NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 985

post #29521 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post

Damn. That video makes me remember how happy I was when the Astros clinched the NLCS in 2005. One day Houston will get another championship.
Soon
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
post #29522 of 77568
Thread Starter 
We are officially the off season thread. Will start posting up some articles today.
post #29523 of 77568
Tribe better do something.
O-H-I-O

CAVALIERS - INDIANS - BROWNS - BUCKEYES
Reply
O-H-I-O

CAVALIERS - INDIANS - BROWNS - BUCKEYES
Reply
post #29524 of 77568
Thread Starter 
'Great' free-agent pitcher market is illusory.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
These are just some of the pitchers who could be available through free agency or trade in the next 13 months: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Francisco Liriano, Cole Hamels, Ervin Santana, Edinson Volquez, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Zack Greinke, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, Hisashi Iwakuma, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy and John Lackey.


Major League Baseball’s market has never seen so much attractive pitching available all at once, although executives throughout the sport are aware this shift is something of an optical illusion, created by the historic drop in run production in recent seasons.

As an example, Lester has a résumé filled with postseason excellence while pitching in the AL East: He dominated the playoffs in 2013, and followed that with his best statistical regular season in 2014.

But the lack of offense blurs the gap between Lester and the rest of this pack of pitchers.

Lester finished 12th this past season in xFIP, a metric which measures pitching independent of the defense.

But here’s the thing: Unless your name is Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg or Corey Kluber, there wasn’t a lot of separation from the pack. Lester posted a 3.10 xFIP, while 38 pitchers finished at 3.59 or better, including others who have already hit the free-agent or trade market or will within the next year: Price, Scherzer, Brandon McCarthy, Samardzija, Hamels, Cueto, Hammel, Liriano, Kennedy, Santana, Lackey and Greinke.

Within that context, Lester doesn't look quite so special.

In past winters, teams were starved for a pitcher like Lester. But in the winter of 2014-15, teams are operating with the knowledge that if they don’t land Scherzer or Lester, generally regarded as the two best free-agent pitchers, they’ll be able to get somebody else pretty good.

Good offensive players, by comparison, are a scarce commodity in the current market.

“I think there will be a lot of pitching on the market,” said one highly ranked evaluator. “Conversely, there will not be much hitting at all. In a time where offense is down to historic levels, it makes offensive weapons incredibly valuable.”

He went on to write in an email: “I think that concept validates some of what the Cubs have been doing in terms of stockpiling bats, because there are no hitters available in the market and those that are available have warts like injuries (Hanley Ramirez) or defensive inflexibility (Victor Martinez). There is a lot of pitching in the market, and the two teams with the best rotations (Nationals and Tigers) were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.”

Based on conversations with club officials, the shifting market dynamic could lead decision-makers down these paths:

1. Some teams may wait on the pitching market.

The Cubs are in a perfect position to do this. They’re expected to make a push for 2015, but with their young position players still developing, they can be patient, and flex their payroll power over the next two or three winters, rather than pay high this winter.

[+] EnlargeTheo Epstein and Jed Hoyer
AP Images/Nam Y. Huh
Some believe Jed Hoyer (left) and Theo Epstein will renew their business relationship with Jon Lester.
They have been linked to Lester time and again, partly because of the past connection of executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to Lester in Boston. It’s possible that the Cubs -- who bid $140 million on Masahiro Tanaka last winter -- may want to step out and aggressively grab Lester to lead their staff.

But on the other hand, if the Cubs wait, the game of pitching musical chairs will play out and the prices are likely to go down as the Lesters and Scherzers go off the board. The Cubs will eventually get some good pitching, perhaps for greater cost effectiveness. If they don’t get Lester in the next month, well, they could get Price, or Zimmermann, or Cueto, or they could use a high-end prospect to build a deal for Hamels. The options are plentiful.

Tanaka got a record-setting contract from the Yankees last winter because he was a one-of-a-kind item in the market, an elite 25-year-old starting pitcher. Nobody will hit the market with that kind of context in the next 13 months, because of the high volume of pitching available.

2. Agents for some of the better pitchers may be aggressive.

Scott Boras, who represents Scherzer, tends to work on a calendar all his own -- sometimes waiting until past New Year's to make deals for his free agents -- in the belief that eventually, teams will pay what he considers to be the appropriate prices for the talent of his clients.

The strategy certainly worked for Prince Fielder a few winters ago, before the Tigers worked out a $214 million deal, and some club evaluators expect that Boras may be willing to do that for Scherzer, a former Cy Young winner.

But other agents may move quickly in ascertaining the best possible early price for their clients, out of the concern that as the offseason drags on, the available dollars will plummet, and market price for pitchers will sink. Lester is represented by Seth and Sam Levinson, agents who have a reputation for getting their clients signed early in the offseason.

3. Given the starvation for offense, some teams could dangle position players to take advantage of spiked pricing.

MLB Trade Rumors ranks Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Victor Martinez and Melky Cabrera as the best available free-agent position players.

It’s a less-than-perfect group. A whole lot of evaluators believe that while Ramirez can hit, he needs to change positions immediately, whether it be to corner outfield or third or first base. Sandoval has the well-documented issue of conditioning that will affect the offer from the Giants, and perhaps other teams. Martinez is seen as a DH-only player. And Cabrera has a history of PED use.

With options for upgrades in the free-agent market few and far between, some executives believe that teams could take advantage of that by dangling some veterans for trade, including:

Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: The 25-year-old Gold Glove winner will be a free agent after next season, and if Atlanta president John Hart determines that the team will not be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal, the best play for the team could be to trade him now, to recoup as much value as possible. And within the context of the current position player market, Heyward would look like a gem.

Yes, he has been erratic offensively, but he has power, he takes walks, and he is regarded as a shutdown defender at a time when the industry places a high priority in that.

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics: To date, there is zero indication that Oakland will consider trading its third baseman, who ranked sixth in WAR among all players last season. But if the Athletics look to turn over their roster and swap veterans for major league ready talent -- as they have with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Gio Gonzalez, etc., in the past -- Donaldson’s value will never be higher than it is right now, considering that he is early in his climb up the arbitration ladder.

Remember, Donaldson is not 22 or 23 years old; he’s a late bloomer who turns 29 next month.

Yoenis Cespedes, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox did not acquire Cespedes with the idea of flipping him in a winter trade, and in the last two months of the regular season with Boston, Cespedes demonstrated what he can do -- the good (high run production) and the not-so-good (a .296 on-base percentage in 213 plate appearances).

Boston does have a surplus of outfielders and first base types -- Mookie Betts, Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Cespedes, Mike Napoli, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Shane Victorino -- but often, a winter glut is quickly solved by injury and performance. The Red Sox have no idea whether Victorino will be physically able to help them moving forward, and while Bradley is one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors, there is significant concern about whether he’ll hit in the big leagues.

Cespedes is headed for free agency after next season, and has an attribute coveted in the current market: power. It might be worthwhile for the Red Sox to at least determine what’s possible in the trade market this winter.

Ben Cherington said last week that Cespedes’ recent change in agents will not impact Boston’s plan. Cespedes is something of a puzzler, writes Scott Lauber.

Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox: He’s entering the last year of his contract, for $16 million, and with Craig signed through 2017 (with an option for 2018), and perhaps best suited for first base, Boston could weigh offers for Napoli, 33. He had a .370 on-base percentage last season, and is an adept first baseman, perfect for a team like Seattle.

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves: Like Heyward, the 27-year-old Upton will be eligible for free agency after next season. Coming off a summer in which he had 29 homers among 65 extra-base hits, he’s worth a lot more in trade now than the draft pick the Braves would get if he walked away as a free agent next fall. If the Braves don’t think they can afford to sign him to a long-term deal, then trading him this winter -- in the thin market for power hitting -- could be the smart move.

Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa Bay just picked up Zobrist’s $7.5 million option for next season, the last year in his contract, and there would be a solid market for the utilityman if the Rays chose to swap him now. If Tampa Bay kept him through the end of next season, it probably wouldn’t give him a qualifying offer, and his departure wouldn’t yield a draft pick. This could be the best time to move him.

Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals: He’s a year from free agency, and at 29 years old, is among the best offensive shortstops in the game; only three shortstops had a better OPS than Desmond in 2014: Hanley Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta and Starlin Castro. If Washington determines Desmond will be too expensive for its taste in a long-term deal, and finds a suitable replacement for him for 2015, it could take advantage of the current need for shortstops -- the Dodgers, Yankees and Mets are all looking for solutions at the position -- and move him this winter.

The Chicago Cubs' many infielders: They have a range of options to offer in the market if they so choose, from Starlin Castro -- who is still just 24 years old and under contract -- to the mercurial Javier Baez to high-end prospect Addison Russell. The market is starved for infielders who can hit, and the Cubs are loaded with them.

Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: To be clear, this is only speculation. But Machado has had unusual knee injuries end each of his past two seasons, and the Orioles are in a position to at least ask the question: Is Machado going to be part of the long-term solution in Baltimore?

[+] EnlargeManny Machado
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Manny Machado has sustained two significant injuries the past two season.
The timing for a long-term deal for the 22-year-old simply may never happen for Baltimore, which tends to shy away from the long-term Joey Votto and Ryan Braun types of deals.

The Orioles might not be ready to even think about investing in Machado until he shows he can stay healthy for a full season (or two, for that matter), and by the time that happens, Machado may be so close to free agency that he might prefer to wait.

Baltimore has the option of talking with other teams this winter and seeing what it could get for Machado. The return could be enormous, given his age, his current low salary, and his potential.

Again, this is speculation. But if the Orioles want to take advantage of Machado’s relative value in the current position player market, and have their doubts about keeping him long term, now would be a good time to discuss the idea.

As long as we’re speculating ...

Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates: He was a utility player in his first three seasons in the majors, and in 2014, he blossomed, hitting .315 with 58 extra-base hits, playing so well that teammate Andrew McCutchen endorsed him as the team MVP.

Pittsburgh could pencil him in at third base next season and move on. But he is 27 years old, and if the Pirates’ internal evaluation of him is that he overachieved last season, and maxed out in his production, there could be no better time to weigh offers for him, when his value is at its highest and when he’s still making relatively little money.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates: A decade ago, a player fitting Alvarez’s profile would scare off a lot of teams: someone who generates an inordinate number of strikeouts while presenting very limited positional options because of his throwing issue developed at third base. Alvarez hit .231 last season, with 113 strikeouts in 451 plate appearances.

But Alvarez is an elite power hitter, having led the NL with 36 homers in 2013, and if the Pirates don’t want to commit first base to him for next season, there probably would be teams (like Seattle or Miami) prepared to give him his next opportunity. His power would translate in ballparks of any dimension.

Chris Carter, Houston Astros: He turns 28 next month, and is coming off a season in which he clubbed 37 homers. He also batted .222, and the Astros could ask themselves these questions:

1. What do we see in Carter’s future, and do we think he’ll continue to get better?

2. By the time we contend, will he be viable for us?

The answers might nudge them in the direction of swapping Carter sooner rather than later.

Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels: He’ll be a free agent next fall, and at 31 years old, he’s a good run producer when compared to other middle infielders. Kendrick batted .293 with a .744 OPS last season. Rival officials believe the Angels will trade him this winter.

Around the league

• For MLB teams, there is the constant question of how to slice the payroll pie, writes Travis Sawchik.

• On the last podcast of the season Friday, Tim Kurkjian and Jayson Stark went team by team in forecasting the offseason.

• Paul Molitor is on the verge of being hired by the Twins as their manager, and he is ready, writes Jim Souhan. Minnesota offered its job to Molitor, writes Mike Beradino.

• As expected, the Royals declined the option on Billy Butler. The market is absolutely saturated with DH-type players, beginning with Martinez all the way down to Morales.


Milwaukee First Basemen in 2014
Stat 2014 MLB rank
Homers 19 17
OPS .642 28
Runs 61 28
Total bases 203 28
The Brewers never had a great solution at first base in 2014, and so not surprisingly, they jumped on an alternative early for 2015, swapping Marco Estrado for Adam Lind.

The Blue Jays are hoping this deal paves the way for change, writes John Lott.

The Blue Jays are tendering a qualifying offer to Cabrera, and Toronto’s best hope for re-signing him is probably to have the market drive Cabrera back to them, the way Adam LaRoche was pushed by circumstance back to the Nationals two winters ago. If some team is comfortable with Cabrera’s PED history and is willing to give up the draft pick to sign him, maybe he gets a four-year deal elsewhere; if not, the Jays may get him back sometime later in the winter.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rockies decided not to pick up Brett Anderson’s $12 million option for 2015. Really, this is a win-win situation for Anderson. If the Rockies had picked up the option, the left-hander -- who is still just 26 years old -- could’ve made more money than his recent injury-plagued production merited.

But now that the Rockies declined the option, Anderson has the opportunity to sign elsewhere -- for less money, presumably -- but in a park where he could rebuild his value. He’d be a great fit for Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, who has developed a reputation for rebuilding pitchers, from Scott Feldman to Jason Hammel to Jake Arrieta.

2. The Rays are seeking the right ingredients with their next manager, writes Marc Topkin. Within this piece, Topkin wonders: Were the Cubs somehow exempt from interviewing minority candidates for their managerial job?

AL East

• Alex Rodriguez and Pablo Sandoval muddle the Yankees’ situation with Chase Headley, writes George King.

AL Central

• Carlos Santana is a better fit at first base, writes Terry Pluto.

• The Tigers have a big prospect in Steven Moya.

NL Central

• The Cubs should apologize for nothing, writes David Haugh.

NL West

• The Diamondbacks should get a boost from their new TV contract.

• New Rockies GM Jeff Bridich should be judged by his actions, writes Patrick Saunders.

• The Giants’ rookies could be the key to next season, writes John Shea.

• San Diego’s front office is taking shape, writes Dennis Lin.

Lastly

• Major League Baseball needs to rekindle fan interest in the World Series, writes Bill Plaschke.

• Vanderbilt beat Old Dominion.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Tampa's choice on tampering charges.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Imagine that you are in a position of power with the Tampa Bay Rays and you are convinced the Cubs violated Major League Baseball rules by tampering with Joe Maddon.

What would you do next?

The Rays have a choice between two distinct routes, now that the Cubs have formally announced Maddon’s hiring. The position they are in may not be that much different than the place where Boston manager John Farrell found himself when Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda walked to the mound with a gob of pine tar on his neck in April.

Farrell had the option of simply ignoring what he saw -- what everybody saw -- with the knowledge that a lot of pitchers veer around the written rules, including his own. Farrell certainly is well aware that a lot of pitchers will shave the forearm of their glove hand and cover it with sunscreen, or that they will glop the underside of their caps with pine tar, and in a moment of need, will go to that spot in their ongoing effort to get a better grip on the ball.

But Pineda’s violation seemed so blatant to him, so brazen, that Farrell also had to consider the ramifications if he didn’t do anything -- that he would look like a pushover. He would look like someone who let his team get beat without a fight.

And we know what happened next: Farrell went to the umpires and asked them to check Pineda, and the pitcher was quickly ejected.

From the Rays’ perspective, the way the Maddon situation has played out must be, well, maddening. In the hours after Andrew Friedman’s departure to the Dodgers was announced, Maddon publicly stated a renewed commitment to remain with the Rays for the long term, and Matt Silverman -- who replaced Friedman at the head of the Rays’ baseball operations -- announced that Maddon would be the manager for 2015, and that the team would work to sign him to a long-term deal.

And the Rays followed up. They opened negotiations with Maddon and offered him a deal that would guarantee him standing as one of baseball’s highest-paid managers. There was a sense in the Tampa Bay organization that the two sides were on the verge of a deal.

Then, abruptly, something changed, days before Maddon formally opted out of his contract.

Something changed, something which, to the Rays, probably looks like the gob of stuff on Pineda’s neck.

So if you’re Stuart Sternberg, the principal shareholder of the Rays, there are probably two options.

You could move on, believing that you are the aggrieved party in what you consider to be an outrageous violation of the rules, but also understanding that it would be extremely difficult to prove that the Cubs tampered with Maddon while he was under contract. You also realize that even if somehow you were to prevail with a tampering charge, the payoff for you would be minimal. No matter the outcome of an investigation, the practical reality is that Maddon is not coming back, and the recompense that Major League Baseball would grant the Rays probably wouldn’t be that great. When the Rays acquired Lou Piniella from the Mariners more than a decade ago, they gave up Randy Winn, a decent player who wasn’t a star; when Theo Epstein went from the Red Sox to the Cubs, Boston got pitcher Chris Carpenter (after months of haggling), a Grade B prospect who made eight appearances for the Red Sox.

The Rays could choose to look at this whole situation as a blessing in disguise: Given Maddon’s interest in more money and opportunity elsewhere, it’s probably better for the Rays that they can hire their next manager now rather than having it drag on throughout the 2015 season.

If Sternberg moves on, he would do so with the knowledge that tampering is not unusual in the industry. Some teams choose to go through the proper channels, and other teams ignore them.

The other option for the Rays is to stand on principle.

If the Rays believe the Cubs broke rules, and became the latest example of a big-market team using its financial might to push around a small-market team, then they could stand their ground and demand an investigation -- cheered on, undoubtedly, by a lot of folks with other teams, who believe this situation smells really bad.

From the Rays’ perspective, the Cubs’ press release about Rick Renteria’s firing, with the statement attributed to president Theo Epstein, probably read like somebody setting up an alibi:
Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon -- who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us -- had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.

While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.

We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent major league manager when given his next chance.

Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.

If the Rays believe the Cubs affected their negotiations with an employee under contract, they have the right to ask Major League Baseball to investigate the possible contact between Maddon and the Cubs.

(MLB is certainly capable of doing at least a base-level inquiry. In April, MLB issued a document-retention order to all 30 teams asking for phone records and e-mails that reflected contact with me, and MLB followed up on that initial order with specific questions. The investigation was viewed by some at the team level as a clear effort to intimidate them into silence with a reporter who isn’t employed by MLB.)

If the Rays believe the Cubs cheated and ask for an investigation, they would at least send the message that they aren’t going to simply stand by and let themselves get pushed around without a fight. From the Rays’ perspective, this could be business, and not personal, like Farrell walking out to the umpires and saying: Hey, Pineda leaves me no choice but to ask you to check on that gob on his neck.

Imagine that you were in a position of power with the Rays: What route would you take? Would you move on, or ask for an investigation?

Joe Maddon vs. Cubs managers since 2006
Maddon Cubs managers
Win pct rank 10th 26th
90-win seasons 5 1
Playoff wins 13 0
World Series app 1 0
Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, Rick Renteria
ESPN Stats & Information
• From ESPN Stats & Information: The Cubs will announce the hiring of former Tampa Bay Rays skipper Joe Maddon as the 54th manager in franchise history on Monday. Maddon had been with the Rays since 2006.

• The Cubs are doing the right thing, writes Steve Wulf.

• The Cubs made the right move, writes Paul Sullivan.

• It’s a dirty dismissal, but it may be worth it, writes Rick Telander.

• For the Rays, this stings, writes Martin Fennelly.

• No Tampa Bay coaches will join Maddon in Chicago, writes Marc Topkin.

• On Friday’s podcast, Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian provided forecasts for the offseason for the Giants, Royals, Angels and more than a dozen other teams.

• Madison Bumgarner was the MVP of the victory parade, as well. A whole lot of people greeted the Giants.

• Pablo Sandoval said he wants to stay with the Giants. San Francisco will have to go beyond its comfort level to keep Sandoval, but he will have to bend, too, if this is going to work, given the enormous gap in negotiations between the two sides a few months ago.

• The Yankees will tender a qualifying offer to David Robertson on Monday, and as written here a few times after the All-Star break, it’s a complete no-brainer for a big-market team. If he accepts, then he will have the highest salary of any reliever in the majors, at $15.3 million, but the Yankees have extremely short-term risk, because they’d only be obligated for one year. And if he rejects that offer and goes into the marketplace, then the Yankees would gladly take the compensation draft pick and install Dellin Betances as their closer.

In an era when most teams wouldn’t think about paying a reliever more than $8 million to $10 million (the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon are an exception), it’s hard to imagine a team coming close to matching the salary the Yankees are offering while also giving up a draft pick.

Lots of player options being determined:

1. A.J. Burnett rejected his end of a $15 million team option. Now he has to decide whether he wants to take a player option, for $12.75 million -- which is like free money, and he wouldn’t get anything close to that with another team. If he turned it down, it would be a gift from the baseball gods for the Phillies.

2. The Red Sox rejected their option on Craig Breslow.

3. The Tigers picked up their option on Joakim Soria.

4. The Reds declined a couple of options.

5. The Brewers picked up their end of their option with Aramis Ramirez, and now they’ll await an answer from him.

6. The Brewers made a great hire in adding Ray Montgomery.

7. The Rockies exercised an option on LaTroy Hawkins.

8. Chad Billingsley became a free agent.

9. The Angels made it official and picked up the option on Huston Street.

10. Oakland announced changes with its coaching staff.

11. The Pirates are likely to be in the market for a pitcher and catcher as the market opens.

12. Jason Giambi will be a difficult fit for the Indians’ roster next season.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees are looking at Raul Ibanez as a coach, and they hired Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.

2. The Mets cleared room on their roster

3. The Jays added Andy Dirks.

4. Colby Lewis will test the free-agent market.

NL Central

• A breakdown of the Cardinals’ five free agents, from Bernie Miklasz.

NL West

• The Dodgers should keep Andre Ethier, writes Steve Dilbeck.

I’d respectfully disagree. I’d call the Baltimore Orioles and look to make a bad contract-for-bad contract swap for Ubaldo Jimenez. The Dodgers have two horses in their rotation in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, so Jimenez’s tendency to pitch five or six innings and drain the bullpen won’t be as much of a factor for them as for other teams. And if Jimenez found his mojo while working with Rick Honeycutt, the potential payoff is probably far greater than anything they could get out of Ethier.

AL Central

• Vahe Gregorian writes about Dayton Moore.

• The Tigers are at a fork in the road, writes Lynn Henning.

AL West

• The Justin Smoak era ended in Seattle, as Larry Stone writes.

• Evan Grant explains why Jeff Banister kept his staff mostly intact.

Lastly

• The Mets filed papers in the civil suit filed by a fired team executive. It’s hard to imagine this actually going to trial -- because, as the Mets certainly know, it would become daily fodder for the front and back pages of the tabloids.

• Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward won awards.

• There is a change in the Rays’ broadcast team.

• Jim Kaat deserves a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And today will be better than yesterday.

What lies ahead for key Series people.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here's a look at what comes next for many of the primary figures from the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals …

For Pablo Sandoval, there's free agency. Six months ago, it seemed like there was no chance Sandoval would work out a deal with the Giants, and it's still very possible he'll leave, given the gap between what he might ask for and what the Giants seem comfortable in paying. They've had concerns about his conditioning, and going beyond a three-year deal may seem like an enormous risk.

But more than any other franchise, San Francisco places a high value on what a player has done in the past, including contributions on the field, clubhouse standing and with Giants fans. This is part of the reason they gave Tim Lincecum a two-year, $35 million deal last fall: He won Cy Young Awards for the team, and was beloved by the fans.

So it's possible that the Giants will extend themselves beyond their comfort level for Sandoval, given his role in the team's three championships and how revered he is in San Francisco. And no one can doubt how much confidence he plays with on the sport's greatest stage.

Before Game 7, Sandoval chatted next to the batting cage, and I asked him about how Yordano Ventura had stared him down in two plate appearances in Game 6, first when he hit a bouncer to the mound and then later after he drew a walk. Sandoval was aware of what happened, and as far as he knew, he had no history with Ventura; he says he doesn't know him. "He's jealous," Sandoval concluded with a smile.

"Of what?" I asked him.

"I've won two World Series, and I'm going to win a third tonight," he said.

The words weren't really meant as a personal dig at Ventura; they just reflected the raging confidence of a player sure he would succeed, a player who always seems to dominate October.

For Ned Yost, there is peace of mind. The Royals' manager, who was in the vortex of controversy all year because of his decisions, reached Game 7 of the World Series, and he handled all of it with grace, accountability and appreciation. Oh, sure, there's debate in Kansas City on Thursday morning over whether he should've pinch-hit for Norichika Aoki in the eighth inning of Game 7, but as Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, there are a lot of managers and a lot of questions about a lot of decisions.

For Bruce Bochy, there is the Hall of Fame. He is the 10th manager to win three championships, and the other nine are already in the Hall of Fame. The only question now is if they can find a plaque large enough for his Size 8 ¾ cap.

For Giants GM Brian Sabean, there is the Hall of Fame. He hired Bochy when the Padres didn't want him anymore, and he has three championships, too. And folks with the Yankees will tell you that while working in that team's front office in the early '90s, Sabean played a major role in laying the groundwork for that dynasty of 1996-2001.

For Lorenzo Cain, there is a new view, from his newfound standing among the game's upper echelon of players.

For Alex Gordon and Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele, a lifetime of what-ifs, after the crazy play in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7.

[+] EnlargeAlex Gordon
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Would Alex Gordon have been safe had he tried to score in the ninth inning? We'll never know.
Let's make one thing clear: No player in baseball works harder than Gordon, who transitioned himself from a struggling third baseman to an impact defensive left fielder. His work ethic to get better is well-known among teammates.

When he hit a looping line drive with two outs in the ninth inning, however, he did what most players do: He cruised out of the batter's box to first base. He wasn't dogging it, but he wasn't running at full speed, either; we know this because after he saw the ball skip past Gregor Blanco, he gained speed between first and second. Juan Perez fumbled the ball near the fence, and Gordon raced for third base. As Gordon neared the bag, Perez's throw reached relay man Brandon Crawford in the outfield, and Jirschele stopped him, with two outs. Crawford was not forced to make an accurate throw to home plate to get Gordon.

What if Gordon had run as fast as possible from home plate to first base, right out of the box? What if he had given himself and Jirschele another stride or two, to give the coach a better possibility of sending him home for the potential tying run?

What if Jirschele had sent him? Should he have sent him, given Madison Bumgarner's dominance and the knowledge that the next hitter, Salvador Perez, was probably going to need a hit to drive in a run?

We'll never know exactly what could've happened. We only know what did happen, which is that Perez popped up and the World Series ended.

For Royals GM Dayton Moore, there is stability. There were reports earlier this season that he and Yost were in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but now that should end. His vision of collecting players with athleticism and defensive skills has paid off, and the Royals would not have reached the World Series without his trades for James Shields, Cain, Alcides Escobar, Wade Davis and Jeremy Guthrie. And here's something else: The folks in the organization love working for him. He has earned all that the Royals won this fall.

For Joe Panik, there is a great future. The Giants tried a bunch of other guys at second base, and after they turned to Panik following the All-Star break, what they got was comfortable, confident at-bats, steady defense and a tremendous presence. Panik started an exceptional double play in the third inning of Game 7, diving to his right and gloving the ball, and when he realized he might not have the time to reach for the ball with his bare hand and flip to Crawford, he did so with his glove. After the game, I asked him how many times he had done that in a game in his life, on a play around second?

Panik paused and said, "I have to be honest with you: That was the first."

He had practiced it, he said, but had never actually done it in a game. "It was instinctual," Panik said.

He'll get a lot more opportunities to do that with the Giants in the years ahead. He is entrenched.

For Hunter Pence, there is a reward, for his incredible effort and the incredible consistency of his effort. He seems to work every day to make himself better, and to help others get better. He is the engine of this team.

2+ wins, 20+ IP, Sub-0.50 ERA in a World Series
Player Team, Year
Madison Bumgarner Giants, 2014
Sandy Koufax* Dodgers, 1965
Harry Brecheen Cardinals, 1946
Carl Hubbell* Giants, 1933
Waite Hoyt* Yankees, 1921
Christy Mathewson* Giants, 1905* MLB Hall of Famer
For Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, there is preeminence. His was the most pivotal performance in the World Series since the 1960s, when Mickey Lolich and Bob Gibson each dominated a series with three complete games, since Lew Burdette in 1957, since Christy Mathewson threw three shutouts in a five-game series in 1905. But this is a different time and era, with greater focus on pitch counts and short relievers. Bumgarner carried the Giants this postseason, throwing the first pitch in the wild-card game against the Pirates -- on his way to a shutout -- and then the last pitch against the Royals. He set a record by throwing 52 2/3 innings in the postseason, more than double the pitcher who threw the second-most innings (Ventura with 25 1/3 innings). Bumgarner threw 21 innings in the World Series alone, and the other three Giants starters combined threw 16 1/3 innings.

You often see this sort of phenomenon in Little League, where the one big kid who hit puberty first and throws really hard hoists a team onto his back. You do not usually see it in the big leagues. But we did in this World Series, which is why the Giants players all rushed out of the dugout to embrace Bumgarner after the game.

Some great Bumgarner numbers from ESPN Stats & Info and Elias:

Bumgarner only gets better as the stakes get higher:

Bumgarner's career regular-season ERA: 3.06
Postseason ERA: 2.14
World Series ERA: 0.25

Bumgarner finished the 2014 postseason with a 4-1 record, .153 opponents' batting average and a 1.03 ERA, the third-lowest single postseason ERA for a pitcher with at least five starts:

Lowest ERA in a postseason (minimum five starts)

Burt Hooton: 0.82 ERA (1981)
John Smoltz: 0.95 ERA (1996)
Madison Bumgarner: 1.03 ERA (2014)
Orel Hershiser: 1.05 ERA (1988)

Bumgarner set the single postseason record with 52 2/3 innings pitched (47 2/3 as starter), while the rest of the Giants starters threw just 48 1/3 innings combined.

Most innings pitched in a single postseason

Madison Bumgarner: 52 2/3 innings (2014)
Curt Schilling: 48 1/3 innings (2001)
Deacon Phillippe: 44 innings (1903)
Josh Beckett: 42 2/3 innings (2003)
Orel Hershiser: 42 2/3 innings (1988)

More World Series notes

• Bumgarner has a proud father. The Giants rode Bumgarner to the finish line, writes Mark Purdy. When Bumgarner came into the game, it was over.

• You can crown the Giants again, writes Henry Schulman. What a finish for the Giants.

• The Royals' loss won't diminish a magical season, writes Sam Mellinger. I hope not. They lost because of the greatest World Series performance (from Bumgarner) in our lifetime. Bumgarner spoiled the party, writes Andy McCullough.

• The celebration in San Francisco became an ugly scene.

Around the league

• The Cubs' hiring of manager Joe Maddon appears imminent. The announcement could come soon.

• Joe Maddon has irked his peers, writes Andy Martino.

AL East

• The Red Sox are ready, as free agency nears.

• A look at the 10 biggest questions about A-Rod's return, from Joel Sherman.

NL East

• The Phillies have some A.J. Burnett scenarios.

• The Hunter Pence deals crushed the Phillies.

Lastly

• Manager Mike Matheny is right, the Cardinals are a family, writes Bernie Miklasz.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Russell Martin set up for big payday.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
KANSAS CITY -- The final innings of the 2014 Major League Baseball season will play out here in the next 36 hours; meanwhile, executives from 28 other teams and dozens of agents are lining up for the start of the offseason, like runners lining up for the opening gun of the winter marathon.

There is enormous curiosity within the industry about how many dollars will be paid out in the pitching market, given the relatively high volume of elite starters that will be available in one way or another over the next 13 months. Will Max Scherzer get offers of greater than $144 million (which is how much he reportedly turned down from the Tigers in the spring)? How much will Jon Lester get? Will the Reds seriously consider trading Johnny Cueto, who is headed toward free agency next fall? Will the Nationals be able to lock down Jordan Zimmermann? Will some agents try to move quickly to grab a share of the available dollars, in anticipation of what could be a pitching market depression by late December?

No such questions hover over Russell Martin, who might be the best-positioned player in the free-agent market this fall, because he is a one-of-a-kind luxury item. He is the Lamborghini of the catching market.

Martin will be 32 at the outset of the 2015 season, coming off a year in which he had a .402 on-base percentage, fourth best among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. Only two other catchers were within 40 points of that, Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey.

Here are the other catchers on the free-agent market: J.P. Arencibia, John Buck, Nick Hundley, Gerald Laird, Jeff Mathis, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross and Geovany Soto.

The 31-year-old Hundley has been an everyday catcher in the past -- he played in 114 games for the Padres in 2013 -- but none of the others would probably be regarded as a candidate to be a full-time player. For any team prepared to solve its catching position for years to come, Martin is the only option among the free agents.

And there is a chance that at least two teams with major payroll flexibility -- the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers -- could be in the running for Martin, who is already coveted by the Pirates.

Pitchers on the Dodgers' staff have high regard for A.J. Ellis, who is arbitration-eligible. But if the Dodgers prefer an offensive upgrade, Martin, who posted an .832 OPS in 2014, would be an obvious target, perhaps to return to the team with which he broke into the big leagues.

The Yankees loved Martin and his passion for the game, and part of the reason Martin has been valued by the Pirates is his leadership, which could make him even more attractive to the Cubs as they integrate their wave of young players into their roster mix.

So how much money will this mean for Martin? Some executives and agents believe that he will get a four-year deal from some team, in the range of $13-15 million per year. History will work against him, to some degree: There have been numerous examples of catchers who hit a physical wall between the ages of 32 and 34, as years of work take their toll. But Martin's strong physical condition and his athleticism could play in his favor, because at the back end of his next contract, he could be used at other positions.

Some executives and agents believe the tipping point for Martin will be whether he gets a four-year offer instead of a three-year offer, while others think it will come down to a question of whether a team bids five years, instead of four.

After canvassing the opinions, here's my guess: Martin winds up with something in the range of four years for about $50-60 million.

Giants and Royals notes

• After Game 4, with the series tied at two games apiece, Royals manager Ned Yost said something that generated "Is he crazy?" smiles in his clubhouse, and also in the Giants' clubhouse. Yost mentioned that he's almost secretly hoping for a seven-game series, to take this experience as far as it will go. At the time, others in the Royals' organization hoped they could wrap it up in six games, thank you.

[+] EnlargeNed Yost
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
It has been a tense series, but Royals manager Ned Yost is enjoying the ride.
But Yost remains resolute in his belief that the Royals will win in seven, and he has made up his mind that he's going to enjoy this ride. He explained the other day, before Game 5, how his perspective changed after the wild-card game. "I've just been having a blast," he said. "We're in the World Series. My team is confident. My team is loose. That gives me confidence. It's an exciting time for us; it's an exciting time for Kansas City.

"You know, when this started, not so much. I really tried to get myself in the mindset that I was going to have fun, and it was a little more difficult to have fun against the Angels, as tough as they were. Then that series went three, and then Baltimore … But I just made an effort that I'm going to slow down and enjoy this to the max."

Added Yost: "You know, all of my boys in that locker room have a deep feeling in their heart that they're going to win the World Series, and if you have that feeling, a loss doesn't matter."

• Yordano Ventura has come of age, writes Sam Mellinger. Norichika Aoki will return to the lineup Tuesday night.

• Before his first start in this series, Jake Peavy, who gets the ball for the Giants in Game 6, talked about controlling the running game against the Royals, and San Francisco has done that. To date, Kansas City has exactly one steal in this series, matching the number the Royals had against the Orioles.

Madison Bumgarner gets the bulk of the credit for this, of course, but the other Giants pitchers have been diligent in varying their delivery times and mixing in pickoff attempts to keep the Kansas City baserunners out of rhythm.

• Peavy is getting a chance to wrap up this World Series, as his Giants hope to avoid past Game 6 horrors, writes Ann Killion.

• The Giants have liked the team's devotion to sleep in the postseason, writes Dan Brown.

• The Royals hope to light up their clubhouse deer. The Royals are confident, writes Ron Kroichick.

• Peavy has a duck boat that's currently not in working order, but he might be adding a trolley car, as his son Wyatt revealed during press availability Monday. The words from those exchanges:
Question: Does the duck boat come fully assembled when it shows up to your house? What have you done with it in the years since you've had it? And have you guys thought about where you'd put a cable car?

Jake Peavy: Wyatt, you want to (answer this)?

Wyatt Peavy: Well, my dad keeps on saying he's going to get the duck boat painted, but right now it's covered in mildew at our baseball field.

Jake: We took it over. We had a group, so we took it over to the baseball field. We've been in negotiations to get this thing painted. We're having all kinds of problems because they want to do that in Texas. You have to put this duck boat on a flat-bed trailer and ship it. That's how it got from Alabama to Boston. So I'm trying to do it in-state so I don't have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to ship this thing across any more country than it has to.

Since we moved it over to the baseball field, this thing decided to quit running. It doesn't want to crank now. So we have, since the playoffs started, left this thing sitting over at the baseball field. I've just been informed it's got mildew on the seats. So we're going to have to do something other than painting; we're going to have to do something with these seats. Because obviously it's going to be running and be a big part of what we do with the kids and camps and stuff at Southern Falls (Peavy's ranch in Alabama) from here on out.

We've kicked around some options. Actually, Jonny Gomes showed up in San Francisco this past weekend to bring some spirit and check out a World Series game and spend some time. We kicked around some options on some memorabilia possibly to take home to commemorate this, if we are fortunate enough to make it happen.

Wyatt (whispering): We picked out a trolley car.

Jake (laughing): I'll get into that if and when this thing happens.

Wyatt: I think we already picked out our trolley car.

Jake (laughing): Hey, hey, hey, hey.

• Some notes about Game 6 from ESPN Stats & Information:

1. Alex Gordon is 2-for-20 in the World Series, largely due to his struggles with fastballs. Gordon has not reached base in 10 plate appearances that have ended with a fastball in the World Series.

2. The Giants have avoided throwing fastballs to Eric Hosmer in the World Series, as he is 2-for-4 with a walk against the pitch. Against all other pitches, he is 3-for-15 with a walk and four strikeouts. Coming into the World Series, Hosmer was 10-of-19 with four walks against fastballs in the playoffs, while having only 10 at-bats end with a different kind of pitch.

3. Brandon Belt is 2-for-12 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending in a fastball in the upper half of the strike zone in the postseason. He's 5-for-10 this postseason in at-bats that have ended in a changeup, with four hard-hit balls.

4. Hitters almost always go after the curveball from Yordano Ventura, perhaps because he tips it with the tempo of his delivery. He has thrown his curveball 38 times this postseason, resulting in seven outs, no hits, four strikeouts and one walk.

• If the Giants win Tuesday night, manager Bruce Bochy will have managed the team to three championships in the past five years, and he will cement future induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. Nine other managers won three World Series, and all of them have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

• David Leonhardt has Madison Bumgarner ranked as the seventh-best World Series pitcher ever.

Around the league

• On Monday's podcast, Keith Law discussed the late Oscar Taveras. Plus, we discuss Bumgarner's excellence, and Marc Topkin explained what's next for Joe Maddon and what the Rays' response might be.

• Logan White left the Dodgers to join the Padres. The Dodgers' front office is already an open field for Andrew Friedman.

• The Cubs have maintained radio silence about their interest in Joe Maddon, but also about the status of manager Rick Renteria, who was moved to issue a statement through his agent -- but not the team -- to address swirling questions.

Renteria has not heard from the Cubs, writes Gordon Wittenmyer. Clarification could come soon, writes Mark Gonzales.

• All signs indicate that the Twins are close to picking their next manager. Torey Lovullo got a second interview.

If all things are relatively equal, it would seem to be extremely difficult for the Twins to not pick Paul Molitor, because of his relative fame and his local ties.

• Brandon Belt's bunt is a sign of things to come, not only in the World Series, writes Joel Sherman, but in the sport.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Phillies waived a pitcher.

2. The Tigers likely will keep David Price into 2015, writes Lynn Henning.

3. The Braves hired Kevin Seitzer as their hitting coach and Jose Castro as their assistant hitting coach.

4. The Astros are going to explore changing the center-field incline at Minute Maid Park known as Tal's Hill for 2016. This was inevitable, given the regime change in Houston and the growing industry concern for player safety; there has always been lingering conversation about outfielders being injured while in pursuit of a fly ball.

5. Players see plenty to fix in the pace-of-game rules being tried in the Arizona Fall League.

6. Mike Aldrete was named bench coach for Oakland.

AL East

• Dylan Bundy is still taking top honors.

• Here is a breakdown of Boston's possible decision between Jon Lester and James Shields. Another key factor: The huge volume of high-end starting pitching that will be available over the next 13 months, which could serve as a drag on the prices paid out to free agents. That's good ol' fashioned supply and demand.

• The Rays are denying they've had talks about moving to Montreal.

AL West

• Angels GM Jerry Dipoto won't copy the Royals' blueprint.

NL Central

• A Pirates prospect is learning in the Arizona Fall League.

Lastly

• The death of Oscar Taveras has devastated the Cardinals' organization, writes Derrick Goold. The Cardinals seek solace.

• Max Scherzer did something really nice for a teammate.

• Derek Holland will be driving a pace car.

• The Mets, Yankees and the MLB commissioner are doing a really great thing for the Yogi Berra Museum.

• Baseball is alive and well, writes Bob Klapisch.

And today will be better than yesterday.

MLB Future Power Rankings.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Free agency is right around the corner, and we at ESPN Insider decided we'd steal a page from gyms and weight-loss programs everywhere by producing a "before" and "after" snapshot of each franchise. The "before" shot represents what the team looks like heading into what's sure to be a busy offseason for many teams. We'll check in with the "after" shot next spring when the dealin' is done.

As in past renditions of the MLB Future Power Rankings, we've asked three of our top baseball analysts -- Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney -- to rank all 30 teams across five different categories (see table) in an attempt to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years. Some things have changed drastically since we last did these rankingsback in March -- we're looking at you, Texas Rangers -- while many other things have remained the same (the top three teams remain the top three teams, just in a different order). To show you what's changed, we compare the updated rankings to the March version for each team.

CATEGORIES
MAJORS (full weight): Quality of current big league roster
MINORS (full weight): Quality and quantity of prospects in their farm system
FINANCE (2/3 weight): How much money do they have to spend?
MANAGEMENT (2/3 weight): Value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff
MOBILITY (1/3 weight): Do they have a lot of young, cheap players, or old, immovable guys?
For a full breakdown of the MLB Future Power Rankings methodology, click here.
The better your rank in a given category, the more points you get, and the average point scores from the three voters are available in the bar graphs accompanying each team's section, rounded to the nearest integer. We weighted the categories and then gave each team a score on a scale of 1 to 100, with the score representing a team's percentage of total possible points. (For a detailed breakdown of the methodology used for the Future Power Rankings, click here.)

With each team's ranking, you'll also get a take from Buster, Jim and Keith. Buster will give an overview of the franchise's future, Jim will explain the biggest dilemma currently facing the team, and Keith highlights a prospect facing a make-or-break season.

So who's No. 1? Which team did our team of experts think is best equipped for success over the next half-decade? And where does your favorite team rank? It's time to find out.

1Los Angeles Dodgers
NL WEST FPR RANK: 1
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
As Andrew Friedman takes over the organization, he is flush with the dollars and prospects to fill any roster holes. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
Whether to re-sign Hanley Ramirez is not the Dodgers' biggest dilemma; it's how to clear up their crowded outfield situation. Their preference would be to keep Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig as their starting outfield and try to trade the hefty contracts of Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford (while realizing they'll have to eat some of Ethier's and Crawford's contracts). -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Pitcher Grant Holmes was a top-10 talent in this year's draft but slid out of the top 20, perhaps because of concerns over his height. But he's a polished and physically mature 6-foot right-hander who fills up the strike zone and sits in the low 90s. -- Keith Law


2St. Louis Cardinals
NL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 1


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The organization's inherent stability will help it cope with the loss of Oscar Taveras. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Cardinals simply need to improve their depth in the bullpen and on the bench, as well as continue to stock the system through the draft and with international signings. The Cardinals are built for the long term with stability and continuity at the big league level, leaving their dilemmas minor compared to most teams. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Infielder Jacob Wilson, a 10th-round pick out of the University of Memphis as a senior, was on his way to a breakout year in 2014 when he tore his meniscus after 66 games. His swing is simple and balanced, with strong hands that provide surprising pop. If he can handle second or third base, he should project at least as an everyday player, perhaps something more, as so often seems to happen with late Cardinals draft picks. -- Keith Law

3Boston Red Sox
AL EAST FPR RANK: 1


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
GM Ben Cherington has the tools to address the team's need for left-handed hitting, power hitting and a front-line starting pitcher. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Red Sox need to rebuild their starting rotation. Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly are good options to remain in it, but they need to improve the front end of the rotation by bringing back Jon Lester or trying to sign James Shields. They also shouldn't be afraid to trade for a top talent such as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Tyson Ross, Cole Hamels or Jordan Zimmermann. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Manuel Margot, my sleeper for the system in each of the past two years, had an outstanding season as a 19-year-old in Class A ball, with a tremendous contact rate, surprising pop and well above-average defense in center field. -- Keith Law

4Chicago Cubs
NL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 2
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Cubs need front-end starting pitching, but given their tremendous payroll flexibility and prospects, they'll get it. This is a growing monster. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
This team is loaded with position-player talent, but as Buster notes, it needs a top-of-rotation starter or two to legitimately contend by 2016, if not sooner. Free-agent pitchers Max Scherzer and Jon Lester will be on the Cubs' target list this winter, as will trade candidates such as Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Tyson Ross and Chris Sale. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Kyle Schwarber was the Cubs' first pick this June, fourth overall, and raked across three levels of the low minors. You'd expect that from an advanced college product, but it also sets him up to start 2015 in Double-A. -- Keith Law

5Washington Nationals
NL EAST FPR RANK: 1


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Giants might have questioned whether the Nationals have what's necessary to win the World Series, but nobody can question Washington's talent. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
What to do with SP Jordan Zimmermann and 3B/OF Ryan Zimmerman? Zimmermann, who has been arguably the Nats' most reliable starter over the past three seasons, is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, and the Nationals will need to either sign him to a long-term contract or consider trading him while his trade value is at its peak. Ryan Zimmerman's situation is even more complicated; Anthony Rendon has beaten him out at third base, and Bryce Harper has done the same in left field. Therefore, the only place for Zimmerman is at first base, where starter Adam LaRoche is still an option ... or on another team. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Reynaldo Lopez hit 99 mph in a playoff outing and was outstanding at two levels, including his first extended trial in full-season ball in the Sally League, where he showed outstanding control and blew hitters away with his velocity. -- Keith Law

6Pittsburgh Pirates
NL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 3


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Neal Huntington has a great core of players to build around, including Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, and the Pirates have more talent in the pipeline and a fully invested fan base. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Pirates would like to sign catcher Russell Martin to a multiyear contract, but might not be able to afford him. If he departs, they'll have to work the trade market to try to replace him. The Pirates also must decide if they want to move Pedro Alvarez to first base -- Josh Harrison is expected to be their full-time third baseman in 2015 -- or trade him. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Colombian outfielder Harold Ramirez has one above-average tool, but it's the important one: He can hit, possessing a compact stroke and very good contact rates so far in pro ball. He'll end up in an outfield corner but should hit for enough average with enough doubles power to profile there. -- Keith Law

7New York Yankees
AL EAST FPR RANK: 2


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Yankees plow into the postseason not knowing who will play shortstop or who will carry the rotation next year, but cash gives them the ability to paper over mistakes. Plus, their farm system is improving. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
What will the team do at shortstop now that Derek Jeter has retired? The Yanks will have many different options via free agency, including Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera. Or they could go the trade route and try to acquire Yunel Escobar, Jose Reyes, Alexei Ramirez, Brad Miller, Everth Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki or Starlin Castro. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Luis Severino was one of several breakout prospects in the Yankees' system this year, with the team pushing him aggressively from low-A to high-A to Double-A this summer. He's up to 96 with a loose arm and very good changeup, but needs to use his lower half more to profile as a starter. -- Keith Law

8San Francisco Giants
NL WEST FPR RANK: 2


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Nobody can figure out exactly how these Giants manage to win year after year, but they do. And they have Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey to build around, not to mention a packed AT&T Park each home game. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
Which of the Giants' productive free agents-to-be -- Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Michael Morse, Jake Peavy Ryan Vogelsong -- will the team bring back in 2015? Sandoval is the most important of the group to bring back, but he'll also be the most expensive. The Giants are loyal to their players, so it will be a surprise if they don't make at least an effort on all of them, but the team simply can't afford to bring back all of them. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Tyler Beede, the Giants' first-round pick this year, helped lead Vanderbilt to its first-ever College World Series title, and could reach the big leagues as soon as mid-2015 if his command allows it. -- Keith Law

9Baltimore Orioles
AL EAST FPR RANK: 3


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
So much of the Orioles' future depends on what kind of player Manny Machado is after he recovers from his unusual knee issues and how much production they get out of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in the years to come. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
It's not an on-field, baseball-related matter. Rather it's resolving the MASN rights territorial dispute with the Washington Nationals. The Orioles, Nationals and Major League Baseball are scheduled to meet before Judge Lawrence Marks on Dec. 15. MLB had ruled the Nationals should receive higher television-rights fees, which both MASN and the Orioles have disagreed with. Judge Marks granted the Orioles and MASN a preliminary injunction when the judge raised concerns about a conflict of interest from the MLB panel that ruled in favor of the Nats. There is so much money at stake for the O's and Nats that there's no doubt this is easily the biggest challenge facing the club. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Catcher Chance Sisco gets mixed reviews behind the plate, but he can definitely hit; he led the Sally League in batting average at age 19, hitting .353/.419/.467 after an early-season DL stint, showing a direct path to the ball and good hip rotation to at least develop doubles power. -- Keith Law

10New York Mets
NL EAST FPR RANK: 2


The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The Mets' ownership doesn't seem ready to act like a big-market club, and the Mets had to move in the fences to generate power. But the pitching ... wow! -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Mets need a long-term solution at shortstop, and there will be plenty available through trades and free agency. In free agency, the Mets could target Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew or Asdrubal Cabrera. In trades, possible targets include Brad Miller, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, Jose Reyes, Alexei Ramirez, Everth Cabrera or Troy Tulowitzki. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Steven Matz missed more than two years due to a series of injuries, including Tommy John surgery, but was healthy as a starter for all of 2014, showing three pitches, including a fastball that regularly hit 96 mph. -- Keith Law

11Kansas City Royals
AL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 1
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Playing in the World Series changes everything, because the vision of GM Dayton Moore has been validated. But there are looming contractual issues with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the next two years. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Royals might have to deal with the departures of both starting pitcher James Shields (expected to depart) and Billy Butler (could return). Shields would be tough to replace, but so would Butler, as there aren't many middle-of-the-lineup bats available, and the Royals desperately need one. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Lefty Brandon Finnegan, the Royals' first pick in June, reached the majors already as a reliever and made an impact in the postseason, which might be his ideal role given his size, shoulder trouble while at TCU and the presence of two clear plus pitches when he works in short stints. -- Keith Law

12Los Angeles Angels
AL WEST FPR RANK: 1
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Angels owner Arte Moreno was able to lock down the best player in the game to a long-term deal, so Mike Trout's situation is settled. But the farm system is a problem, as are the enormous financial obligations to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Angels' roster is in good shape, but they need to continue to establish some starting-pitcher depth both on the 25- and 40-man rosters after injuries to Tyler Skaggs (out for the entire 2015 season) and Garrett Richards (could be ready before Opening Day). Barring the unforeseen, they expect to have Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago back for 2015 and are expecting a healthy return of Jose Alvarez, who also is rotation-worthy. But the Angels need to improve their organization depth in case one or more of these players don't work out. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Sean Newcomb was a clear top-10 talent this year and the Angels had to be doing cartwheels to get him at pick No. 16. He's a big lefty who's up to 96 with little effort and has at least average or better secondary pitches. -- Keith Law

13Detroit Tigers
AL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 2
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Owner Mike Ilitch is devoted to winning, but the Tigers are the working definition of a top-heavy team. The farm system is barren, Justin Verlander looked like a pitcher on the downslope for much of 2014, and Miguel Cabrera will open 2015 with a serious foot issue. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
Will the Tigers try to sign David Price to a long-term contract or continue to negotiate with Max Scherzer on a long-term deal, or both? And will they go all out to try to re-sign aging but effective DH Victor Martinez? The team has some decisions to make with some big names. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Outfielder Derek Hill was the Tigers' first pick in June and immediately became their best overall prospect, a four-tool guy who may still grow into a little power and is already an above-average defender in center. -- Keith Law

14Seattle Mariners
AL WEST FPR RANK: 2
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Mariners are where the Royals were earlier this year, and where the Pirates were in 2013. They have made progress, but the team needs to take the next step forward to re-engage the fan base. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Mariners need to find a long-term cleanup hitter to hit behind Robinson Cano and in front of Kyle Seager, and they might be willing to deal one of their top pitcher prospects to make a deal happen. The Mariners are expected to inquire about Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Alex Jackson may have been the best pure hitter in this year's draft class, a high school catcher whom the Mariners have moved to right field to try to get his bat to the majors faster. -- Keith Law

15Texas Rangers
AL WEST FPR RANK: 3
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The Overview
The front office went into the offseason believing that a turnaround could happen quickly following its "Murphy's Law" 2014 season. But Yu Darvish and Derek Holland will have to be healthy, and Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo must prove they aren't money pits. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The Rangers need to improve a starting rotation that finished 28th in the majors with a miserable 4.75 ERA. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland anchor the top of it, but the team needs at least three more reliable and productive options to follow them. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Nomar Mazara raised a lot of eyebrows when the Rangers gave him $5 million in 2010, but he was one of this year's biggest breakout prospects, hitting .271/.362/.478 between low-A and Double-A, and he won't turn 20 until April. -- Keith Law

16Houston Astros
AL WEST FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The talent is being accumulated; now the greatest challenge for new manager A.J. Hinch is to help reconstruct a culture devoted to winning, after all the record-setting losing. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Astros' bullpen ERA was the worst in baseball this season, and they'll need to improve that unit if they're going to take another step forward in 2015. There will be several solid veteran relievers available on the free-agent market, but the Astros must be ready to spend some money to get some quality options. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Right-handed pitcher Michael Feliz was a bargain signing after he failed a PED test and lost an agreed-upon deal with Oakland, but he emerged two years ago as an interesting arm-strength guy who could throw strikes. In 2014, he had a real coming-out party, showing a plus slider and hard (but straight) fastball up to 97 mph, pitching in the MLB Futures Game ... where Joey Gallo took him deep.

. -- Keith Law

17Cleveland Indians
AL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 3
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Corey Kluber's emergence has given the Indians an organizational anchor, for a team now built around pitching. The farm system is in decent shape, although rival evaluators have mixed feelings about how good Francisco Lindor is. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Indians head into the offseason in a pretty good spot; they have the second-youngest roster (behind Houston), and nearly the entire team is under control for the next few seasons. That said, they could use another solid starting pitcher and an impact bat. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Outfielder Brad Zimmer led off a very strong draft class for the Indians. He's a tall outfielder with some strength and above-average speed who might stay in center but should develop the power to profile in a corner as well. -- Keith Law

18Toronto Blue Jays
AL EAST FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Blue Jays loaded up for 2013, adding Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, but it seems like the window of opportunity for this group of players is beginning to close. Next season will be a crossroads year. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
With Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus likely gone, the Blue Jays need to rebuild their outfield. The free-agent market for outfielders will be thin, especially in center field (outside of Rasmus). The Blue Jays could look internally to Anthony Gose or Dalton Pompey to replace Rasmus in center or could try to trade for B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn (if their existing teams are willing to eat a chunk of their future salaries). For the corner-outfield spot, the team could go after Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer or Nelson Cruz. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Franklin Barreto is developing quickly into a future top-of-the-order hitter and everyday shortstop. He possesses a strong, compact build and above-average speed to go along with an advanced approach for an 18-year-old player. -- Keith Law

19Oakland Athletics
AL WEST FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The organization went "all-in" to win in 2014, and now the Athletics must pay the cost, facing a future without Addison Russell. Another roster turnover is needed, and they'll have to do it on pennies. -- Buster Olney

The Dilemma
The A's are expected to lose a handful of useful players to free agency, including pitchers Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Luke Gregerson, along with position players Jed Lowrie, Adam Dunn, Alberto Callaspo, Jonny Gomes and Geovany Soto. Their biggest needs would be long-term solutions at second base and shortstop. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
First baseman Matt Olson has plenty of raw power, but has turned out to be a more polished hitter than at least I expected when I saw him in high school. -- Keith Law

20Minnesota Twins
AL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The signing of Phil Hughes paid off, but the fact is the Twins are still more than a half-dozen good pitchers away from being relevant, and attendance has been waning (by about 30 percent since the opening of Target Field five years ago). -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
Even after making it their focus the past couple of offseasons, the Twins are still focused on improving their starting rotation. Phil Hughes and Alex Meyer could work out for them, but they'll need more from Ricky Nolasco and Trevor May. The team won't stop until it has built a formidable rotation that will allow it to contend again. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Shortstop Nick Gordon has great hands, projects to hit for average and should stay at shortstop thanks to good instincts and a plus arm. -- Keith Law

21Chicago White Sox
AL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
If these rankings were left to me alone, I'd have the White Sox higher than this, because Jose Abreu is established and because GM Rick Hahn has carved out a lot of payroll flexibility. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The White Sox should continue their pattern of dealing serviceable (or better) veteran players to acquire younger talent, such as Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton. That means they'll have to be open to dealing players such as Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and John Danks to get younger and more talented. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Lefty Carlos Rodon could pitch in the majors right now as a reliever and may start 2015 in the major league rotation. He has a wipeout slider that minor league hitters couldn't see, let alone hit. -- Keith Law

22Atlanta Braves
NL EAST FPR RANK: 3
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
As John Hart takes over the organization, he must find a way to reinvigorate the lineup without having much free cash because of the money committed to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Also, the Braves' farm system is regarded by other teams as being in rough shape. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Braves must improve their lineup structure, primarily decreasing total team strikeouts and improving their top-of-the-order on-base percentage. The Braves will look to move both B.J. Upton and Evan Gattis this offseason as trade bait. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Shortstop Ozhaino Albies, born in Curacao, is earning some early comparisons to Jurickson Profar and Francisco Lindor as a true shortstop, possessing an above-average arm and great instincts, as well as a great approach at the plate. -- Keith Law

23Milwaukee Brewers
NL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
A major issue that hovers over this team is the future production of Ryan Braun, who has more than $100 million owed to him for 2015 to 2021. The Brewers are paying him like a centerpiece, and if he doesn't hit like a centerpiece, it will be a huge problem for a team with a limited payroll. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
What will the team do at its corner-infield spots? At third base, Aramis Ramirez has a mutual option, but sources say he will probably opt out, while at first base, both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay will be free agents. The Brewers don't have long-term answers at either position waiting in the minors, so they must solve those potential vacancies via free agency or trades this offseason. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Clint Coulter looked like a busted pick last year, but he returned to crush Midwest League pitching this season, leading the league in OBP and finishing second in slugging by a single point. Even if he does move off catcher, which seems likely, his bat will profile in a corner spot. -- Keith Law

24Miami Marlins
NL EAST FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The rest of the sport is filled with ambulance chasers watching to see if the Marlins' hopes for signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term deal die off. All signs are that the Marlins will keep him to try to win in 2015 ... but stay tuned. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
As Buster alludes to above, the Marlins need to try to sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term Mike Trout-type deal, and if they are unable to get it done, they must consider trading him for a strong package. Stanton, who still has two years of control remaining, will never have more trade value than this offseason. That said, there aren't a lot of teams that have enough to make a blockbuster deal with the Marlins for Stanton. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Tyler Kolek, the second pick in this year's draft, is a 6-foot-7 right-hander who has hit 100 mph but now needs to work on developing a third pitch and improving his command. -- Keith Law

25Tampa Bay Rays
AL EAST FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The three most recognizable members of the organization -- David Price, Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon -- all departed within four months. There is still hope for success in Tampa, but the ballpark situation muddies this team's future. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Rays are loaded with starting pitching depth, which is a good problem to have. But it can also be used to acquire offense, and the team also must make sure it doesn't get away anytime soon. Some of the Rays' trade options: Alex Colome, Nate Karns, Mike Montgomery and Matt Andriese. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
The Rays love the bat and approach of Willy Adames, who came over in the David Price deal as the one prospect the Rays acquired with Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin. He might grow into more power, although he's likely to move off shortstop to third base. -- Keith Law

26San Diego Padres
NL WEST FPR RANK: 3
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
As A.J. Preller assumes control, he has a fair amount of talent in the minor leagues, but many of the organization's major league-level position players have underperformed. As such, it's hard for the Padres to know what they have right now. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Padres have the pitching to compete, but they need to acquire young non-arbitration-eligible or top-prospect impact bats. After finishing last in baseball in runs scored, OBP and OPS, the team needs a complete do-over on its offense. The challenge is improving it without trading its top young pitchers. The Padres also hope to find long-term solutions in the form of international signings and through the draft. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Shortstop Trea Turner was in play in the top 10 in this year's draft, and had a huge pro debut in low-A. He's a four-tool talent who has to show he can develop the strength and power to remain at short and hit major league velocity. -- Keith Law

27Philadelphia Phillies
NL EAST FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Rival executives believe the Phillies are actually going to embrace a rebuilding plan this winter -- perhaps two years too late. New president and CEO Pat Gillick already said that he doesn't expect the team to contend for a couple of years. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
With Gillick and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. all set to rebuild, how much can the Phillies get for their high-priced veteran talent, including staff ace Cole Hamels? -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Aaron Nola, the team's first-round pick this year out of LSU, is a polished right-hander with three average or better pitches and plus fastball command. He should start 2015 in the major league rotation. -- Keith Law

28Cincinnati Reds
NL CENTRAL FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
Payroll flexibility is a major concern, with four members of their rotation being eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, including Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto. And Joey Votto has merely nine years left on his deal. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
As Buster notes, the Reds must decide what to do with a starting rotation that includes four pitchers who will be free agents in 2015: Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon. Do they "go for it" this year, keep the rotation intact and add two significant bats to try to win in 2015, or do they trade proven assets to get younger and build for the next five years? I think the latter is the smarter approach. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Lefty Amir Garrett has finally given up basketball and started his baseball career in earnest, flashing two average pitches and improving as a pitcher as the season went on. -- Keith Law

29Arizona Diamondbacks
NL WEST FPR RANK: 4
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
The Diamondbacks are something of a science experiment. Tony La Russa has never run a baseball operations department before, Dave Stewart has never been a general manager, and Chip Hale has never managed in the big leagues. They have some young talent to work with, including Archie Bradley. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The D-backs will be keeping a close eye on the offseason progress of those players who experienced injuries during the season, including pitchers Bradley, Daniel Hudson, Patrick Corbin, Bronson Arroyo and David Hernandez, as well as position players Cody Ross, A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. If one of them is progressing too slowly, they'll need to look for alternatives. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
It was a good year for the Diamondbacks' system, with Jake Lamb rising to the majors and Brandon Drury having another strong summer at the plate. But right-hander Aaron Blair made the biggest leap, going from "maybe he's a reliever" to "three-pitch starter who might become a No. 2." -- Keith Law

30Colorado Rockies
NL WEST FPR RANK: 5
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category.

The overview
New GM Jeff Bridich has a nearly impossible challenge as he takes over the Rockies, from trying to solve all the dilemmas that the elevation creates to assessing the future of Troy Tulowitzki, the franchise cornerstone who seemed to send signals this season that he's ready to go. -- Buster Olney

The dilemma
The Rockies' biggest offseason challenge will be the same as it has always been: improving their starting pitching. The Rockies have enough offensive depth to acquire good pitchers through trade and could match up nicely with the Mets, Reds and Rays, among other teams, to achieve this. -- Jim Bowden

New guys
Third baseman Ryan McMahon actually showed more power away from hitter-friendly Asheville this year, while also showing a better approach than expected from a good athlete who appeared to be a slightly raw hitter in high school. -- Keith Law

How Detroit can rebuild its bullpen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On the surface, the Tigers' bullpen in 2014 appeared to have all the necessary parts.
It had a proven closer in Joe Nathan. It had some well-regarded (or, at least one-time well-regarded) setup men in Joakim Soria and Joba Chamberlain. It had left-handed relievers in Phil Coke and Blaine Hardy. And it had a flamethrower in Al Alburquerque.

But appearances can be deceiving. The Tigers had one of the worst bullpens in the league this season (their 106 FIP- was the fourth worst in the majors). On top of this, rookie manager Brad Ausmus didn't exactly cover himself in glory in his handling of his ramshackle pen, and the end results were quite disastrous. While there may be no helping Ausmus in the short term -- one need look no further than Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as examples that managers sometimes just don't learn how to be better tacticians as they grow into the job -- the Tigers can do a better job of building their bullpen for 2015.

Let's take a closer look at the Tigers' bullpen moving forward:

Who will be back
Nathan, Soria and Alburquerque will be back. Hardy and Ian Krol will ostensibly be back, as will Evan Reed and Patrick McCoy. If you're not inspired by this group, you shouldn't be. Only Soria and Alburquerque are worth keeping.

The big decision facing the Tigers is whether they will have the fortitude to admit their mistake with Nathan and send him on his merry way. Reliever performance can be volatile, and Nathan has risen from the dead before, as he did in 2012 with the Rangers. But this is not that situation. In 2011, his last season in Minnesota, his fastball averaged 92.3 mph, according to PITCHf/x. In 2012, when he came back with the Rangers, he had it humming back at 94.0 mph. It didn't last. In the next two seasons, it dropped, and his 91.7 mph average last season was the lowest of his career. His velocity charts don't offer any further encouragement. Whereas in 2012 and 2013, he was able to maintain a higher velocity late in the season, in 2014, there was a clear peak at midseason and then his velocity dropped off the table. Nathan was unable to adapt to the lower velocity, and his minus-0.39 win probability added (WPA) ranked just 112th of 142 qualified relievers last season, which is especially dismal given the high-leverage situations in which he pitched.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Soria
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
The Tigers should scrap Joe Nathan as the closer and turn to Joakim Soria.
The Tigers may feel forced to keep him, however, because they don't have much payroll flexibility, and eating his $10 million salary might seem particularly unpalatable. They should do it anyway. Assuming Soria is healthy, he will be perfectly capable of handling the closer chores, and Alburquerque would fit in nicely as his setup man.

So what about the rest? There isn't much to love. Hardy is a left-handed reliever who couldn't get left-handers out, and essentially skated by on ground balls. Sometimes a player can consistently do this, and until he fails there's no reason to cut bait on him, but he should remain relegated to the middle innings. At the end of the game, you need pitchers who can get strikeouts. That's certainly not Krol, who is now two years into being a reliever and has not yet shown that he will be an adept option in the bullpen. He struck out batters at a lower than average rate and walked them at a higher than average rate, which is sort of the opposite of how things should work. His velocity has not played up in the bullpen; in fact, his velocity was down from 2013, which is especially concerning given that he was in only his age-23 season.

Reed and McCoy are much the same. They were prospects only in the sense that they didn't have any major league experience. Reed was essentially average, but given that he'll be 29 and hasn't yet faced 300 batters in a major league uniform, all indications are he's not a star. The same can be said about McCoy, who was hardly dominant in the minors and walked 13 batters in 14 major league innings in 2014, his debut season.

Where do they go from here?
So the Tigers essentially have three viable relievers and very little cash to spend. That's not exactly encouraging. The best route may be to take some chances on some reclamation projects. While reclamation projects might leave them in the same spot they were this year -- with a terrible bullpen -- if a couple of them hit, then it could give the team the boost they need to make a deep playoff run.

[+] EnlargeJason Motte
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports
Jason Motte, a free agent to be who has late-inning experience, might be someone for the Tigers to pursue this offseason.
Of the hard-thrower set, Jason Motte, Ronald Belisario, Sergio Santos and Matt Albers all have had good seasons in the past, and should come at a sharp discount given their recent health issues. Belisario was actually pretty decent last season, though it didn't appear that way on the surface. The coupling of a .339 batting average on balls in play and 57.7 percent left-on-base rate were easily the worst marks of his career, but Belisario also lowered his walk rate significantly, and was the hardest thrower of the right-handed relievers who are set for free agency.

One pitcher who has come back from health issues and proved he can strike out hitters at a good rate is Kyuji Fujikawa. In the second half of 2014, he tossed 13 innings and struck out 17 batters. This is a thin track record, of course, but there was plenty of enthusiasm about Fujikawa when he came stateside in 2013 before he got hurt, and he could be a good find on the cheap. It would be hard to imagine him commanding a large salary, considering the Cubs chose not to pick up his modest $5.5 million club option.

From the left side, Craig Breslow could be one to gamble on. Breslow had a down 2014 season after being pretty great from 2011 to 2013, and after the season he admitted that he was a little run down after the Red Sox's long 2013 postseason. Assuming he is better rested from his lack of 2014 postseason action, he could be a good rebound candidate. Two other safe bets that might not come at premium prices would be Neal Cotts and Joe Thatcher.

There is the trade market, too, and few people have proved themselves as creative over the years as has Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. That said, he will be limited this offseason. There is certainly plenty of gold to mine in the free-agent market, but the top names are unlikely to sign with the Tigers, who have so little wiggle room that they will struggle to re-sign one of Max Scherzer or Victor Martinez.

The Tigers then have two objectives in order to build themselves a good bullpen for 2015. First, they must admit that Nathan is nice and toasty and give him his release. Second, they need to work the edges of the free-agent market and evaluate which relief pitchers who have been good before could be good again. Doing that would be a better plan than counting on the pitchers remaining on the roster, who likely never will be good. If they rebuild it, which will certainly be a tough task, the team's bullpen around Soria and Alburquerque may not be the walking landmine that it was this season.

Why Cubs rank 4th in Future Power Ranks.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Chicago Cubs have had five consecutive losing seasons and haven't been to the playoffs since 2008. So why do they jump to fourth in our Future Power Ranks? Because things are changing on the North Side, and it's almost "go time" for this franchise. The Cubs are amassing all the necessary elements to become a world championship organization, and they're being built the right way, from top to bottom.

Team president Theo Epstein arrived in the Windy City in October 2011 after leading the Boston Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, ending an 86-year title drought and ridding the franchise of the "Curse of the Bambino" in the process. He came to Chicago with a clear blueprint on how he wanted to build the Cubs, and he hasn't deviated from it. The long-term plan he put in place normally takes 7-8 years based on the history of teams that have built from the ground up, such as the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins. However, it appears Epstein is ahead of schedule, as it looks like the Cubs will be ready to start winning in 2015 and be a legitimate contender by 2016.

The Cubs have one of the best front offices in baseball, led by Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, senior VP of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod and one of the strongest scouting and player development departments in baseball, possessing elite evaluators and teachers.

[+] EnlargeJoe Maddon
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Joe Maddon reportedly is all set to sign on as the manager of the Cubs.
They have been missing an elite manager since Lou Piniella's decision to retire back in August 2010, but that's about to change soon; the Cubs are close to officially announcing Joe Maddon's long-term contract to manage the team. Maddon is the second-best manager in baseball behind the Giants' Bruce Bochy on my personal manager power rankings. He has won 90 games five times and was named AL Manager of the Year twice despite being in one of the game's toughest divisions, the AL East, and that his team perennially had the lowest payroll in the division. Simply put, Maddon is one of the game's most intelligent managers, and his communication and relationship skills are the best in the sport. He also has the "biggest" personality of all the game's active managers. To team Maddon with Epstein and Hoyer gives the Cubs arguably the second-best front-office/manager tandem in baseball, behind only Bochy and his GM in San Francisco, Brian Sabean.

The primary goal this offseason for the Cubs' front office is landing an ace, and they have their sights set on both Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, the top two free-agent starters on this year's market. The Cubs made a run at Masahiro Tanaka last year, falling just short when the Yankees blew everyone out of the water, but they're prepared this year to be the game's biggest bidders for either Lester or Scherzer. If they can get it done, the Cubs not only will be relevant again, but they'll be set up to be surprise contenders in 2015, with legit championship aspirations as soon as 2016.

The Cubs' farm system is arguably the best in baseball, especially if you include right fielder Jorge Soler and infielder Javier Baez, who both made their major league debuts this season. The Cubs have a prospect with legit future All-Star potential at every single position. Who else in baseball can claim that? I'm not saying they're all going to be All-Stars; certainly a couple of these players aren't going to live up to their billing. But based on these players' track records and input I've had from scouts of almost all 30 teams, that's the industry consensus about these kids.


A look at the Cubs' future, position by position
Pos. Player Status/ETA 2014 slash line G HR RBI
C Kyle Schwarber ETA 2017 .344/.428/.634 72 18 53
1B Anthony Rizzo MLB .286/.386/.527 140 32 78
2B Javier Baez AAA/MLB .260/.323/510 (AAA) 104 23 80
SS Starlin Castro MLB .292/.339/.438 134 14 65
3B/RF Kris Bryant ETA 2015 .325/.438/.661 138 43 110
SS Addison Russell ETA 2016 .295/.350/.508 68 13 45
RF Jorge Soler MLB .340/.432/.700 (AAA) 62 15 57
CF Albert Almora ETA 2017 .270/.291/.392 125 9 60
LF Billy McKinney ETA 2017 .264/.354/.412 126 11 69

The best part about their future position players is that none of them will be arbitration-eligible until at least 2018, and only Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro will be making significant salaries in the meantime because Epstein and Hoyer smartly signed them to long-term contracts early and fixed their costs below market value. Why is that so important? Because now they can utilize all of their remaining resources on loading up on proven major league pitching and the continued plan of a strong financial commitment toward building through player development and scouting.

In addition, the bulldozers are busy at Wrigley Field, where phase one of the restoration is under way. Their new home clubhouse will debut Opening Day 2016 and it should be as nice as any park's in baseball when it's completed. Combine that with the Maddon signing, and free agents will soon be putting Chicago near the top of their preference lists for years to come.

The Cubs now have an elite front office, manager, scouting and player development departments and the resources to compete with everyone in the National League Central, including the Cardinals.

When it's all said it done, it looks like the Cubs will start their playoff run in 2016 or 2017, so it could be a year or two. But when it begins, it should be a lengthy run, and if Epstein eventually does what he did in Boston and brings a championship to the North Side (thus breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat like he did in Boston with the Curse of the Bambino), then he might just do one better than a high Future Power Ranks slot -- he could find himself a spot in Cooperstown.

Draft no 'crapshoot' for Giants and Royals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When I pointed out on Twitter after Game 5 that the two most important players on the Giants' roster, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, were both high first-round picks (10th and fifth overall, respectively, in consecutive drafts), a few readers misread the tweet as a definitive statement on the value of the first round. That research has been done at great length by folks inside and outside the industry, and the conclusions are clear: Your best chance to get a star comes high in the first round, and the expected value of a pick drops almost logarithmically from the top overall pick on down.

My point on Twitter was aimed more at the litany of folks who don't follow the draft closely and call it a "crapshoot." It's not -- it's far from perfect, but if you want an anecdotal example of how important nailing your first-round picks can be, take a look at the two clubs in the Series.

Below I've simply laid out the most important/most-used players on each roster and broken down how they came into the organization. If you're going to claim that scouts are little better than random chance when selecting amateur players in the draft, you've got an uphill battle.

Kansas City

Looking at their nine primary position players (below), five starters, and four relievers (the HDH trio plus the suddenly indispensable Brandon Finnegan), we see a quick trend emerging: The first round has really mattered to this year's Royals roster. Five of the eighteen players were taken in the first round: Hosmer, Gordon, Moustakas, Butler, and Finnegan. Four more came in trades that involved a first-rounder -- Cain and Escobar came in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee; Shields and Davis came in the trade that sent Jake Odorizzi (a supplemental first-rounder, himself acquired in the Greinke deal) and Wil Myers (who got first-round money as an overslot guy in the third round) to Tampa Bay. Three more were what we would now call July 2 free agents, and three others were major league free agents. Only two of the eighteen were drafted by Kansas City after the first round -- Greg Holland was a 10th-round pick in 2007 and Danny Duffy was a third-round pick (96th overall) in that same draft. Take a look:

C Perez: VZ, 2006
1B Hosmer: 1st round, 3rd overall pick, 2008
2B Infante: Free agent
SS Escobar*: Trade (VZ, 2003)
3B Moustakas: 1st round, 2nd overall pick, 2007
LF Gordon: 1st round, 2nd overall pick, 2005
CF Cain*: Trade (17th round)
RF Aoki: Trade (int'l FA)
DH: Butler: 1st round, 14th overall pick, 2003

SP Shields: trade
SP Guthrie: FA
SP Vargas: FA
SP Ventura: DR, 2008
SP Duffy: 3rd round, 96th overall, 2007

RP Holland: 10th round, 2007
RP Davis+: Trade (3rd round, 75th overall, 2004)
RP Herrera: DR, 2006
RP Finnegan: 1st round, 17th overall pick, 2014

* Acquired in trade for Zack Greinke, the fifth overall pick (1st round) in 2002.
+ Acquired in trade for Wil Myers (third-round pick, 2009, received first-round money) and Jake Odorizzi (supplemental first round, 2008)

San Francisco

The Giants' run of success in the first round over the past 13 drafts is remarkable and somewhat ironic, given GM Brian Sabean's once-public distaste for spending money on first-round picks. He's changed his ways, but never made any kind of comment about it -- the Giants just started keeping their first-round picks and finding future stars.

Using their eight regulars, four postseason starters, five relievers, and one more starting pitcher who's on the DL at the moment, you get pretty similar results to that of the Royals. We have five first-rounders: Posey, Panik, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Matt Cain, who made 15 starts for the Giants this year before his elbow barked. Brandon Crawford was a fourth-round pick in 2008 (117th overall); Brandon Belt was a fifth-rounder in 2009. Hunter Pence came over in a trade involving a second-round pick, catcher Tommy Joseph, whose career has since stalled because of a serious concussion. The Giants have just one of their own Latin American amateur signings among their core eighteen, Pablo Sandoval, but did use Eduardo Escobar in the trade for Jake Peavy along with fifth-rounder Heath Hembree. The big difference between San Francisco's roster and Kansas City's is the Giants' use of low-dollar free agents: Blanco, Vogelsong, Machi, Casilla and Mike Morse (or Travis Ishikawa, if you'd prefer to use him to Morse in this exercise) were all inexpensive free-agent signings, major or minor league. Javier Lopez and Tim Hudson were the only multiyear deals among free agents in this group, and it's all rounded out by 28th-rounder Sergio Romo, signed for a cool grand out of Mesa State with the 852nd overall pick in 2005.

C Posey: 1st round, 5th overall, 2008
1B Belt: 5th round, 147th overall, 2009
2B Panik: 1st round, 29th overall, 2011
SS Crawford: 4th round, 117th overall, 2008
3B Sandoval: VZ, 2003
LF Pagan: Trade/FA
CF Blanco: FA (VZ, 2000)
RF Pence*: Trade/FA

SP Bumgarner: 1st round, 10th overall pick, 2007
SP Peavy: trade
SP Hudson: FA
SP Vogelsong: FA

RP Casilla: FA (DR)
RP Romo: 28th round, 852nd overall pick, 2005
RP Lincecum: 1st round, 10th overall pick, 2006
RP Machi: FA (VZ)
RP Lopez: FA (4th round, 133rd overall, 1998)

Note: Cain (DL) made 15 starts for the Giants this year; he was their first-round pick, 25th overall, in 2002

* Acquired in trade for Tommy Joseph, second-round pick in 2009.

Summary

There's no way to draw a firm conclusion from looking at just two teams, and just subsets of their rosters at that. This all came from a comment I made on Twitter -- itself a poor medium for proving anything -- that the MLB draft wasn't a “crapshoot,” as it's often called by people who probably shouldn't be talking about the draft anyway. Between 70 and 80 percent of first-rounders will typically reach the majors, a rate that seems to be improving as teams continue to refine how they handle teenaged arms, and the likelihood of landing a star in any particular draft drops quickly once you exit the first round.

Of the 36 players I somewhat arbitrarily defined as “core” players for these two teams, 10 were first-round selections, four came in trades involving first-rounders, one came in a trade for a second-rounder, and one player came from each of the third, fourth, and fifth rounds. Six more were signed as amateurs out of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, a market that I'd describe more as a black box than as a crapshoot. Both teams got significant value from major league free agents, but their best players were all homegrown or acquired in trades for major prospects.

Doing well in the draft is not the only way to build a contender, but it's probably the most commonly used one, and the one you're seeing the most highly praised front offices emulate, from Boston to Houston to Tampa Bay to both sides of Chicago.

Examining pitchers in the AFL.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This year's Arizona Fall League season kicked off on Tuesday, and it's one of the best crops of pitching prospects the league has featured in a very long time, with tons of high draft picks, top-100 prospects and big velocity. This is my first post, based on what I saw in the first five games over three days, and focuses more on arms than bats. I'll do another post when I leave here Sunday and will cover the position players in more detail then.

" The best starting pitching prospect I've seen was either Pittsburgh's Tyler Glasnow or Kansas City's Kyle Zimmer, both of whom showed great stuff and good deliveries but didn't get commensurate results. Glasnow only threw two-thirds of an inning because of his pitch count, but he would have kept going had the home plate ump not blown the called third strike to his last batter. He was 93-97 with great downhill plane from his 6-7 frame, and his curveball at 79-80 mph was plus with tight rotation and depth.

Most of these pitchers haven't thrown in real games in a month or more, so nearly every guy I saw this week had worse command than I expected, with Glasnow leaving some fastballs up when he didn't get fully on top of them. However, hitters are going to just pound the fastball into the ground. This is the stuff No. 1 starters are made of.

" Zimmer missed nearly all of 2014 with a couple of injuries, none of which required surgery but which probably cost him a spot on the Royals' playoff roster (had he been healthy all year). The good news is that Zimmer looks just like he did in 2013; if we're going just on 2-8 grades, he had a 7 fastball, 7 curveball, 6 changeup and 4 slider, same as before the injuries. He was up to 97, sitting 93-94 early and 95-96 by his last inning, although the harder he threw, the less he seemed to command it. The curve was ridiculous as usual, 78-80 with 11/5 break and great depth, a legitimate out pitch for both right- and left-handed hitters. He has to ditch the slider, though, as it's his worst pitch, flat and long at 84-87, and opposing hitters square it up more than his other offerings. Given how little he pitched in 2014, it's unlikely he'll be ready for a full season as a starter next year, but the body and stuff are certainly close enough for him to pitch in the Royals' rotation at some point next summer.

" Mark Appel threw on Wednesday night for Scottsdale, with good results but a mixed bag of stuff and command. He was 93-97 but it was very true and he was scattering it up and outside of the zone, using his slider more as the pitch he'd throw when he needed a strike. It looked like his delivery had more effort than before and that he was rushing through it, with inconsistent tempo from pitch to pitch, which may have cost him some command and even control. He threw a few changeups in the first, left some up, and then seemed to put the pitch away for his next two innings.

His 2014 season ended on a good note in Double-A, and I'm glad to see he hasn't lost any velocity or bite on that plus slider. He'll need to work on fastball command before he's ready for Houston, which may mean trying to slow down his delivery to get it more consistent the way the Cubs have done with Jake Arrietta.

" The White Sox's farm system looks like it's the strongest it's been since I started ranking and evaluating systems for ESPN in 2008, with four likely top-100 prospects, including right-hander Francellis Montas who hit 102 mph in an instructional league game last week. Acquired from Boston in the Jake Peavy trade, Montas has developed very quickly into a potential front-line starter -- because, you know, the White Sox need another one of those -- working 94-98 on Thursday night with a plus slider at 87-90 that has curveball shape because his arm slot is high. His changeup wasn't as good Thursday as scouts who saw him in instructs said it was; you could really see him work to turn the pitch over and slow his arm to get the pitch right, and if I see that, hitters will, too.

He's built like ... well, Bartolo Colon is the only guy built like this in the majors, so let's say a "young Bartolo Colon," with a mature body and very thick hips and legs. He's coming off a knee injury that ended his year but moved well when he had to make a play in the field. He's nowhere near as advanced as Carlos Rodon, and there's still a chance he ends up in relief, but the White Sox have such a good track record with arms that I wouldn't rule him out from starting unless disaster strikes.

" Taijuan Walker didn't have the long layoff most of these starters have, and he showed the same stuff that he had in the majors in September -- fastball 92-97, huge but loose curveball at 72-75, tight cutter at 87-89. But his stride remains very short and his release is stiff and upright, really violent in the way he's trying to stop all the momentum he's built up in the back of his delivery. This kind of delivery is associated with higher rates of arm injuries, while also making it hard for the pitcher to get on top of the ball because he's not extending out over his front side. If the delivery is irreversible, he might have to go to the bullpen, but I don't see any physical reason the Mariners couldn't lengthen his stride again and get him back on track to start.

" Archie Bradley also looked subpar in his outing Tuesday, working 92-95 most of his outing with less life than before, and a curveball that was above-average but hardly the screaming yellow hammer he used to throw. I'm wondering if his elbow is still bothering him, because this isn't the Bradley I'm used to seeing -- I've seen him hit 98 in almost every outing I saw before this year, with a curveball that would miss all kinds of bats.

" The Padres took Justin Hancock in the ninth round in 2011 out of Lincoln Trail Community College in Illinois. It looks like a steal right now given Hancock's stuff, even though his results haven't been there yet. Hancock was 92-95 on Thursday night with a plus changeup and below-average slider, extending well out front so the fastball played up a little bit. It's a smaller frame and he hasn't been durable in the minors, so I don't want to overrate the stuff, but it's easy to imagine the fastball/changeup alone making him a good big league reliever, with the breaking ball the separator between him and the rotation.

" The best relief arm so far has been St. Louis' Sam Tuivailala, who has hit 100 mph in the past but was "only" 95-97 on Tuesday with a hard slider-like curveball (my guess based on his release of the pitch) at 79-82. There's been a lot of velocity from relievers here, but he had the best combo of fastball and a good second pitch. Jake Reed from Minnesota probably had the best pure fastball, 93-97 with plus life, but his slider at 78-81 was surprisingly soft given his arm speed. Arizona's monster right-hander Enrique Burgos was 94-97 for two innings with a pretty good slider, 83-85, that might function well as a change of pace for hitters geared up to hit the fastball.

" I haven't seen Mesa play yet due to a rainout, but of the teams I've seen, the standout hitters have been San Diego's Hunter Renfroe, Cincinnati's Jesse Winker, the Mets' Brandon Nimmo, the Yankees' Greg Bird, Arizona's Brandon Drury, Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Tampa Bay's Justin O'Conner. O'Conner is the most interesting name because he hasn't had much success as a hitter in the minors, earning a nod to the Futures Game this year on the strength of his defense, with a 55 percent caught-stealing rate in the minors this year. He's been stinging the ball so far, and the swing works for line-drive contact, short enough to the ball to allow him to use the whole field as well. The offensive standard behind the plate is so low that he can hit an empty .270 in the majors and be among the majors' best catchers thanks to his glove, so in a Rays' system that's suddenly become thin, he's one of their most exciting guys to watch.

Rumors.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Can Marlins sign Stanton?
November, 3, 2014
NOV 3
1:22
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden reports that the goal for the Miami Marlins is "to get Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long term contract by the Winter Meetings," at least so says Michael Hill, the team's president of baseball operations.


There is some skepticism that such a deal will ultimately take place. As Drew Silva of NBC Sports notes, "It's a nice goal, and the type of thing you’d expect any front office person to say about one of the game’s premier sluggers, but what are the odds a long-term deal actually gets worked out by the Winter Meetings (December 7-11) or at any point over the next two years?

"Stanton could be in line for something in the $200 million range when he hits free agency after the 2016 season and the richest contract in Marlins franchise history is the $106 million deal that was given to shortstop Jose Reyes, who was then shipped off to Toronto," Silva continues.

Justin McGuire of the Sporting News is similarly doubtful: "It could be tough for the Marlins to ink him to a long-term deal, especially in the next month. In the past, Stanton has expressed disappointment in the team's tendency to trade away big-money players. And he remains one the game's top trade targets, with big-market teams frequently checking on his availability.
Tags:Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton
Teams prepare to scout Cuban infielder
November, 3, 2014
NOV 3
12:19
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
02COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
Cuba is once again the birthplace of a baseball player who is expected to get a huge look from major league baseball teams this offseason, as a 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder prepares to burst on the free agent scene.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com writes that Yoan Moncada "could be the best teenage prospect to come from Cuba in years" and reports that he "has established residency in Guatemala, and is petitioning for free agency with Major League Baseball, according to an industry source. The teenager must still be unblocked by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before he can come into a final agreement with a club."

Moncada, who plays both shortstop and third base, is expected to hold a showcase for scouts on November 12 in Guatemala. The timing of his free agency declaration will be key. If it's before June 15, the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will all be able to make offers to him, but not after. Conversely, the Cubs and Rangers are restricted from signing international players for more than $250,000 until after June 15.
Tags:Yoan Moncada
Lind gone, Happ next?
November, 3, 2014
NOV 3
11:04
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
On Saturday, the Toronto Blue Jays sent long-time first baseman Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitcher Marco Estrada. Odds are good that the move won't be the last one the team makes this offseason, and the next one may well come sooner, rather than later.

According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the deal not only frees up some extra salary, but also addresses "a flawed roster that too often tied manager John Gibbons' hands, changing the mix in the clubhouse, building up the pitching depth to protect against injury, and make trading someone like J.A. Happ, who's been generating lots of interest, possible."

The Blue Jays have picked up the $6.7 million option on Happ to prevent him from becoming a free agent, much as they did with Lind's option prior to his trade. While Davidi did not specifically mention which teams have inquired about trading for the pitcher, he does note that dealing Happ would free up a rotation spot for Aaron Sanchez.
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays
Kuroda on way out of New York?
November, 3, 2014
NOV 3
10:05
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The New York Yankees will decide on Monday whether or not to make $15.3 million qualifying offers to pitchers David Robertson and Hiroki Kuroda. While odds are good that the Yankees will try to keep Robertson around, the feeling is that Kuroda may have seen his last day in pinstripes.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees "don't seem especially likely" to make a qualifying offer to Kuroda. Heyman adds that "there is some belief Kuroda could retire, anyway, but it is hard to see anyone signing him to his usual one-year deal for more than $15.3 million and being willing to give up the draft choice."

Brendan Kuty of the Newark Star-Ledger seconds those opinions: "Kuroda repeatedly wouldn't shed light on his 2015 plans when asked by reporters. He could retire. Or he could pitch in Japan. Or maybe he could pitch again for the Yankees or even the Dodgers, who are a shorter trip to his home country. But it seems likely that Kuroda would either pitch for the Yankees or call it a career and, thus, it might not even be necessary to extend him the offer."

Besides, the Yankees probably don't want to use that salary on Kuroda when they can use those dollars to help put together a huge offer to a free agent pitcher like James Shields -- a move suggested by Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
Tags:David Robertson, Hiroki Kuroda
Red Sox looking to add Tomas?
November, 3, 2014
NOV 3
9:01
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas continues to search for baseball employment, with the Boston Red Sox apparently exhibiting more interest in the outfielder over the weekend than they have previously shown.

As ESPN Boston reports, "Tomas, who worked out for all 30 major league clubs in the Dominican Republic in late September, had worked out privately since for a handful of clubs but not the Red Sox, who at first blush did not seem a candidate to enter the high-stakes bidding for another Cuban outfielder. But on Sunday, Tomas's agent, Jay Alou Jr., tweeted out the news that Tomas had worked out at Boston's academy in the Dominican Republic."

If the Red Sox were to make a big push to sign Tomas, it would only add more credence to the rumors that the team is looking to send Yoenis Cespedes packing, despite manager John Farrell's adamant claims that there is no problem between the outfielder and the organization.
Tags:Yasmany Tomas
NL West team-by-team hot stove preview
November, 2, 2014
NOV 2
3:40
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
03COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
With the World Series in the rearview mirror, all 30 major league teams are ready to look ahead to 2015 in hopes that they might be the one holding the championship trophy next year at this time. Teams have until Monday to decline or accept any options they have on their current players before free agency gets into full swing, but the rumor mill is already buzzing with potential moves that might help those clubs that were watching on television this year become the center of attention next October.

Our snapshot of each of the six MLB divisions and what teams might have in the works this offseason concludes today with a look at the National League West.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Big decisions: Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has confirmed that a $90 million estimated payroll is "probably a number that makes a lot of sense right now," though he says there is a possibility of another $5-10 million being added to that total under the right circumstances. With an eye on finances, hiring Chip Hale to manage this club likely will end up being the biggest move this team will make this offseason.

Team needs: Arizona could certainly use some new blood on the pitching staff, which last season finished 14th in the NL with a 4.26 ERA. However, the team is likely to rely on internal options, having picked up the options on Daniel Hudson and Matt Reynolds. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic notes, both pitchers "spent most of this year working their way back from Tommy John surgery." … The team also hopes prospect Archie Bradley is finally ready to take a step forward to the major leagues. His progress in the Arizona Fall League seems to indicate there's a real chance of that happening.

Early buzz: The best chance of a deal seems to be at shortstop, where the team has an abundance in Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington. Piecoro believes that "if the Diamondbacks wanted to add starting pitching and wanted to add it now, they could probably use one of their young shortstops, namely Gregorius or Ahmed, as currency." ESPN's Mark Simon thinks the New York Mets might be a match, especially since the new Arizona regime (Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart) is "familiar with [general manager Sandy] Alderson, as the three were all integral parts of the Oakland Athletics in the late 1980s/early 1990s."

Colorado Rockies

Big decisions: Last spring, Rockies owner **** Monfort said that he thought his team could win 90 games. He was basing that assumption on healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and increased optimism in the starting rotation. After being off by 24 victories, Monfort hired a new general manager. Could it be time for a veteran sell-off and a rebuild with an eye toward youth? That's the biggest decision this organization needs to make.

Team needs: As Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports, "Uncertainty over the health of left-handed starter Brett Anderson, who is recovering from back surgery, led the Rockies to decline his $12 million option for 2015." Although there's always a chance he could re-sign at a lower price tag, the Rockies are likely to have an opening in their rotation that needs filling. … The team exercised its $2.25 million option on LaTroy Hawkins, but manager Walt Weiss might not want to count on Hawkins spending another full season as the closer in 2015, considering the pitcher will be 42 when the season starts.

Early buzz: A push toward getting younger could start with a rumored deal of Justin Morneau to the Baltimore Orioles, who may not want to retain Chris Davis after last season's suspension. … Nick Groke of the Denver Post says that the tier of free-agent arms that the Rockies have the best chance of signing includes, in a best-case scenario, Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano and Justin Masterson.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Big decisions: Is this team ready to part ways with Hanley Ramirez? The Dodgers may end up having no choice, as the decision to accept a qualifying offer lies with the shortstop. However, he can refuse only if the Dodgers make an offer in the first place, and as Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles writes, "They can live with his poor defense and moodiness for one more season provided he stays healthier than he did in 2013 (playing just 86 games) and hits as well or better than he did last year (.283/.369/.448). Ramirez's .810 OPS was the best in the majors among shortstops."

Team needs: The Dodgers are currently hamstrung by player contracts. As Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times notes, just six players -- Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw -- have deals worth a combined $610 million. "If none are traded, they'll all still be on the roster heading into the 2017 season and averaging almost 33 years of age," Dilbeck writes. What that means is that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman really needs a bit of roster flexibility. Dilbeck says a deal of Ethier, even if the Dodgers have to "eat half his contract," may be the first step toward this goal.

Early buzz: Saxon thinks the team will try to re-sign catcher A.J. Ellis at a lower salary than in 2014 so he can continue to be Kershaw's personal backstop while also going after Russell Martin to play most other days behind the plate. … Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News believes that Yasiel Puig would be a good fit with the Oakland A's: "Puig is a very good player, he's very young, he's under contract at very reasonable terms, and that all makes him incredibly valuable as a trade asset, should it come to that."

San Diego Padres

Big decisions: Is reliever Joaquin Benoit wearing down? Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune thinks he might be and that the team should deal Benoit away to prove to the fan base that 2015 won't be "disturbingly familiar" to 2014, adding that the team "really likes" R.J. Alvarez and Kevin Quackenbush. … Cameron Maybin may have worn out his welcome with the team, which is part of the reason San Diego has been pursuing free-agent outfielder Yasmany Tomas so hard. Maybin could be on the move, perhaps to the Detroit Tigers.

Team needs: Apart from Jedd Gyorko, there are huge questions all around the infield. As Lin writes, "Yonder Alonso had yet another underwhelming, injury-wracked season and is now a non-tender candidate. … Everth Cabrera's days as an All-Star are a distant memory; not only did the shortstop serve a season-ending PED suspension in 2013, he spent much of an unproductive 2014 on the disabled list before his year was effectively ended by a DUI arrest. … Meanwhile, the inevitable departure of Chase Headley left a hole at third base."

Early buzz: The Padres appear to be interested in Japanese pitcher Chihiro Kaneko, who is eligible to be posted this winter, should he want to move to the United States. … Catcher Yasmani Grandal is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic with the expectation that he will arrive at spring training ready to stake a claim for the Padres' starting catcher job.

San Francisco Giants

Big decisions: Fresh off the glow of another World Series win, the question is whether to keep the champions intact for 2015. Free agents include Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo and Michael Morse. However, it's negotiations with Pablo Sandoval that all eyes will be on. Sandoval says he wants to play the rest of his career for the Giants, so there's reason to be optimistic about a return, even as big-market teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox are likely to be ready to pounce on the free agent should the Giants fail to seal a deal.

Team needs: As ESPN.com's Jim Bowden writes, "The Giants will probably try to get by with Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa in left field because they'd prefer to spend their money on Sandoval and the pitching staff than upgrading left field." However, if Sandoval does walk, the money not spent on the Panda could be used to shore up that hole in the lineup.

Early buzz: With the team still enjoying the fruits of its 2014 labor, there hasn't been a lot of looking forward to the future just yet, and what rumors have been bandied about almost all center on Sandoval. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up the situation thusly: "General manager Brian Sabean has been quoted as saying the Giants might not be able to compete in years with American League clubs, which eventually could make Sandoval a designated hitter. … In spring training, Sandoval's agents sought about $90 million over five years while the Giants offered three years and $40 million."
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres
Cabrera moving on from Toronto?
November, 2, 2014
NOV 2
12:26
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
On Saturday, the Toronto Blue Jays extended a qualifying offer to outfielder Melky Cabrera. However, it is expected that Cabrera, who has until November 10 to respond, will turn down the offer.

According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Cabrera "appears destined for the open market after Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos hinted Saturday about a significant difference of opinion on a price for the free-agent outfielder."

Davidi notes that while he believes the Blue Jays do legitimately want Cabrera to return, ultimately the contract that other teams may be willing to offer will make it impossible for the team to compete. "Estimates on a contract for Cabrera vary wildly," Davidi writes, "with some pointing to Jhonny Peralta's $53-million, four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals as a baseline, others arguing that the $72.5-million, seven-year contract the Boston Red Sox gave Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo in August is a more realistic starting point."
Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Melky Cabrera
Do Indians have room for Walters?
November, 2, 2014
NOV 2
11:32
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
Zach Walters hit seven home runs in just 88 at-bats for the Cleveland Indians in 2014 after coming over from the Washington Nationals in the Asdrubal Cabrera deal. Momentum is now building for Walters to somehow find a spot on the 2015 roster in order to provide some pop at the plate.

Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says that Cleveland "has spent a lot of time in the off-season talking about Zach Walters, because he has enormous power" but he notes that "Walters is a natural shortstop; he played 361 games at that position in the minors."

Pluto's colleague Paul Hoynes believes that Jose Ramirez will be the opening day shortrstop in 2015, with Francisco Lindor starting the season at Triple-A Columbus, he does believe Walters can "make the team as a bench guy. It's hard to say what Walters can do at shortstop because he never played there for the Tribe while he was in the big leagues this year."

That said, with the option on Mike Aviles having been picked up, there's one less bench spot open to Walters. But if the Indians are serious about getting his bat in the lineup, experimenting with a shortstop platoon might be the best way to get that ball rolling.
Tags:Cleveland Indians, Zach Walters
Will Ramirez choose Brewers?
November, 2, 2014
NOV 2
9:36
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
As Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Milwaukee Brewers announced on Friday that they had exercised the 2015 $14 million mutual option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez. That move gave Ramirez three days to decide whether or not to accept the deal and stay in Milwaukee, or to turn it down in order to explore his free agent options.

According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, Ramirez will be meeting with his agent in the Dominican Republic on Sunday night in order to make his choice. If he elects free agency, he will be paid a $4 million option.

Cotillo thinks Ramirez is likely to remain with the Brewers: "He is expected to draw interest from multiple teams if he becomes a free agent, and has already been linked to the Red Sox in preliminary rumors. Teams looking for third base help could look at younger options like Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval, so Ramirez's best option may be to accept his option in return to Milwaukee."

The Brewers previously claimed Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, as a bit of an insurance policy just in case Ramirez did decide to go elsewhere.
Tags:Milwaukee Brewers, Aramis Ramirez
Twins ready to name Molitor?
November, 2, 2014
NOV 2
8:36
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
It has been well over a month since he first interviewed for the open managerial job with the Minnesota Twins, but it is finally beginning to look as though Paul Molitor will get a chance to fill out lineup cards on a regular basis for the team.

According to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Twins have offered Molitor a contract to replace Ron Gardenhire in the team's dugout for the foreseeable future: "The team plans to introduce its new manager Tuesday morning at Target Field, one source said, barring a last-minute change of heart by Twins owner Jim Pohlad and the team's front office, or a snag in negotiations over financial terms and coaching staff."

Jim Souhan, also of the Star-Tribune, thinks there was no better choice: "Molitor offers the advantage of a fresh perspective from someone who has experience at every level of the organization. He has worked closely with the front office, the farm teams, the franchise's most important players, and he is friendly with ownership. He has already won the respect of the players he will manage, and if his expertise in late-game strategy is equal to his expertise as a player, he will evoke memories of (Tom) Kelly's chessmaster moves."
Tags:Minnesota Twins, Paul Molitor
Why deals could happen quickly
November, 1, 2014
NOV 1
10:16
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
Baseball has officially reached the hot stove season, with 121 players becoming free agents at the conclusion of the World Series. If last year is any indication, we will not have to wait until the Winter Meetings in December to see some significant player movement.

One reason the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years was a bold move made very early last offseason. Tim Hudson agreed to leave Atlanta and sign a two-year, $23 million deal last November 18, just a few weeks after the World Series ended. The eventual AL champion Kansas City Royals agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with free agent Jason Vargas a few days later.

As for trades, the blockbuster deal that sent Prince Fielder to Texas and Ian Kinsler to Detroit went down before Thanksgiving, as did the Cardinals-Angels swap that sent David Freese out west to Los Angeles and Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the Midwest.

There in no guarantee that the same scenario unfolds, but more and more teams seem willing to enter the sweepstakes sooner. Take the Chicago Cubs, who traded pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland almost four weeks ahead of the July 31 deadline. By moving quickly, a larger crop of elite prospects were still there for the taking, in this case shortstop Addison Russell.

If this trend continues to plays out, there is a greater chance our favorite team could have a new look by the time you bite into the drumstick or pass the pumpkin pie.
Tags:Tim Hudson, Jason Vargas
Will Markakis stay in Baltimore?
November, 1, 2014
NOV 1
9:47
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
As expected, the Baltimore Orioles announced Friday that they declined their portion of the mutual option on right fielder Nick Markakis' contract.

The club will pay a $2 million buyout rather than the $17.5 million option, and will continue negotiations with agent Jamie Murphy on a new deal. The homegrown outfielder wants to stay, but “a hometown discount has its limits,” says Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.

Markakis enjoyed a solid season with a .276 batting average and a .342 OBP, even if the front office would like to have more power from their right fielder than his 14 homers.

A favorite of owner Peter Angelos and manager Buck Showalter, Markakis is at the end of a six-year, $66.1 million contract that was considered quite generous when it was signed before the 2009 season. The 30-year-old Markakis will be tempted to test the waters given the crop of available free agent outfielders is not overwhelming. That group includes Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, the Giants’ Michael Morse and the Orioles’ Nelson Cruz.

Where could Markakis end up if talks with the Orioles reach an impasse? If the Toronto Blue Jays are unable to bring back Cabrera, Markakis “would make a lot of sense” in the Toronto outfield, says MLB.com’s Greg Chisholm.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Nick Markakis
Yanks consider Ibanez as hitting coach?
November, 1, 2014
NOV 1
9:08
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The New York Yankees have discussed the idea of hiring Raul Ibanez as their next hitting coach “and he is curious about the possibility,” reports George King of the New York Post.

Ibanez finished the season as a backup outfielder/DH for the Kansas City Royals, although he was not on the active postseason roster. A move to coaching would mark the end of a distinguished 19-year playing career for the 42-year-old Ibanez, who has a .272 batting average and 2,034 hits.

Kevin Long, a close friend of Ibanez, was fired as hitting coach after eight seasons on the job. The Yankees reportedly have interviewed Dave Magadan and Chili Davis for the vacancy.
Tags:Raul Ibanez
Kendrick, Freese on trading block?
November, 1, 2014
NOV 1
8:38
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The Los Angeles Angels are likely to deal either second baseman Howie Kendrick or third baseman David Freese to address needs in the starting rotation and/or the bullpen, reports Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

Adding a starting pitcher gives the Angels some insurance as right-hander Garrett Richards, who had a breakout season with a 2.61 ERA, works his way back from major knee surgery. As for the bullpen, The Angels could lose Joe Thatcher to free agency and they have no veteran lefty reliever in-house to take his place.

“Kendrick is perhaps more likely to be moved — the Angels could replace him internally with Grant Green and/or Gordon Beckham, while Double A second baseman Alex Yarbrough represents a long-term option,” Rosenthal writes.

Both Kendrick and Freese are 31 and entering their final years of club control before becoming free agents. Freese saw his OPS drop a second-straight year to .704.

Meanwhile, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register expects the Halos to have a relatively quiet offseason.
Tags:David Freese, Howie Kendrick
What's next for Renteria?
November, 1, 2014
NOV 1
8:05
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN Insider
00COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The worst-kept secret in baseball became official Friday when the Chicago Cubs announced the firing of manager Rick Renteria to make room for free agent Joe Maddon.

Renteria ended up as the odd man out after the Cubs finished 73-89, 17 games out of first place in the National League Central. But the Cubs were clearly in a rebuilding mode and team president Theo Epstein said immediately after the season that Renteria would be welcomed back in 2015.

No one disputes that Maddon is the perfect fit, but the way the situation was handled rubbed some people in the baseball industry the wrong way. “I certainly know that at the winter meetings, some of the older (managers), they're going to think it looks real bad to go after someone else's job,” one current MLB skipper told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Renteria turned down an offer to remain in the Cubs’ organization, perhaps with the hope of landing one of the available managerial openings. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the Twins, who have been without a skipper for a month after firing Ron Gardenhire, are considering whether to bring Renteria in for an interview.

Steve Wulf of ESPN.com asks if Maddon’s old job could be in play for Renteria as well:


Steve Wulf
Maddon and Renteria: Awkward Spot
"Just for the delicious irony of it, the Rays' brain trust should bring Renteria in for an interview to replace Maddon. They might find him to be the right fit for a club that could use a new voice, not to mention a franchise that may end up moving across the bay to Tampa, where there are more Latin-American residents. Maybe the Rays could get a prospect or two from the Cubs for picking up his contract.Who knows? Someday, we might have a Rays-Cubs World Series. Lose-lose could turn into win-win."
Tags:Rick Renteria
Will Zobrist be back with Rays?
October, 31, 2014
OCT 31
12:40
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
All major league teams are in the process of figuring out which contract options they're planning to pick up and which ones they're going to decline, and the Tampa Bay Rays are no exception. Their most expensive dilemma lies with the $7.5 million option that could bring Ben Zobrist back for 2015.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, a decision must come no later than Saturday -- and it should be an easy call: "Even if Zobrist didn't fit in the Rays plans, they would be much better off picking up his option and then looking to trade him than to let him become a free agent and leave with nothing in return. (The buyout is only $500,000.)"

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one team that may be looking to deal for Zobrist. As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes, "The Rays could move him to create salary relief, and don't bet against Andrew Friedman having some interest in a player he can move around the infield and outfield. The Dodgers could use good chemistry and Zobrist has it."
Tags:Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist
Nationals infield plan now set?
October, 31, 2014
OCT 31
11:33
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
Even though he had hoped to return to the Washington Nationals for the 2015 season, Adam LaRoche knew it would be a long shot. On Thursday, the Nationals did indeed decline the their half of a mutual $15 million option for next year, buying him out for $2 million and making LaRoche a free agent.

The decision to let LaRoche walk seems to indicate that the 2015 plan for the Nationals is to play Ryan Zimmerman, who struggled to find an everyday spot in the team's lineup after returning from multiple injuries, at first base, with Anthony Rendon taking over at third base.

As James Wagner of the Washington Post writes, "LaRoche, 34, will likely be the most coveted free agent first baseman. LaRoche spent four seasons in Washington, became a team leader and helped turn the Nationals from a rebuilding team to a two-time division champion. He hit .249 with a .781 OPS and 82 home runs over his four-year stint. He smashed 33 home runs, won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove award in 2012. He hit .259/.362/.455 with a team-high 26 home runs and 92 RBI in 2014."

Wagner thinks that the most likely landing spots for LaRoche will be the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates, all of which "lagged in first base production and could be fits."
Tags:Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche
Rangers looking to rebuild rotation?
October, 31, 2014
OCT 31
10:20
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The Texas Rangers saw their pitching staff finish next-to-last in the American League in ERA (4.49) and their starting rotation's 4.75 ERA was a healthy chunk of that disappointment. That said, the team is hoping to keep Colby Lewis -- one of only two pitchers to win 10 games for the team last season -- around for 2015.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com writes that "the Rangers have made an opening offer to (the) free agent pitcher and are awaiting feedback from his agent... The Rangers' desire to get something done with Lewis reflects their determination to address the starting rotation as the top priority this winter. The Rangers are also engaging a number of teams in trade discussions concerning starting pitching."

Sullivan adds that while the rotation will be a priority, chances are trade talks will yield more results than any free agent signings, as he believes the team will not be open to spending tons of money on the likes of Jon Lester, James Shields or Max Scherzer.

However, Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas disagrees: "Shields, the fourth-ranked free agent, is considered to be in the Rangers' wheelhouse in terms of salary demands. He's not going to get Jon Lester money, however his 14-8 season with a 3.7 WAR for Kansas City was impressive. He also had a 5.46 ERA in the postseason that was a little concerning. Shields would make a solid No. 2/3 starter to Yu Darvish and a four-to-five year contract seems in line with what the Rangers want to do."
Tags:Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, James Shields
Could Royals trade Gordon?
October, 31, 2014
OCT 31
9:08
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN Insider
01COMMENTS0EMAILPRINT
The Kansas City Royals spent Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, taking in one last set of cheers from the thousands of fans who gathered to salute the team before they all went their separate ways for the winter. However, the reality of baseball is that chances are not all of these players will be back with the team in 2015.

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the door is open for a deal that could drastically change the core of the Royals: "Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have become identified with a magical year, but the team faces looming decisions and/or escalating salary on each player. The expectation within the industry is that they will at least listen to trade offers."

Gordon, due to both his age and his contract situation, would seem to be the most likely of the trio to depart, as Martino explains: "Gordon holds a player option for 2016, but the educated bet is that we should operate under the assumption he is under team control for just one more season, until something definitive changes."

As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes, even if the team does decide to decline Billy Butler's $12.5 million option for next year, their payroll "could cross the $100 million threshold in 2015 for the first time" if they were to try and keep the majority of this roster intact, and that might end up being too high a price tag for ownership.
post #29525 of 77568
Giants going to cash out Pablo Sandoval!

I hope Morse Returns
post #29526 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post

Damn. That video makes me remember how happy I was when the Astros clinched the NLCS in 2005. One day Houston will get another championship.

Another? When did they have their first?
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Reply
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Reply
post #29527 of 77568
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Reply
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Reply
post #29528 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by FinallyFamous View Post

Tribe better do something.
Who do you want? Let's compare lists of targets.
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
post #29529 of 77568
Biggest offseason for my Mets in a long time, got to find a bat or two in order to contend for the playoffs for real.
post #29530 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by worldbeefreeg View Post

Biggest offseason for my Mets in a long time, got to find a bat or two in order to contend for the playoffs for real.
Want Cuddyer?
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
post #29531 of 77568
Twins dropping their Pinstripe Whites for 2015
post #29532 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post


Want Cuddyer?

Not worth giving up a first round pick for if he doesn't accept his qualifying offer. 

 

The MLB system of having to give up draft picks for signing players is so stupid. They don't want the big market teams to just sign every free agent, but I don't think they foresaw what was going to happen by putting these rules in place. 

post #29533 of 77568
I rather the Mets don't sign anybody than start bringing in mediocre players.
post #29534 of 77568
giants pls

sign panda
for sale: $25 nike egift card for $20 paypal. pm me if interested

also buy my under armour curry 1 father to son size 12 now! http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/162313247505?
Reply
for sale: $25 nike egift card for $20 paypal. pm me if interested

also buy my under armour curry 1 father to son size 12 now! http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/162313247505?
Reply
post #29535 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyRedStorm View Post

I rather the Mets don't sign anybody than start bringing in mediocre players.
I understand that perspective, especially with the Grandy signing. They need offense from somewhere, and it's not coming from the farm immediately in 2015.
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
REAL MADRID - EAGLES - SIXERS - BRUINS
INDIANS - OHIO STATE FOOTBALL - ARIZONA BASKETBALL
Reply
post #29536 of 77568
Would love to bring back Reyes if we didn't have to give up too much and sign Melky. Those two moves would be ideal to me.
post #29537 of 77568
Only thing the Nationals desperately need is a 2B. Free agent market is overall extremely "meh" at that position. I'm looking for Rizzo to trade for a MI who can play SS and 2B in case Desmond bolts in free agency next year. I'd look for him to target Zobrist. Not really sure what he's gonna do, but I'm hoping he's not gonna stand pat and trot Espinosa out there again sick.gif
post #29538 of 77568
Tito pimp.gif
O-H-I-O

CAVALIERS - INDIANS - BROWNS - BUCKEYES
Reply
O-H-I-O

CAVALIERS - INDIANS - BROWNS - BUCKEYES
Reply
post #29539 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Only thing the Nationals desperately need is a 2B. Free agent market is overall extremely "meh" at that position. I'm looking for Rizzo to trade for a MI who can play SS and 2B in case Desmond bolts in free agency next year. I'd look for him to target Zobrist. Not really sure what he's gonna do, but I'm hoping he's not gonna stand pat and trot Espinosa out there again sick.gif
I hope we buy low on didi gregorius give us a little extra insurance in case Desmond leaves
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
post #29540 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Twins dropping their Pinstripe Whites for 2015

mean.gif

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies

 

aka 651

Reply

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies

 

aka 651

Reply
post #29541 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by shirt1995 View Post

I hope we buy low on didi gregorius give us a little extra insurance in case Desmond leaves
Rizzo has a soft spot for the D-Backs. Asked about Didi before the deadline this past season as well. Wouldn't shock me if he ends up over here.
post #29542 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by worldbeefreeg View Post

Would love to bring back Reyes if we didn't have to give up too much and sign Melky. Those two moves would be ideal to me.
I've been praying for Jose since the day he left. Not tendering him an offer left me severely jaded. Favorite player ever.
post #29543 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Rizzo has a soft spot for the D-Backs. Asked about Didi before the deadline this past season as well. Wouldn't shock me if he ends up over here.

I think they need sp too and we got detweiler and Taylor jordan (if people still think he's good) plus like 3-4 sp prospects in the minors who are supposed to be something. So I hope that has a good chance of coming through and if we can finagle brad zeigler outta them while we're at it I would be very happy
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
post #29544 of 77568
But I hope we keep giolito cuz I think he's gonna be the man only exception to that is if we make a play for Giancarlo
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
BUNCH OF STUFF FOR SALE Including BC3 WC4 Oreo 6 Carmine 6 and many many more

See pics and prices on my Instagram: itsnotme1_3
Reply
post #29545 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by PacificNorseWst View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Twins dropping their Pinstripe Whites for 2015

mean.gif

still going to have them on their cream ALT
post #29546 of 77568
Quote:
Originally Posted by shirt1995 View Post

But I hope we keep giolito cuz I think he's gonna be the man only exception to that is if we make a play for Giancarlo
No way they give up Giolito in a deal for Didi. More than likely it'll be one of the guys you mentioned, and a position player like Steven Souza or Jeff Kobernus/Tyler Moore.

Personally, if I'm the GM, I go out and try to get Max Scherzer. Doing this enables us to move Jordan Zimmermann (who is a free agent after the season) for a legit 2B. Ideally, I'd like for us to go and get Howie Kendrick or Ben Zobrist. The problem with these guys is that they're both in the final year of their deals as well. It'll be interesting to see how Rizzo goes about filling the position.
post #29547 of 77568
Very happy to read that the Dodgers replaced that bum with a capable front office man with Athletics ties. The A's-Dodgers connection grows stronger pimp.gif
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

Reply
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

Reply
post #29548 of 77568
Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward Gold Glove winners pimp.gifhappy.gif they are the BEST DEFENSIVE players in the entire MLB. Heyward > Legares

Heyward just needs to hit next year. Braves Offseason moves please get rid of BJ Upton package him with Justin Upton i don't even care. Sign/Trade for Starting Pitchers. Keep Gattis
post #29549 of 77568
laugh.gif
post #29550 of 77568
Is there a replay of last night's 30for30 on El Duque airing anytime soon?
New York Yankees | New York Jets
Reply
New York Yankees | New York Jets
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sports & Training
NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions.