Yankees Setting Up for Contention In 2015?

As everyone is aware, the New York Yankees failed to make the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s farewell 2014 season, which was very disappointing to a great number of people. One of the few times in their storied franchise history that the Yankees went consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, things are currently in somewhat of a lull for the Bronx Bombers.

Now that Jeter is officially retired, and with the loss of their 2014 closer, David Robertson, to the White Sox via free agency, many are beginning to wonder just how much of a competitive team the Yankees will be in 2015. After finishing twelve games back of first in the American League East last season, they have a lot of ground to make up, but a division title Tanakaisn’t seemingly as far out of reach as it would appear.

Some of the Yankees offseason pickups last year failed to produce in 2014, due to either injury or a down statistical season. From Masahiro Tanaka to Jacoby Ellsbury to Carlos Beltran to Brian McCann — if those players can get back to their normal selves next season, combined with the already good bullpen of Dellin Betances and recently signed Andrew Miller, things should be better in 2015 for the Yankees.

But that’s without any changes whatsoever.

The Yankees, however, have in fact made a few tweaks to their roster that could have a big impact on their season success throughout the 162 game stretch.

Beginning with a trade that saw promising young shortstop Didi Gregorius coming to New York to take over the vacant spot left by Jeter, the Yankees would appear to have a long term “replacement” for the long time Captain.

Though Gregorius won’t be able fill the enormous legacy of Derek Jeter — no one could ever do that — he will give them a little added thump in their lineup and defense at the position. Another such player being Chase Headley, who the Yankees signed to a 4-year, 52 million dollar contract on Monday.

There’s a slight issue in the signing that everyone is pointing out, however: Headley plays third base. With the Yankees still owing third baseman Alex Rodriguez — who was out all last season due to a PED suspension — over 20 million a season for the next few years, it would be hard to envision them filling A-Rod’s place at the hot corner with a bargain priced third baseman. But it appears that the Yankees are doing just that.

Although the Yankees could move Headley around from time to time as the season progresses, it lines up that A-Rod is headed for merely a designated hitter role in 2015. After hitting 31 home runs to go along with 115 RBI’s back in 2012, chase-headleyHeadley hasn’t been that MPV-type of player since, but really impressed the Yankees after coming over from the Padres last season, hitting .262 in the 58 games with them to finish out the year.

If Headley can be solid at third base, and if Rodriguez can provide any sort of offensive production at the plate, the Yankees should be in good shape next year. But, where exactly would they fall if the season began tomorrow?

For me, I see them being like they were last season — a team that could potentially win a lot of games, but has to have a lot of things go right for them to post those type of collective numbers they’re capable of.

As stated earlier, if the Yankees can get full, healthy seasons out of Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, etc., their overall production will increase naturally.

Another team in the division that should see their production increase due to several key moves is the Blue Jays. Signing veteran catcher Russell Martin, and trading for All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays could be a very competitive team in 2015. Though I feel they still need another year or two to put everything together, you never know for sure how a team will fare.

Even so, I feel the Red Sox are the team that has done more than enough to put themselves in line to win the American League East division. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez a few weeks ago, and adding much needed starting pitching in Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley, Boston has put together a very solid team after their disastrous 2014 season.

Just the opposite, the Orioles have seen their team taken apart. Losing breakout slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, and dominant reliever Andrew Miller (to the Yankees), Baltimore certainly has some work to do before the start of the season in April. (The Rays also fall into that category, in my opinion.)

So, with such a packed division, seeing that every one of the teams in the east could potentially make big runs towards the division title, it should be fun to see how things play out. If I had to predict things right now, though, I feel confident in saying that the Yankees are setting themselves up to break their postseason drought in the coming year.

Best Landing Spot for MLB’s Top Free Agent Players

The 2014 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are already taking place. The biggest trade that has happened so far is undoubtedly Jason Heyward going to Free Agentsthe Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller, however, there is a good chance that there will be several more before 2015 begins.

As far as free agent signings go, Pablo Sandoval signing to play with the Red Sox was a big time deal, with Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez inking large contracts as well.

But despite that, not too many of the 100+ free agent players have signed yet — just over a dozen are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Jon Lester, James Shields, and Nelson Cruz, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked player available at each position (in my mind), and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player/team, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2014 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski

Team I feel should sign him: Pirates

Losing their catcher from 2014, Russell Martin, to free agency, A.J. Pierzynski would be a decent pickup for the Pirates. Though they have a few options for the catcher position, including former first round draft pick Tony Sanchez, who has been waiting and waiting to take over the spot, Pierzyski could serve at least as the backup. His veteran presence, along with his overall offensive production, would give the Pirates a slightly better lineup in 2015.

Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz

Team I feel should sign him: Mariners

Although Nelson Cruz has played both outfield and designated hitter over the course of his career, he would best serve as a primary DH, in my mind, going to the Mariners. After falling just short of the playoffs in 2014, adding Cruz to protect Robinson Cano in the lineup would go a long way in making the Mariners contenders in 2015. Given, moves that seem to make sense don’t always work out, but taking a chance on Cruz is more than worth the risk.

First Base: Michael Morse

Team I feel should sign him: Rays

This move would be a better fit for the Rays rather than Michael Morse, however, it could end up benefiting Morse in the long run. Having played numerous positions, Morse could answer a lot of problems for the Rays, even if he serves as a platoon player and part time DH, as Morse’s bat could go a long way in helping the Rays next season. All they need is a little more offensive pop, as their starting pitching is already good. Morse could be a great addition to the Rays.

Second Base: Jed Lowrie

Team I feel should sign him: Marlins

Jed Lowrie didn’t have the best season in 2014, but he’s one of those players that is just good enough to have an impact. Though that impact can vary from game to game, Lowrie has been a good player over his career, and could fill the Marlins’ second base slot. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a record deal, and with the young players the Marlins are adding to the roster, Lowrie at second could help the Marlins finally make a push in 2015.

Third Base: Chase Headley

Team I feel should sign him: Giants

With Pablo Sandoval off the market, and the Giants’ backup option for third base, Yasmany Tomas, out of the running as well, Chase Headley is their best free agent option. While he can’t completely replace Sandoval, Headley would fill the spot well. Headley had decent offensive numbers this past season with the Yankees, and he plays a decent hot corner. Everything together, the Giants could solve their problem at third base relatively cheap.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Now that Hanley Ramirez off the market, the best remaining free agent shortstop is Asdrubal Cabrera. Although he played second base for a good part of last season with the Nationals, he’s a natural shortstop and would do a good job of filling the Yankees’ empty spot at short, now that Derek Jeter has retired. Although it wouldn’t be a long term solution for the Yankees, Cabrera taking over the shortstop role would help for the time being.

Left Field: Melky Cabrera

Team I feel should sign him: Athletics

Melky Cabrera had a bounce back season in 2014, and could be a valuable pickup for the Athletics if they decide to snag him. While the Athletics aren’t the favorite to sign Cabrera, and aren’t really in the running at all, after the loss of their previous left fielder, Yoenis Cespedes, to the Red Sox for Jon Lester last year, getting Cabrera would make the A’s a better all around ball club, in my opinion. That is, if he can have a year close to the one he put together in 2014.

Center Field: Colby Rasmus

Team I feel should sign him: Braves

Despite being a solid outfielder, Colby Rasmus heading to the Braves is admittedly a long shot, but I feel he would fit in nicely. With Justin Upton in center field, Rasmus would have to move around in the outfield throughout the season, but he’s a good enough defender with a decent amount of pop in his bat. Rasmus isn’t a player that would completely transform the Braves, but after they missed the playoffs in 2014, he could help them over the hump.

Right Field: Torii Hunter

Team I feel should sign him: Orioles

The Tigers have made it clear that they don’t plan to bring back Torii Hunter to play right field in 2015, and therefore he’ll be on the move this offseason. Although Hunter has been around for years, he’s still a very consistent player, both offensively and in the outfield. With only a year or two left from Hunter, he’ll likely be looking to head to a playoff contender. Thus, I feel Hunter would be a good fit with Orioles (assuming they lose Nick Markakis).

Starting Pitcher: James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer

Team I feel should sign them: Red Sox (Shields), Cubs (Lester) and Rangers (Scherzer)

With the free agent market overflowing with great starting pitching, it was impossible to narrow the options down to a single top choice. In the end I got it down to three, with James Shields, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester coming out as the best statistical starters available.

For Shields, the Royals would fare well to resign him, but it will likely be another team. In my opinion, the Red Sox would benefit from a signing of Shields as a cheaper version of Jon Lester. As far as Lester is concerned, he is reportedly in talks with a number of teams, including the Cubs, who, with their great, young lineup, would really be an intriguing team with Lester’s addition. Max Scherzer is yet another front of the rotation starter on the market, and if the Rangers are looking to compete again in 2015, signing Scherzer long term would put them into position to do so.

Relief Pitcher: Andrew Miller

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Some would place David Robertson ahead of Andrew Miller in terms of value, however, I have to put Miller first. He has turned into one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game today, and would make any teams’ bullpen immediately stronger. With the Tigers being a solid bullpen short of a World Series Championship caliber team, a reunion with Miller could help them make that type of playoff run in 2015.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each position, and which team should sign them. Odds are that everything won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel it should, but this is just the way I see things working out best.