Opening Day 2019 – Quick Picks

AL East

New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox*

Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays

Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins*

Chicago White Sox

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

AL West

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Angels

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

MVP: OF Aaron Judge

Cy Young: RHP Jose Berrios

Rookie of the Year: OF Eloy Jiminez

Coach of the Year: Rick Renteria – CWS

Comeback Player: OF Byron Buxton

Biggest Surprise: Chicago White Sox

Biggest Disappointment: Oakland A’s

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

Atlanta Braves

New York Mets

Miami Marlins

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

Chicago Cubs*

Milwaukee Brewers

Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

Colorado Rockies*

San Diego Padres

Arizona Diamondbacks

San Francisco Giants

MVP: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Cy Young: RHP Aaron Nola

Rookie of the Year: 3B/OF Nick Senzel

Coach of the Year: Mike Shildt – StL

Comeback Player: SS Corey Seager

Biggest Surprise: San Diego Padres

Biggest Disappointment: New York Mets

Yankees over Dodgers in World Series

Excuse me, I have to go an shower now after writing the above…

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Hot Stove, Hot Takes – Part Three

free agents

Here we go again! Time to continue with our journey through Hot Stove season. With the GM meetings happening at the end of this week, you can bet that the dominoes will continue to fall as General Managers around the MLB continue to shape their rosters for the upcoming season. Having already tackled where the top position players and starting pitchers will wind up, we now move onto the top relief pitchers available.

kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel

Position: RHP Age: 31

2018 Stats: 62.1 IP • 2.74 ERA • 3.13 xFIP • 0.99 WHIP • 13.86 K/9 • 4.48 BB/9 • 42 SV • 1.5 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. Not only are they in a position where they could lose Kimbrel, but their set-up man, Joe Kelly, could also be pitching for a new team come Spring Training. Having to potentially lose both Kimbrel and Kelly, leaves the reigning World Series champions with no clear replacement for the upcoming season. One thought, in favour of allowing Kimbrel to leave via free agency, would be the allure of the draft pick compensation that the Red Sox would receive as they have already qualified Kimbrel.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. One of the more prevalent offseason storylines thus far has been that of the Phillies and their willingness to spend a “stupid” amount of money. In Kimbrel, the Phillies get a pitcher who has been one of the best closers in baseball since becoming the Braves everyday closer in 2011. In his eight seasons, Kimbrel has made the All-Star team seven times and garnered votes for the Cy Young five occasions. Over the past three seasons, he’s struck out 42.3% of batters faced, a stat that leads all MLB relievers, as well as featured an average fastball of 97.6 mph; good for third best amongst relievers over that same time. Although they could still find a closer via the trade market – I thought for sure they’d be the favourites to trade for Edwin Diaz – signing the veteran Kimbrel may be the Phillies smartest option as it allows them to use their farm system to fill other holes if need be.

Term: 5yrs/$75mil

familia

Jeurys Familia

Position: RHP Age: 29

2018 Stats: 72.0 IP • 3.13 ERA • 3.53 xFIP •1.22 WHIP • 10.38 K/9 • 3.50 BB/9 • 18 SV • 1.8 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Minnesota Twins. Despite a down year in 2018 that saw the Twins take a step backwards, and Paul Molitor lose his job, the outlook in Minneapolis heading into 2019 should be a positive one. With the Indians staring down a potential rebuild on the fly, the Twins could take advantage of an incredibly weak division and become a legitimate threat to takeover the Central. Even though they have more than a few holes to fill on their roster, the Twins can’t miss the opportunity that this offseason presents to add an impact arm to close out games. Sure, the duo of Addison Reed and Trevor Hildenberger performed admirably following the trade of Fernando Rodney, but the addition of a bonafide closer would allow both of them to return back to their set-up roles, a role they’re better suited for.

Who Will Sign Him: Atlanta Braves. Although their bullpen is not a major cause for concern – thanks to the duo of Arodys Vizcaino and A.J Minter – the Braves have been rumoured to be looking into some of the “bigger” names available on the free agent market. The addition of one of these “bigger” names would allow the Braves to move the aforementioned duo of Vizcaino and Minter into set-up roles, thus solidifying the back-end of their bullpen. Even though the Braves have been rumoured to have interest in Craig Kimbrel, whom was drafted and developed by them, the 31 year old closer’s price tag may be one that the Braves should avoid. It is not that the Braves can’t afford to sign Kimbrel, it is just that said money may be better used on adding a tier two closer like Familia; as well as another starter and outfielder. Aside from financial ones, another reason for the Braves to consider Familia, who came up with the Mets, are his past successes pitching in the NL East. However, one possible deterrent to signing Familia could be his history of injuries and concerns over his durability.

Term: 3yrs/$30mil

USP MLB: ALCS-TORONTO BLUE JAYS AT CLEVELAND INDIA S BBA USA OH

Andrew Miller

Position: LHP Age: 33

2018 Stats: 34.0 IP • 4 24 ERA • 3.68 xFIP • 1.38 WHIP • 11.91 K/9 • 4.24 BB/9 • 2 SV • 0.4 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Oakland A’s. Already having Blake Treinen in place as their closer, the Athletics could target a veteran like Miller or Zach Britton, both of whom are coming off “down” years, to become their eighth inning set-up man. The signing could be a win-win for both player and club, as it allows the pitcher to (hopefully) re-establish themself, while the team (hopefully) gets an elite bullpen arm at a potential discount. Miller, being the older of the two names mentioned, may be the better signing for the Athletics because if they do slip in the standings, they could offload Miller to a contender at the deadline – a pure Billy Beane move.

Who Will Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. As mentioned in the profile of Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox are currently looking at having to either re-sign or replace both their set-up man and their closer. While there is still the possibility of a reunion between the Red Sox and both Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, the addition of Andrew Miller would fill two needs: a left handed reliever and a top tier set-up man. Hypothetically, if the Red Sox do re-sign Kimbrel and Kelly, as well as adding Miller, it would immediately give Boston one of, if not the best, back ends in the game. With strong bullpens being one of the major factors to a teams success for the past decade, the Red Sox would be wise to bolster theirs by adding one of the best left handed relievers available. One other thought in favour of adding Miller: already having one of the better starting rotations in the MLB, the Red Sox could protect leads and “shorten the game” by getting the ball from the starters to their bullpen as quick as possible.

Term: 3yrs/$30mil

britton yank

Zack Britton

Position: LHP Age: 30

2018 Stats: 40.2 IP • 3.10 ERA • 3.75 xFIP • 1.23 WHIP • 7.52 K/9 • 4.65 BB/9 • 7 SV • 0.1 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Chicago Cubs. Arguably the best relief pitcher in the MLB heading into 2017, Britton saw his career momentarily derailed by separate injuries to both his forearm and achillies tendon. These two injuries led to his 2017 season being effectively written off, and forced him to not make his 2018 debut until mid June; shortly before he was traded to the Yankees. Although he didn’t pitch like his usual dominant self in 2018, Britton’s past successes, 95 mph sinker from the left side, and best GB% amongst relievers, will definitely put him in demand. In fact, his struggles and past injury concerns could see more teams willing to sign him in the hopes that he regains his 2016 form at a discounted rate for their pocketbooks. Although there will be numerous teams interested in his services, you can bet that he will most likely look to sign with a contender. With no clear cut closer in the fold, the Cubs could pursue Britton to be their closer and hope to land him at a bargain price.

Who Will Sign Him: Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have been linked to acquiring the left handed Britton for the past two seasons. Now they can get their man without having to part with any of their MLB players or prospects in order to do so. Even though their current closer, Kenley Jansen, is recovering from heart surgery and, barring any setbacks, he is expected to resume his ninth inning duties. That being said, by signing Britton, not only would the Dodgers have immediately strengthened their bullpen, but they will have also added some insurance at the closers role. This potential signing could be beneficial to both parties as the Dodgers could buy low on a former top closer in baseball, and Britton can look to re-establish himself as a top relief pitcher.

Term: 3yrs/$30mil

ottavino

Adam Ottavino

Position: RHP Age: 33

2018 Stats: 77.2 IP • 2.43 ERA • 3.13 xFIP • 0.99 WHIP • 12.98 K/9 • 4.17 BB/9 • 6 SV • 2.0 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. Last season, the Rockies went out and signed free agent relief pitchers, Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis, to strengthen their bullpen. Although the duo were expected to have a bit of a rough time adjusting to pitching in the thin air of Denver, no one could have predicted just how rough those adjustments would be. After a troubling start to the season, Davis managed to straighten his season out and wound up with a career high 43 saves. Shaw, on the other hand, was one of the statistically worst pitchers in the National League. Both, Shaw and Davis, are signed through 2020, and both of them will be looked at to rebound from their 2018 woes in order for the Rockies to return to the postseason for a second consecutive season. Given the issues with their bullpen last season – paired with knowing what they already have in Ottavino – re-signing the RHP should be the Rockies number one goal this offseason. Its not too often you know how a pitcher will pitch at Coors Field and, price tag aside, the Rockies might not find a better replacement.

Who Will Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. As mentioned above, the Rockies have some serious bullpen concerns, and they already know what to expect from Ottavino. Why try and replace a known with an unknown?

Term: 3yrs/$27mil

Best of the Rest:

Cody Allen • Age: 30 • 2018 WAR: 0.0 • Los Angeles Angels

Kelvin Herrera • Age: 29 • 2018 WAR: 0.4 • Los Angeles Dodgers

Joakim Soria • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Washington Nationals

Oliver Perez • Age: 37 • 2018 WAR: 1.1 • Houston Astros

Tony Sipp • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Minnesota Twins

Zach Duke • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Milwaukee Brewers

Brad Brach • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.7 • Tampa Bay Rays

Joe Kelly • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.7 • Boston Red Sox

Sergio Romo • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Chicago White Sox

Jake Diekman • Age 32 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Chicago Cubs

Justin Wilson • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Cincinnati Reds

Greg Holland • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.3 • Kansas City Royals

Part Four – Trade Market Talk – Coming Soon

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Hot Stove, Hot Takes – Part Two

 

free agents

 

Having already hypothesized where the top tier position players would sign, we now turn our attention to making half-assed guesses… I mean, educated assertions to where the top Starters available will wind up.

 

corbin

Patrick Corbin

Position: LHP Age: 29

2018 Stats: 33 GS • 200.0 IP • 3.15. ERA • 2.61 xFIP • 1.05 WHIP • 11.07 K/9 • 2.16 BB/9 • 6.3 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. It’s no secret that the Phillies plan on throwing some serious cash around. It’s also no secret that they plan on upgrading their starting rotation. They have already been linked to the big names (Paxton, Kluber, and Carrasco) available on the trade market, but by signing one of the premier free agent arms instead, they could choose to trade their top prospects to fill other areas of need. With the likes of 2018 Cy Young nominee, Aaron Nola, and 2015 Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, already in the fold, the Phillies wouldn’t need Corbin to be their figurative ace; a role he is better suited for. The trio of Nola, Corbin, and Arrieta immediately give the Phillies one of, if not the best, front end of the rotations in all of the MLB. Something that will come in handy when the calendar turns to October.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Yankees. Entering the offseason, the Yankees had one clear goal in mind: upgrading their starting rotation. Despite having already traded for LHP James Paxton, it should come as no surprise that the Yankees, Corbin’s childhood favourite team, have already been rumoured to be the front-runners to garner his services as well. Similar to the Phillies situation mentioned above, the Yankees don’t need Corbin to be their proverbial “ace.” However, seeing as how the starting point for a contract with him should be along the lines of the contract that Yu Darvish signed prior to last season – 6yrs/$126mil – the Yankees will be paying an ace price for a guy who is really more of a solid number two. With that being said, the Yankees, who seem to want to move on from the Sonny Gray experience, are still going to be in need of adding an arm to fill out their rotation. Why settle for starting the season with an unproven arm like Chance Adams or Jonathan Loaisiga as your number five, when you could sign Corbin, and enter the season with 38yr old, CC Sabathia, to anchor your rotation instead?

Term: 6yrs/$131mil

 

 

eovaldi

Nathan Eovaldi

Position: RHP Age: 28

2018 Stats: 21 GS • 111.0 IP • 3.81 ERA • 3.67 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 8.19 K/9 • 1.62 BB/9 • 2.2 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Houston Astros. The Astros were already looking at having to possibly replace two starting pitchers as both, LHP Dallas Keuchel and RHP Charlie Morton, were slated to hit free agency. Then they got the news that another one of their starters, RHP Lance McCullers Jr., was going to miss the entire 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Even though the Astros do have a few arms – RHP Brad Peacock, RHP Colin McHugh, RHP Josh James, and RHP Forrest Whitley – that could step into the rotation to begin the season, adding an impact veteran arm like Eovaldi would allow them to bring along their younger arms (James and Whitley) at a more suitable pace; as well as having a contingency plan if either of the veteran arms of Peacock or McHugh don’t pan out.

Who Will Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. Acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline, Eovaldi’s solid regular season performance was overshadowed by his now legendary one in October. Eovaldi pitched 22.1 innings over six games in the Playoffs including two starts, and a relief appearance for the ages. You could argue that he was the odds on favourite to be the World Series MVP until Steve Pearce did his best Reggie Jackson impression. Post season success aside, what makes a reunion with Eovaldi truly appealing to the Red Sox is that he gives them another right handed option – along with Rick Porcello – to offset their lefty heavy rotation. With few holes to fill this offseason, I expect the Red Sox to be more than willing to spend in order to upgrade both their rotation and bullpen.

Term: 5yrs/$75mil

 

Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel

Position: LHP Age: 30

2018 Stats: 34 GS • 204.2 IP • 3.74 ERA • 3.84 xFIP • 1.31 WHIP • 6.73 K/9 • 2.55 BB/9 • 3.6 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Cincinnati Reds. Despite being perennial cellar dwellers for the past number of seasons, the Reds have been one of the more talked about teams as far as trading for or signing a top tier starting pitcher. Rumoured to have inquired about the Blue Jays young righty, Marcus Stroman, it appears that the Reds are targeting pitchers capable of inducing a high rate of ground balls; which isn’t surprising when you consider that they play in a hitter friendly ballpark (Great American Ballpark). By targeting a free agent like Keuchel, it allows the Reds to refrain from having to part with some of their highly touted prospects; which in turn lets Cincinnati use them as trade bait for other needs. Speculation and rumours aside, one thought to keep in mind is that the Reds have historically shied away from offering lucrative contracts to high profile free agents.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. Similar to the position the Yankees are in, the Phillies would like to add another arm but don’t need them to be their ace. Enter Keuchel. Despite his lack of velocity and low strikeout numbers, his pinpoint control, and ability to keep the ball in the yard due to a high ground ball%, make him a logical fit for a team that plays their home games in a sin bin like Citizens Bank. That being said, with Keuchel on the wish list of numerous other teams, the Phillies might not want to get in a bidding war for the services of Keuchel, and instead could look to acquire a top tier pitcher via trade.

Term: 4yrs/$80mil

 

happ

J.A Happ

Position: LHP Age: 36

2018 Stats: 31 GS • 177.2 IP • 3.65 ERA • 3.88 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 9.78 K/9 • 2.58 BB/9 • 3.2 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Toronto Blue Jays. This one is fairly straight forward; the Blue Jays need to add a veteran arm or two to help ease the workload on their young, and oft-injured starters. Having already had two stints North of the border in his career, Happ is no stranger to the organization, and that’s with taking into account the new coaching regime that is in place; although long time Pitching Coach, Pete Walker, does remain. Although a reunion between the two would make sense, at least on paper, for both parties, Happ’s potential price tag, and desire to win now, could be the reason that this doesn’t pan out.

Who Will Sign Him: Los Angeles Angels. As stated in the previous article, the Angels should be doing everything in their power to surround Mike Trout with as much talent as possible. Seeing as how their biggest need, which there are numerous, is the starting rotation, targeting one or two of the top arms available should be priority number one for this offseason. Although there are “better” arms and “bigger” names available, the 36 yr old Happ might offer the best bang for the buck on the market. Since his resurgence with the Pirates in 2015, Happ has quietly been one of the more consistent starters during that time. The market for Happ should begin to heat up once the bigger names have signed, as the teams that missed out on their top targets begin to look at their Plan B’s. The Angels would be smart to not play the waiting game or they may risk getting in a bidding war and having to overpay.

Term: 2yrs/$32mil

 

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros

Charlie Morton

Position: RHP Age: 35

2018 Stats: 30 GS •167.0 IP • 3.13 ERA • 3.42 xFIP • 1.16 WHIP • 10.83 K/9 • 3.45 BB/9 • 3.1 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Oakland A’s.

Who Will Sign Him: Washington Nationals. Despite looking like they were about to jump start a rebuild at last season’s Trade Deadline, not to mention potentially losing Bryce Harper any day now, the Nationals enter the offseason rumoured to be looking to add pieces. It’s hard to argue against the Nationals still believing that they have a window to contend as they still have a pretty stacked rotation and roster, but it is hard to see them shelling out big bucks for long term deals because a rebuild could take place at a moments notice. Morton, despite being 35, has been one of the top starters for the past few seasons in regards to strikeout numbers (364 K’s in 313.2 innings over the past two seasons) and average fastball velocity (95.4mph). Signing Morton would give the Nationals a solid mid rotation starter to pitch behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, while not having to commit to a lucrative multi-year deal. It also allows the Nationals, if they plan on contending, to spend money elsewhere on other needs, as well as give them a potential trade piece if they are forced to sell off.

Term: 2yrs/$28mil

 

Best of the Rest:

Lance Lynn • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.9 • Tampa Bay Rays

Anibal Sanchez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 2.4 • San Diego Padres

Gio Gonzalez • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Oakland A’s

Trevor Cahill • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Toronto Blue Jays

Derek Holland • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Texas Rangers

Clay Buchholz • Age: 34 • 2018 WAR: 1.9 • Arizona Diamondbacks

Wade Miley • Age: 32 • WAR: 1.5 • Milwaukee Brewers

Matt Harvey • Age 30 • 2018 WAR: 1.4 • Cincinnati Reds

Jeremy Hellickson • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.2 • Chicago White Sox

Garrett Richards • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Baltimore Orioles

Tyson Ross • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Cincinnati Reds

 

Will Remain Unsigned Until Spring Training:

 

Brett Anderson • Age 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.9

James Shields • Age: 37 • 2018 WAR: 0.8

Jason Hammel • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR 0.8

Edwin Jackson • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.7

Marco Estrada • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.5

Francisco Liriano • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3

Doug Fister • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3

Bartolo Colon • Age: 46 • 2018 WAR: 0.2

Yovani Gallardo • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.1

Jaime Garcia • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR:0.0

Martin Perez • Age: 28 • 2018 WAR: -0.2

Drew Pomeranz • Age: 30 • 2018 WAR: -0.3

Miguel Gonzalez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: -0.3

Chris Tillman • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: -0.4

Ervin Santana • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: -0.5

Nate Karns • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: N/A

 

Part Three – Top Free Agent Relief Pitchers Available – Coming Soon

– $

Hot Stove, Hot Takes – Part One

free agents

With America set to sit down around the table, and give thanks for all they hold near and dear, the rest of the world eagerly anticipates a trifecta of NFL games and taking advantage of Black Friday deals. For me though, what I look forward to is not the obligatory airing of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” although, I am a sucker for a John Candy film or the 75% off of a 70″ flat screen, but rather the ramping up of the MLB offseason. Known to those who speak baseball as the “hot stove,” the MLB offseason is a whirlwind ride of rumours, rumblings and constant refreshing of the Twittersphere, that leaves fans of every club eager to find out who their team is “in on.”

Even though the MLB’s GM Winter Meetings, the “unofficial” start of Hot Stove season, aren’t set to take place for another few weeks in Las Vegas, the Stove is already beginning to show signs of warming up. So far, outside of various signings to fill minor league rosters, we have seen a few free agents ink new deals, most notably being World Series MVP, Steve Pearce re-signing in Boston, and veteran backstop, Kurt Suzuki, finding a new home in Atlanta for the next two years. The trade market has also begun to heat up with the Yankees taking advantage of a sell off in Seattle and landing one of the bigger names available on the market, LHP James Paxton, although the price to pay was a steep one with Seattle receiving a package of prospects headlined by New York’s number one, LHP Justus Sheffield. This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last trade of note to come out of the Pacific Northwest, as Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto, a favourite of the Hot Stove Hounds, has also recently swapped starting catcher, Mike Zunino and OF Guillermo Heredia with the Rays, for former Mariner great and notorious base thief, Mallex Smith. But enough about what HAS happened, let’s now look ahead to what COULD happen.

Free Agent Predictions

This offseason is shaping up to be one of if not the biggest and most exciting in MLB history with two of the games biggest stars (OF Bryce Harper and SS/3B Manny Machado) both hitting the open market, not to mention a former MVP (3B Josh Donaldson), a former Cy Young recipient (LHP Dallas Kuechel) and a closer with over 300 saves (RHP Craig Kimbrel) also available to the highest bidder. Why don’t we begin with some predictions on where the above, as well as some of the other “big names,” will wind up….

Top Position Players Available

machado

Manny Machado

Position: SS/3B • Age: 26

2018 Stats: 709 PA • .297 BA • .367 OBP • .905 OPS • 37 HR • 107 RBI • 5.7 WAR • 141 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Los Angeles Angels. My thinking here is that the Angels front office should want to bring in some much needed help and support for current front-runner to the claim of GOAT, Mike Trout. The main deterrent here will not be a financial one, but a logistical one. Mr. Machado, though a borderline elite defender at the hot corner, now fancies himself a SS, the position he was drafted as and played at last season. The problem here is not only is Manny a surprisingly sub-par defender at short, but his position of choice is currently filled by the best in the game, Mr. Andrelton Simmons. Imagine though, for a second, if Machado decided to go back to 3B. Just imagine how filthy defensively that left side of the infield would be.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. As much gossip and chatter as the rumour mill churns out during Hot Stove season, what still tends to happen is along the lines of the age old cliche: “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Meaning that, if you hear that so and so is linked to a team, and you read that they’re linked to a team, it most likely means that they’ll wind up with said team. Last week, Phillies owner John Middleton told USA TODAY Sports “We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” It’s hard not to read between the lines on that statement. The Phillies will be linked to, and most likely wind up signing two or three of the marquee free agents available. With the lack of development from former first round pick, SS JP Crawford, and the inconsistency of 3B Maikel Franco, you can bet that Machado will be the top name on the Phillies wish list. Although, you have to wonder how much the blue collared fans in Philadelphia will appreciate the hustle and antics of Machado.

Term: 10yrs/$350 million

Harper

Bryce Harper

Position: OF Age: 26

2018 Stats: 695 PA • .249 BA • .393 OBP • .889 OPS • 34 HR • 100 RBI • 3.5 WAR • 135 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: New York Mets. Realistically, any team in need of or desiring an impact, middle of the order type bat, and can afford to shell out the biggest free agent contract to date, should be interested. But, given their inability to consistently produce offensively and their willingness to pursue top tier talent, it would be hard not to see the Mets make sense as a suitor for Harper. Not only would Harper immediately become the face of the franchise that just lost their heart and soul with the retirement of David Wright, but he would also get to play in the biggest baseball market there is; even if that means his home games are in Queens and not the Bronx.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. As mentioned above in regards to Manny Machado, the Phillies ownership has already outright said that they are going to spend “stupid” amounts of money this offseason. Which most likely means that Harper will be near, if not at, the top of their “wish list.” As ridiculous as it seems that a team could spend nearly a BILLION dollars on TWO players, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Phillies wind up with both Harper and Machado. One thing to keep in the back of your mind though is that New Jersey native and avid Philadelphia sports fan, Mike Trout, could potentially hit the open market in the next two years. Could the Philles hold off on signing Harper, and play the wait and see game with Trout?

Term: 15yrs/$450 million

Pollock-e1517933211574

A.J Pollock

Position: CF Age: 31

2018 Stats: 460 PA • .257 BA • .316 OBP • .800 OPS • 21 HR • 65 RBI • 2.5 WAR • 110 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: San Francisco Giants. The Giants will be an interesting team to keep an eye on during the course of Hot Stove season. Despite four lackluster seasons since their last World Series appearance and title, and strapped with an aging core of players, nobody really knows what to expect when it comes to San Fran. Newly hired, Farhan Zaidi, left the rival Dodgers to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Giants. What that means is that all decisions regarding trades and signings will go directly through him. What Zaidi decides to do as far as retooling the roster or rebuilding it from the ground up, will ultimately impact if the Giants are a viable option for Pollock. If they go the retool route then it’s hard to find a better and more realistic option than Pollock as he fits pretty much every need that the Giants have in the OF. However, if Zaidi decides to sell off his veterans and begin an overhaul of his roster, than a veteran OF (Michael Brantley, Adam Jones) that can be flipped at the deadline for a piece or two will be a more realistic signing.

Who Will Sign Him: Atlanta Braves. Though being one of the few “attractive” outfield options available on the free agent market, Pollock’s age and durability concerns – he hasn’t played more than 113 games since 2015 – will see him take a considerable backseat to the likes of Harper as far as term and value go. That being said, Pollock’s abilities with both his glove and bat make him the second best OF option available. With the Braves set to move on from RF Nick Markakis, and Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ender Inciarte already in place, the allure of adding a solid defensive fielder, as well as a top of the order bat, might make this a perfect fit for both club and player.

Term: 4yrs/$60mil

donno

Josh Donaldson

Position: 3B Age: 33

2018 Stats: 219 PA • .246 BA • . OBP • .889 OPS • 8 HR • 30 RBI • 1.3 WAR • 117 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Anaheim Angels. Maybe I am biased by my man crushes on both Donaldson AND Mike Trout, but my thinking here is once again influenced by the Angels need to surround Trout with some form of offensive help, or risk having him decide to take his talents elsewhere once his contract expires. Sure, the Angels may be weary about signing a former MVP who is over 30 (see: Pujols, Albert), but the glaring need they have for BOTH an everyday 3B, as well as an “impact bat” may be one that causes them to overlook their past misfortunes with former MVP’s over 30 (see: Hamilton, Josh). Couple that with Donaldson being linked to rumours of a one year deal in the $20 million range, and this may be too much of a bargain for the Angels to pass up.

Who Will Sign Him: St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been linked to the former AL MVP pretty much since the Blue Jays were eliminated by the Indians in the 2016 ALCS. Despite offering up the likes of RHP Jack Flaherty in exchange for Donaldson following the 2017 campaign, the Cardinals were rebuffed by the Blue Jays; a move that the latter would come to regret as Donaldson was sold for .10 on the dollar after missing the majority of the season in Toronto. Blue Jay bitterness aside, the Cardinals are now poised to finally wind up with their man, and it’ll come at no cost besides cash. Signing Donaldson would allow Matt Carpenter to slide back to 1B, where he is a better fit, and also allow the Cardinals to deal Jose Martinez, who’s all bat/no glove approach is better suited for an AL DH spot, for some help at other roster needs.

Term: 1yr/$20mil

moose

Mike Moustakas

Position: 3B Age: 30

2018 Stats: 635 PA • .251 BA • .315 OBP • .774 OPS • 28 HR • 95 RBI • 2.4 WAR • 105 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Kansas City Royals. After an October run to the NLCS with the Brewers, the man known as “Moose,” hits the market for the second time in as many years. Unlike last year, where rumours of a 5yr/$85mil deal were floated around before an eventual “freeze” in the Free Agent market saw numerous “big names” not sign until February, there seems to be a better understanding of how the market for Moose might shape up. Despite prodigal power at the plate, his low on-base numbers make him a less than attractive option for GM’s who value modern stats over the more traditional ones. Still, there will be a market for a player who can play an above average 3B, while offering 30/90 potential. I anticipate a team that is in the midst of a rebuild, and can look to flip him at the deadline, will be the one most likely to come to terms with the big 3B. Seeing as how one of the teams that fits this bill is the team that drafted him in the first place – the Royals – a reunion between the two might be the most natural of fits.

Who Will Sign Him: Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though they have already come to terms with SS/3B Jung-Ho Kang, the Pirates may look to roll with someone who hasn’t sat out the majority of the past two seasons. One of the other things that makes the Moose a fit in the Steel City is that he gives them a middle of the order bat that can make them challenge for the NL Central right away, or they can move him at the deadline to a contender if and when the Pirates are out of contention.

Term: 3yrs/$24mil.

Gonzalez

Marwin Gonzalez

Position: Utility Age: 29

2018 Stats: 552 PA • .247 BA • .324 OBP • .733 OPS • 16 HR • 68 RBI • 1.6 WAR • 104wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. It goes without saying that any team that realistically views themselves as more “Contender” than “Pretender” could benefit from the addition of a versatile player like the man known as “Swiss G.” Capable of playing all four infield positions as well as LF, Gonzalez could give the Rockies immediate value as a potential everyday replacement for LF Carlos Gonzalez or 2B D.J LeMehieu; not to mention as an option to give 3B Nolan Arenado and SS Trevor Story some needed days off.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Yankees. As mentioned above, Gonzalez will be most attractive for a team with aspirations of contending from day one. Who fits that mold better than the Bronx Bombers? The Yankees are already entering the season needing to replace SS Didi Gregorious, whom will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery, and the most logical fit for that role is 2B/SS Gleybar Torres, who was their everyday 2B last season. If Torres does indeed move over to SS, Gonzalez could slot in immediately as their Opening Day 2B. However, by adding someone with the versatility of Gonzalez, it could also see the Yankees play him occasionally at 1B or LF, and go and add one of the veteran 2B options available; such as: Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie, D.J LeMehieu, Brian Dozier or Jed Lowrie.

Term: 3yrs/$36mil

yasmani-grandal

Yasmani Grandal

Position: C Age: 30

2018 Stats: 518 PA • .241 BA • .349 OBP • .815 OPS • 24 HR • 68 RBI • 3.6 WAR • 125 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Houston Astros. The Astros have already decided to part ways with veteran, Brian McCann, and are set to head into the season with a tandem of Max Stassi and Chris Herremann. Though they have been one of the teams most linked with acquiring the Marlins, J.T Realmuto, in order to do so, the Astros would have to part with one or more of their top prospects. Even though they are an early favourite to head to the World Series, and a trade for Realmuto would easily put them over the top, the cost to do so might be one that is too high for GM Jeff Luhnow’s liking. Enter, Yasmani Grandal. Sure, his postseason play especially on the defensive side left A LOT to be desired, but there is no denying that his offensive prowess more than makes up for his defensive deficiencies. The switch-hitting, Grandal, would be an immediate upgrade over their current options, and would also allow them to keep their top prospects which they could use on their roster or to fill any other holes that may need filling.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Mets. There is no denying that Travis d’Arnaud is not an everyday MLB catcher. It is not because of his bat and offense, although that has dropped off significantly since 2015, but it is more to do with his inability to stay healthy. The soon to be 30 year old, has never played in more than 112 games at the MLB level, and at this point in his career, may be better suited as a back-up option. Outside of d’Arnaud, the Mets have Kevin Plawecki, but he too is starting to look more and more like a back-up. On the farm, the Mets have 24 year old, Tomas Nido, but his glove first approach and lack of bat might also make him a better back-up candidate at the MLB level. The Mets do have the pieces to pursue a catching option on the trade market like the Indians, Yan Gomes, or even possibly, J.T Realmuto, but the latter would cost them more than they are likely willing to part with. Signing one of the better free agents available -either Grandal or Wilson Ramos – could be the Mets best route to filling both a hole in their lineup, as well as adding a much needed offensive threat.

Term: 5yrs/$75mil

Part Two – Top Pitching Free Agents available – coming soon.

– $

Spare Change – Week Two Reflections

harper-slide.jpg

 

What We Loved

  • Wil Myers hitting for the cycle becoming only the 2nd Padre to ever do so. Nice to see the Padres giving their fans something to cheer for.
  • The Marlins players turning the late Jose Fernandez’s locker into a shrine  – http://thesco.re/2oGTAaY
  • Jharel Cotton’s filthy change-up that even amazed the great Pedro Martinez –  http://thesco.re/2oGVGaW – But in all seriousness, let’s get another view of that filth – http://bit.ly/2oj1kiq
  • The swing on Tulo’s 3yr old son, Taz, Can we say #parentinggoals? – http://thesco.re/2pM37gf
  • Yoenis Cespedes smashing three ding dangs in four AB’s
  • Bryce doing his best Enos Slaughter mad dash home to beat the Phillies in extras – http://thesco.re/2oGZdG0
  • Chris Sale 1149 strikeouts through 150 career starts – most in MLB history
  • Ender Inciarte opening SunTrust Park with it’s 1st hit, out, run and HR .
  • Players playing catch with kids. Even Mike Trout is getting in on the fad.
  • Speaking of Mike Trout, the great Trout will pass Joe Mauer, David Wright and likely Justin Verlander for career WAR before May 1st of this year. To put it into further perspective, Trout has already passed Jim Rice and will soon pass Kirby Puckett (both of whom are Hall of Fame outfielders). Mike Trout is 25 years old.
  • Zack Britton’s consecutive save streak. The Orioles closer passed Jeurys Famila for 3rd and is now tied with Tom Gordon with 54 saves.
  • In other Orioles news, Trey Mancini has had quite the start to his MLB career- 7 HR in 12 games.
  • For the first time in MLB history, their was an outfield entirely comprised of players with the last name Garcia – http://thesco.re/2pvYzLA
  • Rod Carew receiving a new heart and kidney. The Hall of Famer received the organs from former NFL TE, Konrad Reuland, who passed away at the age of 28 back in December. For further reading check out this link from SI.com – http://on.si.com/2oQNneJ
  • Aaron Judge’s light tower power. Judge, who looks like a create a player or Vince McMahon’s dream, already has three HR and eight RBI on the young season.
  • The Mariners unveiling a statue of the Kid. Arguably every kid in the 90’s favourite player growing up, the Mariners honoured their franchise icon by imortalizing him outside of Safeco Field – http://cbsprt.co/2pM1M9m
  • The Dodgers unveiling a statue of Jackie Robinson. But seriously, how was there not one already there? – http://thesco.re/2pccsSw
  • Plans for a Jose Fernandez statue. I know that this is a controversial decision because of the circumstances surrounding his death but it isn’t up to the court of pubic justice and outrage to determine if this should take place, it’s up to the Marlins franchise who lost one of their own and have every right to honour him. What happened was tragic all around. It was also very much avoidable and perhaps the Marlins could use this as a chance to acknowledge the very dumb and selfish decision(s) that Fernandez made as well.
  • Any and all of Vin Scully’s stories. Scully was on hand at Dodger Stadium on Jackie Robinson day and spun this yarn about him and Jackie skating – http://thesco.re/2pvVqvv
  • *In Jim Ross voice* GOOD GOD, THAT’S THE EASTER BUNNY’S MUSIC!! – http://atmlb.com/2p86kdQ
  • The absolute arrogance of this bat flip in Japan – http://bit.ly/2oj3lvf
  • The tribute to Tim Raines during the Blue Jays Home Opener. Not only was it classy because it honoured the recent Hall of Fame inductee but it (further) proved that the Blue Jays are Canada’s team, especially when they honour a great player from another team. Hell, not even the Nationals, who were once the Expos, have given any love to the man they call “Rock.”
  • The sweet sounds of Dan Shulman in the broadcasting booth. Nothing against Buck and Pat but Shulman’s voice adds 5% more to each game he covers.
  • The early returns on Kendrys Morales. Sure he’s not Edwin Encarnacion and sure he’s not exactly setting the world on fire, but who the hell cares? All Morales has done so far is create the only two (positive) highlights for the Jays during this dismal start. Last week it was a grand slam for his first HR in a Jays uniform. On Saturday he hit a walk off homer in the 9th inning to give the Blue Jays their 2nd win on the season

 

What Caused Us to Cringe

  • Robbie Alomar’s painted on skinny jeans. I mean come on Robbie, we can see your McCain’s frozen punch through them.
  • The three man booth of Buck, Pat and Dan Shulman. It’s nothing against the talent itself, it just comes across as being forced. I feel bad for Tabby in this scenerio because he really seems like the odd man out. I kind of picture him raising his hand like a child in class when he wants to add something to the conversation.
  • Edubray Ramos head hunting Asdrubal Cabrera. Last September, Cabrera hit an important homer off of the Phillies reliever. Fast forward to last week when Ramos decided to get even by whizzing a 94mph fastball over the head of the Mets player.
  • Buster Posey getting drilled in the head by a 94 mph fastball.
  • Gary Sanchez’s biceps strain – keeps young star out for next 4 weeks.
  • Jon Gray’s fractured foot keeping him out for the next month.
  • Sam Dyson closing games – blows 3rd straight save. Although as a Blue Jays fan I can’t help but smile a little bit.
  • Dale Scott being stretchered off the field. The home plate ump was forced to leave Friday’s contest after taking a foul tip off of the mask. Thankfully, it was only a minor concussion and he should be back soon.
  • Donno’s calf… again. This time it’s a trip to the DL. The kicker being that it could be 10 days or a month, that’s according to Blue Jays president, Mark Shapiro
  • The dismal Blue Jays offense. As if it were possible, these guys actually look worse than the guys who got carved up by the Indians in the 2016 ALCS
  • Aaron Sanchez’s pitching hand. A blister on the righty’s hand will keep him out for the next 1 to 2 starts.
  • JA Happ’s forearm strain. Hopefully this won’t lead to them cueing up Dr. James Andrews’ music. Although part of me believes that this is karma for all the “classy” Blue Jays fans cheering when David Price went down with an elbow injury in Spring Training.

 

Happ injury.jpg

 

The Blue Jays Early Season Misery –  Where Do They Go From Here?

Sure we’re only twelve games in but at 2-10 how long can we keep making the “it’s still early” argument? It’s not like these have been “good” losses either as the Blue Jays sputtering offense looks completely lost at the dish. Furthermore, the injury bug, something that wasn’t a huge factor last year, has already started to rear it’s ugly head and we’re not even out of April.

This past week alone the Blue Jays have lost the trio of Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, and JA Happ, and let’s be honest here, we know the durability issues that this team has, how long until something else goes wrong? We’ve already seen the likes of Dominic Leone, Casey Lawrence, and now Chris Coghlan. Who is next? Mat Latos? TJ House? Brian Bolsinger? I mean it feels like this team is a Mike McCoy sighting away from flying the white flag.

So where do they go from here? What are the options? The way I see it, it’s one of two possible outcomes:

The Wait It Out Approach or the (eventual) Rebuild Route

Waiting it out is what is most likely to happen. This is a veteran team that (apparently) knows what it is capable of and knows how to turn it around; they’ve even gotten a vote of confidence from their President. For all you Gibby haters out there you can stop calling for his head now, he isn’t going anywhere, especially not after being just handed a new contract not even a month ago, and if they Shatkins regime won’t release Smoak after giving him an extension than they’re not getting rid of Gibby either. I would also bet that his two trips to the ALCS also get him a stay of execution for at least this year.

What you have to assume is that Hitting Coach, Brooks Jacoby, will be the first up to the chopping block. Despite being the hitting coach for the big bad Blue Jays bats of 2015, the lineups inability to change their approach at the plate could very well see Jacoby in the hunt for a new gig sooner rather than later.

But let’s say that this atrocious start carries on and turns into a disastrous season, would a potential “fire sale” take place? Despite making a statement about “trusting the players track record(s),” you have to think that Shapiro and Atkins are at least thinking about the possibility of selling some players off and building for the future.

It’s no secret that they want to rebuild the farm and put their stamp on the roster, not to mention get younger on the field. All three of these could factor into the decision to become a seller as the trade deadline nears. The brain trust could take a look at what the Yankees did last year – sell off valuable pieces for top prospects and remain competitive with prospects already in place- and hope to replicate it.

Now despite having some big names on the roster, the Blue Jays might find it hard to get the same return as the Yankees got last year mainly because the players they’ll be looking to offload are older and tied to long and expensive contracts. That doesn’t mean that they still won’t try to move them, even for a lesser return. As fans, let’s hope that this stays more hypothetical than a reality.

 

– $

Spare Change – Week One Reflections and More

opening day

 

 

What We Loved

  • Maddy Bumgarner’s Opening Day performance – 11k 2 HR
  • Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff position. The big LF is making Joe Maddon look like an even bigger genius with his torrid start out of the one hole.
  • Stephen Piscotty’s perilous trip around the bases. The Cardinals RF got hit by the ball 3x during the same journey. At least he was rewarded with a spot on Kimmel.
  • The absurd power throughout the Orioles lineup – Is JJ Hardy the weak spot? He did hit 30 in 2011
  • Unintentional comedy of the picture of 6’7 Aaron Judge and 5’8 Ronald Torryes
  • Bryce Harper on opening day… 5th HR in as many Opening Day’s
  • Not to be outdone, Mike Trout hit his 3rd HR on Opening Day
  • Albert Almora Jr. in CF – http://atmlb.com/2p4Hybi – http://atmlb.com/2owiSL1
  • Greg Holland closing out games. Former All Star has looked good upon his return from Tommy John.
  • Manny Machado’s glove work. Not only (arguably) the best 3B in the AL but also might be the best in the entire business.
  • The ludicrous power of Joey Gallo. The Rangers 1B caused a glitch in stat cast.
  • Fans turning Cueto into a horse via photoshop – http://www.thescore.com/news/1272381
  • The entire toolkit of Francisco Lindor. Add a late game grand slam to take the lead to his already impressive resume.
  • Eric Thames going yard in the show for the first time since 2012.
  • Jameson Taillon and Chris Sale lock horns at Fenway.
  • Bartolo’s return to Citi. Serious goosebumps – http://www.thescore.com/news/1272906
  • Josh Donaldson’s Barry Bonds earring. The Dangly cross just drips with swag from the late 80s and early 90s.
  • Manny Margot’s MLB debut. Padres top prospect hit back to back ding dongs in his first two MLB AB’s.
  • Yadier Molina’s chest protector. No way there isn’t something sprayed on that thing.
  • Jumbo Diaz jogging in from the pen. I’ll eat my hat if he is actually the 278 lbs that he is listed at.
  • Andrelton Simmons ridiculous tag – http://on.si.com/2pq8SQz.
  • The D-Backs red hot start. Last year’s bigger disappointments are already looking better than they did in 2016.

What Caused Us to Cringe

  • Masahiro Tanaka on opening day. The Yankees ace gave up a career high 7 earned in just 2.2 innings.
  • Tanaka’s UCL. The 28 year old is still pitching with a partially torn UCL which could possibly snap at any moment.
  • Waino pulling a 50 Cent but does it to allegedly protect Yadi. The Cardinals righty told reporters that he uncorked the egregiously wild pitch because he noticed that his catcher was set up for a curveball instead of the fastball that Wainwright was throwing. Commendable and all, but still ugly as hell.
  • Brett Cecil’s introduction to Cardinals fans. The former Blue Jay serves up a moonshot to Kyle Schwarber to give the Cubs the lead and the eventual game.
  • They aren’t who we thought they were. The Royals bullpen getting shelled for 12 runs through 2 games
  • Clayton Kershaw making more than the entire Padres roster. How is AJ Preller still employed?
  • Pretty much everything that the Blue Jays have done so far.
  • Jason Grilli at Camden Yards – The Grilled Cheese blows his 2nd consecutive save on the Orioles turf.
  • Josh Donaldson’s calves – why do I get the feeling that this could be a theme all season long?
  • Casey Lawrence’s introduction to Blue Jays fan (for further reading see below).
  • Walking in the winning run with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Seriously though, why not throw it right down the cock instead of trying to finesse it in there?

 

The (New) Golden Age of Shortstops 

As baseball fans, we are currently being treated to the best crop of talented, young SS since Jeter, ARod, Alex S Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria and Rey Ordonez were posing shirtless on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

shirtless-ss_orig.jpg

What makes that cover even more ridiculous is that future All Star and AL MVP Miguel Tejada wasn’t even invited; neither was Boston folk hero NOMAH! At the time of posting this, the likes of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Addy Russell, Dansby Swanson, Trevor Story, Tim Anderson, Trea Turner, Aldames Diaz, Corey Seager, Ketel Marte and Orlando Arcia are all 25 or younger. And that’s not even including the top SS prospects that are still in the minors like Gleybar Torres, Ahmed Rosario, Brendan Rogers, JP Crawford, Nick Gordon, Willy Adames, Kevin Maitan, Franklin Barretto, Jorge Mateo or Kevin Newman. This list also does not include Manny Machado who just turned himself into (arguably) the best 3B in the game. Nor does it include other SS who have changed positions to accommodate their teams needs a la Alex Bregman.

Besides the abundance of young and upcoming SS, we are also still witnessing the play of exceptional talent from those who are 30 and under such as Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, Brandon Crawford, Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons; Simmons alone being a treat himself and might just be the best defensive SS to ever play the game. I say that with full respect, love and admiration for the Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Smith). Furthermore, Troy Tulowitzki, who has just been the best SS for the past decade, is entering the latter half of his SS career, and although his bat doesn’t seem to be what it used to be, his glove alone is worth the price of admission.

Not only are we experiencing an increase in talent alone, but also one in the power department. In that shirtless shortstop year of 1997, only three shortstops hit 20 or more homers (Nomar, Arod, and Jay Bell), whereas last year ELEVEN different shortstops (not counting Machado) hit 20 or more, including Didi Gregorious and Freddy Galvis! Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s not everyday that you are treated to a renaissance like this.

 

Games Without G-Ma

I honestly thought that losing Eddy to the Indians would be the biggest loss that I suffered this off season. Little did I know that it would barely be a dent in comparison to losing my grandmother. My grandmother was, and still is, the biggest Blue Jays fan that I have ever known. And I am not saying that because she listened or watched each and every game. I am saying that because like myself, she lived and breathed everything Blue Jays. Even the teams that I could barely talk myself into (I’m looking at you Ty Taubenheim, Terry Adams, and Doug Creek) she would tune in as if it was the hey days of the 80’s or early 90’s. She knew all of the players, coaches, trainers and prospects. She loved the scrappy underdogs like Johnny Mac and Craig Grebeck, and hated showboats or selfish players. Not a phone call between us went by without at least a five minute breakdown of the weeks past games, impromptu scouting reports or prospect profiles. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to talk her into such and such prospect or insert recent addition only to have her rebuff me with a “Ill believe it when I see it” attitude.

Like her favourite coach (Cito Gaston) she was overly protective of her veteran players and would fight with me tooth and nail if I tried to side with any kind of youth movement; especially when it came to her favourite, Jose Bautista. Of all the players whom she claimed as “favourites” over the years (Stieb, Key, Borders, Gruber, Carter, Molitor Delgado, Wells, Halladay), I am certain that Joey Bats was her favourite; she was even cremated with his shersey.

Although she passed away after Christmas, I am starting to feel her loss more now than I did then and that’s because it was during the baseball season that we bonded the most. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had just one more conversation with her about the Blue Jays; even if it was just over the phone for five minutes like we used to. Despite my heart feeling like a million pounds from sadness, I take solace in two things:

  1. Knowing that she got to watch the Blue Jays make the playoffs not only once more, but twice.
  2. Remembering her calling our house after midnight in 1992 when they won their first World Series. I can still remember hearing her gravely voice choking back tears of joy and excitement because her boys had finally done it.

It’s moments like that that will never die and are what will get me through this difficult season ahead. Rest in peace G-Ma, I know you’re up there somewhere cursing this 1-5 start like the rest of us. Hope you enjoy the Home Opener tonight.

 

– $

2017 MLB Season Preview- American League East

MLB: MAR 14 Spring Training - Phillies at Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2016 Record: 89-73 • 3rd AL East

O/U on Wins: 84.5 • Under

Moving In: C Wellington Castillo • P Vidal Nuno • OF Seth Smith

Moving Out: C Matt Wieters • DH Pedro Alvarez • UT Steve Pearce • P Vance Worley • P Yovanni Gallardo • P Tommy Hunter

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Kevin Gausman and P Dylan Bundy. The pitching starved O’s will need both former first round picks to be both healthy and consistent in order to compete for a playoff spot. If both can give solid contributions than the O’s could definitely challenge for top spot in the East. Gausman set career highs in 2016 by making 30 starts, throwing 179.2 innings and punching out 174 batters, all despite beginning the season on the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder. Entering his fifth season, the O’s will look for Gausman to pick up where he left off in the second half of 2016 (8-6/3.10 ERA) and continue to strive toward unlocking his true potential.

Potential Breakout: P Dylan Bundy. The former 3rd overall pick has battled injuries throughout his short career but if he can stay healthy, Bundy could finally reach the potential that the O’s and baseball fans have been waiting for. Early indications show that Bundy will not have an innings limit imposed on him this season which could either mean a new career high in starts and innings pitched or a possible breakdown.

Top Prospect: C Chance Sisco • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Billy Rowell over Pitchers Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Manny Machado. 2016 Stats: .294/.876/37/96/6.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Machado’s skill set. A perennial MVP candidate with Gold Glove defense.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL East

red-sox-dance

Boston Red Sox

2016 Record: 93-69 • 1st AL East

O/U on Wins: 90.5 • Over

Moving In: P Chris Sale • P Tyler Thornburg • 1B Mitch Moreland • OF Junior Lake • 2B Josh Rutledge

Moving Out: DH David Ortiz • 2B Yoan Moncada • 1B/3B Travis Shaw • P Clay Buchholz • P Junichi Tazawa • P Koji Uehara • C Ryan Hanigan • IF Aaron Hill • P Michael Kopech

Key Player(s) in 2017: 3B Pablo Sandoval and P Tyler Thornburg. A slimmer and healthier Panda will look to make good on his 5yrs/$95 mil contract after a dismal 2015 and injury derailed 2016. If Sandoval regains his approach at the plate, he could give the Red Sox another weapon in an already loaded lineup. As for Thornburg, the Red Sox traded for him to (hopefully) be their 8th inning set up man. Last year, the Red Sox used Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler, Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly in that role, all to mixed or negative reviews.

Potential Breakout: OF Andrew Benitendi. The newest member of the Killer B outfield has rocketed up the depth chart since being drafted 7th overall in 2015. Benitendi got his feet wet in 2016 and showed some glimpses of what he’s capable of. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him become a 20/20 player at the MLB level. Benitendi is currently considered one of, if not the favourite to win Rookie of the Year in the American League.

Top Prospect: 3B Rafael Devers • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: Kolbrin Vitek (20) over Christian Yelich (23) in 2010

Fantasy Stud: Mookie Betts • 2016 Stats: .318/.897/31/113/9.6 WAR in 672AB

Money’s Man Crush: The Killer B’s (Betts, Benitendi, Bradley Jr) in the OF. Although as a Blue Jays fan, just saying that kills me.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL East

gary-sanchez-54f36cda89f17fa4

New York Yankees

2016 Record: 84-78 • 4th AL East

O/U on Wins: 83.5 • Under

Moving In: P Aroldis Chapman • 1B/0F Matt Holliday • 1B Chris Carter • UT Reuben Tejada • P Jon Niese

Moving Out: C Brian McCann • 1B Mark Teixera • P Nathan Eovaldi • DH Billy Butler • 0F Dustin Ackley

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Luis Severino. The Yankees will need Severino to pitch like his 2015 self, where he showed glimpses of dominance over the 2016 version that didn’t earn a W as a starter, if they have any hope of making the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Severino will also need to impress in the rotation in order to stay a starter long term. Despite being committed to him for a whole season as a starter, the Yanks may eventually move him to the pen if he continues to struggle with consistency.

Potential Breakout: OF Aaron Judge. the 6’7 Judge is equipped with both a cannon for an arm, and light tower power, but he’ll need to change his approach at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts in order to make an impact in 2017. If he can do that, there is a good chance he could challenge for the Rookie of the Year.

Top Prospect: OF Clint Frazier • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: SS Cito Culver (32) over Pitchers Aaron Sanchez (34) and Noah Syndergaard (38) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: C Gary Sanchez. 2016 Stats: .299/1.032/20/42/3.0 WAR in 201 AB

Money’s Man Crush: The bright future of the Baby Bombers (Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier and Gleybar Torres). See above comment in regards to the anguish it causes me to write that.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL East

longo

Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Record: 68-94 • 5th AL East

O/U on Wins: 75.5 • Over

Moving In: C Wilson Ramos • 0F Colby Rasmus • P Cory Rasmus • P Nathan Eovaldi • OF Mallex Smith • P Jose De Leon

Moving Out: 2B Logan Forsythe • SS Alexi Ramirez • P Kevin Jepsen • 1B/0F Richie Shaffer

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Chris Archer. Archer posted his worst season in his career in 2015 when he went 9-19, with the only bright spot being that he punched-out 233 batters. It’s really a no brainer here to say that any Rays success will hinge on Archer’s performance. He the de facto ace, as well as being a veteran and leader in the locker room. The Rays obviously still believe in him as they were reluctant to part with him via trade in the offseason despite having more than one offer on the table.

Potential Breakout: P Blake Snell. The 2015 Rays minor leaguer of the year had some decent success in his debut. Snell made 19 starts and went 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.61 WHIP while adding 98 strikeouts in 89 innings in 2016.Snell will need to cut down on both the walks and hits if he is to continue get success in the MLB. It should be interesting to see how he adapts now that teams have had more exposure and tape on him.

Top Prospect: SS Willy Adames • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: SS Tim Beckham (1) over 1B Pedro Alvarez (2), 1B Eric Hosmer (3) and C Buster Posey (5) in 2008.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Evan Longoria. 2016 Stats: .273/.840/36/98/3.8 WAR in 633 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Kevin Kiermaier. Not sure what to love more, his glove in CF, his wheels on the base path or those eyes.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL East

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Toronto Blue Jays:

2016 Record: 89-73 • 2nd AL East

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Kendrys Morales • UT Steve Pearce • P JP Howell • P Joe Smith • C Jared Saltalamacchia • P Mat Latos • P Brett Oberholtzer • P TJ House • P Lucas Farrell • C Juan Graterol

Moving Out: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • OF Michael Saunders • P Brett Cecil • P Joaquin Benoit • P RA Dickey • P Scott Feldman • C Dioner Navarro

Key Player(s) in 2017: 2B Devon Travis. Snake bitten or injury prone, these are the two terms that have been floating around Devon Travis since he saw his (impressive) 2015 debut ended after a month with a shoulder injury. Despite returning to play in 101 games in 2016, Travis was still nagged by his shoulder injury as well as having his post season cut short with an injury to his knee. When healthy, Travis has proven to be one of the better, young 2B in the game. He plays average to above average defense at 2B and has excelled at the plate. The Blue Jays will need Travis to play in as many games as possible in order to keep all glove, no bat, Ryan Goins out of the lineup.

Potential Breakout: P Marcus Stroman. The Stro show entered 2016 with ace intentions following a remarkable September and post season run in 2015 after returning from ACL surgery. Unfortunately for Stroman, his 2016 was marred by an inconsistent first half that saw him routinely get pounded once the opposing lineup saw him for a 3rd time. Even though he did look to turn a corner post all star break, Stroman will need to cut down on the amount of solid contact that he surrenders. This might be difficult considering that he is a groundball inducing machine. Stroman definitely has the drive and stuff to have a big breakout but he’ll need to keep control of his emotions and remain composed when he does struggle in order to limit the damage.

Top Prospect: 3B Vladmir Guerrero Jr. • Age: 17 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: Deck McGuire (10) over C Yasmani Grandal (11) and P Chris Sale (12) in 2010

Fantasy Stud: Josh Donaldson. • 2016 Stats: .284/.953/37/99/7.4 WAR in 577 AB.

Money’s Man Crush: Defense on the left side of the infield featuring perennial Gold Glove threats 3B Josh Donaldson and SS Troy Tulowitzki

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL East

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