2016 American League Preview & Predictions

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The first week of the regular season is in the books, but it’s still not too late to throw out some previews and predictions, right? Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, breaking down the highly-competitive American League team by team.

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays (96-66)

The Blue Jays are very well good enough to win 100 games, but the division they play in is

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Jose Bautista (above) looks to lead a high-powered offense into the postseason for the Jays.

the best in baseball. I have to assume that the AL East teams are going to beat up on each other, not allowing any to break away too far from the pack. The Blue Jays’ offense is loaded, and now gets a full season with SS Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup. Ace P Marcus Stroman returns after missing almost all of the 2015 season, and he is the leader of the pitching staff. If there is a weakness on this Jays’ team it is the starting pitching, but with a powerhouse offense and a solid bullpen, it’s nothing that a Trade Deadline move for another starting pitcher can’t fix.

2. Baltimore Orioles (94-68)

Picking the second team in this division was more difficult for me than the winner, as each of the teams in the AL East could make a run. However, the Orioles are constructed very similarly to the Blue Jays, in that they have a powerhouse offense. In fact, the Orioles offense may be even BETTER than the Jays, and has the potential to break the MLB record for home runs in a season. However, the Orioles starting pitching pales in comparison to its counterparts, and the team is depending on big seasons from Ps Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez. The O’s will be another team that could use a starting pitching addition at the Trade Deadline to make a run at the postseason.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (90-72)

It’s sad that the Rays have the potential to win 90 games and still miss the postseason. Led by true ace P Chris Archer, the Rays are hoping that their starting rotation can recover from injuries to hold up for one of its best offensive teams it has had in years. The Rays added OF Corey Dickerson, 1B/DH Logan Morrison and utility man Steve Pearce to add some punch and protection to 3B Evan Longoria. However, I still believe the Rays are a big bat and a few bullpen additions away from being AL East champions again.

4. Boston Red Sox (87-75)

For a fourth place team to have 87 wins is ludicrous, but that’s exactly how I believe the AL East will pan out this season. The Red Sox made some big additions in the off season, bringing in P David Price in free agency and closer Craig Kimbrel via trade. With DH David Ortiz in his final season, he surely can be expected for a large offensive output, but I believe it is the supporting cast that will let him down. OF Mookie Betts is expected to be one of MLB’s best outfielders this year, but I am not one that believes that. While Betts is a solid player, I believe he will need more time to develop before being considered a top player. 1B Hanley Ramirez should rebound with a nice season, but 3B Pablo Sandoval is doing nothing but holding the Sox back. They are a couple bats short in this offensive powerhouse of a division. Outside of Price, the Red Sox rotation has a lot of question marks, whether it be health or production. The team will be counting on young Ps Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens to produce, and it will be hard for them to succeed in this division.

5. New York Yankees (83-79)

Yes, I’m picking all 5 teams to finish above .500 in the AL East. I have no idea if the math would even allow such a thing, but it is a likely scenario to me. The Yankees are by no means a bad team, but simply not the best in this division. P C.C. Sabathia is not the same pitcher he once was, and P Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is hanging on by a thread. Outside of those two, the Yanks’ rotation is mediocre at best. On offense, New York is plagued by aging veterans on bloated contracts and little versatility. DH Alex Rodriguez will still be productive, but is no longer an option in the field. 1B Mark Teixiera is still handy with the glove, but at this point he is always a liability to be injured. OF Carlos Beltran is still a solid hitter, but his skills are rapidly declining. The Yanks will very much benefit from these players’ contracts expiring, and being able to reallocate money throughout the team. However, the bullpen has a chance to be the best in this division, and SS Starlin Castro may revive his career under the New York spotlight. There is a future coming for NYY, but I expect them to miss the postseason in 2016.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians (93-69)

Yes, I’m going to be one of those fools that picks against the Royals, AGAIN. To me, the Indians are a playoff run waiting to happen. The team’s rotation is stacked, led by former

Terry Francona

It’s up to Indians’ manager Terry Francona (above) to push the right buttons to get his team to go.

CY Young Award winner P Corey Kluber. If the team’s starting pitching can remain consistent, the Indians’ rotation could rival the Mets for the best in baseball. Offense is where the majority of the question lies with this team. OF Michael Brantley is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and is unquestionably the team’s best hitter. C/1B Carlos Santana is highly inconsistent, and the team hopes that SS Francisco Lindor can carry the load in his first full season. However, the team is led by manager Terry Francona, who has a knack for getting the most out of his players. With a couple Trade Deadline additions, such as an impact reliever and a hitter, I believe the Tribe can return to the postseason.

2. Kansas City Royals (91-71)

Look, its hard for me to pick against them, okay? Yet, this may be the year that the Royals show some chinks in their armor. OF Lorenzo Cain is already injured, and playing deep into the postseason for a couple of straight years can be taxing for any team. KC still sports one of the best bullpens in baseball, and now has P Edinson Volquez for a full season. However, every team in baseball will be gunning for them, so I expect the team to fall a few wins short of the division crown.

3. Detroit Tigers (85-77)

The Tigers are built to hit. After adding OF Justin Upton via free agency, the team sports one of the deadliest 3-4-5s in baseball. However, where the Tigers lack is pitching, as the team is relying heavily upon P Justin Verlander and free agent addition P Jordan Zimmerman to carry the load. P Anibal Sanchez had a bad season for the first time in his career in 2015, but should be able to rebound. Outside of those three, the team lacks options in both the rotation and bullpen and most certainly will be seeking arms come Trade Deadline time. In an offensive-minded American League, a team devoid of pitching is a team that will not win, a la the Tigers’ predicted third place finish.

4. Chicago White Sox (77-85)

The White Sox were expected to be better this season, but with a lack of quality pitching behind ace P Chris Sale, I expect the team to falter. P Carlos Rodon is still young, but appears that he could become a solid No. 2 behind Sale. Yet, the team is still depending on P John Danks for a bounce-back season, and has an offense that is highly dependent on 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier. The White Sox could stand to add arms to both the bullpen and rotation, and is missing a couple impact bats that its rivals will benefit from in 2016.

5. Minnesota Twins (63-99)

The Twins have the unfortunate privilege of being the worst team in the American League in 2016. With young stars OF Byron Buxton and 3B Miguel Sano getting their first year of big league experience under their belts, the future will be bright for Minnesota. Just not in 2016. The team’s pitching staff leaves much to be desired, as they are highly dependent on overpaid veterans that have struggled in the past few seasons, such as Ps Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco. As the season progresses, the Twins will be able to offload some of their productive players for much-needed prospects while letting their top young players make their MLB debuts and begin gaining experience as they build their next core.

AL WEST

1. Houston Astros (94-68)

The Astros roared their way back onto the scene in 2015, and I wouldn’t expect that to stop

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Astros’ SS Carlos Correa (above) could win the AL MVP this season.

anytime soon. Now, the team benefits from SS Carlos Correa being in the big leagues for a full season, and the kid has MVP potential. I compare him to a more athletic A-Rod of yesteryear. With a multitude of top prospects on the way, and solid hitters around him, the ‘Stros offense should roll again this season. Of course, the team sports reigning AL CY Young award winner Dallas Keuchel, who should be able to remain a top performer for years to come. The team’s rotation is solid behind him, but a Trade Deadline addition of another starter could really put this team over the top. Houston’s bullpen is strong, and they have a multitude of closing options after acquiring former Phillies’ closer Ken Giles in the off season. For now, P Luke Gregerson will remain in the role, leaving the ‘Stros with a strong 1-2 punch to close out ball games.

2. Texas Rangers (90-72)

It is hard for me to have the Rangers missing the playoffs, as I believe they are one of the best teams in baseball. P Cole Hamels will headline the rotation, but reinforcements in the way of P Yu Darvish are not far behind, giving the Rangers’ one of the best 1-2 combos at the top of a rotation in baseball. If Ps Derek Holland and Martin Perez can remain healthy, the Rangers will have a very solid rotation. The bullpen is anchored by closer Shawn Tolleson, and could still use another impact arm to bridge the gap at the end of the games. On offense, the Rangers are stacked, led by 1B Prince Fielder, who showed that he was fully healthy in 2015. Now, the team has added SS/OF Ian Desmond to the fold, and will benefit from the promotions of top prospects OF Nomar Mazara and 1B/3B/OF Joey Gallo. Mazara is a complete hitter with developing power, while Gallo is a homer-happy player in the mold of former 1B/OF Adam Dunn (so home run or strikeout). If the team can get any contribution from OF/DH Josh Hamilton this season, it will be gravy for a team that is very balanced. Even if the team misses the playoffs this year, they will surely be favorites coming into next year, as they will battle the ‘Stros down to the wire for the division.

3. Seattle Mariners (84-78)

The Mariners are making progress, building a solid, balanced team. They just play in a great division and in a strong American League. 2B Robinson Cano looks poised to perform equivalent to his monstrous contract, and the team should finally see some production out of P Taijuan Walker. However, the team could still use an impact bat to pair with Cano and OF Nelson Cruz to make their lineup that much deeper. Seattle will also be seeking arms for the rotation and bullpen, as each unit could be solidified as the team is already facing injuries early in 2016.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (78-84)

Let the blow up begin in LA. Simply put, this team is not constructed to win. The Angels are saddled by the huge contracts of 1B Albert Pujols, and Ps Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Pujols is still a solid player, but is showing signs of decline. Weaver is barely hitting 80 MPH with his fastball, and I fully expect this to be his last season in the big leagues. He has been on a decline for almost four years now. Wilson always deals with injury issues, and is no longer a viable option in the rotation. Outside of P Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, the Angels lack options for the rotation, and it will prove to be their downfall this season. On offense, the team is still led by OF Mike Trout, but has done little to surround him with support. I fully expect the team’s offense to struggle around him, leading to owner Arte Moreno making a big change with manager Mike Scoscia taking the fall.

5. Oakland Athletics (70-92)

What can you do if you’re the A’s? You’re in a small market with limited ability to make big moves, and are forced to develop prospects in order to win. While the team is one of the best in baseball at producing young talent, that process takes a lot longer than adding key free agents to gear up for the long season, which is why the A’s will find themselves at the bottom of the division again. By only being able to add free agents like P Rich Hill, the team has to take fliers on veterans that might pan out. Yet in 2016, I don’t see the team’s normally savvy moves working out. I’d expect top P Sonny Gray to get moved at the Trade Deadline for a package of young, top prospects that may help propel the Athletics into being more competitive next season.

Watch out for my 2016 MLB Postseason & Awards Predictions coming soon!

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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.

LeBron Update; Yanks Add Francis

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Well, it’s official. LeBron James, King James, is making his triumphant return to Cleveland. After learning how to win a championship with the Miami Heat, James has expressed the desire to come home and bring a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For one, I’m happy to see this move because it is going to bring a lot of change across the NBA, and it is just a nice, warm, fuzzy story overall.

Currently, the Timberwolves and Cavaliers are engaged in trade talks regarding F Kevin Love coming to

Kevin Love (above) appearing in a rendering of what he would look like in a Cav's uniform.

Kevin Love (above) appearing in a rendering of what he would look like in a Cav’s uniform.

pair up with James in Cleveland. I would fully expect this deal to happen sooner or later, as Love has already expressed a desire to sign a long-term deal with the Cavs now that James is in the fold. Another ripple effect of LeBron’s decision is that F Chris Bosh is expected to take the max contract that the Houston Rockets have offered him, and form another Big Three with C Dwight Howard and G James Harden. However, for Bosh’s signing to become official, the Rockets need to complete the trade of C Omer Asik to the Pelicans, and find a partner for a trade of G Jeremy Lin. And the Rockets need to complete all of this by Sunday to have any chance of matching the offer sheet that the Mavericks have signed F Chandler Parsons to.

Woo. Take a breath. Yes there’s more.

On top of all of this, Carmelo Anthony’s camp says that it is between the Bulls and Knicks for his services. However, as recently as yesterday, it was reported that Anthony was very likely to accept the Knicks maximum contract offer. This was the giant lock-jam that needed to clear up before the start of free agency. This frees up the market for Fs Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Pau Gasol to sign, and allows the Lakers and Heat to decide where they will go from here after missing out on the marquee free agents.


In other news, the Yankees heard me question them, and have responded by making a trade. The Yanks added Jeff Francis from the A’s for cash considerations or a PTBNL. I don’t understand how the hell this guy has stayed in the major leagues for parts of 10 seasons when he has a career 4.95 ERA in over 1000 innings pitched. He’s posted better numbers in 8 starts at Triple-A this season, so I guess the Yankees will take what they can get at this point.

Masahiro Tanaka Injury Spells ‘DOOM’ For Yanks

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The most feared injury in baseball nowadays is a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL. This injury is most common in the pitching elbows of baseball players, and the most common form of rehabilitation begins with Tommy John Surgery. Although it is possible to rehab a minor tear of the UCL, most cases result in TJ Surgery, and require almost a year of rehab before a player is able to compete again.

There have been a rash of these types of injuries this year, and it appears that the injury bug has bitten again. This time, Yankees P Masahiro Tanaka is the victim, after three different doctors diagnosed a “minor tear” in Tanaka’s UCL of his throwing arm. Despite this tear, the hope is that Tanaka can rehab the injury for 6 weeks, and avoid TJ Surgery. This type of rehabilitation has worked before, but in more rare cases. In fact, Cardinals P Adam Wainwright rehabbed his UCL injury, and was able to pitch for 5 years before finally tearing it and having TJ Surgery.

To me, it seems like the solution is obvious. It’s time for Tanaka to have the surgery to not delay the rehab process, and possibly be available for the Yankees late next season. If Tanaka delays the surgery only to have it later this year, it would rule him out for the entire 2015 season. Either way, the Yankees are in deep trouble.

Masahiro Tanaka (above) suffered a slight tear of his UCL.

Masahiro Tanaka (above) suffered a slight tear of his UCL.

Currently, 4 out of 5 of the Yankees’ pitchers from the Opening Day rotation are on the DL. Tanaka can essentially be ruled out for the season. Fellow starter P Ivan Nova has already had Tommy John Surgery. Ace P C.C. Sabathia has missed a majority of the season with a knee injury that is still ailing, but had not been effective in previous starts. Finally, P Michael Pineda has been dealing with an oft-injured shoulder since April, and was only playing catch as of last week. Only P Hiroki Kuroda remains, and is by far the most reliable starting option for the Yankees right now. They acquired P Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks last week, but he was sporting a 3-10 record with a 5.01 ERA at the time of the trade. They didn’t exactly trade for a “savior” of the ball club.

Despite all of these injuries, the Yankees currently sit at 46-45, and are only 4.5 games back of the first place Baltimore Orioles. That’s some sort of freakin’ miracle. However, they will not stay there, or even have a chance to compete if they don’t make a move to add some pitching depth.

Yet, to acquire top pitching talent, the Yankees would have to part with top prospects, which they have very little of. Most, if not all the Yankees premier talent, is already at the major league level, and isn’t as desirable as young, controllable players. The options for the Yanks are slim at this point, and seem to be limited to Phillies’ pitchers A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee, and former Yankees pitchers Phil Hughes (Minnesota) and Ian Kennedy (San Diego). I don’t think the Yankees would have enough prospects to entice the Phillies to trade Lee, but it is definitely possible to acquire Burnett, since his deal is set to expire at the end of the season. The latter two options are more interesting, as both the Twins and Padres are way out of contention, and could be interested in moving these players to give younger players a shot at the Major League Level. However, none of the talents available, outside of Lee, are a top of the rotation talent that the Yankees desperately need.

I don’t see how this can end well for the Yankees. They are simply depleted of Major League talent, and absolutely riddled by injuries. It appears as if Derek Jeter’s drift into the sunset will end with a finish in the bottom of the AL East, which is not a way that any fan would have pictured his glorious career ending.