Results tagged ‘ Mark Reynolds ’

2014 MLB Free Agency: Hitting: What’s Out There For Your Team

Another season has finished and with only ten teams having successful, playoff-bound seasons, it is time for the other 20 teams to look forward to the 2014 season. After 162 games, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your team needs. Below, you’ll find a list of upcoming free agents. Who would you like your team to sign? Comment away!!!

CanoTop Tier Talents

Robinson Cano, 2B, 31: Although ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Cano wants a ten-year, $305 million deal, it would seem nearly impossible for the middle infielder to get anything close to that, even when considering all of the television money coming in for clubs. How far are the Dodgers willing to go over the luxury tax threshold? Are the Angels willing to shell out more money to 30-plus year olds after watching Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols not live up to expectations? Everyone knows that the Yankees are trying to slim down their payroll…it just doesn’t seem likely. After watching Cano hit like a corner outfielder while playing second base over the last nine years, he is clearly the top talent available in the entire free agency market.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, 31: Choo showed his worth by getting on base exactly 300 times in the 2013 season (162 hits,  112 walks, and 26 HBP) while reaching the 20 home run/20 stolen base level for the third time in his career, helping solidify a Cincinnati lineup that had been seeking a strong leadoff hitter for what seems like decades. He proved that he was at least capable of handling center field in Cincinnati, but his defensive metrics have been pretty miserable over his entire career wherever he plays, although, Choo can make up for it at times with his strong arm. Shin-Soo Choo will be highly coveted by outfield-needy clubs this offseason and those clubs will likely get several solid seasons out of the South Korean-born, on-base machine.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, 30: Ellsbury had a fine season, leading MLB in stolen bases (52) while being a tremendous defensive center fielder. He will likely get paid huge dollars for his 2011 season (32 HR, 105 RBI, .928 OPS), even though his next best season was the 2013 season, when he hit nine home runs, drove in 53 runs, and posted a .781 OPS. More Michael Bourn than Matt Kemp, Ellsbury will be an asset due to his speed and defense as a strong outfield option, and while he doesn’t have the on-base skills that Choo possesses, he is a fine leadoff hitter.

Brian McCann, C, 30: McCann is going to be a rich, rich man. With the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers seeking help at catcher, he’ll have plenty of suitors. After reaching 20 home runs for the seventh time in eight full seasons despite playing in just 102 games, McCann has proven that his shoulder woes are behind him and that he can continue to be an offensive asset to a club going forward. Still pretty weak behind the dish (24-percent caught stealing this season and the same for his career), McCann’s bat will carry him and utilizing him in the American League at DH will do wonders for his career and whoever signs him.

McCannBest Available Catchers

McCann; John Buck, 33; Dioner Navarro, 30; A.J. Pierzynski, 37; Carlos Ruiz, 35; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 29; Geovany Soto, 31;

There are some solid options available at catcher, here. McCann is obviously the top option with Saltalamacchia as the next best option. Navarro seems to have been around forever and the Cubs got a lot out of him this season while using him sparingly, posting an .856 OPS and 13 home runs over just 266 plate appearances, making him a somewhat attractive, cheaper option. The rest offer solid veteran depth, which has tremendous value with so many good young catchers in the league.

AbreuBest Available Corner Infielders

Jose Dariel Abreu, 27; Corey Hart, 32; Mike Napoli, 32; James Loney, 30; Kendrys Morales, 30; Justin Morneau, 33; Mike Morse, 32; Eric Chavez, 36; Mark Reynolds, 30; Michael Young, 37;

Abreu is the highly-coveted Cuban defector, full of power and mystique, who will likely get a Yasiel Puig-like contract, maybe better. Several solid veterans are available who can handle first base, many of them (Hart, Napoli, and Morneau, in particular) having some injury concerns. With the right type of deal, any of these players could provide tremendous value to a club seeking leadership, while having enough talent remaining to be productive as platoon options, starters, or multi-position use (1B/DH primarily).

Best Available Middle Infielders

Cano; Stephen Drew, 31; Rafael Furcal, 36; Omar Infante, 32; Kelly Johnson, 32; Jhonny Peralta, 32; Brian Roberts, 36; Brendan Ryan, 32;

Cano is the true treat here, but former All-Star talents exist, although several of them have been and will continue to be risky due to injury histories. Like many of the corner infielders that are available this winter, there are several players who could provide solid production, but it could come with a limited role as a platoon player while providing the old phantom value that comes with being a strong veteran with clubhouse presence.

Choo3Best Available Outfielders

Carlos Beltran, 37; Marlon Byrd, 36; Choo; Nelson Cruz, 33; Rajai Davis, 33; Ellsbury; Jeff Francoeur, 30; Curtis Granderson, 33; Corey Hart, 32; Raul Ibanez, 42; Mike Morse, 32; Juan Pierre, 36; Grady Sizemore, 31; Delmon Young, 28;

There could be tremendous value in the outfield this winter, as teams will be able to get aging veterans like Ibanez (if he comes back), Beltran, or Byrd, all having excellent 2013 seasons, at an affordable, short-term deal. At the same time, Cruz, Granderson, Hart, and Young could post numbers that would make them equals to the top players available (Choo and Ellsbury) if everything breaks right.

Should MLB Teams Refuse the Mega-Contract?

Another free agency period is ahead with another Major League Baseball offseason. With so many superstars being signed to lucrative contracts with their existing clubs, players who reach free agency can make exorbitant amounts of money due to fewer players being available and television contracts that teams are using as revenue generating machines. With that being said, is a big-time contract a smart investment for a needy team this winter?

The Yankees as a Model

With Robinson Cano heading towards free agency after the 2013 season, the New York Yankees will be faced with a decision that could alter their original plan of getting under Major League Baseball’s $189 million luxury tax threshold. With $92.4 million due to six players (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano (the Cubs are covering $13 of the $18 million owed to him), Mark Teixiera, Vernon Wells (the Angels are covering $18.6 of the $21 million owed to him), Ichiro Suzuki, and Derek Jeter (who has an $8 million player option), the Yankees, on the surface, appear to have some wiggle room in an offer to their superstar second baseman; however, the players mentioned above are the only players with guaranteed contracts next season.

Yankees vs. MarinersAdam Warren, David Phelps, and Eduardo Nunez are all pre-arbitration, so they can have their contracts renewed at the league minimum, but the club will have to deal with David Huff, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Jayson Nix, Shawn Kelley, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson within arbitration, and determine whether Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Mark Reynolds, Boone Logan, Travis Hafner, Joba Chamberlain, and/or Lyle Overbay are worthy of being tendered a qualifying offer prior to reaching free agency. With up to 19 spots available for next season, the remaining $96.6 million doesn’t appear to be going very far.

While relief could be on the way with a possible 2014 suspension for Alex Rodriguez, from which his $25 million contract would be forfeited, the long-term contracts that the Yankees have handed out like candy are now causing financial issues as the club’s attendance continues to decline (43,733 in 2012 vs. 40,002 in 2013) along with the talent of the aging players.

Consider this:

Alex Rodriguez is 37 years old and is owed $86 million over the next four years.

C.C. Sabathia is 32 years old and is owed $76 million over the next three seasons (including his 2017 buyout).

Mark Teixiera is 33 years old and is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons.

The three have been worth a combined WAR (Fangraphs) of 2.6 in 2013 while costing the Yankees $73.5 million in salaries. For comparisons sake, San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson, San Diego outfielder Chris Denorfia, Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford have each posted a 2.6 WAR in 2013…individually. If the Yankees had all five players this season, they would have spent just under $16 million, about $6.5 million less than they spent on Teixiera alone in 2013!

Why These Contracts Don’t Make Sense

By investing large sums of money into veterans when they reach free agency in the post-steroid era, teams are taking immeasurable risks.

1) They are assuming that a high-performing player will be capable of producing into their mid-30’s, and…

2) They are assuming that the high-performing player will stay healthy enough to be worth the investment.

When a player reaches free agency, they have at least six years of major league experience. The player likely had three seasons of pre-arbitration followed by three years of arbitration prior to reaching free agency. Considering that most players make their debuts between the ages of 21 and 24, a free agent is typically between the ages of 27 and 30. The magic prime age in baseball is apparently going to happen in a player’s age-27 season, lasting roughly three to five seasons. A player has reached their physical peak at this point, which allows the player to utilize their various tools to take advantage of the opposition through the use of their experience and mental approaches gained through those experiences. When a multi-year contract is given to a player at the age of 30, say a five-year contract, and that player is then declining for nearly three-fifths of the contract, what is the value to the club? Without performance-enhancers, normal aging processes, such as shoulder fatigue for aging pitchers and chronic knee soreness for a veteran position player, become normal once again. Can teams count on a 39-year-old shortstop to play in 162 games? Ask Derek Jeter how his season went.

Unfortunate Recent Examples

Albert Pujols signed his ten-year, $240 million deal with the Angels following his age-31 season in St. Louis. To make the deal more affordable and to allow the Angels some financial flexibility, Pujols’ contract was heavily back-loaded, meaning he will be making the most money at the end of his contract when he is approaching or passing the age of 40. In fact, in Pujols’ tenth season with the Angels, he is scheduled to make $30 million, the highest annual salary within his contract. After making a combined $28 million in 2012 and 2013, Pujols’ contract will jump to $23 million in 2014 and climb $1 million each season before reaching $30 million in 2021.

VottoHowever, Pujols hasn’t really lived up to the contract based on his production over the first 11 seasons in the majors, as he has posted the lowest WAR of his career in consecutive seasons (3.7 in 2012 and 0.7 in 2013). He was shutdown on August 19 due to a partial tear of his left plantar fascia and he  should be ready to go next season; however, since he isn’t undergoing surgery, how well will this injury heal? Although the tear supposedly did what the surgery would have, one has to wonder if it can be aggravated, torn further (since it is still a partial tear), and debilitating enough to plague Pujols throughout the remainder of his massive contract.

And what about the contract that the “small-market” Cincinnati Reds gave to Joey Votto? The Reds handed Votto a ten-year, $225 million extension in April of 2012. The contract hasn’t even started yet, as the first year of the extension will be the 2014 season, Votto’s age-30 season. For ten years, the Reds will hope that Votto will produce numbers similar to his 2010 MVP season, something that he hasn’t seemed capable of reproducing over the last three seasons, despite leading the National League in on-base percentage the last three seasons, four including 2010. When you consider that the Reds are winning in 2013 and they still average just 31,479 in attendance (16th in MLB), how will the team be able to contend when Votto is making $25 million per season beginning in 2018, when he is 34 years old?

Even worse, the contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard received his extension in April of 2010 and it didn’t go into effect until the 2012 season, a five-year, $125 million deal that would begin in Howard’s age-32 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, Howard has played in 151 games while posting a .244/.307/.445 line with 31 doubles, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, and a whopping 194 strikeouts in 609 plate appearances. The previous seven seasons, Howard had a .275/.368/.560 line with an average of 26 doubles, 41 home runs, and 123 RBI per season, and that was including his declining 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which Howard posted the lowest OPS of his career (.859 in 2010 and .835 in 2011)…that was, of course, until his dreadful 2012 season (.718 OPS).

The Problem With TV Deals

I was able to get a response from Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh when I asked him via Twitter, “Do you think MLB teams are going to shy away from mega contract due to the Pujols/Howard/Hamilton deals in post steroid era?” His response:

The TV money, which was mentioned previously, is an interesting enhancement to the revenue stream for major league teams. With the Los Angeles Dodgers getting over $6 billion over 25 years from Time Warner in  their TV deal, which will give the club nearly $240 million per year in revenue, the already crazy expenditures of the boys in blue could become even more egregious this winter. The club seems capable of locking up left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a contract worth $30 million per season or more this winter, AND signing Robinson Cano to take over second base from Mark Ellis, who has a $5.75 million option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. By taking on those types of contracts on top of the Carl Crawford ($20.25 million in 2014), Matt Kemp ($21 million in 2014), Adrian Gonzalez ($21 million in 2014), Zack Greinke ($26 million in 2014), and Andre Ethier ($15.5 million in 2014) deals, the Dodgers will be willingly entering the luxury tax threshold in an effort to win the World Series.

KempBut what happens when money can’t buy titles? The New York Yankees seemed to always have the highest payroll in baseball and they haven’t won the title every season. Spending doesn’t quantify wins, it is, as Lindbergh referenced, the winner’s curse. This concept is outlined in Colin Wyers 2009 Baseball Prospectus piece titled The Real Cursewhich Wyers states:

The market for baseball players seems to more closely resemble a sealed-bid auction than it does a market. Since the person who wins that sort of auction is typically the person with the largest bid, it stands to reason that the person who “wins” is in fact the person who overbids…

The curse is then being the winning bid on a contract that was probably more than what another team was willing to bid. By evaluating players and making smart investments, teams that break the curse are able to get production out of what they spend, while teams that suffer from the curse are those that fail to get production out of their investment, as in the suffering that the Cubs went through with Alfonso Soriano, the joint suffering of the Blue Jays and Angels over the Vernon Wells contract, and the Giants’ suffering through the Barry Zito contract.

When spending goes wrong, it can financially cripple a franchise, who is then responsible for allocating funds to an under-performing player while still trying to field a competitive team around that player. Teams seem more likely to take those types of risks, though. Due to the incoming revenue from the TV deals, teams like the Cleveland Indians, who celebrated the sale of the franchise owned SportsTime Ohio to Fox Sports this winter by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, are more capable of making these potentially fatal bids.

Will the money continue to be there for clubs to take on these large, risky contracts?

Pete Kotz had an amazing story about the leagues finances, and while discussing television deals, he says:

With no one saying no, the networks see sports as a no-lose racket, with ESPN as its piper. The sports channel charges cable companies $5 a month per customer, by far the highest monthly fee in national television. While that may seem a pittance, it’s big money when spread over the 100 million U.S. households with pay TV. And it’s made the other big boys envious.

NBC and CBS have launched their own sports channels. Another from Fox is on the way. Even regional sports channels are starting to broach that $5 mark. Their bet is that viewers will always be willing to pay more. And more. And more.

…Today, the average TV bill rests at $86 per month, about half of which pays for sports programming. That’s more than double a decade ago. So it’s no coincidence that the cable and satellite industries have been jettisoning customers for nine years straight.

 “I can’t tell you what will be the trigger,” says Matthew Polka, president of the American Cable Association. “But I am certain that at some point in the very near future, that balloon will burst.”

As cable and satellite customers are forced to pay more and they continue to leave those companies in an effort to save money, the money will eventually not be coming in. The cable and satellite companies will likely battle with the club’s networks to get lower rates, and there could be something drastic, like CBS being taken away from major markets. Eventually, the boom in finances and long-term contracts will go away and the inevitable crash will make it harder for clubs to make large financial commitments to star players. Imagine if the housing market was responsible for financing people’s salaries and when the market for home sales crashed how disastrous that could have been…but it did and it was miserable for the entire economy.

Major League Baseball is exempt from some things due to anti-trust laws, but nothing is too big to fail.

Who Is Worth a Mega-Contract?

harper troutIt may seem easy to say that locking up players within their pre-arbitration or arbitration years to lucrative, long-term contracts seems more intelligent than waiting until free agency, as the annual salaries can slowly increase rather than starting and sitting at $25 million per year for eight straight seasons. A few examples of players who could be worth a long-term investment in this scenario:

  • Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout is earning $510,000 in 2013 and he is pre-arbitration in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration in 2015, 2016, and 2017. If Trout continues his torrid pace for the next four seasons and reaches free agency in 2018 at the age of 26, what types of maniacal offers will he be receiving at that point?
  • Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper signed a major league contract and will be arbitration eligible in 2016, 2017, and 2018 before reaching free agency at the age of 25 in 2019. Like Trout, he has posted absurd numbers, given his age, and, with Scott Boras as his current agent, could own half of a franchise based on what he will be offered in free agency.
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Marlins’ right-hander Jose Fernandez, Marlins’ right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton, and Mets’ right-hander Matt Harvey (upon his return in 2015 from elbow surgery…if he is just as productive and dominant) are additional players who fit this mold.

Why are these types of players worth a long-term investment? Because they are young, producing prior to their prime years, and are more likely to continue producing towards the end of a 10 to 15 year extension than a player who turns 40 or 41 in year ten of their long-term contracts, like Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.

These are the types of mega-contracts that seem more reasonable and realistic for franchises, while being less likely to provide a curse on the investing bidder. Because the player is within the grasp of the franchise already, the team has all kinds of data available to analyze, they have coaches and front office personnel who have strong relationships with the player, and the fan-base, media, and community surrounding the player are already familiar, so it could be assumed that there are fewer outside influences that could impact player performance.

SeligRegardless of the potential that these younger players possess, any long-term contract remains a risk for the franchise. If the clubs suddenly refuse to offer these types of contracts, however, the league and its owners would likely be accused of collusion. The mega-contract isn’t going away anytime soon. Despite future reluctance to meet the demands of players and agents to attain these large salaries, there will likely be enough money, or a few teams with large enough revenue streams, for at least one of these deals to be made each offseason. As fewer and fewer star players seem to reach free agency due to long-term commitments with their existing franchise (like Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez), the stars that do reach free agency will likely continue to get the lucrative deals.

Indians Stuff, 12/20/12

IndiansI write about the Indians over at www.wahoosonfirst.com and Bleacher Report when I’m not writing things here. You should check these out, just in case you need something to read while the sky is falling due to a lazy Mayan:

Who is going to DH for the Indians with the current roster? http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/20/who-will-be-tribes-dh-in-2013/

Thoughts on the Indians’ acquisition of Mark Reynolds and Trevor Bauer:

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/13/on-mark-reynolds-trevor-bauer-and-the-indians-new-direction/

Should the Reds and Indians do a Chris Perez for Devin Mesoraco Trade?

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/03/could-indians-reds-trade-chris-perez-for-devin-mesoraco/

Three pretend trades that the Indians should try to make:

http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/11/19/three-trades-the-cleveland-indians-should-make/

2013 Indians Batting Order:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1448795-mlb-indians-projecting-the-2013-batting-order

How many wins is Terry Francona worth?

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1443626-mlb-how-many-wins-can-new-cleveland-indians-manager-terry-francona-produce

Seven starting pitchers that the Indians should target:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1430156-mlb-7-available-starting-pitchers-to-complete-the-ideal-2013-indians-rotation

Why the Indians can win now with Terry Francona:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1429424-mlb-why-the-indians-can-win-now-with-terry-francona

Top Non-Tendered Talent

WilsonNovember 30 is the last day to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players, and if team’s are uninterested in doing so, they are non-tendered, allowing those players to hit free agency. There are several names that hit free agency yesterday that could help out your favorite team. Let’s take a look at those top, new free agents.

Brian Wilson, RHP

Wilson is just 30 years old and was one of the top closers in baseball from 2008 to 2011, compiling 163 saves over four seasons. In late 2011, Wilson started having elbow issues, then he made just two appearances in 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. He is expected to be ready to go in spring training, but he may have to settle for a one-year deal, similar to Ryan Madson with the Angels, to show he is fully recovered and capable of regaining form.

Jair Jurrjens, RHP

Jurrjens will only be 27 years old on Opening Day in 2013 and he already has 53 wins and 750 innings under his belt; however, it’s the wins and innings he doesn’t have that are the concern with him. He made $5.5 million in 2012 in his second year of arbitration, and the Braves let him go after they were unable to trade him, and with good reason, his shoulder was a great concern. Jurrjens shoulder issues could be overblown, as they started in August of 2007, but then in 2008 and 2009, Jurrjens went 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA over 403.1 innings. He had issues with tightness and inflammation, once again, in February of 2010, but it was his knee issues, which needed surgery, that caused him to miss starts. Jurrjens rebounded to a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 2011, only to miss more starts due to his knee. If Jurrjens can prove to teams that it is his knee that was of concern and not his shoulder, I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a line of teams knocking at his door while you’re reading this.

Rafael Perez, LHP

He’s breathing and he is left-handed, but more than that, Perez has been a very, very effective relief pitcher for a number of seasons. Perez had one really, really bad season, 2009, when he posted a 7.31 ERA over 54 games and 48 innings, but if you look at the rest of his career, Perez has a 3.01 ERA over 284 games and 281 innings. He missed 146 games due to a shoulder ailment, which he didn’t have surgery on until late September, so team’s may be hesitant to guarantee him much. An incentive-laden, one-year contract would be a good way for the lefty to get a job quickly.

reynoldsMark Reynolds, 1B/3B

Reynolds is an American League team’s dream. He can handle third base or first base, but not really play either well, while providing an incredible amount of right-handed power to the lineup. He also will frustrate teams with his tremendous number of strikeouts, while posting a batting average near the Mendoza-line every season. He is what he is, as Reynolds has been this player since 2007. Reynolds doesn’t even turn 30 years old unti August of 2013 and he has compiled 181 home runs and a career .807 OPS in his six seasons. He has also struck out in 32.6 percent of his career at-bats. With his ability to sit in the middle of an order to provide power as a first baseman, third baseman, or designated hitter, Reynolds will interest several clubs.

Brandon Snyder, 1B/OF

Snyder was non-tendered by the Texas Rangers and the 26-year-old could be very valuable for the right team. He just turned 26 and Snyder only has 98 career at-bats, but he posted a .275/.331/.431 line over six seasons in the minors. He has more doubles power than home run power, having hit 14 in 2011 in Triple-A as a career high, but he would be a solid, affordable platoon partner for a club.

Geovany Soto, Catcher

Soto will be turning 30 in January and he will be very popular in coming days. After hitting .264/.370/.466 with 73 doubles and 51 home runs from 2008 to 2010, Soto has hit just .214/.297/.381 with 38 doubles and 28 home runs the last two seasons. Soto had shoulder surgery in September of 2010, so the fall in productivity could be related. Soto wasn’t ever above average behind the plate, but teams seem to be picking on his arm the last two seasons, stealing 150 bases while getting caught just 57 times (28 percent, which is league average). He’ll have plenty of suitors as a young, power hitting catcher.

Mike Pelfrey, RHP

Pelfrey will be 29 years old in January and he is about as average as it gets as a starting pitcher. He’s had a couple of seasons with an ERA around 3.70 and a few hovering around 5.00. Pelfrey has statistical averages that put him at around 200 innings per season with an ERA of 4.36, so he would be a solid filler in the back-end of a rotation. The 6’7″ right-hander had Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, so he will probably be getting an incentive-based, one-year contract to show that he has recovered. He may not be ready for the start of the season due to the 12 to 18 month recovery time for the elbow surgery.

Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

After posting a 2.88 ERA for the Nationals in 2012, it was surprising to see Gorzelanny’s name on the non-tender list. It is possible that his experience as a starter in his career would drive up his arbitration costs, although he made just one start in 2012, after making $3 million for Washington last season. Gorzelanny has proven himself as a valuable left-handed reliever, posting a 3.32 ERA over 82 games and 114 innings, with a 1.25 WHIP. When you look at those numbers, you can see why teams would jump at the opportunity to sign the 30-year-old southpaw; however, if a team is looking at him as a starter, they may want to look at his 4.61 ERA over 111 starts and 621 innings, with a 1.48 WHIP. Gorzelanny would do better for himself if he locks himself in as a solid, left-handed relief pitcher, and teams should only view him as such.

Ben Francisco, OF

Francisco is a platoon outfielder, and he has been that player for his entire career to every team that he has played for, outside of the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, he really isn’t a platoon player. Francisco has a career .260/.324/.430 line against right-handers and a .252/.329/.414 line against left-handers. Francisco, at 31, is nothing more than a 25th man. He can play left and right field and he can provide a little bit of pop, a little bit of speed, and a little bit of patience at the plate. He keeps getting chances and he keeps getting platoon roles, but I’m not sure that he is any better than what some minor league free agent types could do if given around 200 at-bats per season. Teams may still be interested in him, though, for whatever reason.

StewartIan Stewart, 3B

Stewart turns just 28 in April, which is shocking considering it feels like he has been around forever, having received his first taste of the majors in 2007. Stewart was once one of the most promising, having been rated as high as No. 4 by Baseball America, prior to the 2005 season. That sort of thing happens when a guy hits 30 home runs as a 19-year-old in Low-A. Stewart has even had some success at the big league level, as he hit 53 home runs and drove in 172 runs between 2008 and 2010. Stewart’s .246/.346/.454 line over that time wasn’t fantastic, but the Rockies gave up on him in 2011 after he posted a .156/.243/.221 line. He didn’t do much better for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, but he had wrist issues, which he had surgery on in July of 2012, which dated back to August of 2011, when Stewart was in Triple-A with the Rockies. Still very young, a healthy Stewart deserves another opportunity. He has proven capable of hitting major league pitching in the past and he will be very affordable. It’s unfortunate that he may become a career backup due to one miserable season and some injuries.

Are the Orioles Finished?

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the surprising teams in MLB in 2012, having gone 32-26 through Friday.  The O’s sit one game back of Tampa Bay in the AL East and they are tied with the Yankees for the Wild Card lead.

Baltimore started hot out of the gate, going 14-9 in April, thanks in large part to the 3.03 team ERA that their pitching staff posted in the first month of the season.  Things have changed since April, though, as the team ERA rose to 4.16 in May (though they did finish 15-13 in May), and it is up to 5.02 in June, while the team is now 3-4 this month after losing three straight games.

You can’t blame the pitching  entirely for the recent slide, though.  The offense is 19th in MLB in team average (.247) while leading the majors in strikeouts with 487, thanks in no small part to Robert Andino (59), Chris Davis (55), Mark Reynolds (46), and Adam Jones (42).  While the O’s struggle to make contact, they can mash, as shown by their 80 home runs (3rd in MLB) and a .733 team OPS (9th in MLB).

The rotation is currently in flux due to Jake Arrieta’s recent struggles.  The young right-hander is 2-8 with a 6.32 ERA.  While Arrieta was solid in April (1-2, 4.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .216 BAA), but he was miserable in May (1-4, 6.17 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .306 BAA), and attrocious in June (0-2, 13.50 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, .342 BAA).  He will go to Triple-A with Tommy Hunter coming back, but the club has had great contributions from Jason Hammel, Wei-Lin Chen, and Brian Matusz to this point.

Adam Jones was just extended, Dylan Bundy has pitched like the the greatest pitching prospect in years, and the Orioles have a group of solid prospects in Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Nick Delmonico, and others.  The future is bright in Baltimore, but this probably isn’t the year.

Baltimore has dealt with a lot of injury issues.  Nolan Reimold was fantastic before back issues set in, Brian Roberts is and has been out with a concussion, and Nick Markakis is now out through the month of June due to a broken right hamate bone.  Add in Matt Lindstrom’s finger injury in the bullpen, Tsuyoshi Wada being lost for the year before he ever really got started, and the lack of contact skills in the lineup, and the luck seems to be continually going against them.

Much like the Pittsburgh Pirates temporary resurgence in 2011, the Orioles temporary return to glory has been very cute.  However, it just isn’t meant to last this year, but the future remains bright…if that sounds familiar to Orioles fans…

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Third Base

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for 2B, projections are italicized:

1a. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

.302/.447/.608, 24 2B, 2 3B, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 9 SB in 513 AB

.308/.454/.603, 29 2B, 1 3B, 38 HR, 112 RBI, 6 SB in 509 AB

Joey Bats should maintain 3B eligibility in some formats.  It’s doubtful that he’ll play more than 10 games at 3B unless Brett Lawrie gets hurt or goes all Travis Snider on the Blue Jays, deciding he can’t hit anymore.  Bautista has 97 HR the last two seasons and his lineup is getting better around him.  He could hit 50 HR again if he isn’t walked 132 times like he was last year.

1b. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

.344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

.327/.431/.596, 49 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 579 AB

He’s listed here due to the trial that Jim Leyland believes is going to work.  He’ll have 3B eligibility once he plays there and he will be the top 3B, along with Bautista.  You can’t go wrong with either of them, and Cabrera’s arrival to 3B makes the position strong once again…along with:

2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

.243/.333/.379, 16 2B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 10 SB in 385 AB

.305/.380/.505, 37 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR, 85 RBI, 35 SB in 594 AB

Sure, he’s been declining/injured, but the guy is still just 28-years-old.  Ramirez is an elite level talent when he is playing to his abilities.  With Jose Reyes coming aboard and Logan Morrison becoming a top offensive talent, he has a lineup that he can become the catalyst within again.  This may be an over-the-top ranking, but even in a ballpark that we don’t know how it will play, you know that Ramirez is going to work to prove that 2011 was not who he is.

3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers

.296/.331/.561, 33 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 487 AB

.311/.346/.594, 39 2B, 38 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 591 AB

Why so high on the projections?  Because Beltre only played in 124 games last year and he posted his ridiculous power numbers.  A full season with Cruz, Kinsler, Hamilton, Napoli, and Young around him, if he stays healthy, would allow Beltre to join into a 1c role with Cabrera and Bautista.

4. Evan Longoria, Rays

.244/.355/.495, 26 2B, 1 3B, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 3 SB in 483 AB

.293/.401/.521, 33 2B, 2 3B, 38 HR, 113 RBI, 2 SB in 576 AB

Longoria struggled to get the ball where others weren’t last season, posting a BABIP of just .239 in 2011.  His career average is now .301, counting 2011.  He’s in for a huge return to glory.  Nevermind the fact that he is just 26, Longoria is already a top player in baseball.  If you have him in a keeper league…keep him.  He’s very likely to pass 40 HR in 2012.

5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

.289/.355/.443, 21 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB in 395 AB

.296/.361/.489, 42 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 91 RBI, 5 SB in 581 AB

If the shoulder holds up…No wonder third base looked so weak without Cabrera and Ramirez – Everyone else who mattered was hurt for portions of 2011.  Zimmerman is still within tier-one of 3B, but he isn’t capable of the outlandish numbers that the top five can put up.

6. Pablo Sandoval, Giants

.315/.357/.552, 26 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB in 426 AB

.309/.361/.561, 36 2B, 3 3B, 27 HR, 98 RBI, 2 SB in 591 AB

Kung Fu posted solid numbers after healing from his wrist injury last year, developing and showing power that should excite his owners.  His body may continue to make people uncomfortable in “gambling” on him, but he posted his 2011 totals in 109 starts and 117 total games.  With Posey back and Belt replacing older junk on the Giants roster, he should become the heart of the order in San Francisco in 2012.

7.  David Wright, Mets

.254/.345/.427, 23 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 13 SB in 389 AB

.281/.366/.485, 34 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 88 RBI, 15 SB in 564 AB

Move the fences in all you want, there isn’t going to be anyone to knock in when Wright comes up.  Davis and Duda are solid, but the Mets are going to struggle.  Wright is going to continue to be an injury risk due to his back issues.  He could very well be traded to a better team/ballpark, but you can’t count on those things.  He should be solid again, but it is doubtful that he is ever elite.

8. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

.276/.362/.461, 21 2B, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB in 373 AB

.281/.366/.488, 32 2B, 2 3B, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 6 SB in 539 AB

He’s aging and declining but you can see that in 99 games in 2011, he was still productive.  You may want to handcuff him like a fantasy football running back with Eduardo Nunez, just in case, but ARod still has a couple of solid seasons in him…or the Yankees and their fans better hope so, given his absurd contract.

9.  Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays

.293/.373/.580, 8 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SB in 150 AB

.281/.349/.508, 34 2B, 6 3B, 24 HR, 91 RBI, 22 SB in 567 AB

Based on last season, Lawrie could be a 30 2B, 15 3B, 34 HR, 26 SB, .953 OPS guy.  It’s a small sample size, but that is probably his peak season.  He isn’t there yet.  He’s going to be valuable immediately and he will continue to improve, but don’t expect a 30/30 season in his first full year.  He’s an incredible athlete and should be fun to watch.

10. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers

.306/.361/.510, 35 2B, 1 3B, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB in 565 AB

.286/.354/.484, 28 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB in 547 AB

Aramis had what I like to call a “contract year” (make sure you’re doing the Chris Farley as Matt Foley quotations with your fingers while you say that back).  Ramirez will be turning 34 in June and was signed for $12 million per season for three years with a mutual option for a fourth year.  The Brewers won’t want or need that fourth year.  Ramirez had issues staying healthy in the past and something tells me that this is going to end up like a Carlos Lee deal – he’ll end up at first base before the end of this deal, if not in 2012.  He won’t come close to replacing Prince Fielder, but the Brewers had to do something.

11. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox

.258/.373/.459, 32 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 3 SB in 431 AB

.279/.398/.488, 38 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 4 SB in 576 AB

12. David Freese, Cardinals

.297/.350/.441, 16 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 1 SB in 333 AB

.284/.339/.446, 25 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB in 519 AB

Don’t be one of those guys who thinks that he is who he was in the postseason.  Billy Hatcher once had an awesome postseason, too.  Freese is 29 in April.  He is what he is and he isn’t going to get a whole lot better – an injury prone, late-blooming hitter who strikes out too much.

13. Mark Reynolds, Orioles

.221/.323/.483, 27 2B, 1 3B, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 6 SB in 534 AB

.231/.334/.491, 31 2B, 1 3B, 38 HR, 96 RBI, 5 SB in 547 AB

Reynolds can mash when he makes contact.  He’ll probably play more first base in 2012 than anything, and he may not even qualify for 3B in some leagues if you have position changes in season.  Reynolds will keep what he does best…strikeout and occasionally hit a homeless man outside of Camden Yards with a massive longball.

14. Chipper Jones, Braves

.275/.344/.470, 33 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 2 SB in 455 AB

.301/.366/.484, 36 2B, 2 3B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 501 AB

I can’t get over Larry calling out Jason Heyward for not playing hurt.  When ol’ Larry and Heyward are on the field together, magic will happen.  Look for one last solid season before Chipper disappears into the sunset.

15. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks

.249/.341/.427, 25 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 18 SB in 482 AB

.257/.346/.439, 27 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 16 SB in 543 AB

Roberts posted solid values last season across the board.  If you have a 5 X 5 league and can deal with his average, picking him late will allow you to focus on pitching/closers earlier.

16. Mike Moustakas, Royals

.263/.309/.367, 18 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB in 338 AB

.286/.331/.411, 24 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 566 AB

The guy was 22 for all of last season and struck out in just 14% of his AB.  He wasn’t overmatched, he just didn’t have a lot of luck.  He may not become an immediate All-Star, but he is going to begin hitting.

17. Chase Headley, Padres

.289/.374/.399, 28 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 13 SB in 381 AB

.293/.376/.402, 34 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 61 RBI, 17 SB in 536 AB

18. Danny Valencia, Twins

.246/.294/.383, 28 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB in 564 AB

.268/.324/.401, 31 2B, 3 3B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 1 SB in 549 AB

19. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians

.255/.284/.415, 13 2B, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB in 212 AB

.261/.301/.411, 21 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 3 SB in 401 AB

Chiz may not start the year as the 3B in Cleveland.  That would be a shame since the other option is Jack Hannahan (barf!).  He is going to struggle against LHP and he may always be that guy.  He is someone that you’ll want to look ahead for matchups, like you should do with Matt Joyce if you own him.  Chisenhall has enough pop in his bat to be valuable while posting unimpressive AVG and OBP numbers.

20. Wilson Betemit, Orioles

.285/.343/.452, 22 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB in 323 AB

.270/.334/.435, 26 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 5 SB in 476 AB

I’ve always thought Betemit could put up solid numbers if he played every day.  He has enough power in his bat to offset the huge strikeout totals he would post, too.  He may be playing 3B everyday in Baltimore if the O’s do put Reynolds at 1B, so he is worth a look in deep leagues.

The Rest:

Alberto Callaspo, Angels; Mark Trumbo, Angels; Scott Rolen, Reds; Juan Francisco, Reds; Placido Polanco, Phillies; Ty Wigginton, Phillies; Ian Stewart, Cubs; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Casey McGehee, Pirates; Brent Morel, White Sox;

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Basemen

Below you’ll find the rankings for 1B for the 2012 season.  You’ll see 2012 projections in italics. 

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 

.344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

.327/.431/.596, 49 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 1 SB in 579 AB

How can one of the best hitters in baseball get even better?  Adding Prince Fielder to the lineup.  The Tigers are going to need run production with Cabrera playing some 3B, as their defense may become as ugly as the Patriots secondary.

2. Albert Pujols, Angels

.299/.366/.541, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 9 SB in 579 AB

.313/.389/.563, 36 2B, 34 HR, 112 RBI, 5 SB in 599 AB

Pujols had a “down” year in 2011.  If only everyone could look so good when they’re so “bad.”  He’ll rebound with health, and he’ll maintain that health with the ability to DH on occasion.  His lineup is filled with vets, but it shouldn’t hold him back THIS YEAR.  I still don’t think he’s going to be worth the contract by 2015 or 2016…ARod style.

3. Prince Fielder, Tigers

.299/.415/.566, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 1 SB in 569 AB

.315/.426/.588, 43 2B, 35 HR, 119 RBI, 1 SB in 559 AB

Prince isn’t losing anything by moving away from Ryan Braun’s protection with Miguel Cabrera filling that role nicely.  He immediately makes Detroit a contender with his arrival, especially since they were already there before he got there.  Scary good with the Comerica Park gaps.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

.338/.410/.548, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 1 SB in 630 AB

.327/.422/.553, 39 2B, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 1 SB in 614 AB

Gonzalez will have a full season of a not-God-awful Carl Crawford to drive in, and he’ll be comfortable in Fenway to start the year, so he won’t lose a month of power like he did at the start of 2011.

5. Joey Votto, Reds

.309/.416/.531, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 8 SB in 599 AB

.329/.426/.569, 36 2B, 38 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 587 AB

Votto is a very patient hitter in a lineup that lacks patience.  He’ll take pitches and lose RBI’s due to guys not getting on around him, and walking about the same number of times that he strikes out.  He’s going to step up his production as he heads towards Free Agency after 2013, developing a market for himself early.  He’s in a great ballpark, Great American to be exact, to make it happen.

6. Eric Hosmer, Royals

.293/.334/.465, 27 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB in 523 AB

.287/.362/.501, 31 2B, 26 HR, 89 RBI, 14 SB in 598 AB

Hosmer had a strong rookie season and is only going to get better.  2012 will be the first signs of what he is capable of, but his numbers will continue to climb from here.  He has power and is athletic enough to continue stealing bases.  He could eventually become a Ryan Braun clone at 1B, with fewer stolen bases.  I have him high on the list because he showed what he is capable of in the 2nd half of 2011.

7. Mark Teixeira, Yankees 

.248/.341/.494, 26 2B, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 4 SB in 589 AB

.253/.339/.513, 28 SB, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 2 SB in 594 AB

Teixeira’s AVG and SLG have fallen significantly in the last several seasons, and his high strikeout rate suddenly screams that he is on the decline, as he can’t keep up with fastballs like he used to.  With that being said, he is still mashing.  I have a slight bounceback coming, but he isn’t capable of the high averages and power like he used to be.

8. Michael Young, Rangers 

.338/.380/.474, 41 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, 6 SB in 631 AB

.318/.372/.468, 37 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 5 SB in 639 AB

Young just keeps hitting.  He led the league in hits last year and continues showing the ability to be versatile, which has a lot of value in various fantasy formats.  Look for more of the same with a solid lineup around him, even as he continues aging.  He showed no signs of breaking down last year.

9. Freddie Freeman, Braves 

.282/.346/.448, 32 2B, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 571 AB

.294/.357/.467, 34 2B, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB in 584 AB

With a name this bad, you’d think there was no way that he would be a successful baseball player.  Maybe a plumber or sales guy…however, Freeman is very young and is a polished hitter.  He’s hitting better than previous super-prospect Jason Heyward  has to this point, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues to do so in coming years.  He may never hit 30-35 homers per season, but he will do more than enough to be an asset in fantasy and for the Braves.

10. Michael Morse, Nationals

.303/.360/.550, 36 2B, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 522 AB

.286/.342/.549, 34 2B, 33 HR, 107 RBI, 1 SB in 571 AB

Morse came out of nowhere, kind of, to post very valuable fantasy numbers in 2011.  He has tremendous power and a long swing, which still will make his susceptible to slumps and strikeouts.  The Nationals are improving around him, though, so he should continue to build value.  He will ultimately be a first baseman, but he will patrol left field to open the season.  He could move to first if or when Adam LaRoche’s next injury strikes, but he’ll certainly be there by 2013 for good. 

11. Billy Butler, Royals 

.291/.361/.461, 44 2B, 19 HR, 95 RBI, 2 SB in 597 AB

.314/.379/.501, 41 2B, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 1 SB in 599 AB

12. Ike Davis, Mets 

.302/.383/.543, 8 2B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB in 129 AB

.291/.372/.538, 32 2B, 28 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB in 586 AB

Davis was headed towards a breakout prior to the ankle injury that he suffered in 2011.  Imagine the capabilities in an offense that is relying heavily on him, especially after the fences were moved in.  This is the year.

13. Lance Berkman, Cardinals 

.301/.412/.547, 23 2B, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 2 SB in 488 AB

.283/.394/.527, 21 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 1 SB in 506 AB

He won’t hit as well with added pressure to perform, but he should maintain health by moving to first.  He’s aging, even if he posted a solid season for what seems like the first time in years in 2011, so don’t think he is going to get a whole lot better than last year.

14. Ryan Howard, Phillies 

.253/.346/.488, 30 2B, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 1 SB in 557 AB

.247/.339/.479, 23 2B, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 0 SB in 486 AB

Decline City.  Major injury + drops in OPS over the last few years = the NL version of Teixeira with a whole lot less to offer.  Howard will miss the first month, but he’ll still post solid power numbers.  He isn’t a top of the line bat anymore, and he and his teammates are aging quicker than Benjamin Button, only the opposite way.

15. Paul Konerko, White Sox 

.300/.388/.517, 25 2B, 31 HR, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 543 AB

.309/.392/.524, 28 2B, 33 HR, 110 RBI, 1 SB in 564 AB

There’s no way that Konerko can’t be better in 2011 because Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Gordon Beckham will be better around him.  He’ll drive in more runs and see more pitches.

16. Mark Reynolds, Orioles

.221/.323/.483, 27 2B, 37 HR, 86 RBI, 6 SB in 534 AB

.232/.331/.489, 26 2B, 39 HR, 91 RBI, 4 SB in 541 AB

17. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks 

.250/.333/.474, 9 2B, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 4 SB in 156 AB

.259/.341/.510, 28 2B, 25 HR, 84 RBI, 7 SB in 533 AB

18. Yonder Alonso, Padres

.330/.398/.545, 4 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB in 88 AB

.309/.389/.508, 36 2B, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 531 AB

19. Gaby Sanchez, Marlins

.266/.352/.427, 35 2B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB in 572 AB

.271/.354/.449, 37 2B, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 2 SB in 576 AB

20. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies 

.284/.346/.459, 29 2B, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB in 529 AB

.279/.339/.453, 31 2B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 8 SB in 559 AB

21. Carlos Lee, Astros

.275/.342/.446, 38 2B, 18 HR, 94 RBI, 4 SB in 585 AB

.271/.341/.439, 36 2B, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB in 591 AB

22. Justin Morneau, Twins

.227/.285/.333, 16 2B, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB in 264 AB

.264/.326/.411, 21 2B, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB in 403 AB

If he stays on the field, he’s still going to have to adjust and be consistent.  Chris Parmelee may be the best Twins first baseman to own going forward.

23. Justin Smoak, Mariners

.234/.323/.396, 24 2B, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 0 SB in 427 AB

.271/.359/.489, 31 2B, 22 HR, 83 RBI, 1 SB in 568 AB

This is the year, guys!  Smoak stays healthy, has help with Montero coming over, and he develops.  He’s still just 25!

24. Aubrey Huff, Giants

.246/.306/.370, 27 2B, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 5 SB in 521 AB

.261/.326/.409, 31 2B, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB in 535 AB

25. Carlos Pena, Rays

.225/.357/.462, 27 2B, 28 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB in 493 AB

.231/.379/.491, 26 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 2 SB in 519 AB

26. James Loney, Dodgers

.288/.339/.416, 30 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 4 SB in 531 AB

.281/.341/.421, 34 2B, 14 HR, 70 RBI, 3 SB 546 AB

27. Casey Kotchman, Indians

.306/.378/.422, 24 2B, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB in 500 AB

.311/.386/.441, 31 2B, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB in 562 AB

28. Adam Lind, Blue Jays

.251/.295/.439, 16 2B, 26 HR, 87 RBI, 1 SB in 499 AB

.255/.310/.441, 18 2B, 29 HR, 84 RBI, 1 SB in 512 AB

29. Mitch Moreland, Rangers

.259/.320/.414, 22 2B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB in 464 AB

.265/.329/426, 29 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 3 SB in 520 AB

30. Todd Helton, Rockies

.302/.385/.466, 27 2B, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 0 SB in 421 AB

.294/.376/.459, 24 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 0 SB in 432 AB

GM for the Day: Baltimore Orioles

Well, we finally made it to the American League.  Thanks for your patience and if you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, I know you have some.  Baltimore finished in last place in the AL East for the 4th straight season and completed their season with a 69-93 record, their 14th straight losing season.  New management and another rebuilding effort is in the works, as the O’s look for a way to get back to the glory of the…70’s…which seems like forever ago to their fans because it was.  Who are the 25-men on the current roster?

2 Catchers: Matt Wieters and Taylor Teagarden

1B: Mark Reynolds

2B: Brian Roberts

3B: Josh Bell

SS: J.J. Hardy

LF: Nolan Reimold

CF: Adam Jones

RF: Nick Markakis

DH: Chris Davis

Bench: Endy Chavez (OF), Robert Andino (INF), Matt Angle (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jeremy Guthrie, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada

Relief Pitchers: Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Alfredo Simon, Darren O’Day and Brad Bergeson

The O’s didn’t have the success that they hoped to with the young arms that they were stockpiling.  Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz have been total flops, while Arrieta and Britton seem to look like solid arms, but not really the top of the rotation guys that all four were hoped to become.  Britton still has a shot, though.  Adam Jones finally reached his potential last year, and at age 25, he is either someone to build around or someone to deal.  It sounds like Dan Duquette is in the middle of deciding what that is going to be.  Markakis is solid and average at the same time.  J.J. Hardy looks like a great piece to keep until Manny Machado is ready, and the O’s have some talent in the pipeline to look forward to until they matter again.  If only they moved to the NL Central, they could contend now.

They should probably look to deal Adam Jones.  At 25, Jones is under team control until 2014.  He would be an asset for a team that wants to contend.  He would fit perfectly in the Braves outfield, they could trade Prado and put Jones or Bourn in LF, and he could get one or two of the Braves arms back in return.  But you have to wonder if taking on arms is what the O’s need to do.  They’ve added a couple of arms from Asia this offseason in Chen and Wada, basically eliminating rotation spots for Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Chris Tillman…if they even wanted them there in the first place…and their system hasn’t had much luck with developing arms.  Luckily, the Braves have Minor, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino ready.  Packaging one of those arms with Edward Salcedo, a highly ranked 3B prospect, would be an excellent package for Jones.

The O’s aren’t going to contend in 2012.  They won’t contend for a few more years.  They need to come to grips with that and start looking at the next wave of talent.  Manny Machado at SS, Dylan and Robert Bundy at starting pitcher, and Jonathan Schoop look like top to above average prospects.  Because of their future being two years out, they shouldn’t be starting anyone over 30.  No more Derrek Lee’s or Vladimir Guerrero’s, even if they sign on the cheap.  This team needs to invest in the draft, international signings, and player development.  With the talent in the AL East, they have no choice but to build a little and THEN start signing talent via Free Agency.  They have to have more key pieces on the field before they start filing holes.  So they should waste their money on signing guys like Edwin Jackson or even spend time checking in on Prince Fielder.  Let other teams spend now.  Trade Nick Markakis to the Red Sox for Ryan Lavarnway and Anthony Renaudo, even though he is young (28 in 2012), you aren’t going to win with him.  J.J. Hardy can help you win some games, but he could also get you a nice return from, say, the Reds, at the trade deadline in 2012 if Zack Cozart doesn’t work out.  Trade Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts to the Rockies for Seth Smith and Hector Gomez, giving the Rockies the solid arm they need to contend now, while the O’s get a spot for a young arm to try to prove themselves again.

There are a lot of things that the Orioles can do in 2012, but winning isn’t one of them.  They have an interesting lineup with Jones, Markakis, Reimold, Hardy and Wieters, but they just don’t have enough consistency out of those guys to win, plus the pitching is just as questionable.  Wada is a Japanese clone of Jamie Moyer, hitting 87-88 with his fastball.  Chen can throw some heat, but he also has had some shoulder issues.  We know that their young arms haven’t been consistent…or good…as Tillman and Matusz have been busts.  But they are young enough to keep getting chances, especially when your team isn’t going to be good.

If you trade Jones, Markakis and Guthrie, it makes for an ugly roster, but after going 69-93 with them and not seeing an end to the losing with four solid teams in front of you in the AL East, you’ve got nothing to lose.  Matt Angle, Reimold, Smith, and Endy Chavez would be your outfielders.  You’ve got a 2B of the future in Gomez on the way (he spent all of 2011 in Double-A), with Machado coming up at SS, and Schoop at 3B.  Lavarnway can play 1B or DH, Reimold could do the same thing.  Draft college players early, high ceiling guys later, maybe get in on Yoennis Cespedes, the CF from Cuba and get him now.  Why not?  He’s someone to plug-in now.  How would that change the roster for 2012:

2 Catchers: Matt Wieters and Taylor Teagarden

1B: Nolan Reimold

2B: Ryan Adams (.284/.341/.454, 28 2B, 10 HR in 94 games at Triple-A in ’11)

3B: Mark Reynolds

SS: J.J. Hardy

LF: Seth Smith

CF: Yoennis Cespedes

RF: Endy Chavez

DH: Ryan Lavarnway

Bench: Robert Andino (INF), Matt Angle (OF) and Chris Davis (1B/3B)

Starting Pitching: Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Chen/Wada (whoever looks best in Spring)

Relief Pitchers:  Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Alfredo Simon, Darren O’Day and Brad Bergeson

The fake deals that I made would make Hector Gomez (2B in 2013?), Anthony Renaudo (#3 pitcher in 2013?), Randall Delgado/Arodys Vizcaino/Mike Minor (#2 pitcher in 2013?), and Edward Salcedo (3B in 2014) a part of the organization.  They’re solid guys who could force the O’s to move other players around, like Schoop to 2B or Salcedo to 1B (as his defense is still weak/raw).  It is all made up and some of the deals may not be possible, but it is worth a shot.  The O’s won’t win again until they build from within to create their own talent.  See the Blue Jays, Rangers and Rays for current examples of this type of development.

 

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