Free Agents as Early Christmas Presents for MLB Teams

It seems like the baseball season ended yesterday, but in fact, Christmas is just over a week away. As such, less than sixty days remain until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, leaving time as the enemy for free agent players not yet signed with a team for 2017.

However, we see it every year. No matter how talented of a player, there always wind up being a few above-average free agents each offseason who remain unsigned for quite some time. For one reason or another, the right team and contract simply hasn’t come along yet.

But eventually, a perfect match will be made. While it’s somewhat unlikely, it would certainly make for a great Christmas gift for both the given player as well as the team they sign with and its fan base moving into the new year if they can come to terms over the next few days.

With that in mind, I figured I’d go over the top free agents (in my mind) remaining at each individual position that would make for a great addition to any team.MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

STARTING PITCHER: Jason Hammel

It came down to a few quality starters in this category, but I ended up choosing Jason Hammel as the top free agent starting pitcher remaining. Posting a 3.83 ERA over the course of 166.1 innings pitched, Hammel played a huge role in leading the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908. Though Jason Hammel isn’t in the category of ace, he’s still a great pitcher that would benefit any team that picks him up.

RELIEF PITCHER: Trevor Cahill

My original pick for best remaining free agent reliever was Brad Ziegler, but he was signed by the Marlins an hour before I was set to post this blog entry. Therefore, I went with my next choice, Trevor Cahill. But despite him not being my top pick, Cahill is certainly a top choice. With just better than a strikeout per inning last season, along with a 2.74 ERA, Trevor Cahill has more than proven his value in recent history.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters

Every good pitcher thrives off of a good catcher, and Matt Wieters has proven to be one of the best. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Wieters bounced back in 2016 to hit 17 homers for the Orioles. His time in Baltimore may be up, but his playing career certainly is not. With good hitting catchers somewhat of a rarity in today’s game, any team would instantly improve with Matt Wieters behind the dish.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati RedsFIRST BASE: Chris Carter

There were several good choices for top first baseman free agent remaining, but Chris Carter placed at the top of my list. He will never hit for average, possessing a career .218 mark, but Carter’s power is up there with the very best. Having blasted 41 homers in 2016, Chris Carter should be a very attractive piece to any team, despite him still remaining unsigned to this point in the offseason.

SECOND BASE: Chase Utley

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of rumors stating that Chase Utley would prefer to head back to the Dodgers in 2017. However, with them looking into Brian Dozier, that may not occur. Regardless, Utley will land somewhere, and that team will be all the better for it. In addition to Chase Utley’s ability to still hit (recording 14 homers last year), his leadership role has proven to be invaluable over the years.

THIRD BASE: Aaron Hill

There weren’t a lot of players to choose from at the hot corner slot now that Justin Turner has been taken off the board, but I went with Aaron Hill. Much like Chase Utley, Hill isn’t going to hit you a mammoth number of homers any more (he still managed 10 last season), nor is he going to hit for a superbly high average. But Aaron Hill does have the ability to play a good defensive third base while stringing together solid at-bats.<> at Chase Field on April 29, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

SHORTSTOP: Daniel Descalso

It’s hard to think of a player who had an under-the-radar season quite to the extent of Daniel Descalso. In fact, I was somewhat surprised to discover that he recorded career highs in both on-base-percentage and homers in 2016 — .349 and 8, respectively. With that in mind, Daniel Descalso places at the top of the admittedly weak free agent list for shortstops, and should be signed before 2017 rolls around.

LEFT FIELD: Michael Saunders

Playing in just nine games all of 2015, Michael Saunders exploded back onto the scene in 2016, hitting a career high 24 home runs. For that reason alone, I see him as the top available option yet to be signed to play left field. Michael Saunders doesn’t hit for a high average, but he has enough pop to be a big contributor to any club he’s on, and should be seen as very valuable despite still sitting without a contract.

CENTER FIELD: Rajai Davis

Rajai Davis isn’t the biggest power hitter in baseball by any stretch. He also won’t be found among the top few in batting average year after year. But where Davis truly stands out is his running ability. In 2016 alone, Davis stole 43 bases, making it his fifth career 40+ stolen base season. With that speed, in addition to his bat being no slouch (he popped 12 homers in 2016), Rajai Davis is quite the free agent pickup.trumbo

RIGHT FIELD: Mark Trumbo

Always known for his power, Mark Trumbo took things up a notch last season. After never having hit more than 34 homers in a single season, Trumbo blasted 47 big flies in 2016. Though you never know if any given player’s success can be carried over from one season to the next, Mark Trumbo is definitely worth taking a chance on. Worst case scenario, he hits 30 homers. But the ability for 50 home runs is certainly there.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Edwin Encarnacion

Another player with crazy-stupid power is Edwin Encarnacion. After turning town a sizeable contract offer from the Blue Jays, it’s looking likely that Encarnacion will take his talents elsewhere in 2017 and beyond. In addition to his fifth straight 34+ home run season, Encarnacion recorded a career high in RBI’s as well last season. Whoever gets Edwin Encarnacion, they will have an absolute superstar to add to their lineup.

2016 Silver Slugger Awards

The 2016 Silver Slugger award winners were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. While the Gold Glove Awards given out on Tuesday focused on the defensive side of baseball, the Silver Slugger awards are given annually to the best offensive player at each position in both theimages1 American League and the National League.

Marking the 37th annual Silver Slugger awards, which began in 1980, the awards are voted on by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (managers can not vote for their own players), with voters considering several offensive categories in selecting the winners. Those categories include batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, in addition to coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.

Barry Bonds’ 12 career Silver Slugger awards stand as the most all-time by a single player at any position, and no one from this season’s winners are even close. Here are the list of winners with my thoughts on each:

OUTFIELD

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Bonds holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as an outfielder, with twelve.

NL Winners – Charlie Blackmon (1st career), Christian Yelich (1st career) and Yoenis Cespedes (1st career)

AL Winners – Mark Trumbo (1st career), Mookie Betts (1st career) and Mike Trout (5th career)

For Mike Trout, it was business as usual on Thursday, as he won his fifth career Silver Slugger award — having done so in all of his full seasons in the big leagues. For the other five winners, they were all first-timers, as Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich, Yoenis Cespedes, Mark Trumbo and Mookie Betts each took home their first career hardware for their hitting.

FIRST BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Miguel Cabrera holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a first baseman, with seven.

NL Winner – Anthony Rizzo (1st career)

AL Winner – Miguel Cabrera (7th career)

Miguel Cabrera further increased his lead in regards to number of Silver Sluggers as a first baseman, winning his seventh in his Hall of Fame career. On the other side, World Champion Anthony Rizzo won his first Silver Slugger award for his career, but he very well could win several more before all is said and done.

SECOND BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Ryne Sandberg holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a second baseman, with seven.

NL Winner – Daniel Murphy (1st career)

AL Winner – Jose Altuve (3rd career)

After the seasons that both Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve had, it was no shock to see them win the Silver Slugger award. Murphy picks up his first, while Altuve takes home the honor for the third time in his career. Whether they can each keep up their amazing 2016 season into 2017 is yet to be seen, but more Silver Sluggers could be on the horizon for them.

THIRD BASE

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Wade Boggs holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman, with eight.

NL Winner – Nolan Arenado (2nd career)

AL Winner – Josh Donaldson (2nd career)

Nolan Arenado is going to go down as one of the best all-around third basemen in history when all is said and done, further adding to his career resume with his second career Silver Slugger. Josh Donaldson also picks up his second award, doing so by having a year much like his MVP-winning season in 2015.

SHORTSTOP

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Barry Larkin holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a shortstop, with nine.

NL Winner – Corey Seager (1st career)

AL Winner – Xander Bogaerts (2nd career)

The future appears to be bright at the shortstop position, as Corey Seager and Xander Bogaerts look to be the top players at those positions for quite some time to come. Although anything can happen in the future, them each winning many more Silver Slugger awards seems very likely.

CATCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Piazza holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a catcher, with ten.

NL Winner – Wilson Ramos (1st career)

AL Winner – Salvador Perez (1st career)

Both Wilson Ramos and Salvador Perez picked up their first career Silver Slugger awards, but each have had plenty of great seasons to this point in their careers. However, they took things to another level in 2016, making them each extremely deserving of the award win.

PITCHER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: Mike Hampton holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a pitcher, with five.

Winner – Jake Arrieta (1st career)

Pitchers are generally known as the worst hitting players on any given team’s roster, but there are a few of them who can actually swing the bat fairly well. One of those such players is Jake Arrieta, who can really put on a show at times throughout any given season, in addition to being one of the best pitchers in the game.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Most Silver Slugger Awards: David Ortiz holds the record for the most Silver Slugger Awards as a Designated Hitter, with seven.

Winner – David Ortiz (7th career)

In his last season before retirement, David Ortiz had one of his best overall seasons of his career. At age forty, Ortiz posted numbers that would be considered amazing for someone even half his age. With him no longer going to be the designated hitter for the Red Sox, it’s fitting to see him go out with one final Silver Slugger win.

2016 Gold Glove Awards

The 2016 Major League Baseball Gold Glove award winners were announced Tuesday night on ESPN. Given out each year to the players who are judged to have exhibited superior individual fielding performances at each fielding Gold Gloveposition in both the National League and the American League, the award is voted on by the managers and coaches in each league (managers can not vote for their own players).

Marking the 60th annual Gold Glove Awards, which began back in 1957, there have been some terrific players to receive the honor. However, no other player has won more Gold Gloves in their career or in a row than Greg Maddux, who took home 18 total and 13 consecutively.

While Maddux’s records seem fairly safe for now, there were some winners for 2016 who could win quite a few Gold Gloves as the years go on. Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:

CATCHER

AL Nominees – James McCann, Carlos Perez and Salvador Perez

AL Winner – Salvador Perez (4th career)

NL Nominees – Jonathan Lucroy, Yadier Molina and Buster Posey

NL Winner – Buster Posey (1st career)

Salvador Perez picked up his fourth Gold Glove award, and rightfully so. His defense behind the plate has proved to be extremely valuable over the past several seasons, and he could easily win several more before his career is over. In the National League, despite Yadier Molina having won eight straight Gold Gloves, this year the award went to Buster Posey, who picked up his first ever Gold Glove.

PITCHER

AL Nominees R.A. Dickey, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander

AL Winner – Dallas Keuchel (3rd career)

NL Nominees – Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright

NL Winner – Zack Greinke (3rd career)

Pitchers aren’t generally known for being good fielders, but there are a number of them who can pick it. Dallas Keuchel and Zack Greinke each won their third career Gold Glove awards on Tuesday night, with each having proven their defensive worth in 2016. While they aren’t near Greg Maddux’s record number of Gold Gloves, they each are very deserving of the honor.

LEFT FIELDER

AL Nominees – Brett Gardner, Alex Gordon and Colby Rasmus

AL Winner – Brett Gardner (1st career)

NL Nominees – Adam Duvall, Starling Marte and Christian Yelich

NL Winner – Starling Marte (2nd career)

It came as a surprise to many that Brett Gardner was able to win his first career Gold Glove award, but his defense in left field for the Yankees was terrific this season and certainly worthy of the award. In the NL, Starling Marte truly broke out as one of the best left fielder in the game, taking home his second career Gold Glove award for the Pirates.

CENTER FIELDER

AL Nominees – Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar

AL Winner – Kevin Kiermaier (2nd career)

NL Nominees – Billy Hamilton, Odubel Herrera and Ender Inciarte

NL Winner – Ender Inciarte (1st career)

Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar were all absolutely amazing this season for their respective teams, making great plays night after night. But in the end, Kiermaier ended up winning the Gold Glove. Picking up the award for the opposite league was Ender Inciarte, who went from a somewhat unknown to a breakout player defensively in 2016.

RIGHT FIELDER

AL Nominees – Mookie Betts, Adam Eaton and George Springer

AL Winner – Mookie Betts (1st career)

NL Nominees – Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward and Nick Markakis

NL Winner – Jason Heyward (4th career)

Despite his teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr., not winning the Gold Glove for center field, Mookie Betts was able to win his first career G.G. award for his play in right field. Also getting the award was Jason Heyward, who had a down year offensively, despite his huge offseason contract, but continued to dazzle with his glove, catching nearly every ball hit his way this season.

FIRST BASE

AL Nominees – Chris Davis, Eric Hosmer and Mitch Moreland

AL Winner – Mitch Moreland (1st career)

NL Nominees – Paul Goldschmidt, Wil Myers and Anthony Rizzo

NL Winner – Anthony Rizzo (1st career)

Both Mitch Moreland and Anthony Rizzo picked up their first career Gold Glove awards on Tuesday night, and both were very deserving. Although known more for their offense more that their defense, they each can pick it at first, and make key plays for their teams throughout any given season. While both are unique players, they each share the honor of winning a Gold Glove.

SECOND BASE

AL Nominees Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia

AL Winner – Ian Kinsler (1st career)

NL Nominees – DJ LeMahieu, Joe Panik and Jean Segura

NL Winner – Joe Panik (1st career)

Although nothing beats watching Robinson Cano make a smooth play each night at second base for the Mariners, seeing Ian Kinsler make the great plays he does each season is a close second. Picking up the first Gold Glove of his career, Kinsler will look to maintain his defense into 2017. Joe Panik also wins his first Gold Glove award of his career, also making him a big player to watch moving forward.

SHORTSTOP

AL Nominees – Jose Iglesias, Francisco Lindor and Andrelton Simmons

AL Winner – Francisco Lindor (1st career)

NL Nominees – Brandon Crawford, Freddy Galvis and Addison Russell

NL Winner – Brandon Crawford (2nd career)

Francisco Lindor truly emerged onto the scene in 2016, becoming a household name and subsequently winning the first Gold Glove award of his career, and the first for an Indians shortstop since Omar Vizquel in 2001. Over in the National League, Brandon Crawford wins his second straight Gold Glove and has cemented himself as one of the best in baseball.

THIRD BASE

AL Nominees – Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado and Kyle Seager

AL Winner – Adrian Beltre (5th career)

NL Nominees – Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon and Justin Turner

NL Winner – Nolan Arenado (4th career)

The future Hall of Famer, Adrian Beltre, was able to win his fifth career Gold Glove award for his great performance all season long at the hot-corner in Texas. But the player who may turn out to be one of the top few third basemen defensively of all-time when all is said and done is Nolan Arenado. With the great plays Arenado makes each day, it’s no surprise to see him win the award for the fourth time in his career.

Sandoval, Ramirez Agree to Multiyear Deals With Sox

26 days after winning it all with the Giants, Pablo Sandoval is heading to Boston.

Receiving a five-year deal from the Red Sox, reportedly worth around 100 million dollars, Sandoval is set to don a uniform other than that of San Francisco for the first time in his career, going to the Red Sox after three World Championships won with the Giants.

Reportedly offered around the same deal, both in years and dollar amount, by the Giants as was given to Sandoval by the Red Sox, a lot of people question why Sandoval, coming off a World Series title, would leave and join a team thatMLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals was one of the worst in baseball in 2014. But despite the Sox’ down 2014 season, there are many predicting a bounce back year for them in 2015.

A two-time All-Star, Sandoval will certainly help the Red Sox moving forward. Though Sandoval hasn’t hit 20 or more home runs since 2011 — his best all around year came back in 2009, when he blasted 25 homers (career high) and recorded 95 RBI’s (career high) to go along with a .330 average (career high) — that’s not to be expected from Sandoval each and every year. He’s still a respectable .294 career hitter, and a great defender at third base.

Staying healthy this past season, playing in a career best 157 games, Sandoval was able to record 16 home runs and drive in 73 runs, all while batting .279. While that’s certainly solid numbers for a third baseman, and around what you should expect Sandoval to produce from season to season, his most value comes in the postseason, where Sandoval has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.

If the Red Sox can find a way back to the playoffs in 2015, they should see a level of Pablo Sandoval that far exceeds his regular season statistics.

But Sandoval isn’t the only player that could help the Red Sox return to the postseason. Another player who should help the Red Sox’ playoff hopes is Hanley Ramirez, who the Sox also picked up on Monday.

Coming over from the Dodgers, where he hit .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s while manning the shortstop position this past season, Ramirez is receiving a four-year deal from the Red Sox, coming out to 88 million dollars. However, for Ramirez, who has played the infield for all of his career, there’s a slight catch in the contract.

RamirezDue to an already set infield, with newly signed Pablo Sandoval at third and Xander Bogaerts holding at shortstop, the Red Sox’ current plan involves moving Ramirez to left field — a postion he’s never played before. Getting placed in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, it will surely be interesting to see how Ramirez fares in the outfield, especially with the 37-foot wall looming behind him.

More importantly, however, sending the three-time All-Star, Ramirez, out to left field takes away the spot of Yoenis Cespedes, who the Sox acquired via trade for Jon Lester in the second half of the 2014 season.

With Cespedes an odd man out, and numerous other outfield options, including Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, etc., Boston will definitely have to move at least a couple of their players. Desperately in need of pitching, many feel it would best serve the Sox to trade away a non crucial outfielder (possibly Cespedes?) in return for some good pitching. And they’re rumored to be looking into doing just that.

But although Boston still needs to do some more work on their pitching situation, the signing of Ramirez would appear to be a good deal. The 2006 Rookie of the Year with the Marlins and Most Valuable Player runner up in 2009, when he hit a staggering .342 with 24 home runs and 106 RBI’s, Ramirez will likely be a nice fit for the Red Sox, regardless of the fact that he won’t be playing his favored position.

A .300 career hitter, Ramirez hasn’t been a superstar level player in a few years, but the potential to be one still remains. Ramirez in set to be 31 years old when the 2015 season begins, but he still can be a big impact on any team he’s on, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of players in baseball.

A Red Sox team that finished last in 2012, only to come back and win the World Series in 2013, and then wind up near the bottom of the pack in 2014, it will be intriguing to see what happens with them in 2015. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will definitely go a long way in improving their record, but it will take a few more changes to get the Red Sox where they want to be.

However, if the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez are any sign of things to come this offseason, the Red Sox could be setting themselves up to make another playoff push in 2015 and beyond.

Gregory Polanco Headed to the Pirates

The wait is finally over for Pirates fans.

Gregory Polanco — the 12th overall ranked prospect in all of baseball, and one of the highest praised young outfielders in years — is set to make his MLB debut later tonight against the Cubs, receiving the call after second baseman, Neil Walker, was placed on the disabled list.8396068

Set to play right field for the Buccos, Polanco is joining an already talented outfield of Starling Marte (left) and Andrew McCutchen (center), taking over for Josh Harrison, who has done a fantastic job this year in right field, hitting near .300 and making numerous spectacular catches. Nonetheless, replacing Harrison with Polanco instantly makes the Pirates outfield one of the best in baseball.

And that’s why, in the minds of many baseball fans, the arrival of Polanco is long overdue. After getting off to such a great start to the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, the idea of a big league call up for Polanco began to gain mention (several rumors were started just in the past week regarding a promotion), but when he continued to stay hot, making it up to seven home runs and 49 RBI’s, to go along with a .347 batting average before his call up, Polanco truly left the Pirates no other choice.

With the Pirates struggling somewhat so far this season, the hope is that the young, talented Polanco will arrive on the scene and help turn things around.

Sitting three games back of .500, and 7.5 games back of first place, it’s still too early to count out the Pirates, especially now that Polanco is going to get some time for the club. Despite lofty predictions being made for this year after the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years last season, at this point in 2013 they were eleven games above .500, which is allowing understandable concern to come into play.

But could Gregory Polanco’s mere presence truly be enough to turn around the Pirates?

Well, though it’s going to take the entire team playing better for the Pirates to go on a run, we’ve seen big time players make big time impacts before. Take Yasiel Puig for example. The Dodgers were doing terribly last season before his call up, and after Puig’s arrival, the Dodgers went on a record-breaking streak that ultimately led them to the playoffs. Sure, the entire team began playing well, but the initial spark undeniably came from Puig.

However, while it’s certainly possible that Polanco will kick start the Pirates, it’s not all that likely. The biggest difference between the Dodgers’ team, and the Pirates’ 2013 team for that matter, is pitching — bother the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Last season, the Pirates had a magical year, where nearly every one of their pitchers from top to bottom was superb. But the loss of A.J. Burnett this offseason, the recent injury to Gerrit Cole, and the terrible performance by 2013 ace Francisco Liriano, has hurt the chances of an already poor team.

And thus, it will certainly be interesting to see just what type of impact Polanco has for the Bucs. Asking him to put the whole team on his back and carry them to the playoffs for the second straight year is an awful lot to expect from Polanco, but with young phenom prospects, you never truly know what they can do.

But one thing’s for sure: Gregory Polanco is just as excited as Pirates’ fans to finally be making his way to the Steel City, regardless of the current struggles; saying in a tweet on Monday night, “Pirates fans, thanks for being patient with me . . . The wait is over. My dream has officially come true.”

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of Untitledthe midsummer classic.

With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.

To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.

Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).

I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:

FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)

With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.

For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.

SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)

Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.

I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.

Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.

THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)

In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.

Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)

With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.

When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three for each league), especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.

Jacoby Ellsbury Hits the Jackpot With Yankees

Things haven’t slowed down a bit since my blog post yesterday on the latest major trades and free agent signings. Numerous deals have taken place since, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia going to the Marlins, and Justin Morneau heading to the Rockies, as well as multiple other transactions. But I’m not focused on those. The only signing on my mind at the moment is the deal the New York Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s a deal that Ellsbury would’ve been crazy to turn down, and that, in my opinion, the Yankees were crazy to offer.

jacoby-ellsbury-076929823Ellsbury received a seven-year, 153 million dollar deal on Tuesday to play with the Yankees through 2020 — the third largest contract for an outfielder in MLB history. For a player who is injury prone — missing a good part of this past season, and playing in just 74 games in 2012, and a mere 18 in 2010 — this isn’t a very smart deal in the long run.

But it’s not just the health of Ellsbury that makes this a bad deal in my mind. Ellsbury isn’t a player worth over 20 million dollars a year, given his career stats.

In Ellsbury’s career best season, in 2011, he batted .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI’s to go along with 39 stolen bases. That’s a player worth this type of money. But considering the fact that Ellsbury hasn’t had another season even close to 2011 — his highest other seasons being 9 homers in 2008 and 2013, and 60 RBI’s in 2009 — I don’t feel he’s worth anywhere near that. The one thing you get with Ellsbury is speed, having stolen 52 bases last season, but that’s about it on a consistent basis.

In addition to the amount of money, at thirty years old, Ellsbury is too old for a contract of this length, especially given his injury history. If Ellsbury was an everyday player, playing 160+ games every season, it would go a long way in convincing me that this deal will be worth it. But for a player with a career best 158 games in a season, and an average of 113 games a season for his career (not including his rookie year), this deal is bound to disappoint both the Yankees and their fan base, who need something to get excited about.

The Red Sox really don’t lose anything by Ellsbury signing elsewhere. They have a good young prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., who, while he doesn’t have the same speed as Ellsbury, is nearly equal in every other aspect of his game. Bradley should be able to stay healthier than Ellsbury has been able to, and will be a great asset to the Red Sox for years to come.

While the Yankees are the Yankees and seem to be sticking with their historical trend of spending money for the players they want, I feel this is money wasted. Sure, you get a slightly above average player when healthy, and an impact player, at least for now, at the leadoff spot, but this likely ends any possible run for Carlos Beltran, who is reportedly close to a deal with the Royals.

The Yankees could’ve used the money to sign a player of Beltran’s caliber (if not Beltran himself) to an outfield spot. But instead, they overpaid for Ellsbury. Nonetheless, the Yankees are supposedly still looking to lock up Robinson Cano at second base, so they have some more money to burn, apparently, even after spending a combined 238 million on Ellsbury and Brian McCann. So, who knows what they’ll do from here?

Despite my pessimism, I truly hope that Jacoby Ellsbury proves me wrong and makes this deal well worth it for the Yankees. If he can have a fully healthy next few seasons, and subsequently post good numbers as their likely leadoff hitter, the Yankees could have a decent 2014 and beyond, especially with newly acquired Brian McCann behind the plate.

But, from the way I’m viewing things, I just don’t see that happening.