It’s been just over a week since Opening Day launched the 2014 Major League Baseball season back on March 31st, and there have already been a lot of ups and downs for teams all around baseball, some of which were anticipated, but some that have come as a shock to many. Though we’re less than ten games into the long 162-game season, and many things can and will happen over the next several months, it’s interesting to take a look at how teams are beginning their season.
The most surprising good starts to the year, in my opinion, have to be the Mariners, Brewers, Marlins, and Rockies, as each have gotten off to an unpredicted great start.
While the Mariners picked up Robinson Cano this offseason, and made a couple of other great additions to their team as well, I’m not sure anyone predicted them to pitch and produce runs the way they’ve been able to do thus far. Everyone up and down their lineup is clicking for the most part, and their pitching has been really good. It should be interesting to see if they can keep up their 4-2 start.
The Brewers don’t really have all that much above average talent past Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, who can be hit and miss, but they’ve been able to put together a great start to the season. Going 4-2 so far this year, the Brewers, while still not predicted to do much, have shown that they have the potential to cause some problems with the rest of the teams in the National League Central division.
Down in Miami, it takes a lot to get fans excited about the Marlins, ranking year after year towards the bottom in overall attendance, however, the start to the season the Marlins have produced is more than anyone could’ve asked for. Jose Fernandez has been fantastic in his two starts, and Giancarlo Stanton seems to have found his groove earlier than usual. Looking to build on their 5-2 start, the Marlins are worth watching.
One of the great things about baseball is that you never know what may happen, and that holds true with the Rockies, who have gotten off to a .500 start of 4-4 to begin the season. Though they’re still expected to finish near the bottom of the division, with Carlos Gonzalez clicking as usual and Troy Tulowitzki finally healthy, in addition to a good start for their pitchers, they could surprise a lot of people.
But those are just the surprising good starts to the year.
On the other side of the spectrum, the most surprising bad starts to the year, in my opinion, are the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Reds and Orioles, who haven’t been able to put much together yet.
The worst start to the 2014 season in all of baseball goes to Diamondbacks, who currently stand at 2-7. That comes as a big surprise, as they made several good moves this offseason, including acquiring power bat Mark Trumbo, who is currently one of the only bright spots on the team, besides Paul Goldschmidt, who is always consistent. The D-backs certainly need to turn things around, but they have plenty of time to do so.
Cincinnati is one of those teams that can be good or bad, however, I thought they’d begin the year better than they have. With a 2-5 record, they sit at the bottom of their division, and with several players struggling (mainly Billy Hamilton) or injured, it could be awhile before they begin to rebound. Though, they’re still too good of an overall team to keep doing this poorly as the season goes on, in my mind.
Like the Reds, the Orioles can be good or bad depending on several factors, but what it really comes down to is their pitching. Their offense is one of the best in baseball, with strong points up and down the lineup, but they need their newly added starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to return to form for the Orioles to make a run in the division. Sitting at 2-5, it will be fun to watch the O’s in the difficult American League East.
Picking up Prince Fielder this offseason, many people (myself included) predicted the Rangers to have a great year, possibly winning the division. However, due to a ton of pitching injuries, among other things, they haven’t been able to perform to their potential, currently sitting at the bottom of the division with a 3-4 record. But despite the poor start, the Rangers should be just fine.
As stated, there is still a ton of season remaining where anything could happen. The teams that are off to a fantastic start could end up taking a tumble as the year goes on, while other teams that are struggling at the moment could very well take off on a major run. You never know what will happen throughout a given MLB season, and that’s what makes baseball so much fun.
That’s what it took to get Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest.
After a long period of guessing as to whether Cano going to Seattle was purely speculation, the baseball world found out on Friday that it was in fact a reality. The five time All-Star will certainly make an immediate impact for the Mariners, but how big of an overall impact is yet to be seen.
Even with the signing of Cano, who batted .317 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI’s in 2013, the Mariners are still a ways from becoming a competitive team in the talented American League West division, in the minds of many.
With the Rangers and Athletics turning their already good teams into even better teams this offseason (the Rangers trading for Prince Fielder and the A’s signing Jim Johnson, among others) it’s going to be interesting to see how the Mariners fare this coming season.
But locking up a player of Cano’s caliber for the next ten years is definitely a step in the right direction.
Cano has been a consistent player over the course of his career, hitting at least 25 home runs over the past five seasons, and racking up a minimum of 85 RBI’s over that same span. He’s also been able to stay healthy, playing in at least 159 games for the past seven seasons. Both combined make for a good signing, in my mind. The Mariners needed a player like Cano.
As far as the deal goes, I don’t really feel ten years is appropriate. Cano is 31 years old, meaning by the time all is said and done with his contract he’ll be 41. Who knows what type of player he’ll be by then? But if ten years and 240 million — the third largest contract in MLB history, and the largest ever for a second baseman — is what it took to get this deal done, then I guess the Mariners had to do what they had to do. We’ll see if it pays off.
But Cano isn’t the only 2013 Yankee who found a new home on Friday.
Curtis Granderson agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Mets worth a reported 60 million dollars.
I feel this is a great signing by the Mets, who have really struggled in recent history offensively. Granderson will provide some power to their lineup, in addition to being a great outfielder with great range. Though he was injured most of 2013, Granderson put together a couple of 40+ home run seasons the previous two years. It’s certainly possible that Granderson could do that for the Mets this coming season, but I see him as more of a 30 homer guy in that ballpark.
With or without the 40 bombs, Granderson will still be able serve as protection for David Wright in the lineup, who I could see having a career year in 2014. The Mets will be without Matt Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October, but they should still have a decent season, possibly finishing in third place, yet again, behind the Braves and Nationals.
As stated, while I still don’t think the Mets will have enough to beat out the Braves or the Nationals in their division, this move no doubt makes them an all around better team. A team that could surprise some people down the road, once they get all their pitching back together.
The good news of the day, if you’re a Yankees fan, is that Hiroki Kuroda agreed to a one-year, 16 million dollar contract to remain in New York for 2014.
Although this is little excitement after the loss of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees need pitching, and were smart to let both of them, and the money that would’ve come along with them, go.
The Yankees just signed a good replacement for Granderson, in Jacoby Ellsbury, and while I think they overspent on Ellsbury, as I stated with the Mariners’ signing of Cano, I guess the Yankees “had to do what they had to do” to lock him up. As far as losing Cano goes, they can use that money for what they really need — pitching. (And now, a second baseman).
With it uncertain whether or not Japenese phenom, Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season, will be available, the best starting pitcher still on the market, in my mind, is Ubaldo Jimenez.
Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and down over the course of his career, he had a decent season last year, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, finishing out the season strong. Jimenez is ready for a breakout season, and would be a good fit for the Yankees, now that my original pick for Jimenez, the Twins, have signed former Yankee, Phil Hughes.
If you were a fan of the 2013 Yankees, this has been a bad week for you, as many of them have departed.
But as a baseball fan, this has been one of the most exciting weeks in Major League Baseball offseason history.
The 2013 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are just now beginning. The biggest trade that has taken place so far is undoubtedly Prince Fielder going to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, however, the Cardinals getting rid of David Freese in a trade for Peter Bourjos is up there on the list as well.
As far as free agent signings go — none of the previously named players were free agents — Brian McCann signing to play with the Yankees was a big time deal, with Jhonny Peralta’s agreement to play with the Cardinals (4 years, 53 million dollar) being the deal that has caused the most controversy, due to past his PED use. But I won’t get into that.
Not too many of the 184 free agent players have signed yet — just 27 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 Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked (in my mind) player available at each position, 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, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.
2013 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Team I feel should sign him: Rangers
The Rangers were in the conversation for Brian McCann to take over their catcher role, but after the Yankees locked him up, I think Saltalamacchia would be the next best thing — a good fit for both the Rangers and Saltalamacchia. Having played for the Rangers from 2007 to 2010, Saltalamacchia would be returning to familiar territory. Though he never had much success in Arlington — never playing in more than 84 games in a season — Saltalamacchia proved this past season with the Sox that he can post good numbers, batting .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. I think the Rangers would be a great team for Saltalamacchia, but he’ll likely remain in Boston.
Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales
Team I feel should sign him: Tigers
Kendrys Morales had a great season for the Mariners in 2013, batting .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Being a switch hitter — a very consistent one at that — I feel the Tigers would be a good fit for Morales. The Tigers have a right-handed-heavy lineup, and a good hitter who can hit from the left side — there are talks they could also be interested in Shin-Soo Choo — when needed would be an important addition. Also, Morales could go a long way in replacing Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup, though admittedly it wouldn’t replace his 30+ home run power. Nonetheless, Morales is a player the Tigers need to target, in my opinion.
First Base: Mike Napoli
Team I feel should sign him: Red Sox
A lot of teams would be interested in Mike Napoli, but I feel the Red Sox should resign him, as he is a great fit where he is. Playing first base, there are really no other fantastic first basemen on the market, and they’re not about to put David Ortiz there full time. Napoli’s 23 home runs and 92 RBI’s this past season is something that’s hard to replace. He was a big reason the Red Sox were so successful this season, helping to lead them to a World Series title. Napoli shouldn’t be going anywhere.
Second Base: Robinson Cano
Team I feel should sign him: Anyone but the Yankees
Because Robinson Cano is such a good player — a great fit for multiple teams — it’s hard to pick just one team that he should sign with. The top ranked free agent of the offseason, I feel Cano doesn’t need to be in pinstripes next season for both his sake and the sake of the Yankees. Not signing Cano to a deal worth, more than likely, nearly 200 million dollars, would allow them to use that extra cash to sign some lower-priced free agents and develop an all-around better team. With or without Cano, there’s no guarantee the Yankees will make the playoffs, but I feel they’re better off in the long run without him.
Third Base: Juan Uribe
Team I feel should sign him: Yankees
Tying into one of the reasons I feel the Yankees shouldn’t resign Cano, Juan Uribe is a player who would come at a relatively affordable price to the Yankees and would be a good fit at third base, where they are very weak. With no guarantees that A-Rod will ever return, signing Uribe would give them a better defensive player at third than what they currently have, and it would add a decent offensive player to their lineup. Uribe’s .278 batting average with 12 homers and 50 RBI’s last season wouldn’t be a team-changing move for the Yankees, but it would certainly improve their situation.
Shortstop: Stephen Drew
Team I feel should sign him: Astros
The only thing that is for sure with Stephen Drew is that he has a near 100 percent chance of not being with the Red Sox next season; other than that, not a lot is certain. Drew was an impact player for the Sox this past season, playing a good defense at shortstop and coming up big in big spots, especially in the postseason, but with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base, there just isn’t room for Drew. The Yankees could use him down the road at short, but assuming Derek Jeter is healthy, there won’t be a spot for Drew next season, other than Jeter’s backup. For Drew’s sake, I feel he’d be a good fit with the Astros, who could use an everyday shortstop — one of their many weak spots.
Left Field: Quintin Berry
Team I feel should sign him: Diamondback’s
There really aren’t a lot of great left field free agents available, but of them, Quintin Berry is the best. The Diamondback’s have a left fielder, in Adam Eaton, but I feel the acquisition of Berry would be worth it, as they could move some players around to make room for him. Berry hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity to show off any consistency at the big league level, but his speed — he’s never been caught stealing in 24 major league stolen base attempts — alone is enough for the D-back’s to take a shot on Berry, in my mind.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury & Shin-Soo Choo
Team I feel should sign them: Mariners (Ellsbury) and Reds (Choo)
I couldn’t pick just one player as the best available free agent at this position, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have a high value in their own unique ways. Ellsbury hasn’t been able to stay very healthy so far during his career, but an unhealthy Ellsbury is more valuable than a lot of other players in baseball — he’s that great of an impact when healthy. Though Seattle has a difficult time attracting players, due to their location and recent subpar performances, I feel they are going to become a great team in the next year or two. Ellsbury needs to join before things take off. As far as Choo goes, he is very efficient at getting on base, with a .421 OBP this past season. The Reds need to keep him, in my opinion, as their leadoff man, if they want to be as successful next season as they were in 2013.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
Team I feel should sign him: Yankees
If the Yankees decide not to keep Cano, as I believe they should do, they will likely make a run at Carlos Beltran, who they are reportedly interested in. A left handed hitter, Beltran would thrive at Yankee stadium and would be a big impact for the Yankees in 2014 and beyond. At 36 years old, Beltran isn’t a player you would want to lock up for any extended period of time, however, any time with Beltran on your team is worth it. Batting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s last season, Beltran could have a great season should the Yankees sign him.
Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez
Team I feel should sign him: Twins
A lot of teams need pitching, including the Blue Jays, Rockies, etc., but the Twins are a team I feel could use a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez the most. The Twins are an interesting team, as they don’t have a lot going for them now, but their farm system is one of the best in baseball and they will be a really good team down the road, similar with the Mariners. Should Jimenez sign with them, I could see him developing into the great pitcher he’s capable of being. He’s shown signs of it in the past, and next year could be a break out year for him. Jimenez could really help out the Twins in a big way.
Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson
Team I feel should sign him: Tigers
While Joe Nathan and Fernando Rodney would be good fits for the Tigers, I feel Brian Wilson would be the best. Wilson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball — something the Tigers could use. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, many teams shy away from Wilson. But after the performance he had towards the end of last season, I feel Wilson could be the piece the Tigers need to clinch them a World Series title after coming up short recently.
So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each postion, and which team should sign them. Odds are that things won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel they should, but this is just the way I see it working out best.
Besides Robinson Cano, who do you feel is the best remaining free agent? Cast your vote:
As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.