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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 293

post #8761 of 72850
Mariano and Derek are not walking through that door.

Arod is out of juice (pun intended).

Brooms smokin.gif
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #8762 of 72850
Originally Posted by DarthSka View Post

I actually haven't had a chance to watch much of the playoffs, and I thought... because I had heard... what had happened was...

oh, so you heard about that contract the Angels gave Pujols and still didn't make the playoffs?
References: [NT]
"Learn to be aware and conscious of your consciousness, and you will find who you really are."
References: [NT]
"Learn to be aware and conscious of your consciousness, and you will find who you really are."
post #8763 of 72850

That was not.

I'm sure you have other talents, though.
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #8764 of 72850
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by DarthSka View Post

Mariano and Derek are not walking through that door.
Arod is out of juice (pun intended).
Brooms smokin.gif
Thanks for showing yourself just when I expected you laugh.gif
post #8765 of 72850
Originally Posted by DarthSka View Post

Mariano and Derek are not walking through that door.
Arod is out of juice (pun intended).
Brooms smokin.gif

Expect better from an Admin eyes.gif

Did any NYY fans bombard the LAA thread when they didn't make the playoffs?
post #8766 of 72850
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif I like SKA so I always give him a pass in his happiness of the Yanks being eliminated.
post #8767 of 72850
Originally Posted by DarthSka View Post

That was not.
I'm sure you have other talents, though.

Yes, they involve being salty. Get it?
References: [NT]
"Learn to be aware and conscious of your consciousness, and you will find who you really are."
References: [NT]
"Learn to be aware and conscious of your consciousness, and you will find who you really are."
post #8768 of 72850
Originally Posted by Ecook0808 
Expect better from an Admin eyes.gif
Did any NYY fans bombard the LAA thread when they didn't make the playoffs?
Bombard the LAA thread? Is this the Yankee thread? wink.gif
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #8769 of 72850

laugh.gif @ ska going in, we definitely share the same disdain for the Yanks.

One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.


One again...Lord Stanley Resides In The Windy City.

post #8770 of 72850

Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #8771 of 72850
Originally Posted by onewearz View Post


I'm with you my dude mean.gif

Not even winning one sick.gif
Instagram : johnny_kick
Instagram : johnny_kick
post #8772 of 72850
Wait, Detroit advanced on a sweep?

Thank you ESPN for making Alex Rodriguez's "Yankee future" more important than the other team advancing to the World Series.

An hour on the bike last night in the gym and I'm looking up at the screen and it's a 60 min ARod and Girardi special. Literally almost zero mention of Detroit a single time.

And the MLB wonders why they have ratings problems if the Yankees or Red Sox aren't in the World Series.

Shut up and actually give credit and coverage to teams that advance that didn't fit into your scripted story line drama.
post #8773 of 72850

Congrats....we got beat badly. Y'all couldve used a softball and we still wouldn't have hit it. Story book year for Detroit if they can win it all.

surrounded by smart phones and dumb people


delusional Laker/Hurricane fan


surrounded by smart phones and dumb people


delusional Laker/Hurricane fan

post #8774 of 72850
Originally Posted by RyGuy45 View Post

Wait, Detroit advanced on a sweep?
Thank you ESPN for making Alex Rodriguez's "Yankee future" more important than the other team advancing to the World Series.
An hour on the bike last night in the gym and I'm looking up at the screen and it's a 60 min ARod and Girardi special. Literally almost zero mention of Detroit a single time.
And the MLB wonders why they have ratings problems if the Yankees or Red Sox aren't in the World Series.
Shut up and actually give credit and coverage to teams that advance that didn't fit into your scripted story line drama.
Your gym needs to get the MLB network. I don't know how people can still watch ESPN.
post #8775 of 72850
seems like rematch of 06 world series will happen
post #8776 of 72850
Detroit's pitching is incredible, I can't see them losing to either St. Louis or San Francisco with the way that staff has carried the team.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #8777 of 72850
Thread Starter 
St. Louis has arguably the best offense in baseball though. It'll be a really interesting matchup if it gets to that point.
post #8778 of 72850
Hope Verlander is locked in this World Series and puts on a couple of shows.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #8779 of 72850
Rooting for Detroit, just hope they don't get too much rest in between series eyes.gif
post #8780 of 72850
D'Backs Acquire Heath Bell In Three-Team Deal
By Zach Links [October 20 at 3:19pm CST]
The Diamondbacks announced that they have acquired Heath Bell, infielder Cliff Pennington, and cash considerations from the Marlins in a three-team deal with the Athletics. Miami will receive minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera from the A's and Oakland will get outfielder Chris Young and cash from Arizona.

Bell was unhappy in Miami as the club was unwilling to restore him as closer, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The 35-year-old struggled in his first and only year with the Marlins, posting a 5.09 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 73 appearances. The new-look Marlins signed Bell in December of last year as a part of their spending spree, giving the reliever a three-year, $27MM deal. The contract includes a vesting option for the 2015 season which will guarantee him $9MM with 55 games finished in 2014 or 100 games finished in 2013-14.

Young, 29, is set to make $8.5MM in 2013 with an $11MM club option for the 2014 season that comes with a modest $1.5MM buyout. The centerfielder has been unable to regain his All-Star form of 2010 and posted a .231/.311/.434 slash line with 14 homers last season. Young played in just 101 games last season, due in large part to a shoulder injury he suffered when he slammed into a wall in early April. The outfielder now reunited with skipper Bob Melvin, who he developed a bond with during his time in Arizona.
post #8781 of 72850
Have to wonder what Heath Bell can do after an awful season.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #8782 of 72850
I like that deal a lot for the A's.

Cespedes, Young, Reddick. They can bring back Gomes and have he and Smith platoon at DH.

I don't know anything about Yordy Cabrera, but he has 178 strikeouts to 47 walks and 61 errors in the last two seasons. sick.gif
post #8783 of 72850
Thread Starter 
5 moves that got Tigers to World Series.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Getting to the World Series is difficult and requires not only shrewd personnel decisions but also a little luck. For the Detroit Tigers, their moves have culminated in back-to-back AL Central Division titles and their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2006.

Let’s take a look at the five pivotal moves made by Detroit Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and their front-office staff that got the Tigers to where they are today.

1. Drafting RHP Justin Verlander

A room full of Tigers scouts sighed with relief when the San Diego Padres selected Mission Bay (Calif.) H.S. shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, as that allowed Detroit to take Old Dominion flamethrower Justin Verlander with No. 2 pick.

The Tigers’ leadership, led by Dombrowski, had previously worked for the Marlins, and they felt they were able to accomplish the same thing when they took Josh Beckett with the second overall pick in 1999. To build a championship-caliber team, you have to start with an ace -- and that’s exactly what the Tigers accomplished with Verlander, who is both a Cy Young Award winner and an AL MVP.
2. Acquiring 3B Miguel Cabrera

The Tigers shocked the baseball world in December 2007 when they were able to get one of the game’s best bats, Cabrera, along with Dontrelle Willis for a package of five prospects, including overrated former first-round selections Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, among others. None of the five prospects is still with the Marlins, and only Maybin has made any sort of impact at the major league level. Cabrera has hit .323/.401/.579 with an average of 37 homers per year since coming to Detroit. It was one of the most lopsided trades in generations.

3. Acquiring RHP Max Scherzer, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Phil Coke

The game’s biggest three-team trade in the last decade was orchestrated by Dombrowski, as he entertained everyone at the 2009 winter meetings in Indianapolis. By dealing the team’s most popular player, Curtis Granderson, to the New York Yankees, and right-handed starter Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks, the Tigers got Coke and Jackson from the Yankees, as well as Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth, while the Yankees got Granderson and shipped Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks.

The deal worked for all three teams and, interestingly, each club has enjoyed times when it has gotten the best of the trade. However, the real winner in this triangular transaction is the Tigers. Without this move, they’re not playing in the World Series. Jackson has developed into a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder who can run it down in the gaps while providing the Tigers with a legitimate leadoff hitter. Scherzer has become arguably their second-best starter behind Verlander, and Coke became their closer this postseason; his 0.00 ERA in the ALCS shut the door on the team that traded him -- the Yankees.

4. Acquiring 1B Prince Fielder

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was told last offseason the team didn’t have enough money to sign an additional bullpen arm that would have cost them approximately $1 million. A week later he was informed that Ilitch -- who made his money as founder of the Little Caesar's franchise -- had approved a nine-year, $214 million contract for Prince Fielder.

Of course, it was the injury to DH Victor Martinez that opened the door for the Fielder signing. Nonetheless, the signing sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Many teams weren’t willing to give more than five years, let alone nine. Owners throughout the game bristled at the contract. Without Fielder the Tigers are not in the World Series, and Little Caesars Pizza never tasted better.

Ilitch wants to a win a World Series so bad that he was willing to pull the trigger on this magnificent power-hitting first baseman who brought leadership, production and a winning attitude from Milwaukee. Fielder helped former teammate Ryan Braun win the NL MVP in 2011, and this year gave the same protection to Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown. And although a lot of risk remains for the latter three years of this contract, the investment was made so Ilitch could have the best possible chance to win a World Series. And he’s now just four wins away.

5. Acquiring Doug Fister

The Tigers made another lopsided trade just before the deadline in 2011, when they sent Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Doug Fister and David Pauley. Fister was by far the best player in the deal and gave the Tigers the No. 3 starter they so desperately needed. His nasty sinker and ability to pound the strike zone and pitch in big games has made him incredibly valuable. Fister has gone 18-11 with a 2.95 ERA since joining the Tigers, with an impressive WHIP of 1.08.

Ten free agents set to cash in.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For some of baseball's free agents, the market conditions couldn't be more promising. Teams are flush with money, their pockets lined well into the future by new, massive national and local TV contracts, and by cost-containment measures in the amateur draft and international markets.

"There's so much money out there, it's scary," said a highly ranked executive this week.

Clubs are ready to spend like it's the Christmas season. The problem with that, however, is that the 2012-2013 free-agent class is thought to be among the weakest in history.

Zack Greinke is going to be the most prominent pitcher in the market, and he's going to get really big dollars. But so will players who are regarded as average, or even below-average.

Here are 10 free agents who will soon get more money than they ever imagined:

1. Angel Pagan

Talk about great timing. The longtime big leaguer, now 31 years old, couldn't have picked a better summer to have a career year, with 61 extra-base hits, 95 runs and 29 stolen bases. He also ranked among the best center fielders in some defensive metrics. It's hard to imagine exactly where the bidding for him will go, but given that the Giants want to keep him and there could be interest from financially powerful teams such as the Rangers and Yankees, as well as the Mariners, it wouldn't shock baseball executives if Pagan winds up getting a four-year deal for something in the range of $50 million or more.

2. Kyle Lohse

The right-hander is going to hit the jackpot, after having one of the best seasons of his career. Some agents and executives are speculating that he'll get a deal close to the five-year, $77.5 million contract that C.J. Wilson got last winter.

3. Nick Swisher

Oh, sure, his time with the Yankees might be over, and yes, he has really struggled in October. But he has been incredibly consistent in his regular-season production in recent years, generating a high on-base percentage through patient at-bats, and he can play first base as well as the outfield. The Cubs, who are trying to get their young players to work the count and need working examples such as Swisher and Kevin Youkilis to help show the way, could be an interesting fit, and so could the Orioles.

4. Joel Peralta

The price for good setup men such as Peralta continues to climb. He pitched in 77 games in 2012, and had a career high of 11.28 strikeouts per nine innings, with only 17 walks allowed.

5. Edwin Jackson

He's not Greinke, and on his best day, he might not be Lohse. But he just turned 29, takes the ball regularly (he had five straight seasons of 31 or more starts) and he has an almost pristine medical history.

6. B.J. Upton

He sometimes drives rival evaluators crazy with his swing, which some scouts say stays on one plane of the strike zone, and there have long been questions about the consistency of his focus and effort. But Upton had a late-season burst of power to fill out his stat line: He hit 28 homers and stole 31 bases, and is considered a very good defensive center fielder.

7. A.J. Pierzynski

He's coming off a season in which he hit 27 homers and had a career-high .501 slugging percentage. He may not get offers of more than two years, but he figures to get more money in this contract than he did after the 2010 season, when he signed for two years, $8 million -- especially with the Rangers, Yankees and other teams fishing for catching help.

8. Ryan Ludwick

A year ago, he settled for a one-year, $2.5 million deal, plus a $5 million option for 2013. But after mashing 26 homers in 2012, Ludwick is going to decline that option, because in the current market, he's going to get something a lot better.

The Reds want Ludwick back, Hal McCoy writes.

9. Mike Adams

He will be coming back from surgery, but he has been among the most dominant right-handed setup men in the game in recent years, his performance sometimes shaped by his home ballpark -- he thrived in Petco Park, and had some troubles in Texas.

There will be a lot of competition for him.

10. Rafael Soriano

The Yankees probably won't be the team that gives him the multiyear deal he'll seek, after opting out of his current contract, but with the Tigers, Angels, Giants and other prominent teams set to be active in the market for closers, somebody is going to give him a lot of money.

Greinke's status is a key for the Angels, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• By the time the dust settled Saturday, Oakland added another strong-fielding outfielder in Chris Young, Arizona added a serviceable shortstop and more bullpen depth and Miami rid itself of its worst contract.

A few impressions:

1. Young has strong defensive metrics, along with some power, and now he joins a group of outfielders that already includes Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Coco Crisp. On paper, that represents a surplus, but keep in mind that Crisp is oft-injured and manager Bob Melvin can keep four in that group in the lineup daily through the use of the DH. It may be that somebody brings an interesting proposal to the Athletics for Smith or Crisp this winter, but their plan is to keep all five next season. The Athletics added depth and power, writes Susan Slusser.

2. Heath Bell had a horrendous 2012 season and is now 35 years old, so it's a little surprising that Arizona is absorbing $13 million of the $21 million still owed to him. But nobody knows Bell better than Arizona GM Kevin Towers, who acquired him from the Padres, and it may be that by the end of the upcoming winter, getting an accomplished reliever such as Bell on a two-year, $13 million deal -- which is what Arizona is doing -- will seem like a bargain.

From Steve Gilbert's story:

•"In my mind, as well as I know him since the velocity is still good and he's still got the good rotation on the breaking ball, I think changing scenery and getting back into hopefully a comfortable environment for him, I think he'll be strong," [Towers] said of Bell. "I don't think there's a lot you have to do in the way of tweaking where he's at. I think it's just really getting back to where he was before, challenging hitters and throwing to contact and going right after them."
Bell's average fastball velocity, according to

2007: 96 mph
2008: 94 mph
2009: 94 mph
2010: 94 mph
2011: 94 mph
2012: 94 mph

Cliff Pennington appears to be a place-holder until shortstop prospect Chris Owings reaches the big leagues.

3. As expected, the Marlins' payroll will be dramatically reduced; as of today, the team has about $55 million in salary obligations to Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, et al, and will likely open next season far short of their 2012 payroll of $101 million.

The trade of Bell should be a positive change, Larry Beinfest said in a statement. It means that Steve Cishek will likely continue as the Marlins' closer, Joe Capozzi writes.

The Cardinals are looking for a Game 6 breakout tonight. Adam Wainwright might be available in relief.

The Giants have stopped hitting at a time when the Cardinals are determined to not let Buster Posey beat them, writes Henry Schulman. From Schulman's story:

•Why throw Posey a hittable pitch when Hunter Pence batting behind him has two hits in 19 at-bats in the series?
"It's not anything against Pence or whoever is hitting behind (Posey), but c'mon," Game 3 winner and potential Game 7 starter Kyle Lohse told [the St. Louis Post-Dispatch]. "When I don't have my best stuff, that's just a guy I'm not going to make a mistake to. I can't live with a mistake going to that guy. You kind of move on and try to get the next guy."

From ESPN Stats & Info, about Chris Carpenter:

He is 2-0 in potential series clinchers with both wins coming during the Cardinals' World Series run last season. Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay in the NLDS and then got the best of Matt Harrison in the World Series.

Red Sox hire Farrell
The Red Sox finished their negotiations for John Farrell and agreed to a three-year deal. This is what Bobby Valentine told friends last winter that he thought would happen, eventually. If Valentine was really the hire of Larry Lucchino, then Farrell is really the choice of GM Ben Cherington -- and Cherington's neck is on the line with this choice, writes Gordon Edes.

Torey Lovullo has generated a lot of respect within the Jays organization as a managerial consideration.

It's not surprising that Farrell is gone, writes Bob Elliott. The dots have been connected for a while, writes Richard Griffin.

There was genuine anger within the Jays' organization about their perception that the Red Sox tampered with Farrell, but it was smart that Toronto has moved past that and gone about the business of hiring a manager who could be a part of their future for years to come.

World Series
Jim Leyland gets choked up about the Tigers. Big performances got the Tigers to the World Series.

This time around, the Tigers insist they'll be ready after the layoff.

A-Rod and the Yankees
Alex Rodriguez is likely to remain a Yankee, writes David Waldstein.

There are still a lot of conversations that have to take place. First, the Yankees' baseball operations folks must determine how they view Rodriguez as a player, and in particular, whether they believe he will ever again consistently hit right-handed pitching. If they think he can bounce back, then they can open 2013 with Rodriguez at third base.

But if they don't -- and if they believe they need to begin to pick and choose his matchups for him, sometimes benching him, sometimes dropping him down in the batting order -- then they'll need to take that evaluation to Rodriguez to see how he feels about having his stature diminished.

Jim Thome once spoke of how liberating it was, as an aging player, to come to grips with the reality that his body could no longer handle the rigors of playing daily. He could focus on being the best he could be for the reduced opportunities he was given, through the daily treatment he received.

But in speaking with reporters immediately after the Yankees' elimination, a cornered Rodriguez seemed a long way from being ready for that shift in his career, declaring that he would be back and that he would be on a mission.

Dan Le Batard has empathy for Rodriguez.

Moves, deals and decisions
1. Here are some free-agent options for the Phillies, writes Matt Gelb.

2. Derek Jeter had surgery, and CC Sabathia may be next. Remember when Joe Girardi said Sabathia was "healthy"? Well, he wasn't. There is concern about Sabathia, writes Joel Sherman.

3. The Reds should put Aroldis Chapman in the rotation, writes John Erardi.

4. The Rays might hire an assistant for Derek Shelton, writes Marc Topkin.

5. The ballpark dance in the Tampa-St. Pete area continues.

6. The Rangers were really aggressive in their pursuit of hitting coach Dave Magadan.

7. Jason Giambi has a legit shot to be the Rockies' manager. Here's what a lot of folks in baseball wonder: Will Giambi, who is a really nice person, be able to render tough decisions about veteran players?

8. Gerry Hunsicker left the Rays to take a job with the Dodgers.

Braves face tough call on Brian McCann.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Many executives planned to tune into Game 7 last night, but a lot are already deep into their winter's work, preparing to restructure their rosters. Some clubs face some really interesting negotiations in the weeks ahead, and among the most compelling decisions is one that the Braves have to figure out, about a guy who has been the heir apparent to Chipper Jones as the face of the franchise.

Three months ago, the question of whether the Braves would pick up Brian McCann's $12 million option for next year was something of a no-brainer, given his history as a power-hitting All-Star catcher. But circumstances have changed a lot, and now this is a situation that Braves officials must really puzzle over, as they weigh all the factors involved. Consider:

A) While a lot of teams have seen their revenue streams and payrolls rise significantly, the Braves' budget has been mostly stagnant in recent years, in the $85 million to $95 million range. When they made their midseason deals for Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Ben Sheets, the additions were made on the cheap. More and more, GM Frank Wren has been required to get maximum return on his dollars.

B) McCann's recent shoulder surgery was more extensive than expected, and while there are no concerns about whether he'll be able to throw next spring, it may take him a little longer to get back his full, aggressive swing with its high-torque one-handed finish. The Braves don't really know whether he will be back in April or June, and even if he is on the active roster, there's no telling when or if he'd give them pre-2012 production. McCann hit .230 with 20 homers last season, and by season's end he was limited to a platoon duty.

C) Even if the Braves chose to pick up McCann's option for next year, he almost certainly would be gone in 2014.

D) The Braves have other priorities in how they use their money this offseason, most notably in their effort to re-sign Michael Bourn. They've already got some payroll flexibility with the retirement of Chipper Jones, the likely non-tender of Jair Jurrjens and other moves, but if they let McCann go, they'd be in a better position to pursue Bourn or others.

The Braves could try to negotiate a lower salary with McCann, but that seems really unlikely to happen, because he'll draw significant interest elsewhere; he'll have other options.

If the Braves decide they don't want to keep McCann, they could simply not pick up the option, or they could try to recoup some value by exercising the option and then trading him to a team that could use him as a DH part-time, such as the Rangers, the Yankees, the Rays, etc.

The bottom line: The Braves are in a position, with their budget and payroll, in which they need to greatly reduce risk. And McCann's shoulder surgery represents great risk.


• Nothing could have been more surprising in the NLCS than the complete collapse of the Cardinals. They got their backsides kicked, writes Bernie Miklasz. Pete Kozma had maybe the roughest defensive inning in postseason history, maybe even rougher than what Willie Davis had during the 1966 World Series. Allen Craig was neutralized.

• Marco Scutaro led the Game 7 romp, writes Henry Schulman. For the Giants, it's on to the World Series, writes Ann Killion.

• The Giants were the hit in the San Francisco bars.

• Hunter Pence had a bizarre hit, writes Carl Steward. Brandon Crawford had a great moment.

From ESPN Stats & Information, a breakdown on Scutaro:

A) He swung at 43 pitches and missed only twice (contact on 95.3 percent of swings). That follows a 39-for-39 at making contact in the LDS against Cincinnati. Scutaro's contact rate of 94.4 percent was the best in the majors among qualifying players during the regular season.
B) Thirteen of those swings were on balls out of the zone, and Scutaro didn't miss a single one of those. He fouled off four and went 2-for-9 on the others.
C) Scutaro seven times got a fastball followed by an off-speed pitch. He swung at all seven and went 5-for-5 (fouling off two). Eight of his series hits came on sliders or changeups, versus just six on the heat.
D) He didn't wait around, averaging just 3.3 pitches per plate appearance in the LCS, lowest on the Giants roster (Sandoval 3.7 was next). Nine of his hits were within the first three pitches of a PA, and his longest PA in the series was six.
E) He went 6-for-8, plus a walk, with runners on base.

Scutaro ties the record for most hits in a postseason series, with 14. The others who share it are Kevin Youkilis (2007), Albert Pujols (2004) and Hideki Matsui (2004). His .500 average for the series is the second-highest in a series in Giants history, trailing only Will Clark (1989).

ELIAS: The Giants are the fourth team to win a postseason series by winning three straight games against the defending World Series winner after being down in the series, three games to one. The other teams to do that: the 1968 Tigers (against the Cardinals), 1958 Yankees (against the Braves) and 1925 Pirates (against the Washington Senators).

• The Cardinals scored one run or fewer in their final three games of the NLCS. This is the third time in franchise history have they scored one run or fewer in three straight games in a single postseason. The others were in the 1985 World Series vs Royals and 1996 NLCS vs Braves. They blew a 3-1 series lead in each instance, including in the 2012 NLCS vs the Giants. In the final three games, they hit .190, with three extra-base hits, and hit just .048 with runners in scoring position.


• After a slow start, Jim Leyland has thrived.

• The Tigers have a good bunch of guys, he says.

• Tony Paul has a breakdown of the Tigers against the Giants.

• Jose Valverde says everything is fine now. It would appear that the Tigers' closer situation is going to depend on matchups.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. As teams consider how to allocate their money, they'll look at the upcoming free agent classes, and while this year is considered relatively lackluster, next year's might be even worse, in terms of overall quality. Check it out here. Robinson Cano may turn out to be the most prominent free agent in next year's market, and he'll own the conversation.

2. When John Farrell is introduced today, he'll step into a no-lose situation while following Bobby Valentine, writes Gerry Callahan. By the way: Torey Lovullo is regarded as a favorite to be Boston's bench coach.

3. A pack of eight teams is looking at a teenager from Japan. They are limited by the rules on international spending. One source says the Red Sox and Rangers have done the most work in this arena.

4. Alex Rodriguez can win back favor by embracing a new role, writes Joel Sherman. Scouts are unsure what he has left, writes Erik Boland.

It wouldn't hurt the Phillies to ask about A-Rod, writes Ryan Lawrence.

5. Hiring the right pitching coach is crucial, writes Terry Francona.

6. The Twins have hired some new coaches.

7. Jim Tracy and Manny Acta are among the possible Toronto candidates. The Blue Jays need a skipper who leads, writes Cathal Kelly.

8. An Angels catcher was claimed on waivers.

9. The Rockies hired Mark Wiley.

By the Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

1: Runs scored by the Cardinals in their last three games; they scored 18 in the first four games of the series.
7: The Giants are the seventh team to win the LCS after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.
14: Hits by Marco Scutaro in the NLCS, tied for the most by any player in a postseason series.
19: World Series appearances by the Giants, moving past the Cardinals and Dodgers for second most by any team.

The best Game 7s in MLB history.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The San Francisco Giants are convinced they can't be beaten after winning five straight elimination games in this postseason. The St. Louis Cardinals are convinced they can't be beaten after coming down to their final strike about a dozen times in the last two postseasons and always prevailing. As written here before, it's Dracula (St. Louis) vs. The Wolfman (the Giants), and if you're going to finish off one of these teams, you'd better bring a wooden stake, some garlic and silver bullets.

So it makes all the sense in the world that tonight these two clubs will make their contribution to the storied history of Game 7s.

Here's my list of the top 18 Game 7s of all time (18 because I couldn't bring myself to cut eight off the list of the greatest ever).

1. 1991 World Series: Twins vs. Braves, Jack Morris vs. John Smoltz. With the championship on the line, they dueled for scoreless inning after scoreless inning. With Smoltz's pitch count at 105 through 7⅓ innings, he was relieved; Morris kept going, throwing 126 pitches through the top of the 10th. And in the bottom of the 10th inning, Gene Larkin's long fly ball scored Dan Gladden to end it.

2. 2001 World Series: Yankees vs. Diamondbacks. Many fans who don't usually root for the Yankees backed New York's team that fall, in those first emotional weeks after 9/11. As that World Series progressed, the Yankees -- an accomplished group that had won four of the previous five championships -- were generally outplayed, but somehow scraped together three wins with improbable heroics. In Game 4, Tino Martinez blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the score -- the first such homer since 1929 -- before Derek Jeter ended the game with the first November home run. The next night, Scott Brosius matched Martinez's feat with a two-run homer. The Yankees led the series 3-2, but Arizona blew out Andy Pettitte in Game 6, setting up a Game 7 matchup between Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.

Alfonso Soriano's home run off Schilling gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, but in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera's misplay of a bunt set up Luis Gonzalez's walk-off looping single over shortstop. That game represented the end of the dynasty of the Paul O'Neill-Martinez Yankees.

3. 1960 World Series: The Yankees had crushed the Pirates in three games, and Pittsburgh had eked out three wins, setting up a Game 7 in which the lead changed hands repeatedly -- until Bill Mazeroski won it all with the first walk-off home run in baseball's postseason history.

4. 1924 World Series: The Washington Senators had been perennial losers despite the dominance of ace Walter Johnson, arguably the greatest pitcher of all time. That fall, Johnson was 36 years old and nearing the end of his career. Washington scored twice in the eighth inning of Game 7 to tie the score, and in the ninth, Johnson was called on to pitch in relief. He shut out the Giants in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings. In the bottom of the 12th, Earl McNeely doubled home Muddy Ruel, and the Senators -- and Walter Johnson -- were finally champions of the baseball world.

5. 2003 AL Championship Series: The Red Sox and Yankees played into extra innings until Aaron Boone slammed a Tim Wakefield knuckleball into the lower deck at Yankee Stadium, and Mariano Rivera raced to the mound to thank his lord. It was unforgettable and incredible.

6. 1992 NL Championship Series: The Pirates lost to the Braves in the 1991 playoffs, but Pittsburgh carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 in '92. The Braves cut the lead to 2-1, and they had the bases loaded and two outs when pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera slashed a single to left. David Justice scored the tying run, and Sid Bream barely beat Barry Bonds' throw home to score the winning run, breaking hearts all over Pittsburgh -- the last moment that the Pirates had a winning team.

7. 2006 NL Championship Series: In the sixth inning, the Mets' Endy Chavez took a home run away from Scott Rolen to start a double play and maintain a 1-1 tie. But in the top of the ninth, Yadier Molina mashed a home run to give St. Louis a 3-1 lead, which Adam Wainwright protected with a game-ending curveball to Carlos Beltran.

8. 1955 World Series: The Brooklyn Dodgers had never won a World Series, but Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, with a lot of help from outfielder Sandy Amoros, a defensive replacement whose running catch saved runs.

9. 1912 World Series: Because the scheduled Game 2 finished in a tie, the Red Sox and Giants played an eighth game to decide the best-of-seven series -- and it was crazy. Christy Mathewson took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh when Boston tied the score. Smoky Joe Wood came on in relief for the Red Sox in the eighth, and in the top of the 10th, Fred Merkle singled to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. But in the bottom of the 10th, an error by Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass opened the door for a Red Sox rally, before Boston won it on a sacrifice fly.

10. 1997 World Series: The Indians carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, but with one out, Craig Counsell's sacrifice fly drove in the tying run against Jose Mesa. Two innings later, Counsell ended the World Series, scoring on Edgar Renteria's single.

11. 1965 World Series: Dodgers manager Walter Alston had a decision: Should he go with a fully rested Don Drysdale or Sandy Koufax on two days' rest? Alston picked Koufax, who pitched a three-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts.

12. 1962 World Series: With the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants had runners at second and third, and Willie McCovey slashed a line drive right at Bobby Richardson, ending the World Series.

13. 2004 ALCS: The game itself wasn't as incredible as the context: Boston had battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the series, and in Game 7, the Red Sox jumped on the Yankees for six runs in the first two innings. By the end of the game, Boston fans had taken over Yankee Stadium, celebrating something that had never been done before in baseball history.

14. 1971 World Series: It was a battle of two teams saturated with future Hall of Famers -- Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Willie Stargell. But Game 7 belonged to Steve Blass, a 165-pound right-hander who threw a complete game to take advantage of Clemente's home run and win 2-1.

15. 2008 ALCS: The Red Sox went into Game 7 as the defending champions against the gritty, small-market Rays, who had been baseball's doormat for a decade. After the Rays took a 3-1 lead, they sent rookie David Price to the mound to preserve the lead -- and he did, for his first save in professional baseball, throwing his glove into the air at the end.

16. 1975 World Series: Game 6 in that Series is regarded as one of the greatest World Series games of all time, but Game 7 was pretty good, too. Cincinnati dug itself out from a 3-0 deficit with the help of a Tony Perez home run, before Joe Morgan hit a run-scoring single in the top of the ninth.

17. 1926 World Series: The Cardinals' win over the Yankees ended when Babe Ruth was thrown out trying to steal second base.

18. 1986 World Series: Mets-Red Sox. Following the incredible comeback in Game 6, the Mets fell behind 3-0 in Game 7 before coming back with three runs in the sixth and three in the seventh.

For the readers: How would you rank the Game 7s?

Ryan Vogelsong created tonight's Game 7 with his brilliant performance -- after years in the minors, writes Tyler Kepner. The rally enchiladas worked. He saved the Giants again, writes Henry Schulman. They chanted his name, writes Ann Killion.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Vogelsong won:

A) Vogelsong threw his fastball 69 percent of the time, his second-highest percentage of the season. In three starts against the Cardinals this season, Vogelsong has thrown his fastball 66 percent of the time, compared with 57 percent against all other teams.
B) His fastball averaged 91.8 mph, in line with his 91.7 mph average since the start of August. From April-July, Vogelsong's fastball averaged 90.1 mph.
C) Nine of the 17 balls in play against Vogelsong were grounders, only the eighth time in 34 starts this season in which more than half the balls in play against Vogelsong were ground balls.
D) The Cardinals took a more aggressive approach against Vogelsong, swinging at 51 percent of his pitches after offering at 42 percent in Game 2. They also swung at 41 percent of Vogelsong's first pitches, compared with 18 percent in Game 2.
E) After throwing 50 percent of his pitches in the strike zone the first time through the order in Game 6, Vogelsong threw 43 percent of his pitches in the zone for the rest of the game.

Matt Cain talked about going back to a childlike emotion. Mark Purdy wonders if the Giants are unstoppable.

The Giants made a St. Louis lead in the NL series disappear, writes Joe Strauss. There's only one thing for the Cardinals to do, writes Bernie Miklasz. Matt Holliday was scratched before Game 6 with back stiffness.

Most unearned runs allowed in a postseason series
13: 1986 Angels, ALCS
10: 2012 Cardinals, NLCS
10: 1982 Cardinals, WS
9: 2001 Braves, NLCS
9: 1985 Dodgers, NLCS
Angels, Braves and Dodgers lost series

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

8: Straight postseason wins for the Giants when they score at least five runs (last loss 2003 NLDS Game 4 against Marlins)
9: Game postseason hit streak for Marco Scutaro (five of past six are multihit games)
12: Unearned runs allowed by the Cardinals this postseason. The other nine postseason teams have combined to allow a total of 18 unearned runs


For the Detroit Tigers, the drawn-out series between the Cards and Giants is all good, because the rotations of the NL teams will be left in a jumble, the bullpens taxed. The Tigers are lined up and all ready to go with Justin Verlander, et al. And as John Lowe writes, the middle of the lineups for both St. Louis and San Francisco are heavily right-handed -- and all of the Detroit starters are right-handed.

John also wrote this about the Detroit closer situation:

If Tigers manager Jim Leyland needs a reason to put Jose Valverde back in the closer's role for the World Series, the opposing hitters will give it to him.

The middle of the Giants' and Cardinals' lineups are heavily right-handed.

Ideally, a manager wants right-handers to face right-handed batters. Leyland could choose the right-handed Valverde instead of left-hander Phil Coke for the ninth inning if those big right-handed batters are due up.

Coke fit as the closer in the Yankees' series because that lineup was primarily left-handed.

Dave Dombrowski won't give away the secret of building a pitching staff, writes Shawn Windsor. Dombrowski, of course, traded for three of his four primary starting pitchers.

Jim Leyland has been wowed by the lovefest of the Detroit fans.

Mike Ilitch says his life won't be complete without a World Series ring.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The John Farrell compensation talks took a week. Alex Anthopoulos said he didn't appreciate leaks during the talks, which he seems to believe came from the Red Sox.

John Farrell is the right man at the right time, writes Tim Britton.

Imagine how different the perspective of Red Sox veterans is today from a month ago: They now will play for a manager they like, and know, and their work environment is going to be very, very different. I'd bet that many of them will be champing at the opportunity to restart next spring.

2. Bob Elliott thinks Sandy Alomar Jr. is the favorite to be the next Toronto manager. The Blue Jays got Mike Aviles in this deal.

The Jays got something for nothing, writes Cathal Kelly.

3. Brian Cashman says trading Alex Rodriguez is unrealistic because of the financial obligation. The fact that he answered the question at all tells you that the Yankees are willing to listen if somebody calls. In fishing, this would be called a chum line.

4. The Rays outrighted a couple of players.

5. A high school prodigy is headed to pitch in the majors.

The Yankees' next moves.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
DETROIT -- The clubhouse of any eliminated team is a strange place, but never stranger than when the New York Yankees are knocked out because of the enormous volume of media. Packs of reporters and camera crews with boom mikes and ladders stood in the middle of the room Thursday evening, silent in their respect for the competitively dead, waiting to see which members of the Yankees family would be the first to explain what was lost.

Eduardo Nunez and Hiroki Kuroda were the first, then Robinson Cano and others followed, each of them trying to explain the inexplicable, talking of what went wrong and how a team composed of so many accomplished hitters could look so terrible at the plate. The Yankees never led in the ALCS and scored in only two of 38 innings.

General manager Brian Cashman spoke at length, as well, and, in the days ahead, he and his assistants will pick through the pieces of the postseason, like a CSI team, and try to figure out what went wrong and what needs to change. Inevitably, they will hit on these points:

1. The rotation

Cashman's history is that he always -- always -- places the highest priority on pitching, and the dominance of the Tigers' staff in this series certainly will be a reminder that, ultimately, the strength of the rotation is the backbone of any team.

CC Sabathia will be back, likely after having some cleanup work done on his left elbow. His diminished velocity and his pitch selection down the stretch, with a focus on his changeup and his effort to get away from the torque of his cut fastball, were a sign of the discomfort he felt. The Yankees loved Kuroda, and, by all accounts, he really enjoyed pitching for them, so figure that they'll work out another short-term deal with the right-hander.

Andy Pettitte spoke after Thursday's game about his plans, and clearly he is torn: He loves pitching and loves being with the team and has been encouraged by his family to play, but, on the other hand, he hates being away from his kids, and his son Josh is headed to Rice to pitch, and he wants to be there. Pettitte intends to make his decision relatively quickly on whether he will pitch in 2013.

Michael Pineda had surgery earlier this year after hurting his shoulder, and the Yankees are hopeful that he'll come back and be something close to what they traded for -- a 23-year-old front-of-the-rotation talent. Given the nature of his injury, however, there's nothing guaranteed about that.

Phil Hughes is an innings-eater who went 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA, and, presumably, he'll be back. Depending on what Pettitte decides to do, the Yankees likely will be in the market for at least one veteran on a short-term deal, like a Jake Peavy.

"They've earned that," a rival executive said Thursday. "Players like to play there because they're treated well and they have a chance to win."

2. The bullpen

The Yankees expect Mariano Rivera to be back next year, but there's no telling what he'll be at age 43. Rafael Soriano can opt out of the last year of a contract that pays him about $10 million annually, and, if he decides he wants to leverage this into a multiyear deal, the Yankees are unlikely to chase him because they have other priorities -- and the Tampa Bay Rays and other clubs have demonstrated that bullpens can be built on the cheap.

There is an extensive list of relievers who will be available this winter if the Yankees want to build a safety net around Rivera.

3. The outfield

The Yankees will restructure their outfield in some fashion. Brett Gardner will be back, and, although Curtis Granderson was an incredible bust in the postseason, with 16 strikeouts and three hits in 30 at-bats, he has hit 84 homers and driven in 225 runs the past two seasons combined. He's 31 years old; it's a no-brainer for the Yankees to pick up his $13 million option for next season because he still represents a good value in the market. The Yankees almost certainly will turn the page on Nick Swisher, whose repeated postseason struggles have become a problem for an organization that defines itself by postseason success.

How will they round out their outfield? Well, Ichiro Suzuki really enjoyed playing for them, and, if he's willing to come back at a relatively cheap price, they'll be willing to have him back. If not, they theoretically could join what is expected to be a very competitive market for players such as Angel Pagan and Michael Bourn, but they might prefer to spend their money on other positions.

The Yankees will never abandon the philosophy of team building they have adhered to in the past two decades, of compiling a lineup with high on-base percentages and strong left-handed hitters who can take advantage of their home park. But it figures they will want to improve their athleticism and speed.

4. Catcher

The Yankees love Russell Martin, his toughness, his dedication to winning. If he is intent on a long-term, big-money deal, though, they likely will pass. If the Atlanta Braves decide not to pick up Brian McCann's option for next year, he could be a perfect fit for the Yankees because he could serve in a dual role as a DH and a part-time catcher after he recovers from shoulder surgery.

5. Alex Rodriguez

What should the Yankees do with him? They will weigh this in the same manner they considered A.J. Burnett's status last winter: Would the potential production offset the potential distraction? This season, Rodriguez hit 18 homers with a .353 on-base percentage, which ranked among the top half of third basemen in the majors. He's a decent defensive player.

But the Yankees have to decide whether they believe Rodriguez's struggles against right-handed pitching down the stretch -- he had a .453 OPS after he came off the disabled list in September, which ranked 170th among 173 players -- are a sign of things to come or whether they think he can bounce back. He has had 34 home runs in his past 957 plate appearances.

If the Yankees believe A-Rod's playing time must be reduced in the future, with Joe Girardi picking and choosing favorable matchups for him and resting him regularly, they must have a conversation with Rodriguez very similar to the one they had with Ichiro before they traded for him, in which they asked him how he would feel about being dropped in the lineup or being benched against certain pitchers or being pinch hit for.

That's a conversation Cashman and the club's leadership should have with Rodriguez in person. If A-Rod tells them he wouldn't be happy under those circumstances, they really need to move on and make the best deal they can, eating a whole lot of the $114 million still owed to him in the remaining five years on his contract. Lest there be any doubt, the potential for distraction is extraordinary: Rodriguez's situation will be the focal point of media and fan rubberneckers throughout the offseason, all through spring training and at the beginning of next season. Every at-bat will be scrutinized; each of his words will be dissected; every piece of body language will be examined for discontent.

Generally speaking, Rodriguez handled his playoff demotions well, taking responsibility. After Game 4, he told reporters that, if he had done his job properly, then Girardi and Cashman wouldn't have had a choice but to play him.

But Rodriguez might feel differently if the Yankees decide to reduce his playing time permanently. He will hover over an offseason that could be filled with significant turnover for a team with the highest payroll.

Pettitte wants to make a quick decision.

Flaws in the Yankees were exposed, writes Joel Sherman. Sabathia called it embarrassing.

The Yankees gave their poorest performance. New York made misplays. Rodriguez said he has no one to blame but himself. He said he'll be back.

Erik Boland writes of the five biggest questions facing the Yankees.

Brian Cashman defended Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.

Booing in New York spooked the Yankees players, a player tells John Harper.

It was an embarrassing defeat, writes Mike Vaccaro.

Lowest batting average in single postseason (MLB history, min. seven games)
2012 Yankees: .188
1965 Twins: .195
1956 Dodgers: .195
1974 Athletics: .198
1962 Yankees: .199
1920 Dodgers: .205
1921 Yankees: .207

For the Chicago White Sox, the addition of A-Rod is unlikely, writes Daryl Van Schouwen. There's no chance A-Rod will become a Marlin, writes Dave Hyde. Rodriguez is a temptation the Dodgers and Angels must resist, writes Bill Plaschke.

For the Tigers, it was a sweep. Their pitching has been ridiculously good, writes John Niyo. Phil Coke played a major role.

Jhonny Peralta has saved his best for the postseason. Delmon Young had a big series, as Drew Sharp writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Tigers are the second team to beat the Yankees in a postseason series in consecutive years (1921 and 1922 Giants). They are the first team to sweep the Yankees in a postseason series since the 1980 Royals and the first to do so in a best-of-seven series since the 1976 Reds.

Max Scherzer joins Adam Wainwright as the only pitchers in postseason history to strike out 10 hitters in fewer than six innings pitched. Scherzer is the first to do so in the postseason against the Yankees. How Scherzer won:

A) He threw 55 percent of his pitches away to Yankee lefties, generating 10 outs, including six by strikeout. Scherzer mixed up his pitch selection and worked out of the zone, as five of those six strikeouts were swinging.
B) Scherzer went to 2-0 in three of his 22 at-bats, allowing the righty to stay ahead in counts. In at-bats ending with Scherzer ahead in the count, the Yankees were 0-for-16 with 10 strikeouts.
C) Scherzer mixed in his off-speed pitches along with the fastball, throwing 39 percent sliders and changeups. Against both pitches, the Yankees were a combined 1-for-9 with four strikeouts (1-for-7, 3 K's against slider).

Lowest ERA by starting rotation in best-of-seven postseason series (MLB history)
1966 Orioles: 0.61 -- World Series vs. Dodgers
2012 Tigers: 0.66 -- ALCS vs. Yankees
1950 Yankees: 0.76 -- World Series vs. Phillies
1939 Yankees: 0.78 -- World Series vs. Reds


St. Louis is one win away from having a chance to be the first club since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back championships. The Cardinals won without Carlos Beltran. There are hints of inevitability. Stan Musial made a surprise appearance.

Tim Lincecum couldn't get it done as a starter. He was shaky from the start, writes Ann Killion. The Giants came up short on all ends, writes Daniel Brown.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Wainwright won:

A) He threw 34 curveballs, his most in a start since Aug. 18, 2010. Wainwright worked in and out of the zone, getting nine outs with three by strikeout. The Giants chased 10 curveballs out of the zone on 17 swings.
B) Wainwright showed improvement with his cutter by increasing its usage from 17 percent in his last start to 29 percent and allowing no hits after serving up a home run in his last start. Wainwright used the cutter in on lefties (19 of 28 pitches), getting two outs. Against righties, Wainwright worked away, getting three outs while throwing nine cutters.
C) The Giants could not hit Wainwright when he got to two strikes. He got the count to two strikes in 15 of 25 at-bats and did not allow a hit. Wainwright induced six groundouts, struck out five and got four fly outs. The 15 outs in at-bats going to two strikes ties a season high.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

4: Game-winning RBIs for Delmon Young in ALCS. Young is the first player with a game-winning RBI in all four wins in an MLB postseason series.
11: Hits allowed by Sabathia in 3 2/3 innings. Sabathia is the first pitcher in postseason history to allow 11-plus hits while recording 11 outs or fewer.
41: Wins for the Cardinals in the postseason in the last 10 seasons, the most wins of any team during that time period.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are negotiating the price for John Farrell. The situation is coming to a close, writes John Tomase.

2. The White Sox are lowering ticket prices.

3. Paul Daugherty wonders: Should the Reds bring back Josh Hamilton?

4. The Kansas City Royals signed some minor leaguers.

5. Gerry Hunsicker left the Rays for the Dodgers.

6. Mark Wiley remains the favorite for a position with the Colorado Rockies.

Chris Young a shrewd pickup for A's.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I did think we'd see a major deal involving an Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder this offseason, but I certainly didn't think it'd be Chris Young, and I was surprised to see him headed to Oakland and to see Heath Bell headed to any team without a similarly bad contract headed back to Miami's Boondoggle Park.

The A's look like the winners here in this three-team deal, at least on paper, as they sent infielders Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera to Arizona for Young, with the D-backs subsequently sending Cabrera to Miami for Bell.

In simple terms, Oakland traded a surplus infielder (thanks to the presence of Stephen Drew) and a marginal prospect for a center fielder who still has the raw tools to play at the level of an All-Star but needs to stay healthy to achieve it.

Young was good for 4.6 wins above replacement (FanGraphs' version) in 2010 and in 2011, even though he played through injuries in that second season, reaching that level of production primarily through secondary skills -- defense, power, baserunning, plus just enough patience to make his OBP respectable. He has always had early length in his swing that results in more strikeouts and in generally low BABIPs, but his approach at the plate is fine and he does have above-average raw power.

He's an outstanding defender in center and should remain so for several more years. Young got off to a terrific start in April (small-sample-size caveats apply) before bruising his shoulder and slightly tearing a ligament when he collided with the outfield wall; he probably came back from it too soon, contributing to a miserable .206/.284/.371 line the rest of the way that saw him lose his starting job to Adam Eaton in September. His main weakness in my view isn't his low contact rate but his trouble with right-handed pitching, which I think is tied to the extra movement in the first part of his swing. If he has recovered completely in time for Opening Day in 2013, I'd expect at least a four-win season, which probably would be enough to get Oakland to pick up his $11 million option for 2014.

The deal makes the least sense for Arizona, as it sells low on a potentially valuable outfielder coming off a poor season when he was limited by injuries and acquires a wildly overpaid reliever and a shortstop who is a slight upgrade over John McDonald. The Diamondbacks' outfield surplus presented a tremendous opportunity for the club to fill critical holes on the roster or to maximize its return by adding to its farm system. This deal accomplishes neither goal.

Pennington is a very good defensive shortstop who can't hit, doesn't have power and doesn't walk enough to make you forget the first two points. That makes him a big leaguer, but he needs a lot of BABIP luck to look like an every-day player. Bell was, as predicted, a disaster for the Marlins, and I don't see how a fly-ball pitcher with a flat fastball is going to fare well in Arizona, especially with the team's best defensive center fielder now off the roster. Miami is picking up $8 million of the $21 million left on Bell's deal, but Arizona is still paying a lot of money for a pitcher who is a poor fit for its park.

The best-case scenario for the Diamondbacks on this deal is a push, and it feels to me like an expression of the front office's disdain for, or exasperation with, Young -- feelings that also seem to apply to Justin Upton. The lone positive I can see in the transaction is that it probably gives Eaton a solid grip on the every-day center-field job; he has shown in the past year that he can handle it, and he provides enough OBP, through contact and through walks, to be an above-average regular at the position.

The Marlins get salary and headache relief, a lesson I'm sure everyone will forget this winter when some GM gives Jose Valverde three years and $36 million. They also acquire a fringy prospect in third baseman Cabrera, who started the trade in the Oakland system. Cabrera has plus raw power and a plus arm, working in the mid-90s as a pitcher in high school, but he really just hits fastballs and his swing has gone backward since high school. The 22-year-old's performance so far in pro ball marks him as a near nonprospect, although I would like to see him back on a mound before any team considers releasing him.

Scouting Hamilton, Springer in AFL.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I've seen every Arizona Fall League team at least twice so far, covering all of the hitters (batting practice and game action) and about two-thirds of the pitchers, including all of the major prospects. Here are some additional thoughts on a dozen of the top prospects based on what I've seen since last week's post.

• We already knew Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds) could fly -- and by that, I mean a 3.78 home-to-first time from the left side, the lowest I've ever seen on a ball put in play on a swing -- but the conversion to center field is off to a slow start, as Hamilton looks like a guy who's never played the position.

That's completely understandable, and the positive sign was a throw he made to nail a runner trying to go from first to third on a single. Hamilton never showed great arm strength at shortstop, but the throw was strong and accurate.

• Kyle Gibson (Minnesota Twins) threw just 28 innings during the regular season in his return from Tommy John surgery, making him the ideal candidate to come pitch in the Arizona Fall League. (Seriously, more teams need to send their rehabbing prospects out here.) Gibson was very impressive Tuesday in his second start of the fall, working from 92-94, driving the ball down in the zone, and showing a plus slider at 83-86 that he would throw in any count, in or out of the zone, and would even back-foot to a left-handed hitter when the guy might be looking for a changeup away.

He did show a true changeup, but was mostly fastball-slider and looked like a big leaguer, and one with a higher ceiling than he showed as an amateur when he had a pretty-but-slow curveball as his primary breaking ball. I would expect him to surface in Minnesota in the second half of the season once he's built up some more arm strength.

• Seth Blair (St. Louis Cardinals) had a great start to his second outing for Surprise, sitting 92-96 for the first two innings with a hard slurve at 82-85 that he was locating well to the outer half against right-handed batters. In the third inning, something went awry, whether it was fatigue or having to work from the stretch, as his velocity dropped off and his command worsened. He barely used a changeup, so between the two-pitch approach, his thin frame and the difficulty maintaining his stuff, he might be more reliever than starter.

• Hak-Ju Lee (Tampa Bay Rays) has long been one of my favorite prospects for his ability to play shortstop, run and make contact, and two of those three things have been on display out here. He's a plus defender with an outstanding arm, and he can still fly, but even though the Rays have him keeping his hands back better after a midseason mechanical adjustment, he's struggled to square the ball up so far, showing difficulty picking up some better off-speed stuff and a weakness when pitchers can locate under his hands.

• Andre Rienzo (Chicago White Sox) is one of a small number of Brazilian-born prospects in organized baseball. Toronto's Yan Gomes became the first Brazilian-born big leaguer when he was recalled this year. Rienzo will almost certainly double that list soon, showing multiple pitches from a slight frame that might not hold up as a starter but could be an impact arm out of the pen.

Rienzo touched 95 mph with good glove-side run on his four-seamer but relied heavily on a very deceptive 85-87 mph cutter that looked just like the fastball out of his hand. He has a true overhand curveball at 78-81 and flashed a changeup, but he preferred the cutter in ordinary changeup counts. To start, he'll probably need to work on that change, and I'd feel more comfortable if he weren't so thin (listed at 160 pounds). But he's got plenty of weapons to be a good setup man if the rotation doesn't work out.

• George Springer (Houston Astros) has the same mix of very good and slightly bad I saw from him in college. He has enough tools to make him a potential All-Star, but obstacles that give him a lower overall probability than you'd like to see. He's still got great bat speed, and he's holding his hands back and out, rather than in and tight as he did at UConn. He's an above-average runner with plus raw power, something he showed with a long opposite-field homer off a right-hander in Mesa last week. The negatives are the complete absence of a two-strike approach -- Springer and Javier Baez back-to-back in the Mesa lineup is a treat if you like flailing hacks at breaking balls a foot off the plate -- and some backside collapse when he overswings, which is often.

• Nick Tropeano (Astros) is pitching in relief out here after a breakout season as a starter that saw him pitching with a fastball at least two grades above what he had at Stony Brook. Tropeano was 92-94 in his second relief outing, although the pitch is flat and has very little life; his out pitch is a plus changeup at 80-82 with very good arm speed and a near-identical release point to that of his fastball, making it very tough for hitters to pick up on the pitch. His slider is fringy at best, and as a two-pitch guy, he may end up in the pen. I wouldn't bet against a changeup that good, the second-best I've seen out here after Arizona's Chase Anderson's.

• I prefer to focus on prospects I like and would grade highly, but I've been asked about a number of prospects who've disappointed me so far out here. Two Washington Nationals prospects, Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole, have fallen short. Skole is an organizational player for me, a positionless slugger with a noisy, uphill swing, while Goodwin hasn't run as well or shown the same electric bat speed I saw from him in college. (Some players do look slower out here every year between fatigue from the long season and discomfort in the early-October heat.)

Matt Szczur (Chicago Cubs) has the same problematic swing I've always seen from him, way too short to generate power and so early that he can't pick up breaking balls, although he can square up a fastball for a single. ... Bobby Borchering (Astros) has been standing in the vicinity of third base, and his bat isn't going to be enough to play at first. ... Cody Asche (Philadelphia Phillies) struggled badly at third base, showing slow reactions in both directions, although I like that he's loading his hands a little deeper to drive the ball to the gaps. ... One player I'd mentioned as a disappointment in my last blog post, Dellin Betances (New York Yankees), was much better the second time I saw him, 93-95 with a better slider and something resembling average command.

Tigers' poor D won't hurt in Series.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder and decided to move Miguel Cabrera to third base, they were taking a chance. Yes, their offense had become even more formidable, but their defense looked bad enough to potentially offset any gains their new bat provided. The last time Cabrera had played third base for a full season, in 2007 with the Marlins, he cost his team 19 runs with his poor defense (according to defensive runs saved), which is an approximate difference of two wins compared with an average defender over a full season. Fielder, meanwhile, had been in the bottom three among first basemen in DRS in five of the previous six seasons.

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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
According to DRS, Cabrera has been just a tick below average at third this year.Well, the decision certainly has paid off. Neither player was as bad defensively as feared this season, and now the Tigers have a chance to win their first World Series in more than a quarter-century. Their defense hasn't hurt them so far in October, and there's a good chance it won't in the World Series, either.

The Tigers have been fortunate in their playoff matchups to face the Athletics and the Yankees, teams that were unable to take advantage of the Tigers' defensive weaknesses. The Oakland A's struck out on 22.4 percent of their plate appearances this season, which was the third most in baseball. Even better for the Tigers, the Athletics were the only team with a higher fly ball rate than ground ball rate for the season. The A's put less than 40 percent of their contacted balls on the ground, which is where the Tigers are most vulnerable defensively. At minus-19, the Tigers had the lowest DRS numbers in the infield of any American League team and of any team that made the playoffs.

On paper, the New York Yankees should have put more pressure on the Tigers. They struck out only 18.9 percent of the time, which was in the bottom third in baseball, and had a ground ball rate of 45.5 percent, which was middle of the pack. But that was the regular season. The Yankees' offense went ice cold in the playoffs. Against the Tigers, the Yankees put 44.2 percent of their balls in play on the ground, which was not much different from the regular season, but their strikeout rate jumped to 23.5 percent -- and fewer balls in play meant fewer chances to take advantage of Detroit's weak defense. The Tigers put the ball in play 75.3 percent of the time, which worked well against a Yankees team whose defense was about as bad, posting a minus-22 DRS on the season, compared to the Tigers' minus-27.

The bad news for the Tigers is that the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants are much better at putting the ball in play. Both remaining National League teams were in the bottom third in baseball in strikeout rate and among the top six in ground ball rate. And unlike the Yankees, neither the Giants nor the Cardinals counterbalance the Tigers' poor defense with a poor one of their own. They had minus-5 and 13 DRS, respectively, which represents a nice hidden advantage over the Tigers.

Still, the Tigers have several reasons to be confident in their chances. The first is that they are not too different from the AL teams that came before them. Five of the nine most recent AL representatives in the World Series were below average defensively. At minus-27 DRS, the Tigers are not even the worst defense in that time. The 2003 Yankees had minus-36; although they lost the World Series, many AL teams with similarly awful defenses came out on top.

Worl Series?
Many of the Fall Classic's recent AL participants have taken the "D" out of the affair.

2003 Yankees -36 Marlins -21
2004 Red Sox -25 Cardinals 50
2005 White Sox 47 Astros 58
2006 Tigers 50 Cardinals 55
2007 Red Sox -3 Rockies 33
2008 Rays 14 Phillies 77
2009 Yankees -25 Phillies 9
2010 Rangers -19 Giants 26
2011 Rangers 2 Cardinals -22

The Cardinals and Giants look as much out of place in the recent history of NL World Series teams as the Tigers do in the AL. The Marlins in 2003 and the Cardinals last year were the only NL teams with negative DRS seasons in their World Series years, which speaks to the NL's reputation as more of a speed-and-defense league. Six of the nine teams were significantly better defensively than the 2012 Cardinals or Giants. In fact, the 40-run advantage the Cardinals would enjoy over the Tigers if they faced one another would be just the fourth biggest in the past 10 seasons.

Meanwhile, the Tigers' decision to play both Fielder and Cabrera in the infield this season will save them from a problem many AL teams have in the World Series: how to handle their lineup when they lose the designated hitter in an NL ballpark.

Had the Tigers used Cabrera at DH for most of the season, they would, of course, want to keep him in the lineup in either San Francisco or St. Louis. He would have had to play third base in those games. When you look at his season totals, that does not seem like a big deal. Cabrera was only four runs below average at third, according to DRS.

However, Cabrera did face an adjustment period. He actually had already cost the Tigers three of those runs by May 1, and he has played near-neutral defense since then. Coming cold into the position in the postseason could have presented a major challenge for Cabrera.

The Tigers also might want to keep Delmon Young, fresh off his AL Championship Series MVP, in the lineup. His is an easier problem to manage. Young is a poor defender, which is why he spent most of the season at DH. However, Andy Dirks has played a third of his games in right field this season, and if the Tigers shift him there, they could play Young in left field, or they could use Young as a right-handed bat off the bench and allow Dirks and Quintin Berry, both left-handers, to start in the outfield against right-handed pitchers. Even with Young in the lineup, the Tigers will be better defensively than they were much of the year with Brennan Boesch out there. At minus-8 DRS, he was the fifth-worst right fielder in baseball.
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Guillen out as a Marlins Manager.
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Smh at bobby valentine...
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And thats what happens when you leave Jerry Reinsdorf for Jeffry Loria

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Thread Starter 
5 AL moves that need to happen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the World Series trophy now residing in San Francisco, every American League team saw its 2012 season end in disappointment. Here are five moves that could help change that for 2013. We'll look at the NL side of things tomorrow.

1. Tampa Rays trade LHP David Price and SS Tim Beckham to the Arizona Diamondbacks for OF Justin Upton and RHP Trevor Bauer

It would be the blockbuster of blockbusters, with two franchise talents/former No. 1 overall draft picks switching coasts in the prime of their careers, but it is also a move that could potentially help both teams solve some issues. As long as the Rays hold their payroll at a similar level, trading Price is an inevitability, as his increasing arbitration awards are going to price him out of their budget within the two years. By swapping him for Upton -- whose salaries for the next three years are already locked in -- they can ensure that they have cost certainty over a premium young talent who can fill a void in their lineup, rather than having to move him for prospects in 12-18 months.

The Rays would essentially be replacing one Upton with the other, but they'd also be bringing in the power bat that they've needed to complement Evan Longoria for years. Upton's not as good a player right now as Price is, but given the respective replacements, the improvement in the outfielder might be equivalent to the drop off in the rotation, especially with a piece like Bauer coming along with Upton. The Rays have the pitching depth to move Price for an offensive upgrade, and acquiring Upton while his value is at its lowest might be their best chance to add a big-time bat while their window to contend is open. Buster Olney has already written that the Rays could be shopping Price this winter, and this is the kind of package that would make it happen.

For Arizona, the price is stiff, but it turns two players that have frustrated the organization into one of the elite pitchers in the game, and a true staff ace who can carry them if they get into October. It wouldn't be easy to pull the trigger on surrendering two guys who have carried as much hype as Upton and Bauer, but if Kevin Towers was offered the chance to turn potential into performance, I'm not sure he could walk away from the opportunity.

2. New York Yankees sign B.J. Upton for five years, $75 million

With Nick Swisher seemingly on his way out of New York, the Yankees have an opening for an outfielder, and they should take advantage of the chance to move Curtis Granderson to right field by bringing in a new center fielder. Upton would give the team a 28-year-old premium defender who has the same flaws that Granderson had when he came over from Detroit, so Kevin Long gets a new project with a lot of offensive potential. And by bringing in Upton to play center, the team can move Granderson to right field, where his diminishing abilities to go back on balls won't be as noticeable. The short porch in right field is a perfect fit for Granderson's defensive skill set, and Upton has the speed to run down balls in the gaps that Granderson won't get to.

Upton also gives the team some youth, which this aging roster could use, and his familiarity with the AL East should make the transition smoother. While $75 million might seem like a lot for a player who has never turned into what he was projected to become, his combination of above-average offense and range in center field make it an investment worth making.

3. Detroit Tigers sign Melky Cabrera for one year, $7 million

The Tigers' struggles against left-handed pitching were exposed in the first two games of the World Series, when Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner carved up their lineup in San Francisco. Especially problematic was the team's reliance on journeyman rookie (two words that don't often go together, and with good reason) Quintin Berry in left field, and his placement in front of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup due to the team's lack of on-base threats. Melky Cabrera can solve both problems at once, giving the team a drastic upgrade in left field who can also serve as the switch-hitting No. 2 hitter that Jim Leyland craves. Oh, and there's the fact that Cabrera destroyed left-handed pitching this year, putting up a 202 wRC+ against southpaws that ranked fourth in baseball, behind only Buster Posey, Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen.

Yes, there's the whole PED suspension issue, and Melky Cabrera is unlikely to ever repeat his 2012 performance, but he was pretty good for the Royals in 2011 and didn't fail any drug tests then. And on a one year "make good" contract, there wouldn't be much risk for the Tigers, who know a thing or two about giving second chances to guys who can hit. Offering Melky the chance to hit in front of the Triple Crown winner is a perfect sales pitch to get him to Detroit and show that he can perform even while clean. Given his contact rate, gap power and switch-hitting skills, he'd be the perfect complement to Miguel Cabrera, and the "Cabrera Squared" shirts would sell themselves.

4. Texas Rangers trade RHP Tanner Scheppers and 1B Mitch Moreland to the Cleveland Indians for OF Shin-Soo Choo

With Josh Hamilton unlikely to return, the Rangers need a legitimate left-handed bat. While plugging in Jurickson Profar and shifting Ian Kinsler to the outfield would create room for the team's best prospect and fill Hamilton's void, it would also make the team too right-handed, as they'd be down to just David Murphy and Moreland as left-handed regulars.

Choo would give them a patient left-handed stick whose gap power would play up in the heat, and could slide between RF and DH, depending on Nelson Cruz's health. His weakness against lefties means that they could use his spot to slide Profar in, getting him some playing time even if he's not slotted for an everyday job out of spring training. And because he's entering the final year of his contract, they wouldn't have to part with any of their best prospects to get him. The Indians would save roughly $8 million (depending on what Choo gets in his final trip through arbitration) and would add two interesting young players to their big league roster, so it's a move that could be a win-win for both sides.

5. Oakland Athletics sign Eric Chavez for one year, $4 million

Back when "Moneyball" -- the book, not the movie -- was published, Eric Chavez was Billy Beane's golden child. He had turned into an elite third baseman at a young age, and looked poised to help carry the franchise after the departure of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Miguel Tejada. However, chronic back problems derailed his career and stole his power, and Chavez had to spend his final four years in Oakland watching from the bench as the A's Cinderella run crashed around him. Now almost 35 years old, Chavez somehow found the fountain of youth in New York, but it's time for him to come home.

Josh Donaldson did an admirable job filling in at third base after Brandon Inge got hurt, but he's probably best suited to a part-time job, and as a right-handed hitter, he could use a lefty to share the job with. Chavez is a lefty who should be strictly platooned and can't be counted on to play everyday, so the match is perfect, and Chavez could be reunited with the franchise that developed him in time to celebrate its rebirth. The A's are extremely young and could use a veteran leader such as Chavez -- especially if he can hit like he did in 2012 again -- and it seems only fitting that he finishes his career where it started.

Offseason decisions for all 30 teams.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
DETROIT -- As Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News writes, free agency begins today for Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and others, given the changes in the system. Marco Scutaro will still have images of his World Series-winning single dancing in his head, forever entrenched in the great lore of the San Francisco Giants, and he'll be thinking about Tuesday's parade -- and yet all the while, he will not technically be part of their roster. This is how quickly the offseason work begins.

Most teams have held organizational and staff meetings in recent weeks to evaluate their own talent and consider outside options.

Some thumbnails on decisions to come for all 30 teams:

Los Angeles Angels: Their framework has changed rapidly. This franchise was thought to have outstanding starting pitching at the outset of 2012 season, but the Angels may have as many as three openings in their rotation going into 2013. C.J. Wilson had surgery that figures to impact him into next season, and the Angels must quickly decide whether to pick up options on Dan Haren ($15.5 million) and Ervin Santana ($13 million). There are legit reasons for them to pass on those options, and if they do so -- and are unable to re-sign Zack Greinke -- well, their rotation would be a complete mess.

Houston Astros: They need a whole lot of better players -- it's as simple as that -- as they brace themselves for what figures to be a really, really tough 2013 season.

Oakland Athletics: Oakland needs to identify a shortstop, whether it's through a new negotiated deal with Stephen Drew or some other route. The A's have a young team with a lot of parts already in place.

Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has rotation needs, for sure, at a time when so many of the Jays' young pitchers are recovering from arm trouble. But as their next manager comes aboard, he will have to address perceived clubhouse culture issues -- like those that Omar Vizquel gave voice to at season's end.

Atlanta Braves: They will decide this week whether to pick up the $12 million option on Brian McCann and whether they'd rather use the money in their attempt to re-sign Michael Bourn.

Milwaukee Brewers: They want to add pitching and need two starters, but as written here a couple of weeks ago, they could be really interesting players in the market for Josh Hamilton, if he is not priced outside of their realm.

St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman are out, but the rotation should be in good shape for next year, so long as Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and others come back. Allen Craig is fully established at first base. Now GM John Mozeliak has a lot of payroll flexibility to augment the bench and the bullpen, where he sees fit, and they have to hope that Rafael Furcal rebounds from yet another injury.

Chicago Cubs: Look, if there are ways for them to get better in the long term, they'll move on it. They do have a lot of money to spend but have to be careful to not squander their financial advantages.

Arizona Diamondbacks: They say they expect to keep Justin Upton. "Which is what you need to say to keep up the trade value," said a rival GM. "I still think they're going to deal him." Not unless the Diamondbacks get strong equal value in return, and they will be looking for someone who can play on the left side of their infield. It will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks are willing to talk about Trevor Bauer, whose stock plummeted in the eyes of rival evaluators this season, amid questions about his fastball velocity and his ability to make necessary adjustments -- like pitching down in the strike zone.

Los Angeles Dodgers: They say they have a lot of money to spend, and it'll be interesting to see if they choose to compete with their market rivals, the Angels, for Greinke. They have to decide whether Hanley Ramirez is a shortstop or a third baseman.

San Francisco Giants: They won the World Series in 2010 and spent heavily to keep Aubrey Huff and others from that championship team, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if they had the same approach with Scutaro and Angel Pagan this year.

Cleveland Indians: This could be a relatively quiet offseason for the Indians, as they consider ways of augmenting the roster without spending a ton of money -- or it could turn into a winter of major change. If Cleveland devotes itself to overhauling the roster in an effort to rebuild the pitching, then it has a lot of players who would be really attractive in the trade market -- shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is signed through 2014 and could be enormously attractive to Arizona, Oakland or Tampa Bay; outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is eligible for free agency after next year; Carlos Santana, who is reaching the crossroads when he needs to decide whether to rededicate himself to being a catcher; pitchers Justin Masterson and Chris Perez, as well as Vinnie Pestano -- because if the Indians go for the complete overhaul, they might as well trade Pestano now, when his value is at its highest.

If Cleveland traded that group of players, it could net a huge haul of prospects. The Angels, who are looking for bullpen help, could be a match.

Seattle Mariners: Seattle must decide whether to turn the page on Justin Smoak, who has really struggled the last two seasons, and whether to trade more pitching for offense, as the Mariners did last winter in the move for Jesus Montero.

Miami Marlins: They're in the process of a dramatic reduction of their payroll, while bringing in a whole new coaching staff. In other words, business as usual.

New York Mets: They don't have much money to acquire talent from outside the organization, but they will be willing to spend tens of millions to keep David Wright -- if he'll agree to stay. If not, they'll have some tough decisions to make.

Washington Nationals: They've opened contract talks with first baseman Adam LaRoche and pitcher Edwin Jackson, but they'll have to pay more than they ever expected to keep both -- or they'll have to find replacements.

Baltimore Orioles: They could be the sleeping giants of the winter, because their playoff berth of 2012 gave them credibility and now they have money to spend -- for help at first base or in the rotation. They are viewed, among rival executives, as one of the teams most likely to make a big, pricey splash this winter.

San Diego Padres: San Diego could be poised for a really big strike because they have a lot of prospect depth, and with a couple of upgrades, they would be really dangerous for next season. Soon we'll know if the Padres look at Chase Headley as a hot stock that needs to be moved when the possible return is at its zenith, or as a player they can build around.

Philadelphia Phillies: They need to find a third baseman and outfield help at a time when they don't have much money to spend because of other payroll obligations. The re-signing of Cole Hamels represents their big offseason move, for all practical purposes.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Once again, Pittsburgh is left to plug some holes in its rotation while assessing modest upgrades to its everyday lineup. After a frustrating finish to the 2012 season, it could be a rough winter, as well.

Texas Rangers: Some rival executives are convinced that Texas already has a foot out the door in its relationship with Hamilton. If the Rangers let him walk away, they'll have to decide how the other dominos will fall, with a possible pursuit of Justin Upton and with Ian Kinsler possibly moving to the outfield as Texas decides how to implement super prospect Jurickson Profar.

Tampa Bay Rays: Once again, they will weigh their choices as teams ask them about their pitching -- David Price, James Shields, etc. -- but keep in mind that the team's organizational philosophy has always been about hoarding good pitching, which is really the only way the Rays can compete. They badly need lineup upgrades and will have to find a replacement for B.J. Upton. On paper, they would seem to match up for a possible deal with the Royals, who have good position players to offer in trade.

Boston Red Sox: They need solid solutions at first base and shortstop, and at the back end of their bullpen, and they have to determine the best course of action with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is likely headed to free agency after next season.

Cincinnati Reds: They've got a really good pitching staff in place, but they need to settle on a course of action in left field and center field, whether they retain Ryan Ludwick or look for an alternative to Drew Stubbs. Presumably, Todd Frazier will be an everyday player in 2013, and friends of Scott Rolen believe he'll retire. The Reds have to decide who will play left field, writes John Erardi.

Colorado Rockies: Not only does Colorado need more pitching talent, but clearly it's an organization that is in the middle of reassessing its operational philosophy.

Kansas City Royals: They've got an outstanding bullpen and a good and developing everyday lineup, but they desperately need at least two solid starting pitchers to anchor the rotation.

Detroit Tigers: They'll need to rebuild their bullpen and figure out how to augment the lineup, beyond the 2013 return of Victor Martinez.

Minnesota Twins: Their challenge is daunting -- administer major improvements to the pitching staff without having much minor league talent and without much in the way of available funds.

Chicago White Sox: It was a really satisfying season for this team, in many respects, but there are major changes to come, with Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, etc. The White Sox are expected to decline a handful of options for their players, writes Mark Gonzales.

New York Yankees: Their priority is all about the pitching, for now. They'll need to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte (who friends believe is definitely coming back) and also negotiate a new deal with Mariano Rivera. And they'll try to find some middle ground with free-agent catcher Russell Martin, while seeing if anyone reaches out to them about Alex Rodriguez. They'll assess Robinson Cano's demands -- and if they're anything close to the rumored 10-year asking price, they'll probably punt on those talks until next winter.

World Series
• As the Giants took batting practice here before Game 4 Sunday evening, manager Bruce Bochy chatted near first base about what he loves about his job. Next season will be his 19th as a major league manager, but there is little sign of emotional wear-and-tear on Bochy. He sleeps very little during the postseason, he acknowledged, and during the past month he got away from an exercise-and-diet regimen that he'd been able to maintain most of the season.

I first covered Bochy two decades ago, when he was the third-base coach for the San Diego Padres and I worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune, and almost nothing seems to have changed about him. His internal equilibrium is still held in place by his self-deprecating sense of humor, and while he has never been boa****l or pushy, he has always been incredibly competitive. He may never, ever lend voice to it, but I'll always believe that he strongly believes in his own ability to manage a game, run a pitching staff, and cope with internal personnel issues. After the 1994 season, the Cubs approached the Padres about speaking to then-manager Jim Riggleman. I called GM Randy Smith to ask about possible replacements, and he mentioned only one name. "Boch," Randy said. "He's going to be a great manager."

On Sunday evening, I asked Bochy about how much longer he wanted to manage, and he sounded surprised by the question. "I haven't really thought about it," he said.

He loves San Francisco, he explained, and its fan base. He has felt great support in his relationships with general manager Brian Sabean and the team's owners and executives. He has always enjoyed the players, who, through their actions, have demonstrated their belief that Bochy's decisions are rooted in his pursuit of wins, rather than through some personal agenda. Barry Zito was taken off the postseason roster in 2010 and he didn't whine, didn't complain, didn't make excuses; he just went out to work through a bullpen session. When Bochy summoned Tim Lincecum to his office this fall to discuss Lincecum's demotion to the bullpen, Bochy said, Lincecum embraced the move fully and never complained. The Giants have a great core of clubhouse leadership, with Matt Cain and Buster Posey at the center, but with all the others buying in.

About five hours after Bochy talked about what he loves about his job -- which is to say, just about everything -- he ambled out of the dugout wearing a champagne-soaked T-shirt and a big grin. He's having the time of his life, again.

The Giants did it again, writes Henry Schulman. Giants' fans went crazy. It's hard to believe the Giants did it again, writes Mark Purdy. Marco Scutaro was the soul of the 2012 Giants, writes Tim Kawakami.

Hopefully there will be more treat than trick on Halloween in San Francisco.

The major tactical advantage for the 2012 World Series was in San Francisco's bullpen excellence. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had very few options he could really trust, and, on the other hand, Bochy had many outstanding relievers available, from Lincecum to Jeremy Affeldt to Sergio Romo.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how the Giants' bullpen dominated again:

A. Affeldt got six swings-and-misses, two more than in any other appearance for him this season. He threw two splitters, and both were swings-and-misses on strike three.
B. Romo started all three hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike. He matched a season high with five swings-and-misses overall.
C. Romo's first strikeout came with his slider; to that point, all of Romo's strikeouts this postseason had been with his slider. His next two strikeouts were with his fastball, and his strikeout of Miguel Cabrera to end the series was Romo's first called strikeout of the postseason.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

6: Triples by the Giants this postseason (franchise record) -- including Brandon Belt's RBI triple in Game 4
10: Consecutive games with hit by Pablo Sandoval this postseason (one shy of Giants franchise record)
24: Consecutive games reaching base safely by Miguel Cabrera (T-3rd longest in postseason history)
56: Consecutive innings without trailing by Giants -- second-longest streak in postseason history (ended by Miguel Cabrera HR in third inning)

• As the World Series ended, Leyland quickly turned and retreated to the clubhouse, while Miguel Cabrera -- who took an 89 mph fastball right down the middle to end the series -- angrily grabbed his bats and walked out of the dugout. Justin Verlander stood against the railing and watched the Giants celebrate.

"I wish it were me," he said flatly.

Cabrera was asked after the game if he felt the six-day layoff between the end of the AL Championship Series and the start of the World Series had hurt the Tigers, and when he answered, he wasn't making an excuse, he wasn't complaining, he wasn't trying to take anything away from the Giants' pitchers, who he complimented.

Yes, he thought the Tigers were hurt by the layoff, he explained. They had been doing a lot of things well in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs, and after the time off, they stopped doing those things well. They tried to make it work, he said, with the workouts before the World Series, but they got out of sync.

Some numbers from the World Series could be seen as support for Cabrera's belief.

From ESPN Stats & Info: The Tigers' main problem offensively in the series was their lack of success on pitches in the strike zone. After hitting .365 on such pitches in the ALCS, the Tigers hit just .175 on in-zone pitches in the World Series, including .059 (1-for-17) on pitches down the middle. Their batting average on pitches out of the zone dropped only slightly, from .148 to .130. Compared with the ALCS, they swung at a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone and a lower percentage of pitches out of the strike zone.

Tigers vs. pitches in strike zone (ALCS/World Series)
BA: .365/.175
Slug pct.: .587/.300
Miss pct.: 11.3/18.6

Said one scout: "The Giants pitched great, and when the Tigers got pitches to hit, they didn't."


Winter came too early for the Tigers. The Tigers' stars didn't get it done.

Detroit reliever Octavio Dotel says the Tigers didn't have the same fight as the 2011 Cardinals. He sounds like a casual fan; what the Tigers didn't have was the same bullpen, or just one more high-on-base-percentage hitter in their lineup.

Max Scherzer coped with a really hard year.

For the Tigers, change will come in 2013, writes Lynn Henning. Alex Avila had a forearm injury.

Phil Coke says the Tigers will be back.

Dings and dents

1. Lew Ford had surgery, writes Dan Connolly.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The hiring of Walt Weiss would be a compromise for the Rockies -- but a good one, writes Terry Frei.

2. Rick Knapp is going to another team.

Royals could trade for pitching.
DETROIT -- The career record of Anibal Sanchez is 48-51, but the contract he signs in the weeks ahead could be worth more than a million bucks for each of those victories because the timing of Sanchez's free agency couldn't be better. He's been pitching well of late; he's on the World Series stage; he's 28; and -- best of all for him -- the marketplace is expected to be flush with the cash of free-spending teams.

Sanchez could get anywhere from $30 million to $60 million as a free agent, some agents and executives predict, and Kyle Lohse could get a deal in the $77.5 million range, as C.J. Wilson did last winter.

This is the landscape the Kansas City Royals are staring at as they look to improve a rotation that desperately needs at least two solid starting pitchers. They could join the bidding for someone such as Lohse, or Sanchez, or Edwin Jackson -- but remember, GM Dayton Moore has been down that road before, having signed Gil Meche to a $55 million deal. Meche had a couple of decent seasons, but, in the end, he was taken down by a shoulder injury and his won-loss record with the Royals was 29-39. It didn't pay off.

This is why nobody should be surprised if the Royals deal one of the core hitters from their every-day lineup -- left fielder Alex Gordon, designated hitter Billy Butler, third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Each would have varying degrees of trade value. Butler, 26, is under contract through 2014, at $8 million annually, with a club option of $12.5 million for 2015; he also would get an assignment bonus if he were to be traded. Gordon, 28, is signed through 2015, for salaries of $9 million, $10 million and $12.5 million; he has a player option at $12.5 million for 2016. Hosmer and Moustakas, who are represented by Scott Boras, do not have long-term deals.

Hosmer, 23, presumably would have the most value in the group despite coming off a really rough sophomore season in which he hit .232 with 14 homers; rival evaluators like his swing, and his defense. Moustakas, 24, hit 20 homers, with 73 RBIs.

On paper, the Royals could match up with the Tampa Bay Rays, who have a wide range of pitchers they would discuss in possible deals, from Cy Young candidate David Price to respected James Shields to less experienced pitchers such as Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb. The Mariners have a surplus of young pitching and have determined that their best shot at adding high-end offensive talent is through trades. The Diamondbacks have pitching to deal, and Moustakas could be an interesting fit for them. Oakland has pitching, and Hosmer would be a great fit for the Athletics.

The Royals claimed Chris Volstad.

The Mariners have pitching to trade, writes Geoff Baker, including James Paxton -- and Baker writes about how Royals' scouts were on hand.


• Ryan Vogelsong has been checking the forecast for tonight's Game 3 for the past few days, but unless it's raining hard, he will be pitching in short sleeves. It doesn't matter if it's 30 degrees, or 20 degrees, or 40 -- he'll make like an offensive lineman. While chatting the other day, he recalled pitching on a brutal day in Chicago last year, and he figures nothing could be worse than that -- and he threw six scoreless innings in that game.

The Giants were all bundled up as they worked out Friday evening.

Vogelsong's fastball, since August

Category First nine starts Last six starts
BA .354 .192
HR allowed 5 0
OPS 1.062 .509

From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Vogelsong's exceptional two-seam, sinking fastball:

"Vogelsong has been effective this postseason by getting ahead of hitters. Opposing hitters are 2-for-34 in at-bats ending in pitchers' counts (0-1, 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2), and 3-for-36 in at-bats ending with two-strike counts. If Vogelsong falls behind or gets to a three-ball count, Tigers hitters should look for his fastball. Vogelsong has thrown 23 pitches in three-ball counts and 10 in 2-0 counts this postseason, all of which have been fastballs. He has thrown just 10 off-speed pitches in hitters' counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1) in his three starts. Vogelsong struggled with his fastball for most of the second half of the season, but it has been extremely effective for him down the stretch and into the postseason.

Andy Dirks will be back in the Detroit lineup. This year -- including the postseason -- the Tigers are 53-35 when Dirks is in the starting lineup, and 42-43 in other games.

The Tigers' comeback must start tonight, writes Bob Wojnowski. They've been punchless, writes Lynn Henning.

The Tigers are in a comfort zone: as underdogs.

Bruce Bochy deserves more credit as a game manager.

As Prince Fielder was barreling home and bearing down on Buster Posey, the Giants say they weren't thinking about a possible collision.

The Giants' dynasty is here and now, writes Tim Kawakami.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Fifty teams have previously taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. Of those 50, 40 went on to win the World Series.

• Rick Hahn is taking over from Ken Williams, and he's prepared for the departures of Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski.

• Joe Girardi went to extraordinary lengths to save Alex Rodriguez from some embarrassment.

This seems really silly, and another case of Girardi trying to manage fallout rather than just managing the games and his players. Late in the season, Girardi said repeatedly that CC Sabathia was healthy -- when the Yankees knew Sabathia was pitching with a bone spur and significant elbow discomfort.

• Lance Berkman wants to get in shape.

• The St. Petersburg mayor said no to the Rays. It's hard to overstate what a terrible situation the team is locked into.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Bryan Price interviewed for the Marlins' managerial job, writes Clark Spencer. Not surprisingly, Brad Ausmus wasn't interested.

2. The Marlins lost a catching guru.

3. The Pirates added two to their roster.

4. Joel Sherman estimates what it will take for the Mets to keep David Wright: an eight-year deal.

5. The Red Sox will interview Rick Peterson for their pitching coach job.

6. The Orioles cut ties with their No. 1 pick from 2006.

7. Torey Lovullo and John Farrell have a strong relationship.

8. The Brewers are thinking about small changes.

9. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth, writes Derrick Goold.

10. Walt Weiss was interviewed for the Rockies' job.

Santana a reclamation project for Royals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Kansas City Royals need starting pitching if they're going to have any hope of respectability in 2013, even with an offense that should be comfortably above-average. With that in mind, they acquired right-hander Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles on Wednesday for minor league lefty Brandon Sisk.

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AP Photo/Denis Poroy
Santana had a 5.16 ERA in 2012, but a 3.38 mark in 2011.It was hard to watch Santana in 2012 and remember that he was an effective, sometimes even above-average starter in three of the previous four seasons. However, the loss of some velocity made him extremely homer-prone -- a pitch that at 93 mph would miss a few bats became a BP fastball at 89-90, with about 60 percent of his homers allowed (and he allowed an American League-leading 39) coming off that flat four-seamer.

His slider is still a swing-and-miss pitch, although he left his share of them up in the zone this year as well, and his changeup is fringy enough that it doesn't miss left-handers' bats, leaving him more reliant on the slider. I see some approach issues that another pitching coach might help, but he also needs to find that missing velocity and learn to throw that changeup for strikes. There's enough raw material to entice teams -- like the Royals, perhaps -- into "we can fix him!" thinking, but at least now Kansas City has him on just a large one-year deal with the promise that he could re-enter the market next winter after a better performance.

Sisk is a potential lefty specialist, working with a fringy fastball but a low three-quarters slot that helps him sweep an 81-83 mph slider away from left-handed batters. He doesn't have a good weapon to get right-handed batters out, since they see the ball well out of his hand, and there's enough violence in his delivery that he's unlikely to ever show average command.

Santana has a $13 million team option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. The Angels picked up the option before making the deal, and are sending $1 million to K.C. along with Sisk.

If the Angels weren't going to pick up the option or make Santana the qualifying offer needed to potentially collect draft-pick compensation for him next year, Sisk is better than nothing, but I don't see him as more than a left-on-left reliever.

Best, worst Gold Glove picks.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2012 American League and National League Gold Glove Awards have been announced. As usual, the selections made by the managers and coaches are a mixed bag, with some strong selections and a handful of questionable winners.

There are a number of no-brainer choices when it comes to Gold Glove voting. Mark Buehrle, Yadier Molina, and Alex Gordon, for example, were obvious choices where both the numbers and the scouts agree; in fact, the panel of experts for the Fielding Bible Awards unanimously recognized all three fielders for their defensive contributions, and all three also repeated as Gold Glove winners. However, other Gold Glove selections required more careful thought and insight on the part of the managers and coaches, who do the voting.

At Baseball Info Solutions, tracking defense is one of our specialties, so let's take a look at some of the best (and worst) Gold Glove selections this year.

Good selections

Darwin Barney is the rare player who earns Gold Glove support despite unimpressive offensive numbers. His 28 defensive runs saved (DRS) threatened Chase Utley's 2008 mark for the best statistical season at second base in recent history. Barney's errorless-games streak, which lasted nearly the entire year, played a huge role in that. Barney also worked with the Cubs' coaching staff to improve defensively, working on the fundamentals as well as pre-pitch positioning to seemingly give him more range to both sides. Gold Glove voters took note, giving him their award to go alongside the Fielding Bible Award.

This selection is even more impressive considering the incumbent NL second baseman Barney overtook in the voting. Brandon Phillips has had a strong hold on the NL Gold Glove, winning three of the last four awards. His defensive play is supported by the numbers, as well, with another 11 DRS in 2012. However, the voters recognized how special Barney's season was and gave the award to the right player.

Jason Heyward has quietly been a very good defensive right fielder and finally received recognition this year with both a Fielding Bible Award and a Gold Glove Award. Following two consecutive seasons with 15 DRS, Heyward saved the Braves an estimated 20 runs this year, topped only by Josh Reddick's 22 DRS among right fielder. Combined with Michael Bourn and underrated defender Martin Prado in Atlanta, Heyward was a major cog in the top defensive outfield in baseball this year. It would have been easy to favor former center fielder Carlos Beltran or co-assists leader Hunter Pence, but the NL voters made the right choice with the 22-year-old Heyward.

J.J. Hardy is an excellent defensive shortstop, and the recognition is long overdue. The AL shortstop field is crowded with enticing Gold Glove options, including incumbent Erick Aybar, Elvis Andrus, and Alcides Escobar.

The bittersweet aspect of Hardy's victory is that Brendan Ryan was again overlooked by the voters. Ryan's 27 DRS are 50 percent more than Hardy's. Ryan has perennially led the league statistically, dating back to his time in St. Louis, though he has yet to receive the Gold Glove recognition he deserves. Probably overlooked due to his abysmal bat, Ryan is the best defensive shortstop in baseball, and with Troy Tulowitzki out of the picture this year, the Fielding Bible voters finally agreed. That being said, Hardy's award is also well-deserved.

The question marks

There are always several questionable selections for the Gold Glove Awards, and this year is no exception. These players may win based on reputation, incumbency or their offensive output -- all seemingly irrelevant reasons to recognize a player's defensive play. Three indefensible choices include shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones.

Rollins was once a great defensive shortstop. With a strong arm and excellent range in both directions, he perennially ranked near the top of the league in DRS. With his great defense, he saved the Phillies an estimated 18 runs and won a Fielding Bible Award in 2008, gracing the cover of "The Fielding Bible, Volume II" the following spring.

However, Rollins is now 33 and is a below-average defender at short. His range has faded, costing his team eight runs this year compared to an average shortstop, according to defensive runs saved, following a minus-7 DRS season in 2011. Using more traditional defensive statistics, Rollins made as many errors this year as the previous two seasons combined and posted the lowest fielding percentage of his career. It's unclear what motivated the managers and coaches to select Rollins over the likes of defensive superiors Zack Cozart, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, and Andrelton Simmons.

Andrew McCutchen is a bright young star and appears to have several great seasons ahead of him. However, while his offense is MVP-caliber, his defense is not. Bourn, on the other hand, is a league-leading defender. He saved an estimated 24 runs above an average center fielder, tops in MLB. Oddly enough, he has won a Gold Glove previously, which makes this selection more puzzling. Cameron Maybin (9 DRS), Bryce Harper (13), Chris Young (7) and Carlos Gomez (3) are also defensive standouts more deserving than McCutchen (minus-5).

For whatever reason, center field seems to be a tough position for Gold Glove voters. Adam Jones has won multiple Gold Gloves, probably thanks to two or three home run robberies that make highlight reels. However, astute Orioles fans will remember a few late-season plays where Jones misread fly balls to center field in crucial games, costing the Orioles an extra-base hit. This is not uncommon for Jones, especially on deep fly balls, where he bleeds more runs than any other center fielder in baseball.

Jones also led the league in errors this year among center fielders without throwing out as many runners as in recent years, so it's clear that Jones won this award based on his reputation and his bat rather than on purely defensive merits. It's unfortunate that spectacular defenders such as Mike Trout (23 DRS, with plenty of Web Gem catches to boot), Denard Span (20) and Craig Gentry (16) were overlooked in favor of Jones, whose minus-16 DRS ranked dead last in MLB for center fielders.

Fear the Nationals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Nobody would argue that the Washington Nationals had a storybook ending to their 2012 season. Washington burst out to a six-run lead in the early going of Game 5 of the NLDS, only to watch the St. Louis Cardinals chip away at that margin and Drew Storen pick a rather unfortunate time to have a rare meltdown on the mound.

Despite the weak end, 2012 as a whole should be considered a roaring success for the Nationals. Their 98 wins set a new franchise record, and whether in D.C. or Montreal, it was the first time the team finished a completed season as the division champs. Washington residents got to see the city's first taste of baseball playoffs since the Senators lost the 1933 World Series to the New York Giants.

The good news is that the tale of these Nationals isn't finished and there are more sequels to come. Volume 1 didn't end with Gio Gonzalez and the rest showering with champagne, but the team enters the offseason in perhaps the strongest position of any team in the National League for the next few years.

Washington's best players aren't going anywhere. Gonzalez is signed through at least 2016, and if he continues to pitch as well as he did this year, the team can retain his services for $12 million in 2017. Ryan Zimmerman's in town until at least 2019. Stephen Strasburg won't hit free agency for four more years and wunderkind Bryce Harper until after 2018. Jordan Zimmermann hasn't yet been signed to a long-term deal, but can't seek a contract anywhere else until after the 2015 World Series.

Even better, with roughly $50 million of the team's 2013 payroll guaranteed -- and even with arbitration awards imminent -- the team still has plenty of money to spend. Jayson Werth is probably signed for too much for too long, and only so many teams can trick the Los Angeles Dodgers into picking up their unwanted long-term contracts, but the Nats have enough good contracts elsewhere on the club to lessen the impact of Werth's in the years to come.

With the core of the team returning, the Nationals get to be in that rare situation in which their winter shopping list can consist of wants, rather than needs. Without any real holes in the lineup, they have the luxury of getting to window-shop and kick a lot of tires. The San Francisco Giants have to fill two-thirds of their outfield, and their only non-terrible second baseman is a free agent. The Atlanta Braves have to replace one of the best third basemen of all time and possibly center fielder Michael Bourn. Washington gets to pick and choose its offseason targets.

One of the stunning things about Washington's 2012 run was how few players really performed at levels that are likely unsustainable going forward. Harper and Strasburg are two of the brightest young stars in the game. When you take into account the league change, Gonzalez prevented runs just as well as he did in 2010-11. The only player who really was a huge surprise on the upside was shortstop Ian Desmond, hitting .292/.335/.511 after entering the year with a .262/.304/.387 line in two-plus seasons in the majors. Even with some healthy regression in 2013 -- the ZiPS projection system has him at .269/.312/.432 for the 2013 season -- he's more likely to be a positive than a problem next season.

With 98 wins, Washington had the youngest pitching staff in the majors and the fourth-youngest lineup in the majors in 2012. They keep all of their best players and have money to spend and the flexibility to go after any player they want this winter. Fans may have been disappointed not to see Strasburg pitch in the playoffs in 2012, but short of worst-case scenarios, they won't be waiting long to see his postseason debut. With all of their organizational strengths, the Washington Nationals have plenty more opportunities to write their happily ever after.

How the Tigers can get even better.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While the Detroit Tigers and their fans are obviously feeling a bit blue Sunday night, they will soon come to realize that the 2012 season was a huge success. They won the AL Central, swept the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and appeared in the World Series.

Of course, the club's weaknesses were exposed a bit in losing to the San Francisco Giants, but they are in a great position to improve their club this winter. Here are five ways I expect GM Dave Dombrowski to try to improve the club this winter.

1. So long, Delmon

Delmon Young was fantastic in the ALCS and was named MVP of the series, but as a DH/left fielder he's a below-average player, as evidenced by his .267/.296/.411 line this year. He is a free agent, and the club will gladly let him walk, as they will have Victor Martinez coming back from a knee injury that cost him the 2012 season. Martinez will be an upgrade at DH, so the team is getting better without doing anything.

2. Bye-bye, Valverde

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David Maxwell/Getty Images
After repeated postseason failures, Jose Valverde will not be back in 2012.
Speaking of impending free agents, Jose Valverde will also be one, and the Tigers, who didn't trust him to pitch in any high-leverage spots in the World Series, won't bring him back. He made $9 million this year, so that will bring some salary relief. Detroit's bullpen was not a strength, and I could see them making a play for Rafael Soriano, who will almost certainly opt out of his deal with the Yankees, and would be an upgrade. Yes, he'd be pricey, but owner Mike Illitch has made it clear that he's willing to spend to try to win a World Series, and the club has roughly $90 committed for 2013 as of today. In other words, they have some money to spend.

I could also see the club trying to rebuild their pen by shopping Rick Porcello, who is still fairly well-regarded and will turn 24 in December. But as a ground ball pitcher on a team with a bad infield defense, he's a terrible fit. They should shop him to the National League or to clubs with good outfield defense in search of bullpen help. I could see San Diego, Minnesota and Pittsburgh as fits. Maybe Porcello for Joel Hanrahan, or possibly to Kansas City for someone such as Aaron Crow.

3. Retain Peralta and Sanchez

Jhonny Peralta has a $6 million option for 2013, and the club will certainly pick that up. Anibal Sanchez is set to be a free agent, and he will have suitors, and that's one guy the club will want to make a play for. He has shown this October that he's a solid mid-rotation starter, and if he's paired with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister the Tigers will have one of the best rotations in the league.

Further, Sanchez is a strikeout pitcher, which makes him a great fit for the Tigers, as he's less-reliant on his defense, which will always be a team weakness as long as they build their lineup around Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

4. Upgrade the outfield corners

Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks are decent role players, but they are not everyday guys. The Tigers have moved top prospect Nick Castellanos from third base to right field because of Miggy, and he could be up some time in the second half of next year. (And one day, don't be surprised if Castellanos is at third with Cabrera in left, a position he played when he came up with the Marlins.)

In the other outfield corner, I could see them making a play for Nick Swisher, as he has been one of baseball's most consistent performers over the past few seasons. The Tigers' lineup lacks depth -- something the Giants exposed -- and Swisher would provide that. Again, he won't come cheap, but the Tigers have money. A less pricey alternative would be Angel Pagan, who is also a free agent and could be a great No. 2 hitter while upgrading the outfield defense in left.

While they wait for Castellanos, I expect Avisail Garcia to man one corner with Berry and/or Dirks on the bench.

5. One more year of Leyland

Manager Jim Leyland's contract is up, and you have to think he wants to get a ring in Detroit. However, at 67 years old, who knows how much longer he will want to manage? I'd bring him back on a one-year deal and let him know that he can have the job as long as he wants it, but at this stage of his career I'd go year-to-year.

Even if they don't do much, the Tigers are probably AL Central favorites. And since Dombrowski will have some payroll flexibility, I could see him turning the Tigers into the dominant AL team next year.

Sox in better shape than Yanks.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees finished the regular season with the best record (95-67) in the American League before defeating the Baltimore Orioles in a very exciting AL Division Series. So a four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the AL Championship Series shouldn't take away from a very successful season, should it? The Yankees were beaten by a good team that caught fire at the right time. It happens. The Tigers' starting rotation has the ability to dominate and did just that, and the Yankees' hitters were not up to the challenge but they shouldn't hang their heads. They were one of the best offenses in the majors. Unfortunately, they cooled off at the wrong time.

Hey, it could have been a lot worse. Just ask the Boston Red Sox, who lost 93 games and were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. They ended the season on an eight-game losing streak and finished in last place for the first time since 1992. The drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez's dismal playoff performance and flirting scandal was nothing compared to what went on in Boston the past year. So what I'm about to tell you might come as a surprise. Looking ahead, the Yankees are in no better shape than their hated rivals from Beantown. In fact, when taking a look at their respective rosters, needs, payroll flexibility and farm system, I think Boston is in better long-term shape.

NYY Roster
What the Yankees' opening day roster will look like if they do nothing this winter.

LF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Eduardo Nunez
RF Chris Dickerson
C Chris Stewart
C Francisco Cervelli
1B/3B Casey McGehee
IF/OF Jayson Nix
OF Melky Mesa
SP CC Sabathia
SP Phil Hughes
SP Ivan Nova
SP David Phelps
SP Adam Warren
RP Rafael Soriano
SU David Robertson
RP Boone Logan
RP Joba Chamberlain
RP Clay Rapada
RP Cody Eppley
RP Chase Whitley
Allow me to explain.

Yankees: Current roster/needs

In the tables to the right, I have taken a stab at projecting what each team's opening day roster would look like if they did nothing this winter. Obviously, that won't happen, but the exercise helps us see where the strengths and weaknesses are, and allows us to predict possible transactions.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are expected to have their club options exercised, so they are included. Closer Rafael Soriano also is there, although he is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract to pursue a multiyear deal on the free-agent market, so you could argue that is a bit of a stretch. We can assume catcher, designated hitter and right field are definite needs this offseason. In addition, the rotation could use a No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia, as Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and the Yankees already have said they aren't counting on Michael Pineda for 2013. Re-signing Mariano Rivera is a no-brainer whether Soriano returns or not, but that might end up being a relatively even swap. (Of course, the future Hall of Famer is apparently considering retirement after missing the 2012 season with a torn ACL, so the Yankees might not even have the option.)

BOS Roster
What the Red Sox's opening day roster would look like if they do nothing this winter.

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Will Middlebrooks
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Jerry Sands
RF Ryan Sweeney
DH Pedro Ciriaco
SS Jose Iglesias
C Ryan Lavarnway
1B/3B Mauro Gomez
IF Ivan De Jesus, Jr.
OF Ryan Kalish*
SP Jon Lester
SP Clay Buchholz
SP Felix Doubront
SP John Lackey
SP Franklin Morales
CL Andrew Bailey
SU Junichi Tazawa
RP Andrew Miller
RP Mark Melancon
RP Craig Breslow
RP Rich Hill
RP Scott Atchison
Red Sox: Current roster/needs

On paper, this 25-man roster probably isn't as talented as the Yankees', but there's a good chance it will be much better by the opening of spring training (read the next two sections of the article to find out why). That said, when you look at in-their-prime position players, the Red Sox combo of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury is at least as good as any combo the Yankees have. Cano probably is the best player on either team, but guys such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Granderson are in decline.

Because of the big Adrian Gonzalez-Carl Crawford-Josh Beckett trade, the Sox have some big holes, and they'll need to find a top-of-the-rotation starter, a pair of corner outfielders, a designated hitter and a first baseman. There's interest in bringing back David Ortiz and Cody Ross, and both players reportedly would like to return to Boston. So there's a chance two of those holes will be filled before free agency starts.


Yankees: Payroll flexibility

2013 guaranteed contracts and estimated salaries for arbitration-eligible players: $161 million
2012 payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: $209,792,900

With the Yankees expected to decrease their payroll beneath the $189 million luxury tax threshold before the 2014 season, there doesn't appear to be much flexibility over the next couple of seasons. Yes, even the Yankees will have payroll limitations for the next couple of years. The 16 players who are either guaranteed contracts or eligible for arbitration this offseason will account for an estimated $161 million in 2013. If Soriano opts out, the Yankees will save $12.5 million. Factor in an estimated 12 pre-arbitration players who would make an average of $500,000, and my projected total before any offseason moves are made would be somewhere between $155 million and $167 million.

Expect a few non-tenders (players eligible for arbitration do not have to be offered contracts and would become free agents) to drop that total by $3 million to $6 million. While it's not known how much the Yankees will spend this offseason, I wouldn't expect them to add more than $50 million to their 2013 payroll. So let's say they decided to bring back Kuroda, Nick Swisher and Rivera; that would account for almost all of that $50 million right there, and you are looking at almost the exact same team as this year, but a bit older and (likely) worse.

Red Sox: Payroll flexibility

2013 guaranteed contracts and estimated salaries for arbitration-eligible players: $79 million
2012 payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: $175,249,119

Like the Yankees, the Sox have several holes to fill throughout their roster. But unlike the Yankees, they won't have the same payroll restriction. Thanks to the Dodgers, the Red Sox head into the offseason with less than half the amount of projected salary the Yankees have. Not only did they free up more than $60 million in salary for 2013, but they now are committed to exactly zero contracts that pay players in their mid-30s more than $20 million per season, as the Yankees are doing with Rodriguez and eventually will be doing with Sabathia and Teixeira.

Although the Red Sox should have the ability to spend more than any other team in baseball this winter -- I think they'll add somewhere between $60 million and $80 million to the 2013 payroll -- they'll think long and hard before signing any player to another Crawford-type deal. But in order to avoid another disaster of a season, they will have to consider spending their money on the likes of B.J. Upton and Zack Greinke, two of the most talented players available in free agency.


Yankees: Farm system
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Al Bello/Getty Images
The Yankees likely will bring back Mariano Rivera but could lose their current closer.With top prospect Manny Banuelos out for the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Dellin Betances having regressed badly in 2012, a farm system that didn't have much pitching depth to start with is now alarmingly thin, especially in the upper minors. Help is not on the way anytime soon. Jose Campos, acquired with Pineda from the Mariners in the Jesus Montero deal, has top-of-the-rotation potential but missed most of the season with an elbow injury after making five starts for low Class A Charleston. Ty Hensley, this year's first-round pick, could emerge as the top pitching prospect in the system before long, but the 19-year-old still is years from the majors.

Catcher Gary Sanchez, center fielder Mason Williams and right fielder Tyler Austin -- the top three prospects in the organization -- all project as future big league regulars, but none is expected to begin 2013 higher than Double-A. The lack of impact position players in the upper minors hurts the Yankees long term because they're forced to spend money to fill holes in free agency. Trading prospects for impact players helps the big league team but further weakens the farm system. This was fine before the payroll had an actual ceiling. Not anymore.

To give you an example, let's imagine Sanchez, Williams and Austin were actually ready for the big leagues in 2013. The Yankees could decline Granderson's club option, and replace free agents Swisher ($10.25 million salary in 2012) and Russell Martin ($7.5 million in 2012) with young and talented players who all make the minimum salary. Back to reality. Those prospects are not ready, so the Yankees will pay Granderson $15 million to stay in 2013, and fill their catcher and right-field voids via free agency. Furthermore, the likelihood they stay away from long-term deals this offseason limits the type of players they will end up with in the short term. Filling out the roster with Raul Ibanez-types, and possibly Ibanez himself, on one-year deals could be necessary for the next few seasons.

Red Sox: Farm system

Jackie Bradley Jr. could be the heir apparent to Ellsbury as the team's leadoff hitter and center fielder. The 22-year-old, who could be ready for the majors by midseason, had a combined .430 on-base percentage and 24 steals between Double-A and high Class A in 2012. Bryce Brentz, a 23-year-old right fielder, posted an .833 OPS in Double-A before getting a late-season call-up to Triple-A Pawtucket. He'll return there in 2013, where he'll be one step closer to Boston. His right-handed power should play well at Fenway Park. It's Xander Bogaerts, however, who will be at the top of most prospect lists going into 2013. He posted an .883 OPS for high Class A Salem before finishing the season in Double-A, where he continued to mash despite being only 19 years old. In 23 games with Portland, he hit five homers and 10 doubles. Many think he'll outgrow the shortstop position, so a move to third base and at least another full year in the minors are likely.

Matt Barnes is easily the top pitching prospect in the organization. A first-round draft pick in 2011, the 22-year-old breezed through the low Class A Sally League with five terrific starts (0.34 ERA, 4 BB, 42 K's in 26 2/3 IP) before a quick promotion to Salem, where he finished with a 3.58 ERA in 20 starts. He likely will start 2013 in Double-A and could be in Boston by early 2014, unless the Sox need him sooner.



Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has had a rough first season on the job, to say the least, but the midseason trade with the Dodgers has given him a chance to start over this winter. Think of it as the equivalent of resetting your PlayStation after getting off to a horrible start in your favorite video game. He still has to make the right moves, though, to get his team back on track. His first line of business was to fire Bobby Valentine and acquire manager John Farrell from the Blue Jays. Now he'll need to fix his roster. The way it was constructed at the time of his hiring, he might not have been in a very good position to succeed. That is no longer the case.

On the other hand, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a very challenging offseason ahead of him. Sure, he'd like to trade A-Rod, but not even the Dodgers would take on his albatross of a contract. Jeter is questionable for the start of the season after ankle surgery. Sabathia will have his sore elbow checked out. Last offseason's big trade acquisition, Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season, will miss at least the first two months of 2013 as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. There's still plenty of talent, but the players are getting old -- even Cano is 30 -- and the farm system is unlikely to help much in 2013.

If the Yankees are serious about getting below the luxury tax threshold, the top free agents, who will command top dollars on multiyear deals, are unlikely to sign with New York. Players who end up signing one-year deals usually are past their prime or coming off bad seasons. For every Raul Ibanez, who was great in the playoffs after a mediocre regular season, there are 10 players who will continue to be unproductive. Cashman is very good at his job, but he is in a tougher spot than his counterpart in Boston right now.

Who should get qualifying offers?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For the next several days, much of the baseball world will be watching the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants fight it out in the Fall Classic. But for the 28 teams whose seasons have already ended, the focus will be on what to do once the World Series is over and the winter's work begins.

As soon as the World Series ends, eligible players will become free agents. Under the new CBA, teams can still seek draft-pick compensation for departing free agents, but the old system of classifying free agents as Type A and Type B based on past performance has been abolished. Now, a team that wants to receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round in the following year's amateur draft has to make a "qualifying offer": a one-year contract equal to the average of the top 125 salaries from the previous season (in this case, $13.3 million).

A player's former team can continue to negotiate with him if he rejects the offer, but if he signs somewhere else, his new team will have to forfeit either a first- or second-round pick (the first 10 picks are protected). A team can't be compensated for a free agent unless he spent the whole season on the roster, which rules out midseason trade targets like Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Victorino (not to mention the amazing Marco Scutaro).

Qualifying offers must be extended by 5 p.m. ET on the fifth day after the World Series. Players who receive them will have until the seventh day after the Series to accept or reject. So which players are good candidates for qualifying offers, and what will their teams decide to do?

Easy decisions

Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

Hamilton, the highest-profile impending free agent, will almost certainly sign a lucrative, long-term contract somewhere this winter. He won't be tempted by a one-year contract for a lower salary than he made this season, but the Rangers have nothing to lose by making the offer as they size up the market for his services.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals

Lohse's 16-3 season set him up for the kind of mega-contract a team might regret. The Cardinals won't be the ones to give the 34-year-old big bucks, but they'll want to collect a pick when another club does.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

Ortiz made over $14.8 million in 2012 and had his highest true average ever (.343) when his achy Achilles allowed him to play, so a short-term contract at a lower AAV would be a best-case scenario for Boston. Ortiz and the Red Sox are reportedly close to a two-year deal that could be finalized this week, though, so the Sox likely won't need to make a qualifying offer.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No, assuming an extension is signed before Ortiz becomes a free agent.

Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

The risk here is that teams will be too wary of Peavy's injury history to offer him a multiyear contract or a single-season salary higher than $13.3 million when the White Sox decline his $22 million option for 2013. That risk seems small, though, since Peavy is still just 31 and stayed healthy and effective all season.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees

Following a successful season filling in for Mariano Rivera, Soriano is expected to opt out of the $14 million he's owed for 2013. The Yankees wouldn't mind bringing him back for one year as insurance for Rivera, so they'll extend a qualifying offer. However, Soriano will want to go to a team where he can close instead of playing second fiddle to a 43-year-old, and he'll probably command a multiyear contract. The Yankees will be glad to get the pick.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Nick Swisher, Yankees

The Yankees reportedly don't want to re-sign Swisher for the price he'll probably command, but they wouldn't mind bringing him back on a one-year basis, even at a roughly $3 million raise from his 2012 salary.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Difficult decisions

Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves

A qualifying offer would be a sizable raise for Atlanta's free-agent outfielder, but Bourn is a Scott Boras client, and the agent will want to pursue a bigger payday. The Braves still might keep Bourn, but they'll make sure to get themselves a draft pick before deciding whether to up their offer.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Edwin Jackson might be a nice one-year returnee for Washington next year.Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals

Jackson faded in September, finishing yet another season as a league-average pitcher who seemed to be able to do better. Even if that's all he is, though, there's value in an average starter who has stayed off the disabled list since 2004. Jackson might get a better offer from a team that's willing to pay more for his potential, but Washington wouldn't be upset if it wound up with him for another year.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees

The Yankees want to bring Kuroda back, but the newly budget-conscious club might want to make an opening offer below $13.3 million instead of starting the bidding there. The righty made $10 million this season and will turn 38 before Opening Day, so it's possible they could snag him for a little less, but his success in the AL East should attract other suitors. Extending a qualifying offer makes the most sense.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee Brewers

Marcum is an effective starter when healthy, but he's topped 200 innings only once, and he suffered another injury-plagued season in 2012. The soft-tosser's fastball velocity sank slightly lower after his return from elbow tightness, and small-market Milwaukee likely won't want to be on the hook for $13.3 million in the event that another team doesn't pay him like a more durable pitcher.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No

Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

It's hard to find catchers who can hit, so Napoli should draw significant interest despite his down year and lackluster defense. However, a qualifying offer would represent a considerable raise, and he might decide to accept it and try to build his value back up for a bigger payday after next season. Catchers tend to decline quickly, and the Rangers might be wary of committing that much cash to one who's about to turn 31.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? No

B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays' highest-paid player made $7 million this season; offering Upton nearly twice that would be a considerable risk for a small-market team with a notoriously tight payroll. However, Upton will probably receive a multiyear offer from another team, and the Rays depend on draft picks to keep the cost-controlled talent coming. Even if Upton were to accept the Rays' offer, they could probably find a team to take him via trade.
Will he receive a qualifying offer? Yes

Bring back Floyd and Youkilis?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This offseason, there are 46 players with either club or mutual options. The White Sox are at the center of the option frenzy, as they have the most players (five) with options, as well as the most money ($62.5 million) on which to make decisions. With the option decisions due soon after the conclusion of the World Series, Chicago has some big decisions to make awfully quickly.

Option decisions can be complex because they can amount to little more than a guessing game. Not necessarily in terms of the value the team believes a player will deliver -- though there is some of that -- but rather what the value of a win will be on the free-agent market. We generally think of a win purchased on the free-agent market as valued somewhere between $4 and $6 million, but this week, Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro said that he believes a win on the free-agent market costs $9 million.

That seems aggressive, but with new television contracts -- both on a local and national level -- potentially flooding the free-agent landscape with money, it is certainly reasonable to forecast that the price of free agents will go up this winter. Viewed in that light, perhaps some of the club options the White Sox hold aren't as weighty as they would appear. Either way, the decisions are not necessarily easy.

Well, most of the decisions, anyway. In Orlando Hudson -- who has an $8 million club option for next season -- Chicago does have one easy decision. In his first 99 plate appearances in Chicago, Hudson hit only .170/.247/.284, then the White Sox traded for Kevin Youkilis, and Hudson started only eight more times the rest of the way -- two of which came after the White Sox were eliminated from postseason play. For the season, he totaled -0.2 WAR. Paying his $2 million buyout is a no-brainer.

Speaking of Youkilis, he is the second of the five players on the docket. Youkilis represents a very difficult decision for the club. He is due $13 million if the club picks up his option and $1 million if they don't. That's a steep price for a player who only clocked 1.3 WAR this past season, but he played much better after his trade to Chicago, and posted an above-average wRC+ for the season.

What's more, the Sox still don't have an internal replacement ready to man third base. Brent Morel is clearly not the answer -- when he recovered from his back injury in August, the Sox sent him to Triple-A Charlotte -- and the team has no third base top prospect either. Their third baseman at Triple-A for most of the season was 31-year-old flameout Dallas McPherson. And the only palatable options on the market are part-time players such as Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez. Youkilis definitely still carries warning signs in his back pocket -- he didn't hit right-handed pitchers very well this season, and the last time he played more than 130 games in a season was 2009.

Still, if you chalk up part of his misfortune this season to his treatment in Boston, and combine that with the total lack of options on the free-agent market, picking up Youkilis' option isn't the worst idea in the world.

The decisions don't get any easier when it comes to the pitching staff. Picking up the $10 million option for Brett Myers, relief pitcher, would be a genuine waste of money. Not only was Myers mediocre in the role, but the Sox aren't hurting for quality relievers, especially after Donnie Veal's successful September introduction.

David Banks/Getty Images
Myers could be more valuable to the White Sox as a starter.But Brett Myers, starting pitcher, might warrant second consideration. In his last two seasons in Houston as a starter, Myers was a durable innings-muncher who got a lot of ground balls and posted a 2.76 K/BB that ranked 35th out of 86 qualified starting pitchers. On the other hand, because he doesn't throw 90 mph as a starter and relies on his defense to get outs and U.S. Cellular Field is a band box, Chicago may not be the best fit for him. The only White Sox regular to post a positive UZR last season was shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

Myers is also two years older than the other starter with a reasonable club option, Gavin Floyd, who can be retained for $9.5 million. Floyd also served as a starting pitcher this season. This season wasn't Floyd's best, especially because he missed time with an elbow injury, but Floyd's velocity was actually up this year. His average fastball clocked in at 91.5 mph, and his velocity increased as the season progressed. With the added velocity came Floyd's best strikeout percentage (19.9 percent) since 2009.

Unfortunately, it also came with his worst walk percentage (8.7 percent) during his time in Chicago, so his K/BB was an underwhelming 2.29. Still, there aren't any questions about whether or not Floyd can start, and there might be a touch of doubt with Myers. Floyd, who has been with the club since 2007, is also the devil the team knows, and costs $500,000 less. If only one option of the two is picked up, it should be Floyd's.

Bringing back Floyd would put Chris Sale, John Danks and Floyd at the front of the rotation, with Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago competing for spots at the back end. That's not bad, but it's still a rotation that could use Jake Peavy in it. Unfortunately, Peavy has a $22 million option that will be difficult to justify. By WAR, Peavy was one of the 15 to 20 best pitchers in the game last season, a remarkable comeback for a player who had been mostly left for dead prior to 2012. He posted an outstanding 3.96 K/BB for the second straight season, but last season he threw nearly twice as many innings as he had in 2011.

And there is the rub. A Jake Peavy who throws 200-plus innings has a case for being worth $22 million -- FanGraphs lists his 2012 value at $19.9 million. But no one can be sure that Peavy will post such a season. He has reached the 200-inning benchmark only four times in his 10 full major league seasons, and once in the past five seasons. Before this season, one prominent projection system forecasted Peavy for 119.1 innings pitched, and another had him pegged for 140.2. One successful year won't cure low forecasts for next season, as projections generally take a player's last three full seasons into account, and in that time Peavy has 145 innings a season. At 145 innings, Peavy is not worth $22 million. No one knows Peavy's medical issues better than the White Sox do, but picking up his option would be best characterized as a leap of faith.

The White Sox have five players with club options, and they will cumulatively pay them somewhere between $10 million and $62.5 million. Orlando Hudson is an easy cut, but the other four options aren't slam dunks in either direction, especially if the team believes that the free-agent market is set to explode.

The stickiest wicket is Peavy. Picking up his option will severely limit any maneuvering the team makes during hot stove season, but if he turns out another four-plus win season, he will be worth his money. Relying on him or any of the other three carries more than a fair amount of risk and there is a case to be made to drop all five options, but a conservative approach would involve picking up the options for both Floyd and Youkilis.
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David Wright: Swinging Off — But Near — the Black.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
David Wright experienced a resurgence of sorts in 2012. After four straight outstanding offense seasons, Wright’s offensive production dipped significantly in 2009 — from a 141 wRC+ to 125. In 2011, Wright’s wRC+ declined all the way to 116.

But this year, the old David Wright reappeared and the 29-year-old third basemen posted a 140 wRC+. The Mets, encouraged by Wright’s year at the plate, have not only picked up his 2013 option (which was predictable), but have also continued discussions for a long-term contract extension.

How likely we are to see Wright put up similar numbers in the future is debatable.

Regardless, one thing was clear: Wright was making better decisions at the plate in 2012. And while his plate discipline numbers were positive (e.g. -2.1% O-Swing), the overall change didn’t seem to capture how well Wright’s plate approach improved.

In an effort to tease this out beyond the basic plate discipline metrics, R. J. Anderson used Mike Fast’s “correct” decision-making approach to look at how Wright’s decision-making improved in the past three season. Anderson calculated the percentage of “correct” pitches Wright swung at in 2012, compared to the two previous seasons. He found Wright had improved his decision-making by 7%.

I decided to take an even narrower view than Anderson and focused only on the location of balls Wright swung at that were just off of the plate, or that were off the black.

Using PITCHf/x data, I calculated the average distance off the black (both on the inside and outside of the strike zone) of the pitches that hitters swung at. I purposefully excluded pitches thrown in two-strike counts, as hitters are apt to expand their zones and swing defensively in those counts. To make it easier to walk through, I am calling this metric wDOTB — or weighted distance off the black. (I am using “weighted” here to denote that the measure is the weighted average of the inside and outside distances.)

Here are the league averages for 2012, broken down by batter handedness:

Outside 0.22
Inside 0.24
Total 0.23

Outside 0.23
Inside 0.20
Total 0.22

The difference between left-handed and right-handed hitters is pretty small. Right-handers tend to swing at pitchers farther inside off the black, whereas the opposite is true of left-handers. This is probably due to the fact that there are more right-handed pitchers in the league, and, therefore, hitters will see more or fewer pitches on each side of the plate based on who is throwing the ball.

In terms of the leaders and laggers from each side of the plate, here are two graphics.

First, right-handed hitters with at least 600 plate appearances:

And, left-handed hitters with at least 600 plate appearances:

Generally speaking, the best everyday hitters when it comes to swinging at pitches close to the black are about twice as good as the worst from each side of the plate.

Now, let’s get back to Wright.

Here’s Wright’s wDOTB going back to 2008:

Total wDOTB Inside Outside
2008 0.19 0.16 0.16
2009 0.19 0.20 0.12
2010 0.23 0.24 0.12
2011 0.22 0.21 0.16
2012 0.17 0.16 0.19

To more easily visualize the difference, I plotted the actual pitches Wright swung at and then bucketed them into 2009 to 2011 and 2008 and 2012:

Visually, we can see the biggest difference seems to be on the inside. In 2008 and 2012, Wright’s wDOTB for inside pitches was just .16, compared to .22 from 2009 to 2011. When it came to outside pitches, Wright’s wDOTB was almost identical (.20 vs. .19). When Wright swings at inside pitches, he’s picking the ones that are more easily driven — versus weakly hit (or missed) ones.

Compared to other right-handed hitters this past year, Wright’s .17 wDOTB ranked third overall. So, yes, Wright wasn’t just hitting the ball better this past season. He was much more selective when he chose to swing, specifically on balls on the inside of the plate.

As far as the metric overall, I can’t say with any degree of certainty what the relationship is between wDOTB and overall productivity. At a minimum, wDOTB gives us a better picture of how hitters differ when it comes to swinging at balls out of the zone. Whether or not this metric matters from an inferential standpoint will require more testing. My initial hunch is that the absolute value matters less than individual hitter changes, year-to-year. I’ll report back with any new developments.

Royals Bet on Ervin Santana, Inflation.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Angels had until today to decide whether to exercise Ervin Santana‘s $13 million option or pay him a $1 million buyout and make him a free agent. After a miserable 2012 season, it was pretty obvious that they weren’t interested in picking up the option, so today, they shipped him to Kansas City.

The deal, as reported by Ken Rosenthal, is Santana and cash for LHP Brandon Sisk. Given that the Angels could have made Santana go away for $1 million and that Sisk is a 27-year-old reliever who has never pitched in the Majors, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Angels aren’t kicking in much more than that $1 million they would have owed either way. The Royals are almost certainly going to have to pay $11-$12 million of Santana’s salary in 2013.

So, is he worth that kind of cash? Well, maybe.

Santana was awful last year, ranking as somewhere between one win below replacement level (by FIP) and exactly replacement level (by RA), depending on how you want to evaluate a pitcher’s results. The problem, as is usually the problem when he’s going badly, was home runs. He gave up 39 dingers in 30 starts, despite pitching in a park that suppresses home runs, especially for right-handed pitchers. His 1.97 HR/9 was the worst in the majors among qualified pitchers, 20% worse than the next highest HR/9 any starter allowed (Phil Hughes, 1.65).

Beyond the homers, though, it was pretty much business as usual. His walk rate, strikeout rate, and ground ball rate were all right around career norms for him, so even though his velocity was down and the results were horrific, he doesn’t seem to have cratered as a pitcher. He just threw too many meatballs and hitters didn’t miss them very often. It happens, but it’s not necessarily the most predictive thing in the world. In fact, if you want to buy low on a starting pitcher, finding a guy with a high HR/FB rate in the previous year isn’t a bad place to start, and no one posted a higher HR/FB rate than Santana last year.

So, I’d say there’s a pretty decent chance Santana bounces back in 2013. This probably isn’t a Jonathan Sanchez situation. There’s not a lot of evidence that Santana is just broken, like Sanchez appears to be.

However, there’s also not a lot of evidence that Santana has the capability of being a difference maker, even when he’s not giving up home runs left and right. For his career, he’s posted a 103 ERA-/106 FIP-/101 xFIP-, making him something pretty close to a league average starting pitcher. He was better than that in 2011, but it was mostly a low BABIP/high LOB combo, and it shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise that it didn’t stick. Given his status as a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t miss a ton of bats and still has some command issues, it’s hard to project him as more than a durable innings eater. And that’s if his home run problem from 2012 wasn’t the sign of a more serious problem.

Durable innings eaters have their usefulness, but $12ish million for that skillset seems steep, especially given how many teams were able to find useful starters for a fraction of that in last year’s free agent class. However, as has been noted many times over, the new television contracts that the league and teams have negotiated are pushing a lot of new money into the league, and it’s possible that we’re in for some pretty gnarly inflation this offseason. If the prices of players are going up significantly, $12 million for a potential league average pitcher on a one year deal might not look so crazy when all is said and done.

And, of course, the Royals have had their problems luring free agents to Kansas City to begin with, so by trading for Santana, they don’t have to worry about the whole “I want to play for a winner” stigma, and there is some value associated with having a bird in the hand. Given their desire to add multiple pitchers to their rotation this winter, this hedge against runaway inflation has some chance to pay off, especially if Santana rebounds and the Royals can make him a qualifying offer next winter, gathering a compensation pick for a one year rental that didn’t cost them any real talent in the first place.

But, of course, we don’t know that Santana is going to bounce back. We don’t know that there’s going to be runaway inflation. We don’t know that the Royals will be able to make Santana a qualifying offer next winter without him accepting it. There are scenarios in which the stars align and this move looks okay 12 months from now, but there’s also a lot of scenarios where the Royals regret spending 15% of their payroll on a pitcher with some glaring flaws. When you’re a middle-to-small market franchise without the financial resources of your own RSN or a huge cable deal, you have to make sure you get some legitimate return on the dollars you invest.

The Royals are now on the hook for about $20 million in 2013 to Ervin Santana and Jeff Francoeur. Optimistically, you might think those two can give you +3 wins, maybe +4. The Royals total payroll in 2012 was $64 million. You just can’t spend 1/3 of your payroll on less than five wins and compete unless your payroll is enormous. And even if it is enormous, there are almost certainly better ways to spend $20 million.

Maybe this works. Maybe Santana has a good year, and he gives them 200 decent innings, and they get a compensation pick in the 2014 draft. More likely, though, they just spent $12 million on a pitcher who will give them what they could have gotten for $5 million, and like with most of Dayton Moore’s Major League moves, it turns out to be too much money for not enough production.

Baseball’s Most Selective Hitter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Generally speaking, a decent proxy for a batter’s understanding of the strike zone is his O-Swing% — that is, the percentage of pitches outside of the zone at which he offers. The lower that figure, the less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone. The less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone, the more likely he is both to draw walks and (one assumes) swing at better pitches inside the zone.

As to the first point, that is borne out by the numbers: O-Swing% and walk rate correlate rather tightly. Consider the following graph, for example, which includes the O-Swing%s (from the PITCHf/x zone) and walk rates for all 143 qualified batters from 2012. (Note: average O-Swing% among this population is 28.9%. Standard deviation is 5.7%.)

As for the second point, however — that O-Swing% necessarily indicates a better idea of the strike zone — it recently occurred to the author (who isn’t very sharp) that perhaps these are not the same thing. Anyone who ever saw Mark Bellhorn bat, for example, will know that it’s sometimes possible for a player not only to refrain from swinging outside of the zone, but also to avoid swinging altogether. There is a difference, however, between selectivity — which we’ll define, for the sake of this post, as “ability to discern between balls and strikes” — and a refusal to swing the bat. The former, we reason, is a good thing; the latter, less so.

In fact, this appears to be a justified concern. As this second graph indicates (of those same 143 qualifiers from 2012), batters who swing less outside of the zone are also, frequently, swinging less inside of it. (Note: Z-Swing% represents pitches offered at within the zone.)

If one were to really “measure” something like selectivity, the better plan — instead of looking just at O-Swing% — might be to look at the separation between a batter’s O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. Each batter does, of course, have his own particular preferences so far as hitting is concerned. Perhaps there are pitches outside the strike zone that are, in their way, more hittable than those inside it. Conversely, there are areas within the zone to which a pitcher might throw and still induce weak contact. In lieu of a more granular approach, however, that somehow accounts for each batter’s preferences (an effort of which the present author is incapable), it seems fair to suggest that a batter who demonstrates the greatest difference between his O-Swing and Z-Swing tendencies would be the league’s Most Selective Hitter.

To that end, what I’ve done is calculated, for each of 2012′s qualified batters, z-scores (standard deviations from the mean) both for O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. In both cases, a positive z-score is better — which is to say, a positive z-score for O-Swing% means a batter chases fewer pitches outside the zone than the mean. I’ve then averaged those z-scores together for an overall selectivity measure (noted below as Sel). Sel is the average standard deviations from the mean for a batter by O-Swing% and Z-Swing% combined. Furthermore, just for reference, I’ve made a rough index version of Sel, as well (presented as Sel+). I’ve placed Sel+ on more or less the same scale (and with the same range) as wRC+ for this particular group.

Here are the top-10 qualified batters by this methodology:

Name Team PA O-Swing Z-Swing Oz Zz Sel Sel+
Yonder Alonso Padres 619 24.3% 73.5% 0.81 1.76 1.29 176
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 673 22.0% 67.6% 1.22 0.76 0.99 161
Dexter Fowler Rockies 530 20.7% 65.1% 1.45 0.34 0.89 156
Freddie Freeman Braves 620 31.6% 75.4% -0.47 2.08 0.81 152
Rickie Weeks Brewers 677 18.5% 61.3% 1.83 -0.31 0.76 150
B.J. Upton Rays 633 30.2% 73.0% -0.22 1.68 0.73 148
Derek Jeter Yankees 740 28.2% 70.8% 0.13 1.30 0.72 147
Josh Willingham Twins 615 18.7% 60.4% 1.80 -0.46 0.67 145
Chase Headley Padres 699 25.5% 67.2% 0.60 0.69 0.65 144
Jay Bruce Reds 633 28.3% 69.9% 0.11 1.15 0.63 143

And here are the bottom 10:

Name Team PA O-Swing Z-Swing Oz Zz Sel Sel+
Martin Prado Braves 690 26.8% 48.4% 0.37 -2.50 -1.06 58
Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 641 30.9% 53.6% -0.35 -1.61 -0.98 62
Ben Revere Twins 553 27.6% 50.7% 0.23 -2.11 -0.94 65
Dayan Viciedo White Sox 543 38.9% 63.7% -1.75 0.10 -0.83 70
J.J. Hardy Orioles 713 27.4% 52.6% 0.27 -1.78 -0.76 74
Alexei Ramirez White Sox 621 40.8% 66.5% -2.09 0.57 -0.76 74
Shane Victorino - – - 666 31.3% 56.7% -0.42 -1.09 -0.75 74
Erick Aybar Angels 554 38.0% 63.7% -1.59 0.10 -0.75 74
Brennan Boesch Tigers 503 40.2% 66.7% -1.98 0.61 -0.69 77
Mark Trumbo Angels 586 37.6% 64.4% -1.52 0.22 -0.65 79

Yonder Alonso — by this method, at least — was 2012′s most selective hitter; Martin Prado, its least. And, indeed, the presence of Prado among the laggards suggests that this way of measuring selectivity will run at odds with a more established idea of what selectivity is — and continues to suggest that, perhaps, this method has its own flaws. The reason for Prado’s low Selectivity rating has everything to do with his incredibly low Z-Swing%: while the average qualified batter offered at ca. 63% of pitches in the PITCHf/x zone (with a standard deviation of ca 6%), Prado swung at fewer than 49%. His approach obviously worked for him: Prado slashed posted a 116 wRC+ in 690 plate appearances with almost identical walk and strikeout rates (8.4% and 10.0%, respectively). Relative to his O-Swing%, however, which was closer to league average, the Z-Swing% was quite low.

Giving the Gold Glove Voters Some Credit.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about the Gold Gloves today. They were announced on a Tuesday evening at 10 pm eastern, having been delayed because ESPN2 had a racing program go overtime. Or at least that’s what I gathered on Twitter, because I wasn’t watching them. It seems like these awards are getting the recognition they deserve based on their years of hilariously poor selections.

But, in this afternoon’s chat, there were a lot of Gold Glove related questions. Most of them were outrage based, wanting to know who was the biggest snub or who was the worst recipient of the award. There were jokes about Adam Jones. People are good at making fun of the Gold Gloves, because for a long time, the Gold Gloves have been the most mockable award in sports. At this point, they might as well change the cliche to death, taxes, and making fun of bad Gold Glove selections.

And, of course, there were some bad Gold Glove selections this year, so there has been mocking today. But, perhaps lost in the annual tradition of scorn heaping is the fact that there’s pretty clear evidence that the managers are getting better at this.

Let’s just take a quick look at the AL winners, with their UZR/DRS listed in parentheses.

C: Matt Wieters (N/A UZR, +5 DRS)
1B: Mark Teixeira (+11 UZR, +17 DRS)
2B: Robinson Cano (+10 UZR, +15 DRS)
SS: J.J. Hardy (+11 UZR, +18 DRS)
3B: Adrian Beltre (+17 UZR, +14 DRS)
LF: Alex Gordon (+14 UZR, +24 DRS)
CF: Adam Jones (-7 UZR, -16 DRS)
RF: Josh Reddick (+18 UZR, +22 DRS)

The obvious outlier there is Jones, who wasn’t a very good pick, but beyond that, you’re looking at double digit positive numbers from both systems for every winner besides Wieters. This year, the Gold Gloves went to seven elite defensive players (plus the pitchers, who we don’t really have good data for) and Adam Jones. Maybe you like Dustin Pedroia more than Robinson Cano, or Brendan Ryan more than JJ Hardy, but hopefully we can all admit that we don’t know enough about defense to argue that one great defender was definitively better than another great defender. The metrics we have, and the games we watch, should give us enough confidence to say that a player is likely good or bad with the glove, but when it comes to separating players within those groups, we should probably step back and say “hey, they’re all good choices”.

The AL managers gave out 10 Gold Gloves, since there was a tie at pitcher. Of those 10, there’s one that could be considered a poor choice. They might not have made the best choice at every position, but they made good choices everywhere but center field, and we don’t have the tools necessary to say that one good choice was clearly better than another good choice, at least to the point where scorn should be our first response.

Even in the NL, where Carlos Gonzalez got an award he almost certainly didn’t deserve, most of the picks are pretty good. Darwin Barney and Jason Heyward are both good selections, and both are first time winners who didn’t make the flashy plays that you’d expect from a young player getting recognition early in his career. Yadier Molina is awesome. Adam LaRoche had to try and catch Ryan Zimmerman‘s throws across the diamond, which more often than not involved keeping the ball from hitting a random fan in the face.

The Gold Gloves are not perfect. They’ve never been perfect, and in the past, they’ve been horrible. Last night’s picks were not horrible. They were mostly good, with some meh mixed in. Instead of looking for the meh, how about we celebrate the fact that the awards seem to be headed in the right direction, and that we don’t live in an age where we really have to believe that the Gold Glove winners are actually the best defenders in baseball. We have access to all kinds of information, and no one is a slave to the Gold Glove voting in this day and age.

Adam Jones and Carlos Gonzalez weren’t good picks, but they were the exception, not the rule. Instead of focusing on the few they got wrong, how about we congratulate the managers on getting most of them right? That’s a lot more than we used to be able to say about the Gold Gloves.

The 2012 Carter-Batista Award.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Award season is upon us. Perhaps this dates me (or at least my methods) as a blogger, but to me, this is a fun time to bust out a series of awards and rankings based on stats and metrics with varying degrees of usefulness. Today I will begin with the 2012 Joe Carter-Tony Batista Award for the hitter whose 2012 RBI total most exaggerates his actual offensive contribution.

If you came to read a diatribe against using RBI to measure offensive value, you have come to the wrong place. That has been done, and I am assuming that anyone who wants something like that are skilled enough with Google to find one elsewhere. If you are one of those people who really want to get into an argument using percentage of runners driven in or whether or not “clutch” is a skill or whatever, well, feel free, I am not going to address that here (I will probably have a 2012 version of a kind of situational hitting award, but that is different and I am pondering some changes with that).

This award is based on a simple metric: runs batted in (RBI) divided by absolute linear weights runs created (wRC). If you want lengthier explanations for why I use these specific numbers, you can check previous years’ write-ups (2011, 2010, 2009). This little metric basically removes context from the player’s offensive production relative and compares it to his RBI numbers. The higher a hitter’s RBI/wRC, the more his RBI total exaggerates his actual offensive production (as measured by linear weights, the generally accepted [if variously implemented] standard for measuring individual offense).

The award is named after two former players who rank historically high in this regard. It should not be taken to mean that the players on this list are good or bad hitters. It is simply meant as an entertaining (at least to me) year-end exercise to see which players’ RBI totals tend to outstrip their relatively context-free run production. The minimum qualification I have set is 90 RBI.

Without any further ado, here are your five 2012 Carter-Batista Award finalists.

5. Curtis Granderson, 1.118 RBI/wRC, 116 wRC+, .232/.319/.492
Any player who hits 43 home runs is going to have plenty of RBI, especially when hitting behind a revived Derek Jeter. What is more interesting is that Granderson managed only a 116 wRC+ despite all of those bombs. Granderson has hit 84 home runs over the last two years, and it will be interesting to see where his offense goes given his dropping BABIP and rising strikeouts. The Yankees picked up his option for 2013, which makes sense. Whether he stays in center or moves to a corner to accommodate Brett Gardner (assuming Gardner can stay healthy) is another issue worth tracking.

4. Mark Trumbo, 1.169 RBI/WRC, 122 wRC+, .268/.317/.491
Trumbo put on a show at the Home Run Derby, and was pretty fantastic through July. Then he pretty much completely fell apart in August and September, with a 55 and 51 monthly wRC+ respectively. His walks dropped, his strikeouts skyrocketed, and his power died. What is amazing about that slump is that his BABIP was not all that bad — around .300 both months (after being around .260 in June and July). Batting in that Angels lineup is nice for the ribbies, though. Trumbo’s plate approach leaves something to be desired, but if he keeps hitting for power, he is going to be useful for at least a few years.

3. Josh Hamilton 1.172 RBI/WRC, 140 wRC+, .285/.354/.577
Speaking of players with up-and-down 2012s… For example: Hamilton had a 208 wRC+ in April, and a 49 wRC+ in July. What happens with him in free agency is anybody’s guess. Whatever doubts one might harbor about his future, he really did have a heck of a 2012 season at the plate. It would be crazy to complain about a 140 wRC+ from any player. While Ian Kinsler‘s .326 on-base percentage was a letdown at the top of the batting order, Elvis Andrus gave Hamilton plenty of RBI opportunities with a .349.

2. Ike Davis 1.214 RBI/WRC, 110 wRC+, .227/.308/.462
Ike Jacobs! Okay, that is not really fair, as Davis took his share of walks. The problems for Davis this year in relation to his on-base percentage were contact and a low BABIP, which resulted in a very low batting average. It is difficult to tell how good Davis might be in the future. As far as his RBI go, having a .235 ISO while hitting behind David Wright and his .391 on-base percentage will tend to inflate those numbers.

And now, your 2012 Carter-Batista Award winner:

1. Alfonso Soriano 1.238 RBI/WRC, 116 wRC+, .262/.322/.499
The all-or-nothing cleanup hitter strikes again! Really, though, it was a nice rebound year for Soriano. He seemed to play better in the field, and played more than 150 games for the first time since 2006 — the year before his fateful contract with the Cubs. There is some hope here, although there are some superficial similarities with Vernon Wells‘ last season in Toronto, too. Soriano has a no-trade clause, but, as hard as it is to believe, he only has two years on his contract (albeit two years in which he is owed a total of $36 million). Having Mike Rizzo and David DeJesus getting on base about 35 percent of the time definitely helped his RBI numbers. Anything can happen, of course, but it is pretty unlikely that, at this age and given his recent performance, Soriano is going to hit as well as he did this in the future. And it is not like he was awesome. Outside of a Wellsian miracles, only two years left, Cubs fans!

The Market for Dan Haren.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have until Friday to decide what they’re going to do with Dan Haren. The team has a $15.5 million dollar option for 2013 or it can choose a $3.5 million buyout, which would make Haren a free agent. There’s no doubt there will be suitors for Haren — should he hit the free-agent market — but the question the Angels are probably trying to figure out is if there’s a market for him at $12 million.

If the Angels can find a trade partner, it’s likely they’d pick up the $15.5 million option and send $3.5 million in cash with Haren for whatever parts would be acceptable in return. This is obviously preferable than absolutely nothing for $3.5 million, and it’s not out of the question that the Angels might find a middling prospect or perhaps a useful bullpen piece. Or, another option would be to simply pay the man with the hope he can regain the form that saw him average better than 5 WAR in the past seven seasons. Given their recent dangling of Haren on the trade front seems to suggest the team thinks such a hope is foolhardy.

A year ago, the 2013 option looked like an absolute no-brainer, if not a bargain. But Haren, 32, submitted his first legitimate clunker since becoming a regular starter with Oakland in 2005. His 4.33 ERA and 1.29 WHIP are both career highs, and his 19% strikeout rate is his lowest since 2006 — just a notch above the 18.2% American League average.

Many observers point to his rising walk rate and his declining strikeout rate as the smoking guns with Haren but he’s been successful, even very successful, in the past with rates at his 2012 levels or worse. And it’s not as if Haren was absolutely terrible in 2012, he just simply wasn’t anywhere near as good as anyone reasonably expected — and at 1.8 WAR, just not worth $15.5 million.

So if he wasn’t all that bad and he’s had prior success with mediocre strikeout figures, then what’s to say the Angles, or any other potential team, shouldn’t expect a bounce back? For Haren, the problems appear to be much deeper.

Haren was simply eminently more hittable that he has been in the past, and as he’s been easier to make contact off of, his reaction is to nibble. Here are his contact rates and his zone% over the past four seasons:

Haren used to pound the strike zone and still manage about a 10% swinging strike rate, but in 2012, he worked far more outside the zone and produced the lowest swinging strike rate since becoming a regular starter at 8.7%.

If there is a smoking gun, it’s pretty obviously his velocity. Haren has never been a fireballer, but where he used to live in the 90-91 range, he’s now sitting at 88.5 mph. His cut fastball used to be 86-87 mph and in 2012, it averaged 84.5. His splitter went from 86 to 84. One might be able to get away with such a decline in velocity if they had other pitches to lean on, but those three pitches combined make up roughly 90% of his repertoire. There’s not much else to go to.

The unknown about 2012 was just how long Haren was pitching in pain. For the first time in his career, Haren spent time on the disabled list with a lower back strain. He finally revealed the injury to the club after he was torched between June 9 and July 3, giving up 26 earned runs over 27 innings pitched and surrendering nine home runs, striking out just 18 batters.

When he returned on July 22, Haren saw far better results. Over his final 13 starts, Haren posted a 3.58 ERA, giving up 68 hits over 73 innings pitched, holding opposing batters to a .243/.282/.432 line. This looked a heck of a lot more like the guy that held opponents to a .235/.265/.365 slash line in 2011.

In fact, if you look at his monthly FIP in 2012, it’s not hard to see where he might have been pitching hurt:

If he pitched most of June while battling injury, then maybe there’s an explanation for that spike. When he returned, he didn’t revert back to the old Dan Haren, but the results were at least far more encouraging. His strikeout rates and walk rates, not surprisingly, mirrored this trend:

At the time of the injury, there was a reference to the fact that he wasn’t getting his regular lower half drive towards the plate. There was some thinking that this could have caused the precipitous drop in velocity. But when Haren returned from the disabled list, the velocity didn’t come back.

Pre Post
FF 88.8 88.2
FC 84.6 84.4
FS 84 84.2

What is particularly interesting is that Haren changed his mix of pitches upon his return, perhaps recognizing that his four seam fastball and his cutter weren’t getting the job done.

Pre Post
FF 32.3% 28.7%
FC 38.1% 31.5%
FS 18.7% 28.7%

Haren leaned on his splitter far more after returning from the disabled list, and actually had better (but not great) results. Given that his splitter was the only pitch in his repertoire above league average (at roughly one run above average per 100 pitches), it could have been a calculated move. Whether this is a change that he’ll carry into 2013 remains to be seen, but his post-injury results have to at least look encouraging to a team that might be starved for pitching.

Mixed into the trade scenario would be another incentive for a team to acquire Haren reflected in the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement, detailed nicely by Dave Cameron yesterday. Should Haren rebound significantly and the acquiring team is priced out of his asking price, they could at least put forward a qualifying offer which would result in a compensation draft pick should Haren decline and sign elsewhere (for more on qualifying offers, Jeff Sullivan has a far more detailed piece from Tuesday as well).

The starting pitching market is pretty thin. Jake Peavy has already been taken off the shelf, leaving names like Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, and Ryan Dempster. There are other interesting arms available, but it’s not a deep group, and most of these names are going to command expensive, multi-year contracts. This should make it possible for the Angels to move Haren because $10-12 million isn’t a pile of cash, you’re not mortgaging the future, and it shouldn’t require much in terms of talent in trade. If the Angels are willing to eat $3-4 million and not ask the moon for players in return, there should be plenty of teams interested in a one year risk/reward Dan Haren, even if it’s mostly risk involved.

National TV Ratings for World Series Tell Only Part of the Story.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
First, the national TV ratings for the World Series were released. The lowest in history! Lower than the last time the San Francisco Giants played in the World Series! Then came the commentary about how boring the series was — how it lacked national stars, how the ratings show interest in baseball is dying.

Stop. Baseball is alive and well. It’s simply not consumed on a national level and hasn’t been for some time.

Fox Sports is Major League Baseball’s most visible broadcast partner. Under its existing contract with MLB — which will expire at the end of the 2013 season — Fox broadcasts a Game of the Week each Saturday during the egular baseball season. But the Game of the Week is really several games of the week, with different regional broadcasts available in different media markets. And if the game shown in your area isn’t the game you want to watch, you’re out of luck, as Fox blacks out the broadcast of all other games other than the one it is showing in your area. As a result, baseball fans are watching different games on Saturday afternoons, and not necessarily games they want to watch. That’s a balkanized broadcast structure, not a national one.

ESPN and TBS also have national broadcast rights under the contracts in place through 2013. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is a true national broadcast, in the sense that there is one game, played at a special time (8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday nights). If you want to watch baseball on Sunday night, you watch Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. But in some sense, Sunday Night Baseball isn’t national because a majority of the games shown throughout the season feature teams from the big media markets: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Cubs and White Sox. That might make sense for television ratings on a game-by-game basis, but it has long-term consequences when big market teams don’t make the postseason.

Baseball fans who rely on Fox, ESPN and, to some extent, TBS for out-of-market games see few games involving teams from the smaller media markets. That means fewer opportunities to build an interest in those teams and their players. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then, when the World Series pits a team from San Francisco against a team from Detroit, national TV ratings will suffer.

According to Nielsen, an average of 12.7 million viewers watched the 2012 World Series — the lowest ratings ever for the event. Last year’s World Series — the seven-game thriller between the Cardinals and Rangers — averaged 16.6 million viewers. In 2010, when the Giants defeated the Rangers for the first World Series Championship in San Francisco franchise history, the average viewership per game was 14.2 million. In 2009, when the Yankees defeated the Phillies for the New York’s first championship since 2000, each game drew an average of 20 million viewers.

Since 2000, when Fox gained exclusive rights to broadcast the World Series, only two times has the series averaged more than 21 million viewers: in 2001, when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in a seven-game series just weeks after the 9/11 attacks; and in 2004, when the Red Sox played in the World Series for the first time since 1986. Big market teams. Nationally-known stars. Compelling story lines. You get the idea.

Maybe there’s also something to the idea that the manner in which Fox broadcasts the World Series drives viewers away. There’s no doubt a range of opinions on the Joe Buck-Tim McCarver broadcast team. McCarver, in particular, often sounds like he’s missing a step or two, and his folksy, old-fashioned approach can be off-putting, particularly to younger viewers. Then there are the in-game dugout interviews, which have been roundly criticized as a distraction that take away the game’s ebb and flow. And then there are the marketing promotions. And so on. All the bells and whistles — many of which are ancillary to the on-the-field play — slow the game down and detract from the viewer’s experience. If a fan isn’t familiar with the teams, and a game she’s tuned into isn’t close, the Fox broadcast doesn’t do much to keep her interested.

While fewer fans tuned in to this year’s World Series, the ones who did were more engaged than ever. According to a report on, there were more than 10 million baseball-related comments across all forms of social media during the postseason. That’s more than double the social media activity for the 2011 postseason.

Putting World Series television ratings aside, there’s plenty to suggest that baseball is doing quite well. Attendance increased slightly across the league in 2012, and increased more than slightly for teams that had surprisingly strong seasons. Many fans want to watch out-of-market games and are willing to pay to do so. As of 2011, there were at least 2.2 million combined subscribers to and MLB AtBat. And Fox, ESPN and TBS just agreed to pay even more for their national TV broadcast rights, with eight-year contracts worth more than $12.4 billion.

If Fox, TBS and ESPN want to improve TV ratings in the postseason, there is plenty they can do to increase fan interest among all teams during the regular season. Among them would be to show more games featuring small-to-middle market teams and to end blackouts during nationally-televised games. And there’s plenty those companies can do in the postseason to bring fans in and keep them interested during the games, namely by focusing on the on-field play and accentuating that play with more personable broadcasters.

White Sox Re-Sign Jake Peavy for 2/$29M.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Faced with a $22 million team option for 2013 or paying Jake Peavy a $4 million buyout and letting him hit free agency, the White Sox went with Door #3; re-sign him to an extension that lowers his annual payout but keeps him in Chicago through 2014 and gives them a team option for 2015.

The new deal is worth $29 million guaranteed, with a few million of that likely being a buyout of the 2015 option, so Peavy’s salary each year is probably going to be $13 or $14 million. Given his performance history, that’s a bargain if he stays healthy. Of course, with Peavy, that’s a bigger if than with most.

From 2008 to 2011, Peavy threw just 494 innings, or just 30 more than Rich Harden. He missed essentially half of each season from 2009 to 2011 with elbow pain, an ankle strain, and then finally a serious shoulder problem that required “experimental” surgery — really, it was more of an experiment in regards to baseball players, as it had been performed on other athletes before — in the summer of 2010 and shelved him for essentially a full year. Without the surgery, it’s possible his career would have been over, so he underwent what is now sometimes jokingly referred to as “Jake Peavy Surgery”, since his successful return shows that this can be an effective treatment for other pitchers who suffer the same injury in the future.

The surgery was deemed a success, however, and the surgeon who performed the operation has called the issue a “non-factor” for Peavy going forward.

And since coming back from the surgery in May of 2011, he’s pitched well enough to back up the doctor’s assessment. He’s made 50 starts, thrown 331 innings, and posted a 3.96 K/BB ratio that is the fourth best in the AL over the last two years — only Dan Haren, Justin Verlander, and CC Sabathia are ahead of him.

Problems with the long ball and an inability to strand runners in 2011 pushed his ERA through the roof, but his peripherals remained strong, and he went beyond regressing to the mean last year, posting a 3.37 ERA in the process. Overall, the swings between years have essentially evened out, as his career ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- line is an even 85/85/85 across the board. There’s no reason to think that Peavy is a pitcher whose results are going to differentiate wildly from his underlying skills, and those remain quite strong at the moment.

Even if we add in some age related decline — he will turn 32 next May — and bring him back to 5-10% above average in terms of run prevention, that still works out to a +3 win pitcher at 150 innings or a +4 win pitcher at 200 innings. Projecting him for 200 innings is probably too aggressive even though he threw 219 last year, but 160-180 is a fair expectation based on his track record and the fact that he hasn’t shown any ill effects since the surgery. If you’re optimistic about his health and performance, you might expect +7 wins from him over the next two seasons. A pessimist would probably be closer to +5 wins.

Either way, that puts this deal at between $4M to $6 million per win, or right about where the market has priced wins over the last few years. It’s not a huge steal, but getting market price wins for a quality pitcher on a short term deal is a pretty good move for a franchise attempting to win in the short term. The two-year term limits the White Sox exposure if Peavy gets hurt again, and at this AAV, they still afford to fill out their roster around him in order to make a run at the AL Central title.

Peavy’s lengthy medical records likely ensure that he’s never going to get a long term deal again, but he probably could have landed a three year contract for a little more money had he tested free agency. That the White Sox were able to keep him around without guaranteeing that third year makes this a nice first official signing for new GM Rick Hahn, as the team keeps their best pitcher in place without opening the organization up to long term problems if Peavy’s arm gives out again.

The Qualifying Offer and You.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Hello there, friends. If you are a fan of the San Francisco Giants, congratulations on your recent world championship. If you are a fan of the Detroit Tigers, the opposite of that. If you are a fan of any other team, then for at least the last week or so you’ve probably been looking forward to the start of the offseason. The offseason is when baseball teams are most able to change themselves, and a changed baseball team is a better baseball team. Or at least that’s the hope, if only sometimes the reality.

The offseason means trades, but the offseason also means rumors and the offseason means free agency. Thanks to the new CBA that before long we’ll be able to stop referring to as the “new CBA”, free agency is going to look a little bit different from how it used to. I’m referring specifically to free-agent compensation, and at the core here is the concept of the “qualifying offer”. That’s a term you’re going to see thrown around — that’s a term you’ve already seen thrown around — and we should discuss it. It’s not that complicated, so if you’re unclear about qualifying offers and if you have a few minutes, lend me those few minutes.

Remember those Elias free-agent rankings? Remember the A-, B-, and C-grade Elias free-agent rankings that were based on stuff like, I don’t know, game-winning RBI and body mass index? Those are gone. Which is good, because those were impossibly terrible, and which is bad, because it was fun to talk about how they were impossibly terrible. The Elias free-agent rankings still existed at a time that PITCHf/x existed. It was like for part of the year, Major League Baseball took a helicopter to the grocery store, and for another part of the year, it took a horse. The Elias-based compensation system was hopelessly broken and now it’s been replaced by a new system.

In the past, in order for there to be free-agent compensation, a player would’ve had to (A) be ranked highly by Elias, (B) be offered arbitration, and (C) sign with a new team. Now, it’s simpler. If a team wants compensation for a lost free agent, it must extend to that free agent a qualifying offer. If the player subsequently declines the offer and/or signs with a new team, compensation will be received. There are details.

The qualifying offer is a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries. This year, that average is $13.3 million. A qualifying offer may only be extended to a potential free agent who spent the entire previous season with the same team. So, for example, Josh Hamilton is eligible, but Zack Greinke is not, having been dealt to Anaheim in July. The qualifying offer must be extended within five days of the conclusion of the World Series, which means midnight this Friday. The player then has seven days to make a decision regarding the offer. The former window is referred to in the CBA as the Quiet Period. The latter window is referred to in the CBA as the Acceptance Period. It is absolutely vital that these windows have names.

If a player accepts the qualifying offer, that’s it, he’s signed. If a player doesn’t receive a qualifying offer, he’s free to sign anywhere and there’s no compensation to talk about. If a player declines the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, or if a player signs elsewhere within the Acceptance Period, then that’s where compensation becomes a thing.

I should note that there’s no compensation if a player is extended a qualifying offer, and then he subsequently signs elsewhere on a minor-league contract. For this to happen would require that both the player and the original team have just a completely miserable, inaccurate idea of the market. This is in the CBA. Minutes were spent making sure this made it into the CBA.

Compensation for the original team is one draft pick, between the first and second rounds. Gone are the days of a team losing a free agent and adding the 16th or 17th pick. In the event that there are multiple compensation picks between the first and second rounds, those picks will be made in reverse order of winning percentage in the most recent season. So, if the Rangers get compensation for losing Josh Hamilton, and the Cardinals get compensation for losing Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals’ compensation pick will come before the Rangers’ compensation pick, because the Cardinals won five fewer games in 2012.

And the signing team also loses a pick. It loses its highest available pick, outside of the first ten picks, as those are protected. The pick doesn’t get transferred to the original team. Instead, the pick just vanishes into nothingness. It ceases to exist, nobody talks about it, and the draft gets a little shorter. This is still enough of a penalty to serve as a deterrent. For example, this report suggests that teams will be a lot more interested in Torii Hunter if the Angels don’t extend a qualifying offer.

So, yeah, it’s simple. With the best free agents, extending a qualifying offer is a no-brainer, as they’re certain to do better in the market. With lower-level free agents, it’s more of a gamble, as teams will have to try to predict the market before it develops. As I can tell, this is a list of players who either will be extended a qualifying offer in the next few days, or who might be extended a qualifying offer in the next few days. Some of these decisions are tougher than others.

Adam LaRoche
B.J. Upton
David Ortiz
Edwin Jackson
Hiroki Kuroda
Josh Hamilton
Kyle Lohse
Michael Bourn
Mike Napoli
Nick Swisher
Rafael Soriano
Torii Hunter
As noted, guys like Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez are ineligible, as they were included in mid-season trades. So the Angels will either re-sign Greinke or watch him leave for nothing. James Loney is also ineligible, because he was included in a mid-season trade, and is bad. Bad players are not literally ineligible, but they are effectively ineligible.

Hopefully that clears just about everything up for you. And if you’re curious about the CBA, here is the full thing, ready for your perusal. The compensation section begins on page 88, but why skip ahead? There’s no more baseball for months. Now’s the time for reading.

A Quick Walk Through The New Hot Stove Rules.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the World Series behind us and free agency officially kicking off on Saturday, the Hot Stove season is now upon us. While it’s unlikely that you’ll see anyone change teams immediately, there are always some free agents that sign pretty quickly, setting the market for others to follow. Before we get too far into evaluating the moves and the contracts of the winter, though, I thought it would be useful to walk through some of the changes that the new CBA has brought on that have a direct impact on free agency and will likely have a trickle down effect on trade evaluations.

Obviously, the biggest change is the overhaul of the free agent compensation system. Gone are the ridiculous Elias ratings that separated players into Type A or B free agents, taking with it the necessary component of offering arbitration to a pending free agent in order to collect that compensation. Instead of offering arbitration, teams must now submit a qualifying offer equal to the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in the game – this year, that works out to $13.3 million. In essence, a team that wants to be compensated for losing a free agent has to be willing to bring that player back for $13 million in 2013, which will greatly reduce the amount of players who get tagged with a compensation requirement.

Jeff’s going to have a full write-up on who should expect a qualifying offer later this afternoon, but it won’t be anywhere near the 37 players who received an arbitration offer last winter. After all, that list included guys like Rod Barajas, Jose Molina, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Freddy Garcia, and Dan Wheeler. This puts an end to the manipulation of the system to gain draft picks (I’m looking at you, Tampa and Toronto) but also takes away a payroll floor for lower tier free agents. Last year, David Ortiz, Francisco Rodriguez, and Kelly Johnson all accepted arbitration offers after finding their markets less than robust, but Johnson never would have received a qualifying offer and it’s unlikely that Rodriguez would have as well.

The compensation tag has always had the effect of pushing back the free agent timetable, as teams would wait to see whether a player was going to be offered arbitration before agreeing to a deal in order to gauge whether or not it would cost them a draft pick to do so. Now, qualifying offers are due on Friday, so every team will know which players will cost them a draft pick before free agency begins.

Not only has the pool of players requiring compensation changed, so too have the specifics relating to the draft picks and where they go. Previously, the top 15 picks were protected, so any team finishing in the lower half of the standings could sign a free agent and only have to surrender their second round choice. That protection has been altered to only cover the top 10 selections. Additionally, because the Pirates get the ninth pick in next year’s draft for failing to sign Mark Appel, only the teams with the nine worst records in 2012 have draft pick protection – the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Indians, Marlins, Red Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays will get to keep their first round selection even if they sign a player who received a qualifying offer. Everyone else would have to forfeit their first round pick.

And now, forfeit really does mean forfeit. Under the old system, a team’s first round pick was essentially transferred from one organization to the other as compensation for signing a Type A free agent, but now, that pick simply disappears. If, for instance, the Mets sign a player who received a qualifying offer, their 11th overall choice would simply be eliminated, with every team moving up one position in the first round. The only compensation awarded to a team for losing a free agent with a qualifying offer is a pick in the compensatory round between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the draft – essentially, a pick somewhere between #31 and #40 or so.

Previously, a team could collect two draft picks for letting a free agent leave, including one as high as #16, which incentivized teams to not sign their own free agents in some cases. Now, that incentive has been significantly reduced. The compensation cost of signing a player has only gone up a marginal amount for a small window of players, but the value of losing a player with compensation attached has gone down significantly. While we’re dealing with a small number of free agents, it will be interesting to see if fewer high end players switch teams, as there is no longer as large of a benefit from letting that kind of player walk.

Relief pitchers are the other area where we’ll likely see significant change in strategy due to the new compensation rules. Because the Elias rating drastically overvalued relievers, they made up a disproportionate number of Type A and B free agents who received arbitration offers, as teams could essentially treat their bullpens as revolving doors and get numerous additional prospects as a result. The qualifying offer is going to remove compensation from every middle reliever in the sport, which may drive salaries up for some of the guys who have previously come with the loss of a draft pick for their new teams. It might be hard to believe now, but in 2010, the Tigers gave the Astros the 19th pick in the draft for the right to sign Jose Valverde. How much more would he have gotten had that loss of a pick not been a factor? We may find out this winter.

Finally, there’s one other possible alteration that could develop over the course of the winter due to the new CBA. This one’s speculative and unlikely to happen, but there is some chance that a team could see the new rules as an invitation to bring the NBA’s sign-and-trade deal to Major League Baseball.

In the NBA, it’s common for free agents to technically re-sign with their own teams, then immediately get traded to the franchise they’re actually agreeing to join, because it’s a salary cap loophole. Players can receive larger paychecks from their original organizations than they can by signing outright with a new team, and obviously, the former team gets players or assets back in the trade that compensate them for letting that player go. In MLB, there is no salary cap, so there’s never been any reason for teams or players to engage in this kind of transaction.

There’s still no salary cap on Major League payroll, of course, but the new CBA did enact limits on spending in both the draft and international free agency. And that’s where a team could decide that free agency gives them an opportunity to spend on prospect acquisition.

Let’s just say make up an example to show how this might work. The Houston Astros have a massive amount of budget space this year, but they’re unlikely to sign a multitude of impact free agents to improve the team’s talent base from 65 wins to 75 wins, since they’re in full scale rebuilding mode. The CBA won’t allow them to simply shift that money to the draft or international free agency, so their only real choice is to spend it on Major League players. But there’s no rule that says they have to keep those Major League players.

Say — and again, I’m making all of this up for illustration purposes only — the Astros hear through the grapevine that Shaun Marcum is asking for $8 million on a one year deal in order to build back up his value and hit the market again next winter, and that the Royals are interested in bringing him in, but aren’t sure they can afford to sign him and still have money to afford Anibal Sanchez, who is their primary pitching target. The Astros could then approach both Marcum and the Royals and suggest that a sign-and-trade is in everyone’s best interests. The Astros would sign Marcum for $8.5 million — enough of an incentive to get him to go along with the plan — and then immediately trade him to Kansas City in exchange for, say, Lorenzo Cain, while picking up the tab for the entirety of the contract Marcum just signed. (Royals fans, don’t freak out. The actual names don’t matter. This is just an illustration.)

The Royals would essentially get the Major League free agent they wanted without increasing their payroll, allowing them to pursue everyone else on their target list, while the Astros would spend their Major League surplus acquiring guys with more long term value than the veterans who populate free agency. And Marcum would get $500,000 for the trouble of agreeing to waive the provision that says a player can’t be traded without his consent until June 15th after signing a free agent contract. He’d get a little more money, the Astros would put their budget surplus to better use, and the Royals could essentially trade for a free agent in order to keep their payroll flexibility.

Previously, there just wasn’t an incentive to pull off these kinds of moves, since Major League payroll could be reallocated to the budgets for the draft or international free agency, but the new limitations cut off that avenue for increased spending while rebuilding. While I don’t expect any teams to pursue this course, it is possible that a team like the Astros or Cubs could take some of their Major League payroll and use it to essentially establish sign-and-trades in MLB. Whether the commissioner’s office would go along with such transactions is an open question, but from my reading of the CBA, there’s nothing prohibiting a team from trying.
post #8789 of 72850
David Price will stay on with the Reds... that's huge. Ludwick, Madson, and Broxton all declined their options and will be free agents. Reds hope to re-sign all 3.
post #8790 of 72850

Giving BJ Upton 5 year for 75 million is LAUGHABLE. The Yankees would be fools to do that.


I'll take Melky 2 years for 15 million or something. I don't want Upton on the Yanks at all.

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