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.

Oakland Athletics Continue Their Offseason Overhaul

It may be a brand new year, but it’s proving to be the same old Athletics.

A team known in recent history for their offseason trades and signings that leave them with a completely different looking ball club from one year to the next, the A’s have once again used the offseason to this point to make a EscobarZobristlot of moves (some good, some bad) to change up the overall structure of their team.

The most recent case coming on Saturday with the trading away of John Jaso and a couple of top prospects, in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, to the Rays in exchange for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, who will both help what has the potential to be a good A’s team in 2015.

Despite losing John Jaso, who was a solid player for the Athletics in 2014, as well as Robertson and Powell, the A’s got back a fairly good package in return.

After an extended period of trade rumors surrounding Ben Zobrist, a transaction for him finally occurred, sending Zobrist off to the A’s. Two years removed from back-to-back 20 homer seasons, Zobrist hit a mere 10 bombs in 2014, but is still more than capable of impacting any team he’s on, as he has over the course of his All-Star career with the Rays.

Other moves the A’s have made so far to go along with the Zobrist and Escobar trade that could turn out to have major impacts began with the pickup of Billy Butler on a three-year, thirty million dollar contract. The Athletics then proceeded to swap their All-Star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, for fellow hot corner defender, Brett Lawrie, from the Brett LawrieBlue Jays.

While the Butler deal was applauded by many, the Donaldson move was one that left many people scratching their heads. However, they weren’t done there.

Following the initial offseason additions of Butler and Lawrie, the Athletics kicked off the 2014 Winter Meetings, trading slugger Brandon Moss to the Indians, and almost immediately after departed ways with Jeff Samardzija for a few potential valuable but unproven players from the White Sox.

Even though there are some things the Athletics have done that I don’t agree with, for the most part I like where the A’s are headed.

Losing Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox via a trade for Jon Lester, and knowing they wouldn’t likely retain Lester upon the end of the season, the moves the A’s are making should help them in their attempt to make up for those losses.

Even after losing Lester, the Athletics’ rotation will still be decent, with Sonny Gray leading the way, along with Jarrod Parker who is set to return to health, and their lineup always seems to find a way to produce runs. Having finished with a win-loss record above .500 for each of the past three seasons, things are seemingly lining up to make it four.

Orioles Losing Pieces As the Offseason Rolls Along

After around a dozen Baltimore Orioles players from the 2014 season declared free agency, you knew it was only a matter of time before the O’s began to lose at least a few of those players to other teams. Nelson+Cruz+Texas+Rangers+v+Baltimore+Orioles+sPqX6mLlElhl

However, that doesn’t make things any easier for the Orioles or their fans, as after losing breakout slugger Nelson Cruz to the Mariners they are now losing long time Oriole Nick Markakis to the Braves.

Cruz officially departed the team a few days ago, when he signed a four-year contract with the Mariners worth 58 million dollars, choosing to head to Seattle after a mega-breakout season with the Orioles in 2014.

Coming off a performance enhancing drug scandal in 2013, Cruz proceeded to dominate last season, blasting a major league leading 40 home runs while driving in 108 runs and hitting a solid .271.

While those numbers came at Camden Yards, Cruz should still have a good deal of power at Safeco Field — a place known to not be a very hitter friendly ballpark. Combined with a lineup of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, who just recently signed a seven-year extension worth 100 million dollars, the Mariners look to be in good shape for 2015.

Another team that would appear to be improving and shaping up for a good 2015 season is the Atlanta Braves. Picking up Nick Markakis — the second big free agent loss for the Orioles thus far — to fill the right field spot left vacant by the trade of Jason Heyward, the Braves found themselves a nice replacement in the outfield.

MarkakisMarkakis continued a string of solid statistical seasons last year, hitting .276 while blasting 14 homers and recording 50 RBI’s. Getting a four-year, 44 million dollar deal from the Braves, Markakis should provide them with a good leadoff option beginning in 2015.

By also adding former Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson to their bullpen for a mere 1.6 million dollars, the Braves should see some improvement in 2015 if all goes as planned.

But while the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis are sure to have an affect on the Orioles moving forward, things seemingly aren’t over yet.

Dominant free agent reliever Andrew Miller is also going to be on the move following a 62.1 inning season in which he posted a 2.02 ERA while striking out 103 and limiting opponents to a .153 batting average, after coming over from the Red Sox midseason. He will undoubtedly be a valuable pickup for whichever team signs him.

With the key losses that have already occurred for the Orioles, and with there soon to be even more triming to their overall roster, many people are wondering where it all will cause the Orioles to fall in 2015. In my opinion, that’s a very good question.

The Orioles still have a solid depth of starting pitching, including Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Kevin Gausman, as well as a decent bullpen, consisting of pitchers such as Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day. However, while they could get by with the pitchers they have, you can never have too much pitching.Miller

In my mind, the Orioles need to add a bit more depth to their bullpen. With the looming loss of Andrew Miller, the Orioles have a hole or two to fill in the back end of games. But they still have plenty of time to do so and plenty of options to choose from.

What the Orioles currently have none of, however, is outfield depth, after the loss of Markakis. With Adam Jones performing at an All-Star level being a given, the rest of their outfield options, including Steve Pearce, who had a career high 21 homers in 2014, remain a question mark. (Reportedly, there have been talks of a trade to bring Matt Kemp over from the Dodgers, but that’s yet to take off.)

Coming off a 96-win season, the Orioles very well could play to that level if the season began tomorrow, especially with the return of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, who both experienced some health issues last season. However, in the more likely scenario, they would take a bit of a fall in the standings, which is why some changes need to be made.

Reaching the playoffs in 2014, only to be swept by the Royals in the American League Championship Series, the Orioles certainly have to make some moves to help counteract the missing production of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. Lucklily for them, we’re just 36 days removed from the World Series, leaving around four months until the start of the 2015 season for the Orioles to throw together another championship-caliber team.

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.

Ervin Santana Yet to Disappoint With the Braves

For the second straight year, the Nationals are the favorites to win the National League East division, and for the second straight year, the Braves are looking to surprise many, despite being the overall weaker team on paper, by winning the division. While it’s still early, the Braves are off to a good start.ervin-santana-mlb-new-york-mets-atlanta-braves

But it didn’t appear that it would turn out that way.

When the Braves announced last month the loss of two of their big name starters, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, many people felt that it was a crushing blow to the team, and would keep the Braves from doing much of anything this year.

However, despite a few poor games, the Braves currently stand at the top of the division, having had great pitching and an explosive offense leading the way as of late.

A lot of the great pitching is coming from guys you wouldn’t necessarily expect to dominate. With Medlen and Beachy out for the season, and Mike Minor out for a little while longer, the Braves don’t have any front line starters beyond Julio Teheran. But their offseason additions of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana are proving to be well worth it, as they are pitching like top notch pitchers so far.

For Santana, though it took all offseason for him to find a team, it’s looking like the one-year, 14.1 million dollar deal he agreed to could be a bargain for the Braves. Having so few pitching options heading into the season, the Braves picked up Santana merely because they were weak in starting pitching and needed a boost. Coming off a decent season of a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA for the Royals in 2013, Santana certainly had the ability to provide the upgrade.

However, I’m not sure anyone predicted Santana to be so good so soon. In his first start of the season against the Mets, Santana threw eight scoreless innings, earning the win as well as the respect of a lot of people around the baseball world. Going into his second start on Monday night, all eyes were on Santana again, and he was even better, overall. Striking out eleven batters in six one-run innings, Santana dominated, yet again, but had to settle for a no decision, due to poor relief pitching by the Braves’ bullpen.

While there are still a lot of critics who feel that the Braves will fall down behind the Nationals in the division standings as the season goes on, if their pitching can continue to be consistent along with their offense, they could surprise people, with Ervin Santana being a big reason for their success.

Opening Day: Official Start of the Regular Season

We’ve had the Opening Series, held down in Australia on March 22nd and 23rd; we’ve had Opening Night, held down in San Diego last night; and now, after so much anticipation leading up to the year, we’re set for Opening Day — an unofficial holiday for millions of baseball fans around the country. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, ever since the final out of the World Series was recorded in October of last year.mlb-opening-day-logo_2014_hero

Thirteen total games are on tab for today, with the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Padres being the only teams not in action. The games will take place all throughout the day, from 1:05 Eastern, with the Pirates taking on the Cubs, to the Mariners going up against the Angels, at 10:05, making the entire day exciting.

Not only is Opening Day fun because of the official start of the 162-game baseball regular season, but it also stands out as one of the few times you ever see every single teams pitching ace on the mound around the country. Every team starts from zero, with hopes of making the postseason (some with better odds than others) and putting your best pitcher on the mound is a great way to kick off the year on a high note; knowing that things may not look too good towards the end of the year.

With so many changes this past offseason, this could be one of the most intriguing Opening Days in years. While teams and players have had over a month of Spring Training games to show off their potential, those games are basically meaningless. You never know how individual players, and teams as a whole, will fare for the entire length of a season. That’s what makes a given season so entertaining — the unknown factor.

So, make it a point today — if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably planning to anyhow — to sit back and watch a least a little baseball at some point. With every game played from here on out taking teams closer and closer to the World Series in October, there’s nothing quite like Opening Day baseball.

Baseball Returns With Spring Training Action

Although Spring Training baseball isn’t as meaningful as the regular season, and despite the fact that most of the stars on the team are removed by the fifth inning, this time of year is exciting, nonetheless, for baseball fans all around the country.

The first regular season games of the year aren’t set to take place for another few weeks, with the opening-series being played in Australia on March 22nd, but even so, today marked the first official professional baseball games of the year.Untitled

And therefore, things are finally starting to get going again.

The Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, Yankees, Tigers, Braves, Dodgers, D-backs, Athletics, Giants, Reds and Indians all saw action on Wednesday, with the remaining teams playing their first games of the year against another big league organization over the course of the next two days. While things are still fairly early, several players are already looking promising.

One of the biggest question marks for the 2014 season, after a couple of injured years, is Ryan Howard. Once one of the games biggest power threats, Howard hasn’t been himself as of late. But out of the gate so far this spring, including practice games, Howard looks healthy and like he’s seeing the ball really well.

Jose Bautista is another player who has had injuries hurt his stats each of the past two seasons but is looking good to bounce back this year. In his first at-bat of Wednesday’s game, Bautista crushed a ball completely out of the ballpark off the Phillies’ Roberto Hernandez. If the Blue Jays have Bautista going, he could help lead them higher up in the rankings than they finished last year.

As far as teams go, the Athletics look as though they could pick up where they left off in 2013, once their season begins on March 31st. They did extremely well against the Giants in their first matchup of the year, and with the additions they made in the offseason, they should really make some noise in the talented American League West.

It’s far too early to say for sure whether or not these trends will continue, with there still a being ton of baseball left to be played before things begin to count towards the standings. But, as stated earlier, things are looking promising for an exciting 2014 season.