that the Rockies are looking to move one, if not both of the players this off season. My thinking is, “why not?” Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are dynamic talents when they are healthy, but each has missed significant playing time over the past three seasons. When these players are hurt, they are essentially just taking up payroll, and handcuffing the team financially from making any improvements.

If either were to be traded, I’d have to believe it would be Tulowitzki, who has previously voiced his displeasure about the Rockies’ lack of talent, and would bring the most value back in a trade. When he’s healthy, Tulowitzki is one of the best shortstops in baseball. Of course, there would be a number of teams interested, but I’d have to believe that the only real contenders for his services are the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Atlanta Braves. These teams are not only teams with a need at the shortstop position, but also are the only teams that have any prospects of value that would interest the Rockies.

First, I believe the most logical landing spot would be the Yankees. Obviously, SS Derek Jeter will be gone next season, so there is a meteoric-sized hole to fill. Plus, with young talent in their minor leagues, and some young talent on the Major League roster, the Yankees would be able to put together a package that should entice the Rockies. However, I don’t think it’s the best package they could get for Tulowitzki. The most value they could receive would be from either the Chicago Cubs or New York Mets, who currently boast some of the better farm systems in baseball. Each team would be able to offer Colorado some pitching prospects that the team definitely needs. Overall, if the Rockies move Tulowitzki, I would expect it to be to one of those six teams, for a package of 3 top prospects, or Major League ready talent.

On the other hand, Gonzalez may be a hard piece for the Rockies to move. Despite being a valuable player when healthy, Gonzalez posted career-worst numbers in 2014 while again battling injuries. I think the best move for the Rockies would be to hold onto Gonzalez until he proves that he is healthy, and then trade him at the Trade Deadline when his value is higher. While I’m sure there are a number of teams currently interested, I don’t think the Rockies would be able to receive the caliber of players they would want in return for Gonzalez.

All in all, I believe both players’ time with the team is short. I believe the Rockies will go the rebuilding route, looking to acquire as much young talent as possible for their veterans.

MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Prediction Contest

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Every year, MLBTradeRumors does a free agent prediction contest, where you predict where the top 50 free agents will sign this off season. I have participated in this contest in the past, and this year, I figured I would chronicle my picks! Here are where I think the top 50 MLB Free Agents will sign this off season:

1.  Max Scherzer – Tigers. Obviously, Scherzer is familiar with the Tigers organization, and has enjoyed success there. If Scherzer would’ve accepted one of the extensions Detroit had offered in season, he would’ve lost money. I think going to free agency is just a formality, and a way to make the Tigers ante up and pay Scherzer. I totally expect the Tigers to retain him, and keep together Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price together for at least one full season.

2.  Jon Lester – Cubs. This has been the most often rumored signing, even before the off season. Lester, a former

Jon Lester (above) is expected to join the Chicago Cubs this off season.

Jon Lester (above) is expected to join the Chicago Cubs this off season.

Boston Red Sox pitcher, has obvious ties to Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, and the Cubs have an obvious need, and the money to spend. I’d say this is as close to a done deal as possible. Although, Lester could spurn the Cubs and return to Boston to try and bring the Red Sox back to relevancy, but I think Chicago could simply offer more than Boston could at this point.

3.  James Shields – Red Sox.  If the Red Sox miss out on Lester and Scherzer, as I’d expect, they’ll need to add one front line starter. Shields fits the role, as he has been an innings-eater for years. Also, Shields has only pitched in the American League, and has familiarity with the AL East after pitching with the Tampa Bay Rays for a number for years. Shields should cost considerably less than Scherzer and Lester, which makes him an attractive addition for Boston,

4.  Hanley Ramirez – Yankees. The Yankees need to make a splash this off season, and with the retirement of SS Derek Jeter and 3B/DH Alex Rodriguez being a more uncertain option than ever, New York must add a piece to the left side of their infield. Enter Hanley Ramirez, who is one of the top hitters in the game when he is healthy. Ramirez would be a great addition to the Yankees’ aging lineup, and should be able to take advantage of the hitters’ park in the Bronx.

5.  Pablo Sandoval – Giants.  There’s just simply no way the Giants can let their icon, Kung Fu Panda, leave via free agency. Despite inconsistencies in the past five seasons, Sandoval has proven to be one of the game’s most clutch performers, and has been apart of each of the team’s three World Series rings in the past five years. I’d say that re-signing Sandoval would have to be the top priority of the San Francisco Giants.

6.  Victor Martinez – Tigers. I think the Tigers will stick with the trend of keeping their players, and pay Martinez for the extraordinary performance he displayed this past season. Also, I think Martinez is happy that he is now healthy, and enjoyed the success and situation he has had in Detroit. Why mess with something that’s already working, right? It will be interesting to see if a team blows Martinez out of the water with an offer he can’t refuse, but I’d imagine locking him up is tied with re-signing Scherzer at the top of the Tigers’ off season to-do list.

7.  Melky Cabrera – Rangers.  After another solid season, Cabrera is looking to cash in on a long term deal, and the Rangers have a need in the outfield. Texas will be looking to rebound, and adding Cabrera to a line up already featuring OF Shin Soo Choo and 1B Prince Fielder will give the Rangers a great left-handed attack against the strong right-handed pitching in the AL West.

8.  Russell Martin – Pirates.  Had the Pirates not given Martin a qualifying offer, I would’ve guessed that he would leave to another team offering more money. Now, I think teams will shy away from relinquishing their first round pick to sign Martin. I would expect this situation to go deep into the off season before being resolved, but I ultimately expect Martin to remain in Pittsburgh.

Nelson Cruz (above) is expected to cash in this off season.

Nelson Cruz (above) is expected to cash in this off season.

9.  Nelson Cruz – Mariners.  Cruz represents the biggest power bat on the free agent market, and the Mariners have an obvious need for a power bat. Plus, Cruz can DH and play the outfield, which were areas the Mariners were weak in last season. A 3-4 combination of 2B Robinson Cano and Cruz would make the Mariners look extremely formidable in the AL West.

10.  Yasmany Tomas – Phillies.  The Phillies will have some money to spend, but will want to spend it wisely on a young player that has potential to carry a team. Look no further than Cuban OF Yasmany Tomas, who is said to have a power bat similar to fellow Cuban slugger and White Sox 1B Jose Abreu. Tomas is only 23, which is perfect for the Phillies’ situation, as it would allow him a couple years of experience at the Major League level before being expected to compete.

11.  Ervin Santana – Braves.  Santana was a victim of the qualifying offer last season, and received the offer again, but this year from the Braves. However, I expect this offer is just a formality before the club figures out a deal for a pitcher who has proven to be durable, and was one of the Braves’ best pitchers this past season.

12.  Kenta Maeda – Boston Red Sox. You never know which team is going to make a splash in the Japanese market, but in the past, big market teams have seemed to attract the most big name Japanese talent. This year, the market is headed by Maeda, who has been a dominant starter in Japan for a few seasons. With the Red Sox having a need for starting pitching, and having acquired P Daisuke Matsuzaka from Japan in the past, I think Boston is the best positioned to make this deal happen.

13.  David Robertson – Yankees.  Robertson has performed so admirably since P Mariano Rivera retired that I think the Yankees’ simply can’t let him walk. Also, they gave him a qualifying offer, and I think that will scare many teams away. Therefore, I’d expect Robertson to return to the Yankees for one more season as their closer, before scoring big next off season.

14.  Brandon McCarthy – Yankees. After struggling mightily with the Diamondbacks early in 2014, McCarthy had a rebirth with the Yankees, pitching well during the second half of the season. With the Yankees needing options for what was an oft-injured rotation last season, bringing McCarthy back with a slight raise is the best option for the team,

15.  Francisco Liriano – Pirates.  Liriano is another victim of the qualifying offer, and I think he is another player who will have his market thinned. Ultimately, I’d expect Liriano to take the deal, in the hopes of signing an extension with the Pirates, or scoring big on a contract next off season.

16.  Chase Headley – Red Sox.  The Red Sox have had a black hole at third base ever since 3B Kevin Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Headley is one of the most solid third baseman on the market, and also offers the versatility to play corner outfield spots, first base, and DH. Versatile players are the style of player Boston likes, and I’d expect them to be willing to add Headley.

17.  Andrew Miller – Tigers.  The Tigers watched their division rival, the Kansas City Royals, ride their strong bullpen all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. If they add Miller, they would have a strong 7-9 innings, with Miller and Ps Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan. While Detroit will mostly focus on keeping their own players, bringing in Miller would be a good way to cap off the off season.

18.  Justin Masterson – Angels.  This past season, the Angels suffered many injuries in their starting rotation, losing Ps Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver for different portions of the season. While the team doesn’t have enough free payroll to commit a big contract to a pitcher, adding a player like Masterson, who is looking to rebuild his value after an injury-plagued season, would be a nice fit for Los Angeles.

19.  Aramis Ramirez – Brewers.  Simply put, Ramirez exercised his part of a mutual option in his contract. He’s returning to the Brewers. 1 for 1. Yay!

20.  Colby Rasmus – Mets.  Rasmus is looking for a change of scenery, after wearing out his welcome in both Toronto and St. Louis. The Mets have an obvious need in the outfield, and Rasmus could be of interest as a moderate to low cost option that could end up having tremendous value. Adding Rasmus would be a great addition to the Mets’ line up.

21.  Jed Lowrie – Reds.  The Cincinnati Reds suffered a number of injuries last season, and often had to shuffle their infield. Adding Lowrie, a versatile player who is capable of manning shortstop, second and third base, would be a nice addition for the Reds. It gives the team a solid utility player that can be relied upon in case injuries strike the team again.

22.  Jason Hammel – Astros.  Houston will be looking to take a step forward this season, and adding a veteran pitcher to the top of the rotation would be a big first step to that. Hammel has shown in the past that he is durable and consistent, and he shouldn’t demand an outrageous contract for the rebuilding Astros.

23.  Asdrubal Cabrera – Mets.  Cabrera is viewed as more of a starting player than Lowrie is in my opinion, and the New York Mets have had weak play at the shortstop position since trading SS Jose Reyes. Adding Cabrera would bring great defense and above average offense to a position that has plagued New York in the past few seasons,

24.  Nick Markakis – Orioles.  Both sides want this deal to get done, as Baltimore is the only home that Markakis has ever known. It’s just about agreeing on the terms of a salary, and with Markakis’s reputation as a team-player, I’d expect him to take whatever allows the Orioles to make other moves this off season.

25.  Adam LaRoche – Pirates.  LaRoche is talking about retiring soon, so why not return to a place he had a few successful seasons earlier in his career? Also, Pittsburgh is a contending team with a need at first base, which makes them a logical fit for LaRoche, who shouldn’t demand an outrageous contract. This addition would give Pittsburgh the most stability they’ve had at the position in years.

26.  Jake Peavy – Cubs.  I would think that Peavy’s first preference would be to stay with the San Francisco Giants, but after his performance late in the season, I think he’s simply put himself out of the Giants’ price range. On the other hand, the Cubs have money to spend and openings in the rotation, and are in the running to sign Peavy’s longtime friend, P Jon Lester. All these factors have me believing Peavy will end up in Chicago.

27.  Hiroki Kuroda – Yankees.  At this point, it’s Yankees or retirement for Kuroda. I’d fully expect New York to meet

Hiroki Kuroda (above) is expected to finish his career with the Yankees.

Hiroki Kuroda (above) is expected to finish his career with the Yankees.

Kuroda’s salary demands, as he was their most consistent starter in each of the past two seasons. Look for Kuroda to return on another one year contract.

28.  Mike Morse – Orioles. After losing out on OF Nelson Cruz, like I predict they will, the Orioles will look to add another player on a low salary, looking to rebound. Morse is right-handed, like Cruz, and can play the outfield, first base, and DH. The versatility Morse provides is something that attracts manager Buck Showalter, and makes him a likely candidate to be an Oriole next season,

29.  Michael Cuddyer – Rockies.  The Rockies gave Cuddyer a qualifying offer, which surprised me. I couldn’t imagine that any team would want to pay Cuddyer more than that, so I’d fully expect him to return for another year with the Rockies.

30.  Alex Rios – Reds.  Cincinnati fell apart down the stretch, and adding consistent offense in the outfield has to be a priority for the Reds this off season. While they don’t have a lot of money to spend, adding Rios would give the team a solid-right handed bat at a reasonable price.

31.  Edinson Volquez  – Braves. After falling apart down the stretch, the Braves will look to add rotation depth going into this coming season. Volquez fits the Braves’ model, as he is coming off a season where he isn’t expected to land a big deal, but is still a solid pitcher that has big upside. Adding Volquez would give the Braves another veteran to help man their rotation.

32.  Luke Gregerson – Red Sox.  If GM Ben Cherington’s words hold true, the Red Sox fully expect to contend in 2015. By adding Gregerson, the Red Sox would build a bullpen with a strong setup man, in a similar fashion that the Royals had this season. It will be one of a few pieces the Red Sox will look to add this off season.

33.  Torii Hunter – Tigers.  I’d think that at this point, it’s either play for the Tigers or retire for Hunter. After coming so close to a World Series in the past few seasons and showing limited decline, I’d think both sides would be interested in reuniting for a couple more seasons.

34.  A.J. Burnett – Retirement.  While Burnett can still pitch, and his strikeout numbers show it, he simply isn’t in good enough shape to have control with his pitches anymore. After essentially wasting a season with the Phillies, I would think that Burnett would have to rebuild his value this season. At this point in his career, I think Burnett would rather retire and spend time with his family than go through the trials and tribulations of another Major League season.

35.  Sergio Romo – Blue Jays. After striking out with their last closer, P Sergio Santos, Toronto will hope to get it right with P Sergio Romo. After what could be considered a down year in 2014, Romo shouldn’t demand a huge contract, but has shown the ability to be able to perform on a big stage, which should be attractive to the Jays.

36.  Francisco Rodriguez – Brewers. Rodriguez has made himself a home in the back of the Brewers bullpen, and I expect that they will reward him with a three or four year deal this off season. I think other teams will be interested in other options before Rodriguez, making his re-signing with Milwaukee logical.

37.  Rafael Soriano – Mariners.  Soriano pitched with Seattle earlier in his career, and now that they are a contending club, he could potentially return as a closer. The Mariners have more money to spend than in the past, and adding a true closer in the bullpen would be a great addition to a team on the verge of the playoffs.

38.  Ryan Vogelsong – Giants.  Vogelsong is another player that has made himself a home, and I would expect that the Giants will hold onto the durable right-hander who will come at a reasonable price. After winning a World Series, the Giants will have to face payroll increase, so securing low-cost players that are valuable, like Vogelsong, will be key.

39.  Aaron Harang – Braves. After re-establishing his value with the Braves last season, Harang could be looking to cash in this off season. While he could have quite a few suitors, I think the Braves would want to retain him to have some rotation depth, and after some success, I think Harang would be interested in re-signing as well. It will be interesting to see what kind of contract Harang will demand as the free agent pitching market plays out,

40.  Nori Aoki – Giants.  After losing to them in the World Series, I predict that Aoki will join the Giants this off season. The Royals won’t have the money to keep all of their free agents, and the Giants will be looking to add to an outfield that will need some depth going into next season. Aoki is the type of player that the Giants can plug into the top of their order, which is something they lacked during much of the season.

41.  Billy Butler – Blue Jays.  While Butler has publicly stated that he wants to return to the Kansas City Royals, I

Billy Butler (above) may have to leave his beloved Royals this off season.

Billy Butler (above) may have to leave his beloved Royals this off season.

believe he is simply out of their price range. On the other hand, Toronto is a team looking to take that final step forward, and adding a big bat to their 1B/DH mix would help keep their offense consistent. Plus, Butler wouldn’t demand a huge salary, and would be a reasonable fit for the Blue Jays.

42.  Stephen Drew – Athletics.  After falling victim to the qualifying offer last season, Drew had a dreadful 2014 season, and will be looking for an opportunity to rebuild his value. The Oakland Athletics are a team that needs a stopgap player at shortstop until prospect SS Daniel Robertson is ready to play at the Major League level. It seems like they are a perfect fit for each other.

43.  Emilio Bonifacio – Braves.  Bonifacio had a bit of a comeback year with the Cubs and Braves this past season, and rebuilt value going into this off season. While other Atlanta outfielders were inconsistent last season, Bonifcacio was able to be a spark for the team, and I’d expect them to want to retain him on a multi-year deal.

44.  Casey Janssen – Dodgers.  The Dodgers have a proven closer in P Kenley Jansen, but they have a lot of trouble getting him the ball. Janssen is a proven setup pitcher, and would be an affordable addition to this competing team.

45.  Pat Neshek – Orioles.  After dominating opponents in a comeback year with the Cardinals, Neshek will be looking to cash in on a deal this off season. The right-hander should have a lot of suitors, but after losing some pitchers in the off season, I’d expect the Orioles to make a play and try and make Neshek a part of their bullpen.

46.  Brandon Morrow – Phillies.  Morrow is a player that has been injury-plagued through his entire career, but has been impressive when healthy. He will be looking to rebuild his value, and I’d fully expect him to be looking for a one year deal with a team. The Phillies, who are admittedly a few years away from contention, are looking for pitching depth, and could hope to add Morrow in the hopes that he becomes a valuable player or trade chip down the road.

47.  Jason Grilli – Mets. The Mets are going to be looking to compete this season, so adding a veteran reliever like Grilli, who has experience closing, would behoove New York. P Bobby Parnell has been injury-plagued in the past, so having depth in the bullpen should be a priority for the Mets.

48.  Brett Anderson – Yankees.  Anderson was rumored to be going to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline, but now that he is free of his prior contract constraints, the Yankees can add him on a cheap, incentive laden deal that gives Anderson the ability to rebuild his value. On the other hand, the Yankees will hope that the once promising left-hander becomes lightning-in-a-bottle, and a steal of a signing.

49.  Josh Johnson – Padres.  Johnson missed all of this past season, which was supposed to be his first as a Padre. He is rumored to have said that he feels that he has “unfinished business” in San Diego, which would lead me to believe that’s his first choice to play for next season. Plus, the team has supported Johnson throughout his rehab process, and would be the best place for Johnson to land.

50.  Jung-ho Kang – Angels.  Kang is looking to become the first position player to jump from the Korean League to the MLB. It is rumored that the Angels are looking to move either 3B David Freese or 2B Howie Kendrick to free up some payroll, so adding Kang, who I wouldn’t expect to be overly expensive, could be an interesting option for the team. He is said to have the ability to play shortstop and second and third base, which could make him an intriguing option for the Angels.

Here’s to hoping that my predictions are correct! Hopefully, my opinion and insight will help you enjoy and understand the upcoming MLB Free Agent period.

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

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The 2014 MLB Trade Deadline was definitely one of the most active that I can remember in the past 10 years. Two ace pitchers, Jon Lester and David Price, were dealt away. The Major League best Oakland A’s traded away their cleanup hitter, and arguably their best player. On top of all that, the team that was expected to be the deadline’s biggest seller, the Philadelphia Phillies, did nothing at all.

Overall, I believe some teams made great moves that either helped them in the short term or long term, while other team’s moves or non-moves have left me scratching my head. Here’s my take on this year’s Trade Deadline winners and losers:

WINNERS

Boston Red Sox

Dare I say that the Boston Red Sox were the Trade Deadline’s biggest winner? The Sox are clearly out of the postseason

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

picture this year, and had trade assets. Not to mention they received great offers. For less than half a season of P Jon Lester, the Sox got a little more than a year of OF Yoenis Cespedes, plus a chance to resign him to a large contract that Oakland couldn’t have afforded. There’s also the potential of Lester returning to the Red Sox via free agency this off season.  Boston wasn’t done there, and turned around quickly to deal P John Lackey to the Cardinals for P Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. For less than a season and a half of Lackey, the Red Sox acquired two young, controllable players who have each performed at a high level in the Major Leagues, but have struggled with injuries this season. Craig, 29, has driven in 90 runs in a season twice before, and can’t become a free agent until 2018. Kelly, 26, won 10 games last season, and can’t become a free agent until 2019. Finally, the Red Sox dealt P Andrew Miller to the division rival Baltimore Orioles, for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. A great haul came in return for two expiring contracts and a veteran pitcher.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski has to be thinking that if this move doesn’t put Detroit over the top, I don’t know what will. The Tigers acquired former Cy Young award winner P David Price from the Rays, and sent OF Austin Jackson to the Mariners and P Drew Smyly and infield prospect Willy Adames to the Rays. This trade gives them an incredible top three pitchers of Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who have each won the Cy Young. However, acquiring a great player isn’t the only reason the Tigers are winner of this trade deadline. They won because they didn’t give up their entire farm system, or lose any major pieces of the puzzle, and still added an impact pitcher to the fold. This move won’t hurt Detroit that much down the road if they fail to resign Price this off season. At least it gives them the first crack at trying to retain his services, as well as a legitimate shot at a World Series title.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s made the first splash of the day, acquiring P Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes. While the loss of Cespedes hurts, realistically, the A’s had no chance at resigning him next off season, and got the best value that they could for him now. Bringing Lester into the fold gives them an ace of the staff, and someone who can show the younger pitchers how to handle the postseason. It’s a toss up between who has the better rotation now, between the Tigers and A’s. However, Oakland did what was necessary to cement them as one of the league’s best teams going into the stretch run of the season. To soften the blow of losing Cespedes’ bat, the A’s reacquired OF Sam Fuld from the Minnesota Twins, forming a Fuld/Gomes platoon in the outfield.


 

LOSERS

Philadelphia Phillies

How is it possible that you are rumored to be the team with the most pieces to sell, be in last place in your division, and

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

simply stand pat and do nothing at the Trade Deadline? Well, Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro did just that, and didn’t make a single deal at the deadline. Simply, the Phillies should have paid attention to what the Red Sox did, and maybe try and reload for next season since this one is an obvious lost cause. Instead, the Phillies will attempt to be active in August, passing their players through waivers to see if any team will bite and want to work out a deal. That will be the only way to massage this blow, it what is another sign of how bad this team truly is right now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be active, and I’m sure the team explored various avenues for trades, but they too stood pat. Simply put, their rotation as currently constructed is not good enough for them to compete in the postseason. The Pirates probably thought about acquiring Lester or Price, but didn’t want to lose their top prospects for players they probably have no chance of resigning. However, I’m surprised Pittsburgh didn’t try to pull off a smaller deal, similar to how the Cardinals acquired P Justin Masterson for a prospect. Maybe they could’ve tried Mets P Bartolo Colon or Padres P Ian Kennedy? It’s hard for me to accept standing pat when there are obvious needs for a competing club. Maybe they too are waiting for an August trade.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels aren’t necessarily losers because of what they did or didn’t do, but simply because of the moves the A’s and Tigers made. These are probably the three best teams in the American League right now, and there is simply no way for the Angels to match the kind of moves their peers made today by bringing in ace pitchers. Also, come playoff time, the Angels rotation will probably fall a pitcher or two short in comparison with one of their opponents. They’d better hope that those big contracts for 1B Albert Pujols and OF Josh Hamilton pay off in the postseason.


 

A LITTLE CONFUSED

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are a competing team and wanted to add veteran pitchers. I understand that. I’m just not quite sure why it was  Ps Justin Masterson and John Lackey. Masterson is having a down season, has been struggling with injury, and has seen his velocity dip. It’s tough to sell that he’s an upgrade in the rotation. Lackey is having a solid year, and comes with a cheap contract for next season, but was it really worth Joe Kelly and Allen Craig? Both players were homegrown through the St. Louis system, have performed well in the past, are controllable for multiple years and were both dealing with injuries this season. I have a hard time believing a solid return for them is Lackey. By moving Craig, the Cardinals are ultimately opening up a spot for top prospect OF Oscar Taveras to play everyday, but wouldn’t it have been wiser to keep Craig for this stretch run, and then maybe revisit moving him in the off season? I guess only time can tell with these deals, but as of now, it appears to me that the Cardinals did some subtraction, not addition.