In Trade-Crazed Baseball World, Dodgers Resigning Talent

Each offseason, every team around Major League Baseball attempts to improve their ball club heading into the next year. Whether a team won the World Series or finished with the worst record in baseball the previous season, it has become common practice for teams to trade away some of their expendable players for others they feel can help their roster even more.dodgers

But the Dodgers are taking a different approach.

Instead of going about things like the Red Sox, who recently traded away two of their prospects viewed as future superstars, the Dodgers are holding on to their prospects as well as their big league talent.

Beginning early this month with the resigning of starting pitcher Rich Hill to a three-year contract worth a cool 48 million, the Dodgers just recently also brought back closer Kenley Jansen for the next five seasons, at 80 million dollars, as well as third baseman Justin Turner on a four-year, 64 million dollar contract. It’s still early in the offseason, but those decisions may prove to be extremely wise.

Despite being set to turn 37 before the 2017 season gets underway, Rich Hill has become known as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the past couple of seasons. Following a rough beginning to Hill’s major league career, posting a combined 4.73 ERA over 90 games started from 2005-2011, Hill was on his way out of baseball before finally breaking through.

This past season between the Athletics and the Dodgers, Hill recorded a 2.12 ERA over the course of 110.1 innings pitched. With stats like those, it’s no wonder why the Dodgers found him so valuable.

Equally as important to the Dodgers in their minds was hanging on to their All-Star closer, Kenley Jansen, who finished tied for second in all of baseball with 47 saves this past season. Notching a 1.83 ERA, Jansen proved to be extremely effective at the back end of the Dodger’s bullpen with a 13.6 strikeout-per-nine rate.

Recording 127 saves over the last three years, Jansen is in line to tally his 200th career save in 2017, sitting just 11 shy. With top notch closers being at such a premium in today’s game, the Dodgers truly got a great one with an uncanny ability to keep hitters off balance.

But although opposing hitters have trouble against Kenley Jansen, the closer’s teammate, Justin Turner, certainly has no problem getting the offense going. However, it hasn’t always been that way. From his debut in 2009 through his arrival to the Dodgers in 2014, Turner was a .260 career hitter with a mere 8 career home runs. Since then, it’s been a completely different story for Turner.

Hitting .340 in 2014, Turner has also seen his power increase dramatically, seeing him hit 27 homers in 2016. Although anything can happen in baseball from one season to the next, the Dodgers would seem to have confidence in Turner’s power continuing.

The Dodgers should certainly hope so. After winning the National League West division last season, despite some injuries to some of their key players, such as Clayton Kershaw, the sky is truly the limit for 2017 if all of their pieces can stay healthy and perform as expected.

Rich Hill will still remain the number two starter behind Clayton Kershaw, but their overall rotation is good as well, with guys such as Kenta Maeda and youngsters Julio Urias and Jose De Leon expected to really break out in 2017. Additionally, Kenley Jansen will inevitably be the dominant force he has been for quite some time, continuing to be the answer in the ninth inning.

On the offensive side of things, Justin Turner has 30 homer power, to go along with 2016 Rookie of the Year winner, Corey Seager, and other power bats in Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez and even Yasiel Puig, if he can play to his potential. laWhen you put it all together, the Dodgers’ lineup could be quite potent heading into next season.

Combine their great offense with their stellar pitching options, and it’s very easy to see a team that can win the division again in 2017, with a deep playoff push not being out of the question. Despite not being able to get past the Championship Series since making it to, and subsequently winning, the World Series in 1988, the Dodgers seemingly have all the pieces needed to break that streak in 2017.

They may not be taking the conventional approach of many other teams, trading for game-changing talent or signing big-name free agents who played elsewhere in 2016, but the Dodgers still seem to be on a successful path.

Conventional or not, their strategy has a great chance of working.

Cubs Just One Win Away from the World Series

Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the javier-baezcourse of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.

Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.

But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.

However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.

How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.

We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.

2016 MLB Postseason Predictions

For the fifth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fifth straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins.

This year, though, I hope to finally correctly predict how the postseason will play out. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will unfold. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 4th & NL October 5th)

American League: Blue Jays Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is sure to be a great game between two great teams, and although it will be played up in Toronto, with the Blue Jays having home-field advantage, I think the Orioles will be able to prevail. The key reason behind that logic lies with Zach Britton, who can almost guarantee a win, should the Orioles be holding the lead heading into the ninth. With the Orioles having hit the most homers in all of baseball this season, they should be able to put together enough runs to pull out the victory, despite having to face Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.

National League: Mets Vs. Giants

Winner: Mets

I realize it’s an even number year, and therefore the Giants should be all but guaranteed to win the entire World Series — they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — but I don’t even see them making it past the Wild Card game. Yes, the Giants’ starter, Madison Bumgarner, had a stupendously great year, but the Mets have a Cy Young candidate of their own on the bump, in the form of Noah Syndergaard. With this sure to be a pitcher’s duel, one run very well could be the difference, with the Mets’ lineup simply having more thump than that of the Giants.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 6th)

Indians Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

I’ve been betting against the Indians all season long, so I’m a bit hesitant to go against them after they had the season they did. But although I don’t think this will be an easy task by any means for the Red Sox, I see them overtaking the Indians, especially with the injuries Cleveland began experiencing towards the end of the regular season. Without the full health of their rotation, I don’t see the Indians overtaking Boston. For that reason, when all is said and done, the Red Sox should be the team moving on to the ALCS.

Rangers Vs. Orioles

Winner: Orioles

This is by far the most difficult decision I had to make to this point in the post, as both teams have very even rosters from top to bottom, and each have had rotations that have struggled at times. But despite all of that, the Orioles seem to be a bit better set up for a postseason push than the Rangers do. Having likely just won the Wild Card game in my mind against the Blue Jays, I feel that Texas won’t be able to withstand the momentum of the hard-hitting and hard-throwing Orioles for the full length of the series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 7th)

Nationals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Nationals

After several disappointing seasons in which many people envisioned great things for the Nationals only to watch them fall apart during or even before the playoffs, this is the year for the Nationals to finally win a few playoff games, in my opinion. Although they have a great deal of injuries, including those to several All-Star players, I don’t think the Dodgers will be able to compete with Washington when all is said and done, even with the best starting pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, leading their staff.

Cubs Vs. Mets

Winner: Cubs

2016 is finally the year of the Cubs — or at least that’s what ninety-nine percent of the baseball world is happily telling themselves. Following a century-long drought of a World Series title, the Cubs seemingly have no holes whatsoever in their entire roster. Even though there’s a long way to go before the end of the postseason (they need to win eleven games to take home the Championship), there are still a lot of reasons to like the Cubs. I really don’t think this will be that competitive of a series, with the Mets lacking the all-around talent that the Cubs have.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 14th)

Orioles Vs. Red Sox

Winner: Red Sox

This will wind up being the end of the line for the Orioles as far as I’m seeing things now. If in fact they are taking on the Red Sox in the ALCS, I don’t think the Orioles will be able to beat them in the end. Even so, this series could wind up going to a sixth or possibly even seventh deciding game. It would truly be one of the best postseason series we’ve seen in quite a while, especially with it being the final season for David Ortiz. What each team lacks in pitching dominance, they more than make up for in power hitting, which could make this a back-and-forth series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 15th)

Nationals Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

If the Nationals manage to make it this far into the playoffs, it will include a small amount of luck, and I simply don’t think they will be able to defeat the powerhouse Cubs. As I’ve already stated, the Cubbies are one of the best all-around teams we’ve seen in quite some time, and the Nationals don’t seem to have what it takes to take down a team such as Chicago. With that said, I still think it would end up being an exciting matchup, just not quite as good as the ALCS would be. But then again, it’s October baseball, where the impossible happens on a regular basis.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 25th)

Red Sox Vs. Cubs

Winner: Cubs

What a World Series matchup this would be, between two great teams and taking place at two 100-year-old ballparks. With the Cubs looking to end their historical 108-year losing streak, and the Red Sox looking to send David Ortiz off into the sunset with style, neither team would want to give an inch in this series. I could easily see this matchup taking six or seven games to decide, with the Cubs ultimately just beating out the Red Sox. Thus, after nearly eleven decades without a World Title, I’m predicting this to finally be the year the Cubs win the World Series.

Red Sox Claim Last Remaining Division Title Spot

Despite losing to the Yankees on Wednesday night via a Mark Teixeira walk-off grand slam, the Red Sox still managed to pick up a major victory. With the Orioles defeating the Blue Jays, Boston has now officially snatched up the final division title slot remaining in baseball, leaving just the Wild Card spots to be decided.MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Joining the Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers as the other divisional winners from around baseball, the Red Sox have had a somewhat unpredicted fantastic season. Following a last-place finish in the American League East just a year ago, the Red Sox stormed back to take the division crown once again in 2016, picking up a whopping 14 more wins thus far than last year.

One of the most remarkable things about Boston’s ability to take the division title is their doing so within a division that has once again emerged as one of the best in all of baseball — every team except the Rays have been in the postseason race all season long — in addition to having a multitude of injuries and underperformances (namely, David Price) throughout the year.

With all of the top spots in all six divisions out of reach for the other twenty-four teams in baseball, there now remains just six teams still mathematically in contention for one of the two Wild Card spots in the American League, with three doing the same in the National League. Having four games remaining in the season (the days until the postseason can now be counted on one hand), it should be fun to watch how things unfold.

As great as the regular season has been, the best is inevitably yet to come.

State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

Julio Urias Set to Make His MLB Debut

The story of Thursday night was Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak ending, but the story of Friday night will likely wind up being the MLB career of Julio Urias beginning.

At 19 years old, Urias is set to become the first starting pitcher since Felix Hernandez in 2005 to make their major league debut as a teenager, with Hernandez going on to post a 2.67 ERA over 12 starts that season. If Urias can post Uriasnumbers anywhere close to that, I assume the Dodgers would see that as a successful first year.

But there are some people around the baseball world who are anticipating that Urias could actually post numbers better than those of Hernandez in his first year in the bigs. That’s what makes his debut so exciting and so closely watched.

As the number two prospect in all of baseball, Urias has been on the radar of a number of people for quite some time, and is projected to become the game’s next big superstar. Given, there have been a number of players who were coined as can’t-miss prospects only to fall apart in the majors, but Urias appears to be the real deal.

The last time a teenage starter made their debut with the Dodgers was back in 1980, when Fernando Valenzuela made his debut of what would become a fairly successful major league career. Understandably so, Urias is getting a lot of comparisons to Valenzuela, not only for his age, but also with both of them originally being from Mexico and pitching left-handed.

However, I don’t feel it’s fair to look for Urias to bring anything to Los Angeles like “Fernandomania” was. If that happens, great. But I never like to see a ton of pressure put on a guy’s shoulders to develop into something that’s already happened, especially someone as young as Urias. He is a different guy, and should therefore simply be appreciated for the pitcher he is.

Even so, Urias certainly deserves all the hype he’s getting, as he brings a career 2.63 ERA in the minors (along with a mere 1.10 ERA over seven starts in Triple-A this season) into his debut on Friday night against Jacob deGrom and the Mets, under the bright lights of New York.

Whether or not he gets his career started with a bang right out of the gate, or takes a few starts to settle in, Urias is still expected to become the strong number-two-starter behind Clayton Kershaw in the Dodgers’ rotation. If that happens, the Dodgers look to be in good shape moving forward, currently 4.5 games back of the first-place Giants.

After years of anticipation, the Julio Urias era has officially begun.

Will 2016 Finally be the Year for the White Sox?

The Washington Nationals were hands down the most disappointing team of the 2015 season, but the White Sox weren’t all that far behind. After picking up Jeff Samardzija last offseason, along with David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to go along with their already decent rotation and lineup, the White Sox were given a great shot byLose many people to make it back to the playoffs (at least via a Wild Card spot) for the first time since 2008.

But a number of things happened that kept the White Sox from ultimately reaching the postseason.

Samardzija, who had posted a stellar 2.99 ERA in 2014 and was being counted on to help the White Sox win a lot of games, was simply a bust this past season, plain and simple. Posting an 11-13 record with a 4.96 ERA, Samardzija did little at all to help the Sox. (Even so, the Giants have signed him to a 5-year, 90 million dollar contract.)

Their other big pickups for 2015 didn’t fare all that much better. David Robertson posted a decent 3.41 ERA, but wasn’t the dominant closer he’s been in the past. In addition, Adam LaRoche hit only 12 homers and batted .207, and Melky Cabrera, while he had a decent year, hitting .273 with 12 homers and 77 RBI’s, didn’t do quite as good as many felt he would.

It wasn’t just the newcomers who performed poorly, however. Of all the players on the roster who played in a full season worth of games, only Jose Abreu (Abreu’s 30 homers and 101 RBI’s were the only true stellar stats of any White Sox player in 2015), Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera hit above .270. With such a poor offensive showing, the Sox placed 22nd in all of baseball with a mere .250 team average.

On the flip side, the Sox 3.98 team ERA wasn’t terrible, but it was still only good enough for 14th best. When you have a lineup that’s hitting on all cylinders, you can make up for a lack of dominant pitching. But when you have a lineup perform like the White Sox did in 2015, a near four team ERA on the year simply doesn’t cut it.

But there is a bit of hope for the White Sox heading into next season. Despite losing Jeff Samardzija to the Giants, they still have Jose Quintana who posted a team best 3.36 ERA in 2015, as well as their Ace, Chris Sale, who recorded a 3.41 ERA. Rookie Carlos Rodon should also be a big piece of the puzzle next season, as while he posted a 3.75 ERA in 2015, he has all the talent in the world to become a dominant starting pitcher.

Furthermore, the White Sox have made several key additions already this offseason that will inevitably help improve their offense immediately beginning on Opening Day 2016. The pickup of catcher Alex Avila will be a nice addition to Fraziertheir lineup, as should the trade they made for Brett Lawrie. But there is one key player the White Sox acquired this past week that has many people abuzz around the baseball world.

In a three-team, seven-player trade on Wednesday, the White Sox picked up Todd Frazier from the Reds to man the hot corner for them in 2016. In return, the White Sox sent Frankie Montas, Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson to the Dodgers who then sent Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon to the Reds. All in all, I see it as a good trade for everyone, though the loss of three good prospects could wind up hurting the White Sox down the road.

But the White Sox aren’t concerned with “what may have been” a year or two down the road. They’re focused on right here, right now. The pickup of Frazier, in addition to several other smaller pieces, makes the statement that the White Sox are looking to win in 2016. They certainly have the pieces if all of their players can simply live up to expectations.

As we know, however, that hardly ever happens. Teams who seemingly have everything all figured out are usually are the ones who turn out to be the biggest disappointments. Even so, if the White Sox can make a few more moves to better their team in the several months remaining until the start of the 2016 season, I really like their chances of making it a special year when all is said and done.

Then again, I said that about several teams last season . . . .