The best moves of the MLB offseason so far

The early part of the MLB offseason has already brought with it some blockbuster moves, as well as some under-the-radar signings that could have a big impact in 2020. Here’s a look at the best moves of the early offseason, as of Dec. 20. 1 of 20

Angels hire Joe Maddon

The Angels last made the playoffs in 2014, and their one year with Brad Ausmus at the helm didn’t go well. The organization continues to waste Mike Trout’s talent, but Maddon is as capable as any manager to get L.A. back to the postseason. He started to wear thin with the Cubs recently but should be able to give the Angels a jolt of energy and new-age thinking. 2 of 20

Angels acquire Dylan Bundy

Seemingly over the injury issues that plagued him early in his career, Bundy was a massive disappointment in Baltimore over the last two years and fetched only a group of middling prospects from Anaheim. Much of his issues have been directly related to the long ball, and getting out of Baltimore’s hitter-friendly confines can only help. The Angels desperately needed to beef up their rotation this offseason, and Bundy is a nice start. 3 of 20

Braves sign Will Smith

Smith was a dominant closer for the Giants last season, and he’s been one of the league’s best left-handed relievers since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. A three-year contract for any reliever is a risk, but Smith is still only 30 and has seen nothing but success in the majors since converting to the pen in 2013. He can serve well in any bullpen role for a Braves team with World Series aspirations.

4 of 20

Brewers sign Josh Lindblom

Lindblom has a history of MLB experience and some success, which is important to remember after three terrific seasons as a starter in Korea. He returns to the majors on a three-year, $9.125 million contract with Milwaukee, which seems like a minimal risk for a pitcher with excellent control and the ability to pitch in multiple roles. For the cost, there’s nothing but upside. 5 of 20

Brewers acquire Omar Narvaez for Adam Hill and draft pick

Milwaukee remedied the loss of Yasmani Grandal by acquiring Narvaez. The catcher is in no way comparable to Grandal, but he did prove to be one of the league’s best offensive catchers in Seattle last year by hitting .278-22-55. Poor defense is a concern, but the price was right for the Brewers. 6 of 20

Brewers acquire Eric Lauer and Luis Urias for Zach Davies and Trent Grisham

Milwaukee is always in search of undervalued assets and stuck with that mindset in this deal. Lauer is a former first-round pick who is unproven at the major league level, but he has a good minor league track record and has been serviceable in two seasons with the Padres. Urias was considered a top prospect just one year ago and gives the Brewers insurance at shortstop with Orlando Arcia continuing to struggle. Davies would seem like a big cost with a career 3.91 ERA in 111 starts, but he doesn’t miss bats and became strictly a five-inning starter late last season. Grisham is a former first-round pick who didn’t hit in the minors until last year, so the jury is still out on him.

7 of 20

Cardinals sign Kwang-Hyun Kim

The Cardinals seem to be going for values more than splashes this offseason, a product of spending big money on the extensions of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. Signing Kim to a two-year, $8 million contract brings with it minimal risk with plenty of upside, after the lefty posted a 2.51 ERA in 190.1 innings in Korea last season. He has an MLB-quality slider and could contribute in a variety of roles. 8 of 20

Diamondbacks sign Stephen Vogt

The pending expansion to a 26-man roster will enable many teams to carry three catchers, a strategy that the Diamondbacks have already liked to employ. Vogt gives the team a veteran backup for Carson Kelly, and he was able to reestablish his health last year as Buster Posey’s backup in San Francisco by posting a career-high .804 OPS. Not only could Vogt be used as a backup catcher, but he also is a strong pinch-hitter for only $3 million. 9 of 20

Dodgers sign Blake Treinen

It’s no mystery that the bullpen was L.A.’s biggest weakness last year, and Treinen gives the team a big boost. He fought shoulder issues in Oakland last season but was one of MLB’s best relievers in 2018, with an 0.78 ERA and 38 saves in 68 appearances. An extreme groundball pitcher, he gives the A’s another setup option and potentially a closer alternative if Kenley Jansen struggles again.

10 of 20

Giants sign Kevin Gausman

Gausman clearly isn’t the pitcher he was when he was first promoted by the Orioles, and he is coming off the worst season of his career. The silver lining is that he was terrific as a reliever for the Reds late last year and posted a career-high 10.0 K/9. San Francisco clearly saw that upside when it signed Gausman, and the move to a larger park will help the home run-prone right-hander. There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract, and this is one of the highest upside one-year deals so far this offseason. 11 of 20

Giants acquire Zack Cozart and Will Wilson

San Francisco took Cozart’s contract off the Angels hands to bring on Wilson, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Giants are effectively paying $12.7 million for Wilson, a middle infielder out of NC State. That’s a hefty price for a prospect, but the Giants have some spare change now that they’re in rebuilding mode. If Wilson turns into an MLB regular, the trade is easily a win for San Francisco. 12 of 20

Marlins claim Jesus Aguilar off waivers

Aguilar was one of the league’s top offensive first basemen in 2018, hitting .274-35-108, but he fell flat last year. After continuing to struggle late in the season with Tampa Bay, Aguilar was waived and claimed by the nearby neighbors in Miami. As the Marlins continue to rebuild, they have at-bats to provide players like Aguilar who are looking to revitalize their careers as the former minor league veteran tries to prove his 2018 season wasn’t a fluke. 13 of 20

Marlins select Sterling Sharp in Rule 5 draft

There aren’t many treasures to be had in the Rule 5 draft these days, but Sharp could be one. The former Nats prospect missed much of last season with a back injury, though he has a career 3.71 ERA in the minors and is coming off a great showing at the Arizona Fall League. An extreme groundball pitcher, Sharp has a chance to not only make the Marlins out of spring training but also to serve in their starting rotation. 14 of 20

Rangers sign Kyle Gibson

Gibson has regained the former talent he showed as a top prospect with the Twins recently, posting a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts during 2018. He struggled late last season after stomach issues but has shown an uptick in velocity lately to go along with an excellent slider. He also had a career-best 2.86 K/BB ratio last year, showing enough upside to be worthy of the three-year, $28 million contract he signed with Texas. The contract is strikingly similar to the one Lance Lynn signed with the Rangers last offseason, and there’s similarly interesting upside. 15 of 20

Rangers acquire Corey Kluber for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.

It’s rare that a two-time Cy Young winner can be had for what’s effectively a salary dump, but the Rangers were able to pull it off. In fairness, Clase looks like an outstanding bullpen arm and DeShields can really track the ball in center field, but neither player is a true impact performer in the short term. Kluber missed most of last season with a fractured elbow and struggled before the injury, but he’s entering only his age 34 season and was an elite pitcher as recently as 2018. The Rangers rotation looks terrific with Kluber added to Lance Lynn, Mike Minor and Kyle Gibson. 16 of 20

Rays acquire Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards for Tommy Pham

Tampa Bay got a great 2019 season out of Pham but might have sold high on the soon-to-be 32-year-old by acquiring Renfroe and Edwards. Renfroe struggles defensively, but he hit 33 home runs in only 494 plate appearances last season and is just entering his prime. Edwards is the kicker in the deal, a first-round pick from 2018 who hit .322 between Low-A and High-A last season at age 19. He very well could be the Rays’ second baseman of the future next to top shortstop prospect Wander Franco. 17 of 20

Red Sox sign Jose Peraza

Cincinnati’s shortstop of the future just one year ago, Peraza was non-tendered after an awful 2019 season. Boston signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he will effectively replace Eduardo Nunez on the roster. He brings the upside of a young Nunez, as shown by his 2018 season in which he hit .288 with 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and appearances at multiple positions. The Red Sox can use some defensive versatility as they figure out the futures of Michael Chavis and Mookie Betts. 18 of 20

Twins re-sign Michael Pineda

Pineda’s market was hurt by the 60-game PEDs suspension that he will continue to serve at the start of 2020, but he looks like a bargain on a two-year, $20 million contract. No team knows him better than Minnesota after employing the big right-hander last year, and the Twins were able to get a lot out of him after a slow start to the season. With great control and a 5.00 K/BB ratio last year, Pineda shows huge potential. 19 of 20

White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal

Chicago didn’t waste much time in the offseason, signing Grandal to a four-year deal in November. He’s been one of the leagues best and most consistent catchers in recent seasons, providing plus-plus ability both offensively and defensively. He should still have some life left as he enters his age 31 season, and he gives the team a nice middle of the order hitter to add to its young talent. 20 of 20

Yankees sign Gerrit Cole

Cole signed a record-breaking nine-year deal with a Yankees organization that has been surprisingly patient and restrained in recent seasons. Clearly an elite starting pitcher, he gives the Yankees the one missing piece that could put them over the top, and he is potentially capable of offsetting the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium dimensions after posting a 13.8 K/9 and 6.79 K/BB ratio last season.

By: Seth Trachtman

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/the_best_moves_of_the_mlb_offseason_so_far/s1__30857315#slide_1

10 MLB players who will make a difference down the stretch

Baseball’s stretch run is in full swing, and while a handful of clubs — the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Braves — are locks to be playing in October, the remaining playoff spots are very much up for grabs. Every team in the hunt has legitimate stars aiming to lead it to the game’s biggest stage, but here at Yardbarker we’re focusing on guys who are not quite household names but will still have a big impact on the season’s final six weeks.

1. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Hiura had long been the crown jewel in the Brewers system, and since arriving in the big league’s to stay in late June, he’s done nothing but impress. Since July 1, the former first-round pick has hit .307 with 14 home runs, and his emergence has allowed Milwaukee to shift veteran Mike Moustakas back to his natural position of third base and send struggling Travis Shaw to AAA. The Brewers were a trendy pick to dethrone the Dodgers in the National League this season, and while the year has not gone entirely to plan, they’re still right in the thick of not one but two heated races. Entering play tonight, Milwaukee sits just one game back of both the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central and one game out of an invitation to the NL wild-card game. If they do ultimately get to participate in the postseason, Hiura may well be the primary reason why, as while the rookie has thrived toward the top of the Brewers lineup, several veterans on this team have underperformed.

2. J.D. Davis, IF/OF, New York Mets

The January trade the Mets made with the Astros to bring utility man J.D. Davis to Queens drew few headlines. The right-handed hitter had always crushed minor league pitching during his tenure with Houston but had failed multiple times at the game’s highest level. New York, though, was undeterred, as it felt his struggles with the Astros were a direct result of sporadic at-bats because of a logjam of talented players at the positions he could play. Fast forward seven months, and that bet is paying huge dividends. In the early portion of 2019, Davis was mostly a power threat off the bench for the Mets. But after injuries opened up regular playing time for him, the 26-year-old has become impossible to take out of the lineup. Since the beginning of July, he’s hit an incredible .367 while reaching base at an absurd .428 clip. He’s begun to hit for a little more power in August, as he’s already blasted four homers this month and driven in 11 runs, and his somewhat surprising production is one of the biggest reasons the Mets have been able to climb back into the pennant race.

3. Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

DeJong is now in his third big league season, but he’s yet to generate much fanfare outside of St. Louis. That’s probably a little bit of an oversight, as while he’s far from being the best shortstop in the league, he’s been a productive and consistent right-handed bat for the duration of his career. After a red-hot start to this season, DeJong went into a terrible slump, but he’s broken out of it big time since the All-Star break. A recent surge that included a three home run game in Pittsburgh has put him in position to set new career highs in homers and RBI, and the Cardinals are certainly hopeful he can continue producing at a high level. Similar to Milwaukee, St. Louis is locked in heated races for both the NL Central crown and a wild-card spot, and DeJong’s bat in the bottom half of the lineup is crucial, as opposing teams are unlikely to let fellow right-handed sluggers Paul Goldschmidt or Marcell Ozuna beat them in a big spot.

4. Zach Plesac, SP, Cleveland Indians

The nephew of longtime big leaguer Dan Plesac, the young right-hander was not considered much of a prospect entering this season. A dominant 10-start beginning to his minor league season opened eyes, however, and with the Indians in need of a starter at Fenway in late May, it was Plesac who got the call. Since then he has been an absolute godsend for a Cleveland rotation that has sustained injuries to Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar as well as a trade of outspoken Trevor Bauer. In 14 starts for the Tribe, Plesac has worked to a 3.27 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 77 innings, bringing a level of consistency to a pitching staff that desperately needed it. His performance has helped Cleveland erase an 11.5 game deficit in the AL Central, as earlier this week it caught Minnesota, and the club is counting on him for continued success as this race is likely headed for a photo finish.

5. Scott Kingery, IF/OF, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies made headlines in spring training a year ago when they inked Kingery to a long-term pact before he’d ever played in a major league game. The organization obviously believed immensely in the University of Arizona product’s potential, and while it’s hard to call his rookie season much of a success (.226/.267/.338), Kingery has become a much more important Phillie in 2019. Playing all over the diamond, the 25-year-old has hit .275 with 14 homers and 27 doubles in 324 at-bats while serving as an offensive table setter for Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto for most of the season. Philadelphia has underwhelmed following a massive importation of star power last winter, but the Phils are still right in the thick of a chaotic NL wild-card race. Having Kingery on base and wreaking havoc down the stretch will drastically help their chances of reaching October.

6. Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-run major league baseball operation than the Tampa Bay Rays. Year after year Tampa Bay finds a way to not only compete but also to often triumph over behemoth division rivals in Boston and New York all while operating in one of the smallest markets in the game. The 2019 season has been no different, as despite the Yankees having the AL East all but sewn up, the Rays are positioned to make the postseason as a wild card. Their young right fielder is a huge reason why. Meadows was acquired in the ’18 deal that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh, and he has absolutely thrived in his first full season in the big leagues. In just short of 400 at-bats thus far, the left handed slugger has hit .283 with 20 home runs and 25 additional extra-base hits. He was even named an All-Star last month. Moving down the stretch, Tampa will continue riding the young 24-year-old, as he’s already become arguably the focal point of the offense.

7. Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics

Oakland is eerily similar to the aforementioned Rays, as it deals with a lot of the same market challenges but still finds a way to remain a force to be reckoned with. In fact, there’s a reasonable chance the two clubs square off head to head in the AL wild-card game in just a few weeks. The Athletics left-handed-swinging first baseman has flown by under the radar in recent seasons, but his production is soon going to render that impossible. After missing a month-and-a-half early in the season, Olson has rallied to crush 25 home runs since Mother’s Day, putting him just four short of his previous career high. With Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha and most importantly a healthy Khris Davis, the A’s are exceedingly right-handed heavy, making Olson’s left-handed bat imperative to the middle of their lineup.

8. Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals

Robles was supposed to be the next big outfielder to come out of the Nationals system last season, but injuries prevented him from making an impact and ultimately contributed to Juan Soto coming up and making a bid for last year’s NL Rookie of the Year. While his young teammate has blossomed into a star, Robles breakout rookie season has not been discussed as much as it should. Yet he’s become a critical player on a team looking to return to October. Playing in almost all of Washington’s games, Robles has launched 15 long balls from the bottom part of the lineup while swiping 18 bases and playing tremendous defense at the premium position of center field. He does strike out too much, as his 110 punch outs in just 397 at-bats are unsightly, but he’s obviously immensely talented. If he can turn it up just a little, Washington should have the inside track on a playoff berth.

9. Josh Taylor, RP, Boston Red Sox

The underlying narrative surrounding the 2019 Red Sox nationally has been a horrific bullpen that consistently blows leads and lets winnable games get out of hand. That’s accurate, but it’s also why few fans outside of New England have been privy to what Taylor, a 26-year-old rookie, has been doing. In 33 contests the southpaw has worked to a strong 3.27 ERA in 33 innings while delivering a 1.18 WHIP and striking out well over a batter/inning. The Arizona native has delivered six scoreless outings in consecutive appearances while becoming the closest thing the Red Sox have had to a reliable relief pitcher. That will have to continue moving forward for Boston to have any chance to make a late surge, as barring a serious run, the defending champs will find themselves on the outside looking in come October.

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/10_mlb_players_who_will_make_a_difference_down_the_stretch/s1_13132_29761247

By: Justin W Mears

Stargazing: A Baseball Hall of Fame crystal ball

Here are major leaguers with three or fewer service years, minor leaguers, collegiate and high school stars and international prospects who could end up in Cooperstown in the distant future.  1 of 23

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves OF

After a breakout rookie year as a 20-year-old, Acuna became the youngest $100 million man in baseball history. He etched his name in the history books when he became the youngest player to hit a postseason grand slam, in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his Rookie of the Year campaign, Acuna hit 25 home runs and stole 15 bases, becoming the fourth 20-or-younger player to accomplish the feat. (He joined Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda and Mike Trout.) 2 of 23

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels OF prospect

Adell has put on a five-tool talent show early in his professional career, rising to become the top homegrown Angel prospect since Mike Trout. His game is reminiscent of that of his potential future teammate, as Adell is a gifted defender who makes high-quality contact at the plate. He hit 20 home runs across three different levels in his first full pro season as a 19-year-old. 3 of 23

Pete Alonso, New York Mets 1B

Alonso has wasted no time making an impact as rookie. His 26th home run, on June 22, set the National League first-half rookie record. In the process, “Polar Bear” tied Darryl Strawberry’s full-season rookie home run record. He has 31 HRs, more than halfway to Aaron Judge’s 2018 rookie record of 52. 4 of 23

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers 1B/OF

Bellinger’s career is off to a torrid start. The third-year big-leaguer captured NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2017, after hitting an NL-rookie-record 39 home runs. In 2019, Bellinger set an April record with 97 total bases and tied the record for home runs (14) and runs (32). 5 of 23

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher

Buehler made an immediate impact upon arrival in L.A., becoming the latest in an increasingly long line of recent Dodger prodigies. In 2018, he capped a terrific rookie year (8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 strikeouts) with a dominant, seven-shutout-innings performance in Game 3 of the World Series. On June 21, he became the first Dodger pitcher to turn in a 15-plus strikeout outing (16 overall) with no walks. 6 of 23

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics 3B

A dazzling defender on the hot corner, Chapman has turned into one of the most dependable highlight creators in the game. Chapman’s presence at the plate has continued to grow as well, as he has produced an .870 OPS since 2018. 7 of 23

Jasson Dominguez, Dominican Republic OF

The 16-year-old Dominguez is widely considered the top international amateur prospect. The multiskilled outfielder is a switch-hitter with a strong, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame and the ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. He’s also fast. The Yankees gave him a $5 million signing bonus earlier this month. 8 of 23

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays SS prospect

The game’s next great prodigy, Franco has been sensational in his first year-and-a-half as a pro. As a 17-year-old, he hit .351 with 11 home runs and seven triples to claim MVP of the Appalachian League. He was three years younger than the league average age. He has kept his foot on the gas in Year 2, recently inheriting the mantle of the game’s top prospect despite just turning 18 in March. 9 of 23

MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres pitching prospect

Injury plagued last season, Gore has firmly established himself as one the game’s top coming attractions on the mound. The southpaw — who drew comparisons to Clayton Kershaw en route to becoming the third overall pick in 2017 — is dominating minor league foes as a 20-year-old. 10 of 23

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 3B

There may be no more naturally talented hitter to emerge in the past 20 years than Vlad Jr. He famously destroyed minor league pitching over the past two years, hitting .323 and .381, respectively, with a number of tape-measure homers mixed in. Few 20-year-olds feel like they are overdue to reach the majors when they did, but Guerrero Jr. fit that bill. On May 14, he became the youngest Blue Jay to homer. For good measure, he hit another one that night.

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/stargazing_a_baseball_hall_of_fame_crystal_ball/s1__29546267#slide_1

By: Matt Whitener

The MLB team that’s blowing up starting pitching as we know it

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Maybe there’s a perfect way to do this, to amass 27 outs a night across six months in a game intended to expose one’s frailties, to measure pitchers’ abilities and endurance and hearts and souls against the strands remaining on their UCLs, to get it right without exhuming the 300-inning monsters of another generation.

Maybe, and here’s the problem, today’s perfection is tomorrow’s train wreck, tomorrow’s bullpen demolition day, unless you’re stacking stud after stud after stud in the starting rotation, and chances are you’re not, as there isn’t near enough to go around.

There’s always another nine innings to cover. Always. So change – philosophically speaking, innings-maintenance speaking – is like trying to jump a street sweeper mid-block, which is to say not impossible but will require reasonable timing and, probably, a fresh set of clothing.

Meantime, as far as pitching plans go, you’ve got your five-man rotations, your six-man rotations, your scheduled bullpen games, your unscheduled bullpen games, your who’s-this-guy games, your occasional he-pitches-when-he’s-not-hitting-in-the-middle-of-the-lineup games. And then there’s what the Tampa Bay Rays are up to.

Go to a ballgame here on a Sunday afternoon, and one of the starting pitchers (Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Sergio Romo) had started just the night before, so he was pitching on 18 hours rest, the other (Los Angeles Angels right-hander/DH Shohei Ohtani) hadn’t pitched in a week, and had pitched only that once in 333 hours.

Both are by design, the objectives being 27 outs today, the methods foul pole to foul pole. There’d be no telling which was closer to perfect, not until those 27 outs were gone.

The Rays, of course, had surprised everyone Saturday night by starting Romo, the 35-year-old who had made 588 big-league appearances, all in relief. The plan was to have Romo knock out a few of the Angels’ right-handed batters – Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton — over an inning or so, then get the ball to lefty Ryan Yarbrough.

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By: Tim Brown

Potential MLB Trades That NEED To Happen

Written by Chris Bahr at FoxSports.com

Opening Day Review: All The Action From Sunday’s Three Games

Written by Mike Axisa at CBSSports.com

The first day of the 2017 regular season is in the books. The traditional Opening Day around the league is Monday, though Sunday — what used to be known as Opening Night — brought us three games. Here are the final scores:

  • Tampa Bay Rays 7, New York Yankees 3 (box score)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks 6, San Francisco Giants 5 (box score)
  • St. Louis Cardinals 4, Chicago Cubs 3 (box score)

In the grand scheme of things, Opening Day is just another game, and we shouldn’t read too much into what we see in the season opener. I remember trading Aaron Harang in my old Fantasy league after he allowed nine runs on Opening Day in 2006, then I watched him go on to lead the NL in wins and strikeouts that year. I am much wiser now.

Now, that said, Opening Day is not meaningless. The game certainly counts in the standings, and some of the information it brings is useful, if not in a predictive way than in a descriptive way. Here are eight takeaways from the first day of the 2017 season, in no particular order.

Chris Archer looked like pre-2016 Chris Archer

Last season was a tough one for Archer. He led baseball with 19 losses and, more important, his 4.02 ERA (101 ERA+) was quite a bit higher than the 3.26 ERA (117 ERA+) mark he posted from 2013-15. Archer’s home run rate climbed from 0.8 HR/9 from 2013-15 to 1.3 HR/9 in 2016, which is significant. Home runs were up around baseball last season, so everyone’s home run rate climbed, but Archer seemed to get dinged especially hard.

On Sunday though, Archer looked very much like the 2013-15 version of himself. He held the Yankees to two runs in seven innings on Opening Day while striking out five. Three of the seven hits he allowed were little squibbers that managed to beat the shift. Not exactly rockets. And in the biggest moment of the game, Archer jumped ahead in the count against Gary Sanchez and got him to roll over on a weak grounder with the bases loaded.

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5 Trades That Should Happen Before Spring Training

Written by Chris Bahr at FoxSports.com

You smell that? For some, it’s the scent of spring. But for others, it’s the aroma of urgency. With Grapefruit and Cactus League camps just over two weeks away, there’s some unfinished business to tackle on the trade market.

It isn’t necessarily panic time for every contender with a void – not with some talented free agents still available. And sellers simply can wait for a need to develop (see: spring training injury) or hold their chips until the nonwaiver deadline draws nearer.

But there are some loose ends to address. Chief among them:

NFC South Predictions, 2016-2017

As football season is upon us, we will be doing season previews for each division, similar to our draft preview. Today, we start with the NFC South, and NFC Champion, Carolina Panthers.

 

Last year, Cam Newton finally lived up to his lofty draft position. As a combination between a QB and Fullback, Newton was an almost unstable mixture of air and land. He’s now the second Panthers QB to lead the Carolina franchise to the SuperBowl. The first was Jake Delhomme, who I’m sure we all remember as being the second coming of Quarterback Jesus. Sarcasm aside, Jake Delhomme was a JAG, just another guy, who’s Super Bowl appearance was overshadowed by Justin Timberlake and an errant nipple. Newton on the other hand, leads a strong offensive unit that has the potential to be even better, with the addition of Kelvin Benjamin to the receiving corps. In addition to Benjamin, watch for Greg Olsen to continue to produce a solid season. He is one of the most consistent tight ends in the game of football, and his ability to stay on the field, might make him the most valuable tight end in football, if not in the top three.  Watch for the Newton-to-Olsen connection to continue to tear up the NFC South. Speaking of Newton, don’t be surprised when he to continue to blossom into a dual threat quarterback unlike anyone else to ever step on the field. The dude is 6’5, and runs a 4.5 40; if he continues to work on his pocket presence, he will be a completely different type of animal.

Defensively, the Panthers lost their star CB, Josh Norman, to the Redskins, after they rescinded his franchise tag offer. In addition to losing Norman, the team also their lost starting safety, Roman Harper, to Division rival New Orleans Saints, who we will get to later. While their secondary may be suspect at the moment, expect that veteran FS, Kurt Coleman will help provide stability to a different looking DB’s group. Within the front 7, Luke Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in football. In my humble opinion, Kuechly is a game-changing linebacker, cut from the same cloth as Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis. While they may not play the exact same, Kuechly is a bad man, and when paired with defensive ends, Kony Ealy and Charles Johnson, Quarterbacks should be scared. Add in second year linebacker, Shaq Thompson, and disruptive Nose Tackle, Star Lotulelei and you have an explosive front seven, that should scare any offensive unit in football.

While the Panthers look like a team built to go deep into the playoffs, there are some other teams in their division that should give them some struggles throughout the season. The Atlanta Falcons are hoping that second year head coach, Dan Quinn, can rally this team, like he did for the first half of the season last year. Matt Ryan is a solid quarterback in the league, though I wouldn’t consider him elite, maybe slightly below that level. DeVonta Freeman is hoping to continue being a fantasy monster on the ground, while Julio Jones, might be the most dangerous player in football. For the Falcons’, their Offense has all the potential to be good, but their success on the field depends on their defense. They have talented players, like Desmond Trufant, Vic Beasley, and Keanu Neal, but the question is whether these young players can begin to step into the role of stars, and play dominantly. Personally, I don’t think so. Given some time, maybe, but these three are expected to step in and perform instantly. Atlanta fans, I may be wrong, and when I am, feel free to ridicule me endlessly, but I just don’t see it happening.

The Saints are very similar to the Falcons. They don’t have a fairly new coach, but they do have an established Elite QB, who has won a SuperBowl in the past. Yes, old man Drew Brees, who’s career has been reborn since coming to the Big Easy, hopes to continue to roll back the miles on his storied career. But just like Cameron did with his dad’s Corvette, I think this will prove to be hopeless. It’s not like Brees isn’t a quality starting quarterback, on the contrary, I’d still put him in my top 10, but age always catches up to you. It happened to Favre, it happened to Manning last year, and it will eventually happen to Brees, (and Brady for that matter). The problem here is the lack of talent around Brees. The addition of Max Unger from Seattle helped last year, but in order to do so, the Saints gave up their best young player in Jimmy Graham. Graham hasn’t been the same in Seattle, and neither has Brees. Brandin Cooks is a solid wide out, but he will not fill the spot left by Marques Colston, just as Cody Fleener will not fill the spot left by Graham. The Saints have all the potential in the world, but not much of the talent. Mark Ingram is not the same back he was at Alabama, and the New Orleans faithful have seen that throughout his tenure there. Defensively, first round draft pick Sheldon Rankins, will be expected to start at Nose Tackle from day one, pairing up with fellow defensive lineman Jordan Cameron, creating a pretty decent pass rush. At linebacker, the Saints picked up Rams castaway, James Laurinaitis, who will command the defense. Their secondary is not their strongest unit, but players like Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd hope to be effective against the opposing wide outs. I don’t see it happening, but they will try.

The last team in the NFC South I will be touching on, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs fired their coach last season, Lovie Smith, and brought in his offensive coordinator to fill the position. Dirk Koetter, hopes to be able to mold second year star, Jameis Winston into a badass quarterback. Captain Crab-legs will be getting help from his running-back, Doug Martin, and wide out, Mike Evans, both who are stars in their own right. Opposite Evans, will be Vincent Jackson, who continues to be a picture of consistency at the wide receiver position. If Winston continues to progress like he did last year, the former number 1 overall pick should be able to help his team add some tally’s to the win column. In fact, I think that the Bucs will be the surprise of the NFC South, and will shock people on their way to second place in the division, (no one is beating Cam and the Panthers for the division title). On defensively, the Bucs spend both their first and second round picks on defense, adding a starting corner in Vernon Hargreaves III and a rotational nose tackle, who could own the position by the season’s start, in Noah Spence. Both players will be expected to join LaVonte David and Gerald McCoy as Tampa’s most dominant defensive players. Should these four players be able to coexist and abuse opposing offenses, watch out for the Bucs.

 

Asinine Predictions that I Will Most Likely Screw up:

NFC South Champions: Carolina Panthers

  1. Carolina Panthers: 12-4
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-7
  3. New Orleans Saints: 7-9
  4. Atlanta Falcons: 5-11

Stay woke for our AFC South Prediction coming later in the week.

AL MLB Trade Deadline Rumors


Written by Jonah Keri at CBSSports.com

With two and a half weeks to go until the trade deadline, teams are already frantically making deals. Well, two teams are anyway. For the other 28, the time between now and Aug. 1 could offer plenty of insight on the rest of this season, and beyond.

So let’s take a look at how every major league team is positioned, and what they might do in the days and weeks ahead. We start with the American League. Early next week, check back for some hot National League action.

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles

No contender has a more glaring need than the Orioles do in their rotation.Chris Tillman has defied some so-so peripherals to post some flashy bubble-gum card stats. Kevin Gausman has struck out nearly a batter an inning, though he’s also surrendering a home run every five innings, and has yet to fulfill his considerable potential. After that, the rotation is a disaster, withYovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez ranking among the worst acquisitions by any team in years and no clear plan for a fifth starter.

You could play devil’s advocate and argue that no dramatic move is needed. After all, the Royals won the last two AL pennants with thin rotations, and the O’s lead their division at the All-Star break with an even worse starting five than KC had, thriving on a blizzard of home runs, improved on-base skills and a terrific bullpen. But the Blue Jays are red hot and starting to look like the world beaters of 2015, while the Red Sox aggressively upgraded their roster in the past week. Rich Hill, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and others are out there; if general manager Dan Duquette doesn’t find a quality starter soon, third place might be Baltimore’s fate by season’s end.

Boston Red Sox

When the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski to be their new team president, they signaled to the baseball world that they were all in to win now. Trader Dave has built a reputation as someone who makes specific roster-building plans, then goes out and executes them. We saw that over the winter with the big-ticket acquisitions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel.

And we’ve seen it again more recently, with Dombrowski and GM Mike Hazen pulling off four trades in eight days. When the Sox needed organizational depth, they picked up infielder Michael Martinez from theIndians. When Kimbrel hit the disabled list, they nabbed Brad Ziegler mere hours later to fill the temporary closer role and to give Boston an augmented bullpen when Kimbrel returns. Needing infield help and a right-handed bat, they scooped up Aaron Hill from the Brewers. Then came the coup de grace: Desperately needing starting pitching help, the Sox snagged talented leftyDrew Pomeranz from the Padres.

Some questions remain. Pomeranz moving from the National League and pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the American League and hitter-friendly Fenway Park could chip away at his effectiveness. The fifth starter spot remains a question mark. And Boston traded 18-year-old right-hander Anderson Espinoza to get Pomeranz, in the process surrendering one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Ask Dombrowski, and he’ll have answers for all of the above: Clay Buchholz was a walking apocalypse on the mound so pretty much anyone’s an improvement. The Sox think Eduardo Rodriguezwas tipping his pitches and that he could improve now that they’ve recognized the problem … plus they can either trade for another starter or roll with what they have, knowing you only need four in the playoffs. Finally, Espinoza becoming a theoretical All-Star in 2022 doesn’t matter when you have the best offense in the league, one of the top defenses in the league and a mandate to win now. While most other teams ponder, the Red Sox have already checked every item off their wish list, giving them a head start on the rest of the league and a leg up in an AL East battle that could become baseball’s most compelling playoff race.

New York Yankees

When was the last time so many Yankees fans rooted so ardently for their team to lose? A decent first-half finish hoisted the Yanks to .500, raising fears that the Tampa-based arm of the organization might not adequately cash in on their opportunity to sell veteran contributors for much needed young talent, due to delusions that they might actually contend for the pennant.

The guess here is that barring something like a 10-game winning streak to start the second half, free-agents-to-be Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapmanget dealt to contenders in exchange for quality prospects. But this still an old ballclub on the position player side, with every lineup regular other than the double-play combo 32 years or older, little elite talent on the roster, and a World Series run in 2017 an extreme long shot. CC Sabathia, Andrew Miller,Brian McCann, Starlin Castro, and others could be attractive to other teams, and not prime candidates to be top players by the time the Yankees get really good again. A big losing streak out of the gate in the next week could prompt a more pronounced effort to sell, which could prove to be a great move in the long run.

Tampa Bay Rays

This is the worst team since the abysmal Devil Rays days, with injuries, uncharacteristically sketchy defense, Chris Archer’s mysterious implosion, and multiple other factors torpedoing what figured to be at least a respectable season. The Rays have always sought to load up on younger talent, understanding both baseball’s age curve and their impossibly long odds of signing premium free agents. Pitchers like Odorizzi and Moore do offer multiple years of inexpensive team control. But with the Rays not only looking beyond 2016 but also 2017 and maybe even 2018, that pair of arms, along with any reliever not bolted to the floor, could be wearing different uniforms very soon.

Toronto Blue Jays

On May 18, the Jays sat at 19-23, in fourth place, seven games out of first place and at their lowest point of the season. They’ve gone 31-17 since then, looking a lot like the world-beating team that grew red-hot after a slow start, rolling to a division title. Thing is, the Jays might actually have more talent on the roster now than they did at this time a year ago. Troy Tulowitzki is already there and he’s back to raking after a rough first couple of months. Moreover, the starting rotation has fared better than many expected after Price’s departure, with J.A. Happ looking a lot more like the stone-cold killer he was in Pittsburgh than the bum he was his last time in Toronto, and Aaron Sanchez quietly emerging as one of the best young pitchers in the game.

They’re still at least one pitcher short though, with the Drew Storenexperiment and the Jays seemingly eager to limit Sanchez’s innings. Acquiring a starter and sliding Sanchez to the pen would make a bigger impact, while finding a quality reliever would likely be considerably cheaper. One intriguing rumor that recently made the rounds: Acquiring Jay Bruce a few months after an attempt to trade Saunders for him failed, slotting Bruce into right field, moving aging, low-range outfielder Jose Bautista to DH, sliding Edwin Encarnacion to first base, and pushing weak-hitting Justin Smoak to the bench.

Manfred: No Expansion Until A’s and Rays Get Stadiums

Written Ronald Blum at Yahoo Sports.com 

The Athletics’ search for a new ballpark will be confined to Oakland, and Major League Baseball will put off any expansion talks until it solves its two outstanding stadium issues.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday the exact site is up to the team’s owners, but he made clear the sport has no intention to allow a move outside the city.

”I am committed to Oakland as a major league site,” he told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. ”I think that if we were to leave Oakland, I think 10 years from now we would be more likely than not looking backwards saying we made a mistake.”

Unhappy with the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966, the A’s considered building a ballpark in the southeast bay city of Fremont and then scrapped that plan in 2009. They hoped to move to San Jose but were blocked by the San Francisco Giants, whose territory includes that Silicon Valley city.

”I think that Oakland is more likely than not to be a better market five years from now than it is today,” Manfred said. ”So I certainly have not given up on Oakland.

Manfred said the A’s should go ahead with their stadium efforts, independent of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, who also want to leave the Coliseum for a new facility.

The Tampa Bay Rays also want a new ballpark, and were given permission by the St. Petersburg City Council to search for sites in the area outside the city.

Manfred said any move to add teams beyond the current 30 must wait because of the stadium searches.

”Both of those clubs need new major league quality facilities,” he said, ”and until that’s resolved, I think expansion has got to be on the back burner for us.”

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