Spring training games have already started which means Opening Day is close. Another season that is currently getting under-way is Fantasy Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write up my position-by-position preview to help prepare you for the pursuit of the ever important bragging rights. First on the list are the first basemen, led by superstar Albert Pujols.
- Albert Pujols STL- He continues to build on an already legendary career as his HR, RBIs, and SLG have all increased each of the past three years.
- Mark Teixeira NYY- Teixeira impressed in his first year with the Yanks. 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs are a near lock with his career .923 OPS.
- Miguel Cabrera DET- The Johnny Damon acquisition should only give Cabrera more chances to drive in runs.
- In the running: Adrian Gonzalez SD, Ryan Howard PHI, Prince Fielder MIL
- James Loney LAD- He is often forgot about due to low HR totals, but in his 4 year career Loney has a .295 AVG and two 90 RBI seasons. If his power comes through, Loney will becom a very valuable player.
- Billy Butler KC- Playing in the spacious Kauffman Stadium doesn’t help his power production, but KC’s lineup is improved and he showed progress last year.
- Adam LaRoche ARI- LaRoche will be available late in the draft and is someone you shouldn’t forget about. He’ll put up his usual 35 doubles, 25 HR, and 85 RBIs.
- Garrett Atkins BAL- Atkins will play first base in Baltimore but has been in a steady decline for three years. He bottomed out in ’09 with 9 HR and a .226 AVG.
- Garrett Jones PIT- Jones came on strong as a rookie and even had some ROY consideration. I expect him to come back down to earth after his stunning .938 OPS in ’09. Jones’ strikeout rate is also unfavorable.
- Lance Berkman HOU- Something must be in the water in Houston as Berkman and Roy Oswalt are already talking retirement. Berkman’s 2009 was below expectations and he seems to have lost his edge at the plate. He won’t be horrible but he is no longer a first tier first baseman.
My predictions of a free agent hitter each team will still sign this off-season:
Nationals: Chad Tracy to pinch hit and get some defense at 1st base for Adam Dunn.
Royals: Vladimir Guerrero to DH; maybe play some right to keep Jose Guillen rested. (I would say Scott Podsednik but it appears he is about to sign with them anyway.)
Pirates: Rick Ankiel to play right field and hit 4th/5th.
Orioles: Hank Blalock to play first base though Baltimore may use Garrett Atkins there.
Indians: Jose Molina to mentor the team’s young catching prospects.
Mets: Bengie Molina who will start at catcher.
Diamondbacks: Randy Winn to play left field and mentor their young outfielders.
Padres: Brad Ausmus to backup Nick Hundley at catcher.
Astros: Jerry Hairston Jr. to start the season at short until Manzella is ready
Blue Jays: Endy Chavez is a great defender in the outfield.
A’s: Khalil Greene to possibly get some innings at short and third.
Reds: Miguel Tejada to start at shortstop and hit 2nd.
White Sox: Ryan Church to be insurance for oft-injured outfielders Andruw Jones and Carlos Quentin.
Brewers: Fernando Tatis to provide some pop off the bench from the right side.
Cubs: Orlando Hudson to play second base and hit 2nd.
Rays: Marcus Thames who can hit for power and start if Joyce/Perez need time at AAA.
Mariners: Xavier Nady has power and can split innings at first with Casey Kotchman.
Tigers: Alfredo Amezaga to spend time in center and at second while prospects learn.
Braves: Jeremy Reed who won’t cost to much and can play all three OF spots.
Twins: Orlando Cabrera fit right in last year and he’ll be back to play second base this time.
Marlins: Gabe Gross to provide a lefty bat off the bench.
Rangers: Russell Branyan who will have to sign another cheap, one year deal.
Giants: Yorvit Torrealba to share catching duties with Buster Posey like Torrealba did with Iannetta in Colorado.
Cardinals: Matt Stairs to pinch hit.
Rockies: Jason Giambi will re-sign after a fun run in Colorado last year.
Red Sox: Rocco Baldelli to backup the outfield because I believe they will trade Jeremy Hermida.
Dodgers: Felipe Lopez to play second base and thrive in that lineup.
Angels: Melvin Mora who will get time at third and left.
Phillies: Paul Bako to play catcher at AAA and wait for an opportunity like he got last year with the Phillies.
Yankees: Reed Johnson to split time with Brett Gardner in left.
The deadline for teams to non-tender players whom they were not keen on giving a raise to has come and gone. With the weak economy, payrolls of all sizes are looking to cut costs where possible and it showed during the non-tendering period. Let’s take a look at which players are now available on the free agent market with an “All Non-Tender Roster.”
- Alfredo Amezaga ss (Can play short, second, third, and center.)
- Kelly Johnson 2b (Lost the second base job to start the year but is only 28)
- Garrett Atkins 3b (Has tons of power and was great for two years)
- Jack Cust lf (25 home runs three years in a row, strike out rates are too high)
- Jonny Gomes rf (Great pickup for the Reds last year, good platoon option)
- Mike Jacobs dh (Horrible defense but is strong, was a force a couple years ago)
- Ryan Garko 1b (Another platoon candidate, possibly with Jacobs?)
- Jeremy Reed cf (Good outfielder but has developed holes in his swing)
- John Buck c (Younger than most of the catching options on the market)
These players are all younger options and most have some pop in their bat or at least a history of it. The non-tendered group of pitchers includes Scott Olsen, Chien-Ming Wang, Clay Condrey, Matt Capps, and D.J. Carrasco to name a few hurlers with recently prominent roles.
So the question is: Which of these players would you buy or sell for your team this off-season?
A recent post on mlbtraderumors.com by Tim Dierkes posed a challenge to the readers: Create the best possible lineup, rotation, and bullpen of this off-season’s trade candidates. So this evening I’ll take my crack at it, again only using players who have a good chance of getting traded this winter.
1. Granderson cf– Detroit seems to be cost cutting, could bring in a haul.
2. Pierre lf– Dodger’s OF is full and getting expensive through arbitration.
3. Bradley rf– You know the story. Will he rebound after another ‘fresh start?’
4. Uggla 2b– Another Marlins cost cutting off-season is very probable.
5. Cust dh– Billy Beane isn’t a huge fan of giving out raises via arbitration.
6. Atkins 1b– Ian Stewart’s emergence has made Atkins expendable.
7. Gamel 3b– The Brewers will try to make a big splash after failing to retain C.C. last year. That splash starts with prospects.
8. Doumit c– Had a rough season and doesn’t seem to fit in with the coaches/management.
9. (Macier, not Cesar) Izturis ss– Erik Aybar’s earned the full-time role at short.
1. Halladay– The new GM knows the Jays won’t compete before his Doc’s deal runs out.
2. Jackson- See ‘Granderson’ above.
3. Kawakami– The Braves don’t have a spot for him in their solid rotation and he’s affordable.
4. Arroyo- Great second half but the Reds are cutting costs and they’ll start with this $13MM.
5. Silva- Will be swapped for another bad contract.
- Tallet LH– May not fit Toronto’s plans and will be getting a slight raise.
- Pinto LH– Talented lefty struggled for the Marlins but is very talented. Will draw interest.
- Casilla RH– Similar to Pinto, though a righty.
- Farnsworth RH- His deal seemed bad from the start. He’s due $5MM.
- Corpas RH- Shedding the $6.5MM he’s due will redirect money towards resigning Betancourt.
- Wheeler RH- Has closed but is better as a setup man. Rays will go cheaper.
- Lindstrom CL- Leo Nunez stole his closer job in-season. Brings intimidation with heater.
As you can see, I don’t think some of the more intriguing picks (Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Carl Crawford, etc.) will get traded this off-season. These types of players are both integral to their team’s success and are rather affordable, not to mention how close each of those teams are to contending in their division. I expect this off-season’s trade market to consist of more cost-adjusting moves and less blockbusters than the headlines would like to suggest.
But they don’t call it the Hot Stove League for nothing as I’m sure there will be some surprising and exciting deals pulled off as the owners’ holiday wishlists grow larger.