This is quite possibly the deepest class when it comes to star production. A-Rod still leads the pack but there are some young franchise players who have the talent to be perrenial All-Stars. There will be plenty of production to go around and waiting to grab a third baseman in later rounds shouldn’t hurt you too badly.
- Alex Rodriguez NYY- Rodriguez missed time at the beginning of the year and still had 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. He’s a slugger with a lifetime .390 OBP and can still steal some bases.
- Evan Longoria TB- His first full season in the Bigs led to 33 HRs and 113 RBIs. Longo scored 100 runs and hit 44 doubles, despite lots of strikeouts.
- Pablo Sandoval SF- The Kung Fu Panda will again challenge for a batting title. His power will continue to grow and he doesn’t strikeout. Sandoval just needs the guys in front of him to get on-base.
In the running: David Wright NYM, Ryan Zimmerman WAS, Mark Reynolds ARI
- Miguel Tejada BAL- Miggy’s power isn’t what it once was, but he is still gets his extra base hits and comes through in the clutch. Tejada will be batting next to guys like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Weiters… You get the idea. He will qualify for third base shortly after opening day.
- Aramis Ramirez CHC- When A-Ram is healthy, he is a top 5 third baseman. In only 82 games last season, Ramirez drove in 65 and hit 15 HR. His OBP has risen in each of the last three years to a career-high .389 last season.
- Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK- Kouzmanoff is not a superstar, but he’s a solid RBI hitter. He was over-shadowed by Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego but now moves on to Oakland. Kouz has had 80 RBIs in each of the last two years and could improve his HR totals now that he’s away from PETCO Park.
- David Wright NYM- Wright could very easily move back up to “The Elite” category but here’s why I moved him down to the “Caution” level. A move to Citi Field and injuries to the rest of the lineup helped bring his HRs down by 23 and his RBIs down by 52. That’s a lot. As far as I know, the Mets are still going to play half their games in Citi Field and Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are already missing time.
- Adrian Beltre BOS- In 449 at-bast, Beltre failed to reach double-digits in homeruns. His RBIs were down to 44. Will a change of scenery help him rebound or will he continue his decline?
- Chipper Jones ATL- Chipper played in his most games since 2003 but failed to reach 20 HRs for the first time in his career (besides 1993 when he played in 8 games). Jones will put up a good AVG and OBP but for the second year in a row he had decreases in runs, hits, doubles, HRs, RBIs, and SLG.
My predictions of a free agent pitcher each team will still sign this off-season:
Nationals: Tim Redding could reunite with his former team as a swing-man after failing in NY.
Royals: Joe Beimel to be their lefty out of the bullpen.
Pirates: Kevin Gregg who will compete with Joel Hanrahan for the closer job.
Orioles: Erik Bedard can comeback to Baltimore and help a push for the Wild Card.
Indians: D.J. Carrasco will be the fifth man in their young rotation after performing well out of the White Sox’ bullpen.
Mets: Joel Piniero to help solidify their rotation because their makeover won’t be complete without a couple more starters.
Diamondbacks: Will Ohman to give the D-Backs another lefty to throw against the left-handed sluggers of the NL West (Helton, Gonzalez, Ethier, Loney, etc.).
Padres: Seth McClung who may get a chance to start.
Astros: Rich Hill as a low-risk/high-reward lefty; they don’t have much to spend after a couple questionable commitments this off-season.
Blue Jays: Pedro Martinez to mentor the very young rotation and be a trade chip at the deadline.
Athletics: John Bale as a veteran lefty out of the pen.
Cincinnati: Luis Vizcaino on an inexpensive deal; not much money left after they reportedly signed Aroldis Chapman this morning.
White Sox: Noah Lowry to rehab at AAA and provide depth for the strong rotation.
Brewers: Mark Mulder to meet up with a couple former coaches and try to stay healthy.
Cubs: Kiko Calero as a veteran righty in the pen though they need a starter badly as well.
Rays: Brendan Donnelly to come out of a bullpen that doesn’t have much depth.
Mariners: Ron Mahay to join the team’s renovation as their top bullpen lefty.
Tigers: Justin Speier who can help a good but young relief corps.
Braves: Ken Takahashi to compete for a spot in the bullpen.
Twins: Doug Davis would fit in well with the Twins as their 3 starter.
Marlins: Guillermo Mota will return to Florida for his second tour as a durable righty.
Rangers: Jon Garland who can be a reliable guy in the rotation that already has a couple injury prone starters.
Giants: Braden Looper will head back to the bullpen where he has had his most success.
Cardinals: Joe Nelson has been a solid reliever the past few years and the Cards don’t have much to spend.
Rockies: Jose Contreras pitched well last year in 7 games for Colorado.
Red Sox: Horacio Ramirez to provide lefty depth in the bullpen but will begin the season in AAA.
Dodgers: Chien-Ming Wang who will have to get healthy in a hurry because the Dodgers desperately need starters.
Angels: Chan Ho Park to be a middle reliever.
Phillies: Brian Shouse to replace retiree Scott Eyre as the second lefty in the pen.
Yankees: Mark Prior to continue his lengthy rehab process.
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.
Here’s what the final group of teams still needs going into the New Year:
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have already made a big splash with the Halladay acquisition which was followed with a hefty extension. It works out well that Philadelphia doesn’t have much money left, because there aren’t many holes to fill either. Another lefty in the bullpen wouldn’t hurt because J.C. Romero has had some struggles staying on the field.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates should try to unload catcher Ryan Doumit and his extension, though it isn’t too large. Rumors for a Rick Ankiel signing makes sense because it would add some more power and a strong arm to help in the deep gaps of Pittsburgh’s field. A player like him can be a one year stop-gap until top prospects Jose Tabata and/or Gorkys Hernandez are able to assume full-time roles. Besides these ideas, there aren’t many reasons for additional moves given their slim chances of contending.
San Diego Padres: While contending next year is possible, it’s not extremely likely. Their best bet would be to add a middle level starter to hold down a rotation spot. Losing catcher Henry Blanco via free agency will have a significant impact, just ask the Cubs. Though it’s overdue, the Padres need to trade one of Chase Headley or Kevin Kouzmanoff. They waited too long and their values have both dropped. Also, test the market and see if there is still any interest in middle infield prospect Matt Antonelli as David Eckstein will block his path for the second year in a row.
San Francisco Giants: Though the Giants were able to compete last year, they have a lot to do. Travis Ishikawa, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz cannot all be in the lineup at the same time. Apparently the team is close on both Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe, which would move Pablo Sandoval to first and Ishikawa out of the lineup. A cheap outfielder would at least allow for a platoon with Lewis or Schierholtz. Buster Posey needs a mentor behind the plate and the bullpen needs more proven arms. As I said, they have a lot of work ahead.
Seattle Mariners: Speaking of lots of work, the M’s have already done that and surely have more moves on the horizon. A first baseman is necessary and Russell Branyan is the best fit. The rotation is very strong with two Cy Young candidates already there but depth is needed. A lefty in the bullpen is also very important.
St. Louis Cardinals: Will the team re-sign Matt Holliday? They should. Holliday has proven to be hard to sign in the past and Scott Boras has already shrugged off huge offers in the first half of the off-season. If not Holliday, someone else must be brought in because their depth in left field is horrible right now. The team claims to be happy with David Freese at third base but I doubt it.
Tampa Bay Rays: The lineup is interesting to look at from the trading-block standpoint. The team has already moved Akinori Iwamura, tried vigorously to move Pat Burrell, almost non-tendered Dionner Navaro, and has been rumored to at least listen to offers for B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford. The team has to decide upon their direction but I only foresee Pat Burrell getting moved while Matt Joyce, Willy Aybar and Fernando Perez gets his at-bats.
Texas Rangers: After a failed trade for Mike Lowell, look for the team to pursue Vladimir Guerrero to play DH. He played great down the stretch last year and, for whatever its worth, hits like the second-coming of Babe Ruth in Texas. Another top starter is necessary to win the division. Signing a catcher may be in store because Jarrod Saltalamacchia got hurt during winter ball, Taylor Teagarden hasn’t proven himself yet, and Max Ramirez has been in trade rumors for the past two years.
Toronto Blue Jays: The new GM has gotten off to a great start in his rebuilding process. The team has needed it for a while but the relations between ownership and former GM J.P. Ricciardi wouldn’t really allow for it. Trading Roy Halladay has been a must for two years. Did they really think they would compete? Even after Tamba Bay passed them? Continuing this process will include attempts to move Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo, and Edwin Encarnacion.
Washington Nationals: Last but not least, the Washington Nationals. Their off-season is honestly pretty much done. However, one thing that still needs some attention is the middle infield. Ian Desmond came up at the end of the year and did fine at shortstop leading to attempts to persuade Christian Guzman to play second base. Guzman initially met it with hesitance but his range has dropped and second should be a little less physically demanding. He would fit well there and can swing the bat so it would work for the team. If he really demands to be moved, the Nationals have always been intrigued by Orlando Hudson who could replace him at second.
Now we just have to wait and see what the coaches, GMs and owners really have planned for their teams.
A quick synopsis of this year’s Winter Meetings from Indianapolis.
- Ivan Rodriguez was able to snag 2 years at a huge $6MM from the dismal Washington Nationals. He will provide great leadership for young catcher Jesus Flores and potential first overall pick of next summer’s draft, catcher Bryce Harper. Only time will tell if he really is worth $6MM.
- The Astros decided to spend relatively big on Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom for the back of the bullpen plus another $4.5MM on Pedro Feliz to keep the hot corner warm until Chris Johnson arrives.
- Brad Penny got a large $7.5MM contract plus another $1.5MM in incentives from the Cards.
- In maybe the most surprising move of all (undoubtedly the most surprising to the Braves), Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration and then demanded a trade. I see that as another crafty move around not costing his new team a first round draft pick while still commanding a nice salary. The Braves are currently finalizing a trade to ship Soriano to the Rays for another reliever, Jessie Chavez.
- The Brewers decided to spend on another aging veteran for the rotation in Randy Wolf. They’re hoping he’s not the next Jeff Suppan. One solid move by Milwaukee, in my opinion, was adding LaTroy Hawkins to a previously unreliable setup crew in front of Trevor Hoffman.
- Andy Pettitte resigned with the Yankees on another one year contract. The salary was a little more than most expected however, at $11.75MM.
- The Yankees made another big splash in acquiring Curtis Granderson which has already been discussed in an earlier entry.
- The Cubs still have not found the elusive trade partner for Milton Bradley. The most intriguing rumors for Cubs fans so far would be an exchange of Bradley and Gil Meche, a starter on the Royals. The salaries match up pretty well and Meche may be able to win more in the NL.