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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 643

post #19261 of 77278
I am happy with the moves my team made but man I want Hochevar gone. Dude blows a lead like it's nothing. Thought it would have already been done by now.

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post #19262 of 77278
Alex Gordon's fantasy value went up ten-fold once Aoki was secured. Drop him down the lineup and rake.
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post #19263 of 77278
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Alex Gordon's fantasy value went up ten-fold once Aoki was secured. Drop him down the lineup and rake.

He hits better at the front of the line up. He actually got out of a slump by being in the lead off spot.

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post #19264 of 77278
I got the Royals winning the Central if Duffy pitches like he did in his 5 starts last year and if Davis can revert back to his TB form.
post #19265 of 77278
No way.
O-H-I-O

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post #19266 of 77278
Yes way. I don't like the moves Detroit has made except for signing Nathan. Kinsler's slash away from Texas isn't too promising at .242/.312/.399/.710 and I'm confused as to why they want to make Smyly a starter so badly and replace him with Ian Krol who is mediocre at best. Not to mention Iglesias is going to provide next to nothing with his bat and Castellanos is unproven. I'm not too familiar with the Indians, though. But the Royals have been my AL team for awhile and I like their chances.
post #19267 of 77278
I'm actually picking KC to win the division. You stole my thunder. Aoki and Infante both solid additions although they overpaid for the latter thanks to NYY.

I have faith in Smyly and Castellanos. But I do believe Kinsler is on the decline otherwise Daniels wouldn't have willingly parted with him for a large portion of Prince's contract. I'd like Detroit better had they secured Choo or moved for Matty.
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post #19268 of 77278
Thread Starter 
Guys are high on the Royals like that? I'd be shocked if they match 86 wins again.
post #19269 of 77278

They went through a 19/23 slump in May, which is what hurt them this season. They are talented defensively in every position. Good starting pitching/ bullpen and a stud of a closer. Once they get in sync with a lineup they will soar.

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post #19270 of 77278
Thread Starter 
I hear ya.

I should have pointed out that I that I think the division dwellers are going to be improved this season which will hurt them. I'm also not as sold on the rotation/lineup as you guys are.

I lean towards Detroit with 90 wins and everyone else landing between 72-80.
post #19271 of 77278
Thread Starter 
How Braves can salvage the winter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's been an active offseason in the National League East, where four of the five teams have made steps to improve themselves in 2014.
The Washington Nationals stole Doug Fister from Detroit and added role players Jerry Blevins and Nate McLouth to fill out a roster that was among the league's hottest down the stretch in 2013, while the New York Mets imported Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Chris Young in an attempt to show some respectability. The Philadelphia Phillies should see some benefit from Marlon Byrd, Roberto Hernandez and the returning Carlos Ruiz, and even the Miami Marlins dipped their toes in the free-agent waters, adding Jarrod Saltalamacchia to an impressive collection of young talent.

Those teams are all attempting to catch the defending champion Atlanta Braves, who have worked to maintain their edge by ... acquiring a catcher who can't catch (Ryan Doumit) and a pitcher who can't pitch (Gavin Floyd, recovering from May Tommy John surgery) while bidding farewell to star catcher Brian McCann and longtime starter Tim Hudson.

It's hard to see those moves as anything but a step down, and so from a baseball perspective, it's been a decidedly disappointing winter in the Peach State.

The Braves do have enviable young talent on the field and in the rotation, along with the best closer in baseball. But they also have two expensive black holes in the lineup -- second base (Dan Uggla) and center field (B.J. Upton) -- and are limited by a poor television deal that pays them a fraction of what other clubs receive, as well as a notoriously tight-fisted ownership group that regards the team as merely a minor line item on a larger ledger.

That makes Atlanta's flexibility limited, since the Braves usually spend about $90 million annually, and a steady payroll is a declining one in today's increasingly wealthy game. Including Doumit and Floyd, the Braves now have about $55 million committed for 2014, but they still need to set aside approximately $30 million for what was the largest arbitration-eligible group of players in baseball at the beginning of the offseason. Unless ownership suddenly finds itself in an unexpectedly generous mood, Atlanta looks to be getting close to its payroll limit, and the team has little choice but to give Upton a second chance to prove himself.

That said, there is still time for the Braves to salvage the winter, and here are three things they can do to prevent this offseason from being a complete disaster.

Start signing extensions with young players
Uncertain terms
A large number of players eligible for arbitration complicates the Braves' 2014 payroll picture.

PLAYER ARB YEAR EST. $*
Kris Medlen 2 $6M
Jason Heyward 2 $4M
Craig Kimbrel 1 $7M
F. Freeman 1 $5M
Mike Minor 1 $4M
Chris Johnson 1 $4M
Jordan Schafer 1 $1M
Ramiro Pena 1 $1M
*Estimated salaries from Baseball Reference
This isn't going to immediately make the 2014 roster stronger, because the Braves will have these players anyway. But in addition to helping make a public relations splash by showing that they're "committing to the future," or whatever they think ticket-buying fans would like to hear, this would help alleviate in future offseasons what's limiting them now -- an unusually high amount of arbitration cases making for difficulty in projecting cost certainty (see table).

There's probably a half-dozen such players Atlanta might want to extend -- Mike Minor and Andrelton Simmons among them -- but tops on the list ought to be Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, two 24-year-old established stars who should represent the core of the Braves' lineup for years to come.

Freeman is probably just outside the very elite at first base -- no slight when we're talking about Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto -- but comfortably ranks as the sixth or seventh best first baseman in baseball by most of the major offensive and total value metrics. Heyward has had some health concerns, but has been a star-level producer in his two completely healthy seasons of 2010 and 2012. Considering their age and talent, the Braves need to buy out a few free-agent seasons while they still can.

Fix second base
There's bad, and then there's what Uggla was in 2013, which ended with him not even making Atlanta's postseason roster as the Braves instead went with Elliot Johnson. Yes, Uggla hit 22 homers, but he also did so with a .364 slugging percentage, making him the only man in the history of the game to hit that many homers with such a low slugging percentage. (Uggla had just 13 other extra-base hits, and only one total after July 31.)

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Chris Gardner/Getty Images
Atlanta cannot let Dan Uggla be its starting second baseman on Opening Day.
Over the past two seasons, he's hit only .201/.330/.374, a huge drop from the six consecutive seasons when he slugged at least .450. In 2013, he struck out a whopping 31.8 percent of the time.

Some cling to the fact that late-season laser eye surgery can help him rebound, but it's unlikely we see a big turnaround at age 34 after two consecutive down seasons. That said, the Braves still owe him $26 million over the next two seasons, and the internal options -- mainly reserves Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena, with prospect Tommy La Stella unlikely to be ready in April after just 81 games above Class A -- are questionable.

The Braves may need to live with Upton, but it's difficult to see a contender going into a season with the potential for zero offensive production at three spots, including the pitcher. So what to do? Howie Kendrick is a great fit, since he's been reportedly very available in trade talks, and the Braves are a good match for an Angels team that is thin on both pitching and prospects. The Giants may be willing to discuss the reliable Marco Scutaro, or Atlanta could try to make a rare deal with the Mets for the very available Daniel Murphy.

However, if the team really wanted to get creative, Atlanta could attempt to send Uggla to a non-contender who is looking for an effective way to spend its cash. That is, a team like the Astros or Cubs may prefer to effectively "buy prospects" from Atlanta in exchange for taking on a decent amount of Uggla's contract, rather than throw money away on a Nelson Cruz type.

No matter what direction they go in, the Braves can't simply assume Uggla will rebound. His age and several years of decline say otherwise.

Don't go crazy for an "ace"
The Braves are unlikely to have the financial resources to be in on Masahiro Tanaka, and don't seem willing to completely clear out their farm system for David Price, so perhaps this is a given anyway. While certainly every team would love to add another elite starter, the narrative that the Braves can't succeed without one doesn't ring true.

As a group, the Atlanta rotation was top-six in both ERA and FIP last year, and while no one will confuse Minor with Clayton Kershaw, Atlanta's underrated lefty was one of the 30 best starters in the game. As Julio Teheran continues to mature along with Kris Medlen, Alex Wood, David Hale and (when healthy) Brandon Beachy and Floyd, the Braves have a solid enough rotation while waiting on prospects like J.R. Graham and Lucas Sims to arrive.

If a Matt Garza drops into their laps, then fantastic, but it's not worth the risk considering the other needs this team has.

The White Sox's awesome winter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When you think about which team has had the best offseason, you probably think about the teams that have done the most -- or at least, have done the most to improve their chances of winning in 2014.

The Washington Nationals added Doug Fister for a song, and not even a hit song -- more like a break-up track from a mediocre 1990s boy band. The St. Louis Cardinals got underrated contributors in Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis, and now their biggest problem is deciding whether to carry four or five relievers who each throw 100 mph. And yet, it is possible that when we look back on the winter of 2013, the best series of offseason moves will not belong to either Washington or St. Louis -- nor any other 2014 contender -- but instead to the stealthy rebuild happening on the South Side of Chicago?

The White Sox were pretty terrible in 2013, and realistically, they're not likely to be all that good in 2014 either. They haven't made the kinds of moves that are going to turn a franchise around overnight, but then again, teams that have tried those kinds of moves lately haven't been very happy with the results, as the 2012 Marlins and 2013 Blue Jays will attest.

Instead, GM Rick Hahn is taking a measured approach to the White Sox rebuild, and this offseason he's focused on making smaller moves that might not have made headlines, but could eventually be seen as terrific long-term acquisitions that helped pave the way for the next good White Sox roster.

Calculated risk
Their big splash of the winter came in October -- when other teams were still focused on the postseason -- as the White Sox shelled out $68 million to sign Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. That's a lot of money for an unproven player who has limited defensive value and will need to mash to make himself worth it, but because the cash is spread out over six years, it's actually not that significant of a commitment. For comparison, the Mets committed a total of $67 million to Curtis Granderson and Chris Young for five years between the two, and the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes $73 million over seven combined years. This kind of money buys you a lot of risk, whether you spend it on players with MLB experience or not.

But with Abreu, there is some real upside here. For one, the White Sox signed him for his age 27-32 seasons, which are generally considered to be the peak years for most hitters. While many free agents are signing multiyear deals that will carry them into their mid-30s, the White Sox locked up Abreu's prime and haven't really committed to much of his decline phase at all, so it's unlikely that his skills will decline that dramatically during this contract.

Power is an absurdly expensive tool to try and acquire in free agency -- just look at the reported asking price for Nelson Cruz, an aging mediocre player coming off a PED suspension -- and the White Sox have given themselves a chance to add a quality big league slugger in his prime for a moderate price. There is some chance that they're just completely wrong about him and that they wasted $68 million on a guy who can't hit big league pitching, but this is the kind of risk a rebuilding team should be taking. Rather than throwing their cash at aging players coming off mediocre seasons, the White Sox bet big on a guy whose best days should still be in front of him.

Shrewd trades
We've seen that same pattern emerge in the two significant trades Hahn has made as well, and in both cases he's managed to pluck a potentially interesting player from the Diamondbacks without sacrificing any real pieces from his own team's future. While Chicago was considered the third wheel in the Mark Trumbo trade -- simply serving as the conduit to help the D-backs and Angels trade hitting for pitching -- I wouldn't be stunned if Adam Eaton and the White Sox ended up as the big winners of the deal.

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Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Adam Eaton is a jack of all trades, which might mean he is a little underrated now.
Eaton is the kind of player who often gets overlooked: good at a lot of things without being great at any one particular thing. He draws walks, makes contact, has some power and plays good enough defense to hold down center field, and while he's not a burner, he'll provide some value as a baserunner as well.

This is kind of the template for an underrated contributor, and Eaton could easily follow in the footsteps of guys like Shane Victorino, David DeJesus, Coco Crisp and Denard Span as quality big league outfielders who don't necessarily stand out until you appreciate their contributions over an entire season. In Eaton, the White Sox may have just found an average or better center fielder who is under team control for five more years, and all it cost them was a swingman (Hector Santiago) who probably fits better in a relief role than in the rotation anyway.

And then, in a similar kind of swap, Hann shipped closer Addison Reed to Arizona in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson. Reed's a decent arm, but as a guy with a lot of saves on his résumé, he was going to command some pretty serious paychecks in arbitration, so his days of providing value above and beyond his salary were coming to an end. Reed could easily be the next Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey or Chris Perez, all of whom were valuable assets as young cheap closers, only to see their value tank even before they reached free agency.

Rather than seeing that happen in a White Sox uniform, Hahn used Reed's trade value to acquire a young third baseman with enough skills to compete for a big league job in spring training, and yet they'll retain his rights for the rest of the decade. Davidson isn't a surefire big leaguer, but even if he's just an average hitter and fields the position at a passable level, he'll be a useful player who should prevent the team from embarrassing itself and won't cost the Sox any money to do so.

In Abreu, Eaton and Davidson, the White Sox have added a combined 17 years of team control. The big knock against all three is that they don't project as stars, and might top out as solid average players, but solid average players aren't cheap -- see Jason Vargas, Scott Feldman and Omar Infante, for instance -- and the White Sox will pay the three of them a combined $8 million next year. Even in Abreu's "expensive years," the trio probably won't cost as much as a single season of Shin-Soo Choo, who might not even be a better player than Eaton for that much longer.

While other teams have made big splashes, the White Sox have had the kind of low-key offseason that might look surprisingly prescient in hindsight. They've made bets on interesting young players, and while their offseason maneuvers probably won't manifest in terms of a playoff berth in 2014, the moves the White Sox are making now have put the team back on the path to respectability.

Rumors.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Arizona in on Tanaka?
December, 30, 2013
DEC 30
10:36
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Expect the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes to remain at the forefront of the rumor mill until such time as the pitcher finally agrees to a deal. For the Arizona Diamondbacks, while they may be seen as longshots to woo the pitcher to their team, they intend to at least put up a fight.

Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic says that officials from the Diamondbacks are "hoping to make their sales pitch with Tanaka in person" adding that representatives from the team "appear willing to fly to Japan to facilitate a meeting."

While no trip has of yet been scheduled, the team is going to have to pull out all of the stops if they're going to compete with teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners for the free agent pitcher. As Piecoro points out, the largest free-agent contract the team has ever paid in franchise history was $52.4 million to Randy Johnson, and that could well be less than half of what ultimately wins Tanaka over.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is doing their best to make sure that Tanaka and Rakuten don't have any side deals in place that would circumvent the $20 million posting fee cap. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tanaka has said that he wants to donate a portion of his salary to Rakuten, in order to "improve the Eagles' stadium and its facilities for players and fans."

While Tanaka is free to do whatever he wants with his paycheck, the agreement between MLB and Japanese teams is supposed to preclude Rakuten from "getting any value other than the so-called posting fee, directly or indirectly, including through the player."
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Masahiro Tanaka
Down to two for Drew?
December, 30, 2013
DEC 30
9:15
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The free agent market has been unkind to those players who were tendered qualifying offers by their 2013 teams, as many have found few takers thus far this offseason. One such "unlucky" free agent has been shortstop Stephen Drew, who can't seem to generate much interest at his asking price.

Marc Carig of New York Newsday says that the New York Mets are "prepared to begin the 2014 season" with Ruben Tejada as their starting shortstop. However, he adds that a source tells him the team has remained in contact with Scott Boras, the agent for Drew.

"Drew remains the only free agent shortstop who would be a clear offensive upgrade over Tejada, who hit .202 with no homers and 10 RBIs in 208 at-bats. But the Red Sox reportedly have interest in bringing back Drew, who hit .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs and helped Boston win the World Series," Carig writes.

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe is of the mind that Drew will indeed end up back at Fenway Park in 2014. "(As) days pass, the odds of Drew returning to the Red Sox increase. The qualifying offer system does not serve second-tier free agents well and Drew has been a victim.

"The Red Sox win either way. Either they get a draft pick in what is said to be a deep draft, or they get a productive player back on their terms. One or two more years of Drew would give the team enviable depth on the left side of the infield."
Tags:New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada
Jays GM in jeopardy?
December, 29, 2013
DEC 29
12:48
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Are the Toronto Blue Jays one of the teams that will be making a big play for free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka? Back in September, general manager Alex Anthopoulus all but said as much prior to the team's 2013 finale.

As Tom Maloney of the Globe and Mail wrote back then, "Prior to the game, Anthopoulos reasserted the goal of strengthening the rotation with a front-of-the-line pitcher via trade or free agency. He followed in a television broadcast by acknowledging the club will bid for Masahiro Tanaka, a 24-year-old free agent from Japan’s Pacific League."

Flash forward to the present, and the pursuit of Tanaka is something that Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star thinks is essential for Anthopoulus's future with the team. "In Anthopoulos's three seasons as GM since transforming Ricciardi's 80-82 team of 2009 into a faux-contender at 85-77 in 2010, (he) has constructed teams that have posted win totals of 81, 73 and 74. He needs a winning season in 2014 or he will likely be fired."
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Anthopoulus
Astros improvement starts at the top
December, 29, 2013
DEC 29
11:31
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The Houston Astros are heading into 2014 with a new leadoff hitter in center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in a trade for pitcher Jordan Lyles earlier this offseason.

As Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes of Fowler, "(He) will give the Astros a set leadoff hitter after seeing four players make at least 23 starts in the No. 1 hole in the order last season. Fowler has a career on-base percentage of .365 and has some pop, so he'll immediately become one of the team's best offensive weapons."

McTaggart also predicts the team's rotation will consist of Scott Feldman and a trio of "rock-solid rookies" from last season -- Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock -- whose second-half performances made the team feel quite comfortable in dealing Lyles away. Dallas Keuchel and Alex White are among the many arms that will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

As for Lyles, he might not start the season in the majors. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post believes the team will be very patient with their new pitcher. "Don't be surprised to see Lyles, a former first-round draft pick, pitching in the minors next year. He's only 23 years old, and there's a feeling that he was rushed into the majors, as evidenced by his 14-29 record and 5.35 ERA over his first three seasons."
Tags:Colorado Rockies, Dexter Fowler, Houston Astros, Scott Feldman, Alex White, Brad Peacock, Jarred Cosart, Jordan Lyles, Dallas Kuechel, Brett Oberholtzer
Padres pen still in progress
December, 29, 2013
DEC 29
10:11
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The San Diego Padres officially announced the signing of reliever Joaquin Benoit on Saturday, a good ten days after the news of a deal originally broke. The long delay was so that results of Benoit's physical could be examined by the organization, a step in the contract approval process that, in 2014, can no longer be taken for granted.

Benoit, though he will turn 37 in July, is signed for two seasons, with a vesting option for 2016. He's expected to be the setup man for Huston Street as the season gets underway. However, the Padres may still be looking to add another arm to their bullpen.

For now, the seventh inning is still up for grabs, and as Corey Brock of MLB.com writes, the team may end up going outside the organization to fill that job. "The Padres could use Dale Thayer or Nick Vincent to handle the seventh inning," Brock surmises. However, he adds that "the team still might add a left-handed reliever."

He quotes general manager Josh Byrnes as saying, "We're still looking. (Rule 5 draftee) Patrick Schuster will be given a look. Cory Luebke maybe pitches a little there to get acclimated again. But we'd still like to add another guy or two."


Tags:San Diego Padres, Huston Street, Joaquin Benoit, Cory Luebke, Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Patrick Schuster
Masterson's future with Cleveland
December, 29, 2013
DEC 29
8:50
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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As my Rumor Central colleague Doug Mittler wrote Saturday, there is still a chance that Ubaldo Jimenez may end up returning to the Cleveland Indians when all is said and done. However, the grief that the Indians have endured this offseason in trying to cobble together a pitching staff for 2014 may be something that the team wants to avoid repeating next winter.

Pitcher Justin Masterson will be a free agent after 2014, and if Cleveland doesn't lock the pitcher up in a multi-year deal sooner rather than later, they might be once again forced to play the free agent game a year from now. This year's free agent season already has cost them Scott Kazmir, and perhaps Jimenez as well.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks a deal might be something to expect, only not right away. "Both sides seem receptive to at least talk about a multi-year deal for Masterson. I get the feeling from Randy Rowley, Masterson's agent, that he wants to let the free agent market unfold a little more before getting deep into the discussion.

"As for money, I think the TV millions that will be coming the Indians' way over the next eight years, along with the rights fees from their new local TV deal with Fox, would be more than enough to get a deal done with Masterson."
Tags:Cleveland Indians, Scott Kazmir, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson
Why Jimenez could stay in Cleveland
December, 28, 2013
DEC 28
8:37
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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The Cleveland Indians skillfully demonstrated patience last offseason. Could they do it again in their effort to retain Ubaldo Jimenez?

Last winter, the Indians were late entrants in the race for Michael Bourn, who agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal with the Tribe in late February after seeing his value on the free agent market decline. While his numbers were not spectacular (.263/.316/.360), Bourn did help the Tribe to their first playoff berth in six seasons.

It has been a relatively quiet offseason to date for the Indians (no disrespect to the signings of David Murphy and John Axford), but they still have time to sign Jimenez, who remains on the free agent market. Landing a pitcher became a higher priority after Scott Kazmir left via free Aagency.

The Indians have not been mentioned as a suitor for Masahiro Tanaka, but they could be contenders for pitchers who have seen their own free agent process stalled as teams pursue the Japanese sensation. Jimenez, Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo could lower their demand as January approaches, and the Tribe could get another bargain.

Our Jim Bowden is among those who thinks Jimenez could stay in Cleveland:


Jim Bowden
Best fits for remaining free agents
"Jimenez had his best year since 2010 when he posted a 3.30 ERA and a career-high 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. However, his career inconsistency in both performance and mechanics have most teams lukewarm, considering his high asking price. Therefore, many in the industry believe he will return to the Indians on a short-term "pillow" deal, which would allow him to prove that he’s truly turned the corner. Possibilities: Indians, Angels, Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays. Best fit: Indians "

Tags:Cleveland Indians, Ubaldo Jimenez
Angels may give Mulder a chance
December, 28, 2013
DEC 28
7:47
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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Two-time All-Star Mark Mulder confirmed earlier this month that he is attempting a comeback at age 36. The Los Angeles Angels may be emerging as the leading candidate to give a chance to the former two-time All-Star who last pitched in the majors in 2008.

Nick Cafardo tweeted Friday the Angels were emerging as the “front runner” although Mulder’agent, Brian Charles, tells Jeff Fletcher his client is evaluating offers and has not made a decision.

Mulder, a 21-game winner for the Athletics in 2001 who had his career cut short by shoulder issues, is expected to settle for a minor league deal.
Tags:Mark Mulder
Yanks preparing Tanaka pitch?
December, 28, 2013
DEC 28
7:28
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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Teams will have until January 24 to make their case to Masahiro Tanaka, but the New York Yankees are already preparing their first pitch to the Japanese sensation.

Christian Red of the New York Daily News reports Saturday that the Yankees are one of several teams who have been in touch with agent Casey Close. While the Yankees are not expected to make their first formal proposal until next week at the earliest, a source tells Red the Yankees will make a “very strong offer.” Recent reports say Close is looking to start the bidding in the five-year, $100 million range.

Big market teams such as the Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs are expected to bid on Tanaka, and the relatively modest $20 million posting fee should draw others into the mix. As ESPN.com's Buster Olney correctly points out, "For a team to not indicate a willingness to pay a $20 million posting fee on Tanaka is like not running out a grounder. (It) costs nothing to try."

MLB seems intent on preventing any backdoor payments to of Tanaka’s Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Los Angeles Times reports the commissioner’s office is expected to review the winning bid to ensure the Golden Eagles do not get more than the $20 million fee.

While the Tanaka process plays itself out, prominent free agent starters such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez must play the waiting game. Those starters could end up as consolation prizes for clubs that fail to land Tanaka.
Tags:New York Yankees
Best fits for Balfour
December, 28, 2013
DEC 28
6:49
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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Grant Balfour insists there is plenty of interest in his services, even after his two-year $15 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles collapsed over a failed physical. The Australian righthander may be right.

Balfour, who has converted 62 of 67 save opportunities the last two years, told Sirius XM Radio last weekend that four teams are on his radar, and he has one offer on the table.

One of the suitors could be out west. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted Tuesday the Giants, have had “conversations” with Balfour. San Francisco appears set with Sergio Romo as their closer, but Balfour would give them another ninth-inning option.

The New York Yankees also have “shown some interest” in Balfour, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. Another team linked to Balfour is the Tampa Bay Rays, who could lose Fernando Rodney to free agency.

ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden had more Friday on the best fits for the remaining free agents, including Balfour:



Jim Bowden
Best fits for remaining free agents
"He was about to sign a deal with the Orioles until he flunked his physical, which no one in the league seems to understand because third-party doctors have declared him healthy and he has not been on the DL for years. This decision by the Orioles medical department could be huge for a team like the Rays, who could take advantage of the situation and buy low on Balfour. Possibilities: Rays, Mariners, Yankees, Indians, Mets.
Best fit: Rays. "
Tags:New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Grant Balfour
Friday Roundup: Yankees make contact
December, 27, 2013
DEC 27
2:52
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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No sooner than Masahiro Tanaka had been posted by Rakuten than the New York Yankees jumped into the fray, as New York Newsday reports that the team has already been in contact with Tanaka's agent.

As ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews points out, that agent is Casey Close, who has represented Derek Jeter in many negotiations with the Yankees. "In his last two negotiations with the Yankees, (Close) came away with more for his client than many expected him to get," Matthews writes. So if the Yankees are expecting to get Tanaka, they'll "need to be prepared to pay a steep price."

According to Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, one team that won't be content to let the Yankees win the war for Tanaka without a fight is the Seattle Mariners. He cites a baseball official as saying, "The Mariners are going to be a factor. They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team. They want the chance for moves like getting Cano to pay off. And they envision (Felix) Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation."

There's not a lot of buzz out there this Friday, as the holiday hangover lingers on. However, here's a look at a few stories making the major league rounds:
Matt Garza: With Tanaka's posting, most teams in need of help in the rotation are focusing their efforts on landing that free agent, leaving available pitchers like Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez in a holding pattern.
Shin-Soo Choo: Now that he's passed his physical, the Texas Rangers know for sure that the free agent outfielder will be in their lineup for 2014. The remaining question to answer is exactly where he'll play and where he'll hit in the batting order.
Aroldis Chapman: With some disagreement between Chapman and the organization as to exactly what role would be best for pitcher and team alike, is it possible that the best course of action for both parties going forward is to deal him elsewhere?
Kurt Suzuki: The Minnesota Twins made the one-year, $2.75 million deal with the catcher official back on Monday, with general manager Terry Ryan saying that "I would say he could get the bulk of the innings." That could mean Josmil Pinto might be headed for Triple-A to get consistent playing time, rather than staying in Minnesota as a full-time backup to Suzuki.
Ike Davis: According to Mike Davis of the New York Post, the Mets have "unsuccessfully tried to get" pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for their first baseman. In addition to the O's, the Mets are still said to be in talks with the Brewers and Pirates.
Tags:New York Yankees, Matt Garza, Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ike Davis, Ervin Santana, Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, Masahiro Tanaka
Should Reds shop Chapman?
December, 27, 2013
DEC 27
12:33
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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There's little room for argument that the Cincinnati Reds had one of the league's best rotations in 2013. But as ESPN.com's Buster Olney writes in his Friday blog, for the team to match last season's pitching performance, they'd be better served with Aroldis Chapman as part of that rotation.

"Former Manager Dusty Baker was never in favor of the idea of using Chapman as a starter, and Chapman himself has said he wants to continue being a reliever," Olney writes. "But part of the split between Baker and the front office was over Chapman and his role, and Baker is now gone, while his replacement, Bryan Price, has advocated using Chapman in the rotation."

So if Chapman won't budge on his stance that he wants to be a closer and Price thinks it makes more sense for him to be in the rotation, could the Reds decide the best course of action would be to trade the pitcher elsewhere?

Mark Sheldon of MLB.com says that he doesn't think the Reds will be able to make huge headlines before the start of next season. "I don't know if they can pull off the big trade at this point. That window seems to be closing. There could be some cheaper options slipping in price on the free agent market that could boost the team offensively."

But if Chapman were to be made available, could the Reds perhaps swing a big deal after all? John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer suggests it might be something the team should at least explore. "Chapman's 'I'm the closer' statement could not have set well with the front office. Chapman's greatest value is as a starter, but you can’t make him a starter if he doesn't want to start... the Reds have to at least consider moving him to rework the roster/payroll."
Tags:Cincinnati Reds, Aroldis Chapman
No second thoughts on Choo
December, 27, 2013
DEC 27
11:02
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Passing a physical prior to a contract becoming official has typically been a mere formality, but after watching Grant Balfour's deal with the Baltimore Orioles crumble just a week ago, perhaps we shouldn't take these things for granted.

That said, the Texas Rangers have announced they'll be holding a press conference on Friday afternoon to officially introduce Shin-Soo Choo as a member of the team. Thankfully, there are no post-physical second thoughts in Arlington.

What will Choo's role with the team be exactly? ESPN Dallas's Richard Durrett weighs in on that topic: "Choo likely will be the Rangers' new leadoff hitter, although manager Ron Washington has plenty of time to set his lineup and Choo could bat in a variety of spots.

"Leonys Martin, the club's planned leadoff hitter after Ian Kinsler was traded to Detroit for Prince Fielder last month, struggled in winter ball and doesn't have Choo's experience. Choo could play right or left field, with Alex Rios filling the other corner outfield position."


Jerry Crasnick
How Shin-Soo Choo landed in Texas
"Choo has never surpassed 22 homers or 22 stolen bases in a season, and his problems with left-handed pitching are well-documented. But he's a hard worker and popular teammate who has appeared in 150 or more games in three of the past five seasons. And when you look up from your box seat, chances are he'll be standing on first or second base. Since 2008, Choo has a .392 on-base percentage, seventh best in the majors among players with at least 2,500 plate appearances."
Tags:Texas Rangers, Leonys Martin, Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Rios
Free agent pitchers must wait in line
December, 27, 2013
DEC 27
9:15
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The fact that Masahiro Tanaka has been posted by his Japanese team will ultimately prove to be great news for the one team that ends up signing the pitcher. But for other pitchers on the free agent market, Tanaka's availability is likely to result in a month of waiting for the dust to settle before any of them finds a deal of their own.

Teams have until January 24 to make their case to Tanaka, and as ESPN.com's Buster Olney correctly points out, "For a team to not indicate a willingness to pay a $20 million posting fee on Tanaka is like not running out a grounder. (It) costs nothing to try."

But while teams like, perhaps, the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles -- just to name a few clubs that might see if they can't solve their rotation woes with Tanaka -- focus their attention on the former Rakuten ace, free agents Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez will all end up playing the waiting game.

Certainly in the cases of Santana and Jimenez, with the loss of a draft pick attached to their signing, teams will likely want to be sure they're completely out of the running for Tanaka before allocating their resources to either of those pitchers.

ESPN.com's Jim Bowden talks about the likely landing spots for the top remaining free agents here. Included in his analysis is Garza, who he feels could end up with the Los Angeles Angels. "The Angels are focusing on Tanaka and Garza and must sign one of them if they want to contend this year," he writes.

Bowden also thinks the Jimenez could end up back with the Cleveland Indians and that Santana is best suited for a trip to Arizona.
Tags:Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka
Thursday Roundup: Tanaka clock starts
December, 26, 2013
DEC 26
12:29
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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While most of the general managers around the major leagues have spent the past 24 hours with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, or otherwise enjoying the relatively relaxed pace of a holiday week, the news from out of Japan regarding the posting of Masahiro Tanaka will surely begin to bring things back into focus.

The pitcher has officially been posted by Rakuten, and the 30-day window for teams to negotiate a deal with Tanaka has begun. Clubs will have until the close of business on January 24 to try and reach an agreement with the pitcher.

ESPN.com's Jim Bowden discusses the five teams with the best shot at wooing Tanaka here. One of those teams is the Los Angeles Dodgers, and as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, Tanaka has chosen Casey Close as his agent. Close also represents Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, so it should not come as a shock were the Dodgers to end up winning Tanaka's services.

The rumor mill has been keeping a relatively low profile over the past 24-48 hours, but here's a few stories you might have missed over the past two days:
Don Mattingly: Whether or not the Dodgers do end up signing Tanaka, they've been very busy this past week securing free agents like Juan Uribe, Jamey Wright and Chris Perez. However, when it comes to the promised extension of their manager, nothing seems imminent.
Chris Narveson: The pitcher is one of several American players who have decided to head across the Pacific Ocean to play baseball in 2014. Narveson has reportedly joined the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Guillermo Moscoso heads to the Yokohama Bay Stars after spending last season with the San Francisco Giants. Chris Volstad is reportedly close to signing a contract with Korea's Doosan Bears.
Bronson Arroyo: ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes that the pitcher has been contacted by the New York Yankees and also includes the Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks as potential fits for the free agent. However, there's been no hard offers made as of yet.
Jeff Samardzija: He's been the focus of many trade rumors this offseason, but the pitcher is hoping that he will remain with the Chicago Cubs, not just for 2014, but for many years to come.
post #19272 of 77278
I know Uggla is gone, but how will we get rid of him? Who would be foolish enough to take his contract? The Indians took Lowe from us in 2012, so it's always possible, I'd just like to see how Wren pulls it off.
post #19273 of 77278
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I hear ya.

I should have pointed out that I that I think the division dwellers are going to be improved this season which will hurt them. I'm also not as sold on the rotation/lineup as you guys are.

I lean towards Detroit with 90 wins and everyone else landing between 72-80.

I can agree with that to an extent. If and when the lineup gets set but it really depends on how quickly that happens. Ned Yost constantly changed the lineup last year and it kinda pissed me off.:lol

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post #19274 of 77278
Boston Globe is saying a few GMs expect Yankees to go after Ubaldo Jimenez even if they were to get Tanaka.


Why the hell not I guess.
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post #19275 of 77278
Moustakas for Comeback Player of the Year. Or MIP.

Playing Venezuelan Winter League in December. Head start to work out of a bad 2013.
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post #19276 of 77278
Thread Starter 
I like him...but there's just too many problems to fix for it to be only one off season to help. I think he could be a second half guy and put up decent numbers. There's just too many things up in the air in that lineup for me. Plus, as @AlBooBoo5 pointed out, Yost juggles way too much.
post #19277 of 77278
Thread Starter 
post #19278 of 77278
Quote:
Guys are high on the Royals like that? I'd be shocked if they match 86 wins again.
Agreed. Just like this time last year, I don't get it.
post #19279 of 77278

can't see anybody taking uggla contract unless it's a year left (not sure) 

post #19280 of 77278
On paper, the Royals have improved their talent from their 86 win season while the Indians have done virtually nothing except add another platoon bat and the Tigers have gotten a little bit worse in my opinion. The game isn't played on paper though, but I can see them winning that division. If not they'll be fighting for a Wild Card spot again.
post #19281 of 77278
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post
 

can't see anybody taking uggla contract unless it's a year left (not sure) 

 

Uggla has two more years on his contract at $13 mil each year I think. And it's gonna be hard for Atlanta to get rid of him unless they agree to pay 75%+ of his contract. 

post #19282 of 77278
Something close to 2012 numbers is satisfactory. He's never hit for average. Power swing. Similar to Trumbo in some ways offensively.
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post #19283 of 77278
Crazy how the Braves never really spend money, but when they do it's on Dan Uggla and BJ Upton laugh.gif I'm not complaining though, I can't believe how hard BJ fell off last year though.
post #19284 of 77278
I kept the faith as long as I could. Maybe a new season will help BJ Upton.
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post #19285 of 77278
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

On paper, the Royals have improved their talent from their 86 win season while the Indians have done virtually nothing except add another platoon bat and the Tigers have gotten a little bit worse in my opinion. The game isn't played on paper though, but I can see them winning that division. If not they'll be fighting for a Wild Card spot again.

I definitely get all that.

But I can't count on a rotation with just Shields. Vargas, Davis, Guthrie & Duffy are all 4's and 5's to me. Maybe Duffy takes that next step this year. Control is the last thing to come back after TJS but he never had it to begin with TBH.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Something close to 2012 numbers is satisfactory. He's never hit for average. Power swing. Similar to Trumbo in some ways offensively.

And Trumbo is just really not worth much offensively to me laugh.gif those 20 HR's are going to come at a huge price with Moose. He's always been the type to be on one extreme or the other when it comes to making adjustments in his game or when he's in a cold spell. He doesn't make contact enough for to have that kinda faith in him I think. IMO, he's best suited as a platoon guy.
post #19286 of 77278
I don't like the Vargas signing for the Royals, major overpay. Do ya'll think they'll try to retain Ervin if the price is right and he's still out there?
post #19287 of 77278
BTW, anyone see Tim Kurkjian's bold predictions for 2014 on ESPN this morning?

Homie has Bryce Harper winning the Triple Crown and the Nats winning the World Series laugh.gif that's way more than bold, that's outrageous
post #19288 of 77278
I somewhat agree with Tim Kurkjian. I'm picking the Nats to win the WS assuming Matt Williams is the right manager for the club. If all clicks like a well oiled machine. The rotation is lethal. Just a matter of creating enough offense. Would make sense for Bryce Harper to backpack.

Slim to none in terms of Santana returning to KC. They already paid Vargas and Santana wants close to $20M-per.
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post #19289 of 77278
Another club will jump on Santana once Tanaka signs.
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post #19290 of 77278
Quote:
Top 10 teams in the majors
December, 31, 2013

As 2013 becomes 2014, here's a look at the top 10 teams in MLB.

1. Detroit Tigers

Some of the teams that employ advanced metrics determined at the end of the last regular season that the Tigers were the best team in the American League -- by far. This, in spite of a bullpen that repeatedly went through changes at closer, and in spite of what was widely regarded as the worst defense in the majors. The Tigers won the AL Central for the third straight year, and again they couldn't win the World Series, losing to Boston in the ALCS. And since the end of the season, Detroit GM David Dombrowski has gone about the business of plugging the holes.

He allowed Jhonny Peralta to depart, cementing Jose Iglesias' spot at shortstop. He traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, a change that will upgrade the Tigers' defense, because Miguel Cabrera now moves to the position he should play: first base. With Rajai Davis taking over in left field as part of a platoon with Andy Dirks, Detroit should now have a really good outfield, as well as more team speed.

And Dombrowski also added arguably the best available closer, Joe Nathan, who posted a 1.39 ERA in 2013. Some teams have concerns that Nathan, who turns 40 in 2014, will lose his stuff in the next couple of years. But the Tigers are more of a win-now team than any other in baseball, with a team designed not only to make the postseason, but to take the final step for owner Mike Ilitch and win the World Series. The Tigers have the ability to make that happen next season, with their dominant rotation, their shored-up bullpen and defense, and their more functional lineup -- under the guise of new manager Brad Ausmus.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

They haven't really made a big move yet this winter, re-signing Juan Uribe, Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell, and pinning down Dan Haren on a one-year deal. But even if they don't land another pitcher -- Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza or David Price -- they'll have an excellent pitching staff, and of course, the money and the motivation to get better and address holes during the regular season. One GM said that when you consider building a championship team, you have to factor in an additional 5 to 10 percent: The amount of money you can take on to fill needs that develop through injury and unexpected performance lapses. The Dodgers certainly have that.

If the Dodgers play the Tigers in the World Series, it'll be a match of the two teams currently placing the highest value on winning a championship.

They have Yasiel Puig, too, whose talent is as scary as his driving – which is why the Dodgers talked to him after his latest incident. The Dodgers are holding their breath over Puig, writes Bill Plaschke.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

They have the best collection of power pitching in baseball, with Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and others, on a staff led by Adam Wainwright. The offense could be as good as it was last year if Jhonny Peralta hits the way the Cardinals believe he will and Matt Adams and Kolten Wong transition into effective regular players.

4. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox's front office drew upon lessons learned from the past and maintained their discipline in the offseason, not feeling the need to try to top the magic that Boston accomplished in 2013.

They haven't surrendered any draft picks, they haven't boxed themselves in with long-term deals; payroll flexibility continues to be management's mantra. However, the cost of doing business this way will come to bear during the regular season if Boston's lineup safety nets do not materialize next summer.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn't develop into a serviceable big leaguer quickly, they'll have a hole in center field and in the leadoff spot. If Xander Bogaerts doesn't realize stardom quickly -- and the expectation of rival evaluators is that he has a chance to make a rapid ascent, like a Manny Machado -- then Boston's infield will have problems. The Red Sox have a major unknown before them: Clay Buchholz was among the game's best pitchers in the first half of the season, and missed most of the second half due to injury, and Boston really has no idea what production he will provide.

But the bet here is that as part of Boston's new-found discipline, the front office is prepared to maintain a steady, big-picture course, rather than pursue a frenzied (and perhaps a little irrational) chase in trying to win the World Series again -- in the first 3 1/2 months of the season, at least. If the Red Sox are well-positioned again in July and have holes, that would be the time for them to be aggressive.

5. Oakland Athletics

In some respects, Oakland's back-to-back division championships with a payroll of half of its main competitors is more impressive than a World Series win would be for most other teams. This is the dance Oakland must do, and the Athletics should again have a strong team, with a deep pitching staff (including one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball) and a lineup filled with walks and home runs.

It will be crucial for them that Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie continue to be lineup anchors, because the Athletics aren't really structured to absorb regression in these two key players. It would help a lot if Yoenis Cespedes had a bounce-back season.

6. Texas Rangers

They needed offensive help and merely added two players who ranked among the top 40 in OPS in 2013 in Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. Choo will help the top of the lineup, Fielder will help the middle. Rival evaluators say that while Jurickson Profar is not close to making an instant impact at the level of a Bryce Harper or a Mike Trout, he could become a really good player, and he could take a major step forward after feeling his way around big league pitching in 2013.

The Rangers' pitching should be strong, although they have major X factors in Matt Harrison, who is coming back from back trouble, and Neftali Feliz, who will try to return to his role as closer.

The Rangers owners OK'd the Fielder and Choo deals, as Drew Davison writes.

7. Atlanta Braves

Their budget lines are all but immovable, and as the Braves' impressive young players have begun to climb into their arbitration years, Atlanta had some tough decisions to make this winter, allowing Brian McCann and Tim Hudson to walk away. But the Braves have three high-end position players in first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and right fielder Jason Heyward, as well as the game's best closer (Craig Kimbrel) and what should be a good rotation. There are three major questions on this roster:

1. What will the team's highest-paid player, B.J. Upton, provide after hitting .184 last season?
2. Will Dan Uggla bounce back after batting .179 and being left off the postseason roster?
3. Will Justin Upton be as good as he was early in the year, or just an average player, as he was in the middle of the season?

8. Washington Nationals

They were heavy favorites to make the postseason last year and never really challenged the Braves for the division title after Atlanta started strongly. The Nats' lineup was strangely ineffective, with the coaching staff greatly concerned about what they perceived to be a passive approach from too many hitters, and injuries hurt them in key spots.

So Washington GM Mike Rizzo made one of the best trades of the winter in dealing for Detroit's Doug Fister, added outfield depth by signing Nate McLouth and bolstered the bullpen by dealing for Jerry Blevins. The issue that could nag them is the relative health of some of their primary players, who have extensive injury histories.

9. Kansas City Royals

The Royals have been building for the season to come for many years, and after taking a step forward last season, they will try to break through and make the playoffs, as the Pirates did last year. Their bullpen is among the very best, and so is their defense, and their lineup should be improved by the addition of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. The major issue for the Royals -- besides playing in the same division as the Tigers and Indians -- is the question of who will make up for the production of Ervin Santana.

It may still be possible that the answer to that is Santana himself, if his diminished free-agent market compels him to try to work out a deal with the Royals, who would be open to this if it's on their terms.

If Santana does come back, the Royals may well have their most complete team since the 1985 version that won the World Series.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates

They broke through to make the postseason last season, and their strong core remains in place, built around Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, their bullpen, and starters Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton.

Pittsburgh's front office showed it would be aggressive in aiding the team if it thought it had a chance to win, and it's still possible the Pirates will augment their roster for next season. But Pittsburgh is good enough to contend already, and it may be the Pirates' most significant augmentations will happen next season, as their needs become more acute.

Honorable mention: The Tampa Bay Rays, although we don't yet know the status of David Price for 2014; the Cincinnati Reds, with Billy Hamilton's development being absolutely crucial for the lineup; the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been aggressive in trying to build a winner for 2014; the Cleveland Indians, if they can repair a rotation hurt by the departures of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir; and the Los Angeles Angels, if their moves to bolster the rotation pay off.

If the Yankees are the team to sign Tanaka, they would jump right into the middle of this list of top teams. If not, their pitching staff won't be good enough to contend unless Michael Pineda rediscovers his 2011 excellence.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Nationals signed Will Rhymes.

2. The Pirates added a first baseman in a minor deal. Pittsburgh might theoretically be a fit for Kendrys Morales on a very team-friendly contract, but the Pirates would have to give up their first-round draft pick, and the draft money attached to it. You might as well ask them to surrender some oxygen.

3. The Royals signed a couple of veterans to free-agent deals.

AL East

• The Yankees could still dip below $189 million with an in-season sell-off, writes Joel Sherman.

• The Orioles have talked about a possible swap for Ike Davis, writes Eduardo Encina.

• The Orioles owe it to their fans to take their best shot, writes Nick Cafardo.

• The Rays are excited about Ryan Hanigan's defense, writes Joe Smith.

AL Central

• A Detroit right-hander has impressed in winter ball.

• Don Cooper is confident that the White Sox will be able to find a closer.

NL East

• These are the Nationals stories of the year, from Adam Kilgore.

• The Braves have some other bullpen weapons, as David O'Brien notes.

NL Central

• Ryan Braun's suspension was voted as a top story.

Other stuff

• Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell have been snubbed, writes Kurt Mensching.

• Richard Griffin won't vote for Roger Clemens.

• Some e-mail exchanges between Alex Rodriguez and team president Randy Levine were published.

• Daniel Nava has time to count his blessings.

• James Franklin won't say if he's staying at Vanderbilt.

And today will be better than yesterday.
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