30. San Diego Padres: 2014 Mid-Season Rankings

A Padres MetaphorThe Padres can expect to get beaten up by the Dodgers for years to come.

The Padres are a mess. As of the All-Star break, they have only two players with an OBP higher than .300. One of those players is left fielder Seth Smith (.387), the other is utility infielder Jake Goebbert, who has 37 PAs.

It gets worse…

Only three Padres are batting .260 or higher: Smith, Goebbert, and Nick Hundley (.271 in 59 PAs, so good he was released). Only three Padres are slugging higher than .400 with more than 100 PAs: Smith, Rene Rivera, and Tommy Medica. The Padres are so bad on offense, they make Smith look like Barry Bonds.

Just look at the data. This team can’t hit.

Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Everth Cabrera 343 5.00% 23.60% .218 .256 .290
Seth Smith 306 13.70% 16.30% .283 .387 .508
Chase Headley 294 7.50% 23.80% .226 .296 .350
Will Venable 271 6.30% 25.10% .201 .258 .277
Yonder Alonso 244 5.30% 13.10% .210 .250 .341
Chris Denorfia 243 6.60% 18.50% .244 .295 .329
Yasmani Grandal 221 11.30% 26.70% .210 .299 .364
Jedd Gyorko 221 5.40% 25.30% .162 .213 .270
Alexi Amarista 217 7.40% 14.30% .230 .285 .327
Cameron Maybin 182 5.50% 18.70% .251 .291 .374
Carlos Quentin 143 10.50% 19.60% .182 .287 .322

Their first baseman is hitting .210/.250/.341! The guy they gave a 6/$35 million extension to early in the season is hitting .162/.213/.270! Their “star” player and biggest offensive trade chip is hitting .226/.296/.350! I could just keep doing this, but I’ll stop because it’s just cruel. The end result is this: the Padres are the worst team in baseball when it comes to scoring runs (279 on the season, 2.93 R/G), sitting a massive 81 runs behind the second worst team in baseball in the category.

It gets worse…

Baseball Prospectus ranked the Padres as the 11th best farm system in baseball at the beginning of the season, including the 18th (Austin Hedges), 47th (Matt Wisler), and 55th (Max Fried) best prospects. Unfortunately, Hedges is the only one who regularly carries a bat, and he’s a defense first catcher (and a really, really good one, at that). That gives the Padres exactly zero impact hitting prospects on BP’s Top 101 prospects. Their two next best hitting prospects at the beginning of the season, Hunter Renfroe and Rymer Liriano, are both striking out at a 25% clip this season, which doesn’t bode well for hitting at the major league level.

It gets worse…

This Padres team isn’t your normal, low payroll Padres team. The Padres signed a TV deal worth approximately $60 million a year, so they’ve been throwing money around and have a $90 million payroll this season. So not only are they bad, they’re almost $100 million worth of awful. The only good news is the team will shed about $27 million of that money to free agents Chase Headley, Josh Johnson, Huston Street (who does have an option), and Tim Stauffer. They could save even more money by trading Headley and Street before the trade deadline, cause everyone wants a third baseman hitting like a utility infielder.

It gets worse…

The Padres fired their GM, Josh Byrnes, midway through his third season with the team. Since the position became open, the Padres have had several people interview for the job and at least four people withdraw from the job. The Padres will inevitably announce their new GM, but it won’t likely be a candidate as qualified as Jason McLeod. The lack of star players in the majors and minors, San Diego’s only mildly-interested fan base (I don’t blame them, San Diego’s probably fantastic), and the rumors that they might just hire the suddenly-not-so-popular-in-Arizona Kevin Towers should scare away well qualified candidates. Even with more money running through the ball club, a beautiful city with perfect weather, and a pitcher friendly ballpark to work with, the Padres appear to be struggling to find their next GM.

It gets.. better…

As terrible as the Padres are on offense, they do have some good pitchers that should heretofor be known as trade bait one, two, and three: Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner. All three players were acquired via trade from the Diamondbacks, A’s, and Cubs, respectively. Kennedy had one bad season before the Diamondbacks did the most Diamondbacks thing ever and traded him at the point of his lowest value. Ross had issues with walks and couldn’t strike any one out in Oakland, but has turned into a solid mid-rotation starter in the friendly confines of Petco Park. He’s even been solid outside of San Diego. Cashner was traded for spare first baseman Anthony Rizzo (who is an All-Star after a .275/.381/.499 first half with 20 HRs. Sounds like a guy the Padres could use instead of Yonder Alonso, huh?) and has ace stuff that has never translated as a starter, with a K/9 sitting at about 7. It’s not hard to see a team falling for one of the Padres’ starters, but everyone should be wary of a Padres starter leaving Petco.

It gets better…

And that’s exactly what the Padres can rely on. The Cubs have helped build up their farm system by making smart, one-year deals with free agent starters. The Padres can do the same in the comforts of Petco, dealing starters annually and trying to shorten the time it takes to get back into the playoffs. In fact, the Padres should model themselves after the Cubs entirely, taking the best bat in each draft, and working Petco to their advantage to get their starters. They have a proven track record of reviving starters’ careers who look on the way out, so find more of those guys like the Cubs did in the Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta trade.

It gets worse…

Unfortunately, the Padres are sitting in a spot they won’t be able to get out of quickly. They need bats, and they won’t come from the farm system any time soon, and heavily dipping into free agency should be avoided while they are this dismal. That means the Padres are stuck in a 2012 Astros sized hole with a few more assets in the major and minor leagues, but still a long way from the playoffs, especially when the Dodgers are spending $200+ million a year on their payroll.

It’ll get better, eventually.

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25. Seattle Mariners: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

felixWelcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

The Mariners are the poster child for a failed rebuild. Jack Zduriencik came from the Brewers, who had drafted Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, to rebuild the struggling Mariners franchise. Jack Z has had the second and 27th, second, third, and 12th picks in the draft (they also lost a draft pick as compensation for signing Chone Figgins. That hurts.) and ended up with Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, Mike Zunino, and D.J. Peterson. I like Zunino, but all of the picks before him have crushed a franchise that could have picked Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs, and Jose Fernandez instead.

And yet, this man is still the general manager and has been given a year’s reprieve for seemingly one last opportunity to win. After signing and trading for seemingly every DH candidate he could, Jack Z will have to build this offense and strengthen the rotation enough to compete with the Athletics and Rangers. I don’t think it’s going to be pretty.

mariners_losses

The Mariners aren’t going to lose a ton this off season, as Saunders and Gutierrez are spare parts. Perez found a home in relief and Ibanez made headlines with his power number while celebrating his 41st birthday. The only real loss here is Morales, who hit 23 home runs in his second productive year after getting injured on a walk off home run. Ryan was a defensive ace and Morse was the exact opposite, so they aren’t bad losses either. The biggest thing for this team is that all of these players are going to clear a lot of money for a potential big mistake this off season.

mariners_contracts

The Mariners have so little money owed to people it’s no wonder they are rumored to be the favorites for Jacoby Ellsbury. Just two guaranteed contracts for next season and two arbitration eligible players makes this a very versatile roster. The Mariners have a lot of money to play with (or at least have before) and should be able to successfully tweak the roster in ways few teams can in the next few seasons.

mariners_lineup

So this line up has some holes in it, if that isn’t obvious from the graphic. Zunino isn’t exactly who you want at clean up, at least in terms of his experience level. Smoak’s passable at first, but nothing special. Ackley can take over the leadoff spot, but isn’t necessarily the best fit there. The team needs power. They really, really badly need power. Luckily for the Mariners, they have what should be openings to fill in right field and designated hitter that could end up supplying the power for them. Saunders is very replaceable and Franklin will need to do better this season to stay at short.

mariners_pitching

The Mariners’ issue is not the pitching staff. Hernandez is obviously an ace and Iwakuma is a solid number three starter and just finished second in the Cy Young voting. Walker has ace potential and is the future of this rotation, while Maurer is another solid mid-rotation arm and Ramirez is a capable major league starter. They also have some depth in the form of James Paxton. The bullpen is also very good, and Wilhelmsen will probably lose his set up job if he pitches like he did at the end of last season. Farquhar took over the closer job and did well while Capps is a nice set up man.

mariners_prospects

The Mariners’ farm system has really bitten the franchise the last few years, with each new call up performing below expectations. It doesn’t matter if they were drafted or traded for, the Mariners lack of success from the farm system is striking. Walker may be the real deal though. He has excellent make up for a young player to go with great stuff and has the makings of an ace. Zunino made it to the major leagues and has some issues to fix, but still has a lot of luster on him. Hultzen struggled and is looking more and more like a terrible pick. Franklin came to the majors with a bang, but struggled at the end of the season. And finally, Paxton made it to the majors and is ready to help this team in the rotation. It’s not often you can point to all five top prospects and say they are ready to make an impact on next year’s team, but that’s certainly the case here. D.J. Peterson is a third baseman with power and some feel for hitting who can also walk. He’s a college player the team is probably hoping can make his way to the majors quickly to help the team, but don’t expect to see him any time soon.

deal

RHP Brandon Maurer and LHP James Paxton to the Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick, OF Peter Bourjos, and 1B C.J. Cron

I try to stay away from intra-division trades like this, but this one makes way too much sense not to throw out there. The Mariners are deep in pitching and shouldn’t be afraid to trade away pitching depth for offense, and the Angels badly need pitching depth and have offense to give. Enter Kendrick, who by all accounts was being shopped around at the trade deadline, and Bourjos, who they can’t fully utilize since Trout should be playing in center and not a corner, and Cron, who the Angels don’t have a place for either thanks to Pujols and Trumbo. Maurer and Paxton could instantly step into the rotation for the Angels and the Angels already have Taylor Lindsey, who could eventually take over at second. It’s not perfect for the Angels, but it should fix their biggest problem. Meanwhile the Mariners can move Ackley to an outfield corner where he belongs and they’ll have an elite defensive center fielder who can hit a little, solidifying the team for years up the middle of the diamond.

dollas

DH/1B Kendrys Morales (4/$55 million)

The Mariners need power, and they need it badly. While Morales isn’t necessarily the best player to give a multi-year contract to, he is a guy who just hit 20+ home runs while playing his home games at Safeco Field. He fits seemlessly into the line up and provides depth to it. It’s hard to say what Morales’ market is, but his relative youth (he’s only 30) and skill set make him valuable to this team. I inflated his contract a bit (originally I had 3/$40), but that’s the free agent climate we’re in now. The Mariners can afford it and it’s not a terrible bet to make.

philosoraptor Will Jack Z make a move that gets in the way of this team’s future success?

So something I haven’t mentioned up to this point that now needs to be mentioned: I love the Mariners’ future. Their owner just died (who apparently never went to a single Mariners home game), so there’s a chance Nintendo sells off the team and the Mariners get new ownership in place. The new owner could then fire Jack Z without losing a dime and bring in a new GM to helm a team with young talent, a decent farm system, and money to spend. I think this is a perfect landing spot for Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ director of scouting and player development. He should be one of the top GM candidates in all of baseball and the Mariners would be a perfect landing spot for him.

McLeod and every other possible GM will have a year to watch this ownership situation shake out. If things are looking good this time next year, the club should have their pick of the litter. All they have to do is survive this next year without making some sort of idiotic move that puts the future of the franchise behind winning next year. But given that Jack Z knows he has to win or go home, this franchise is in a very dangerous place right now.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

Jack Z will not make that disastrous move to wound the franchise.

At his core, Jack Z understands short term versus long term thinking and won’t make a move that hurts the future of the franchise. He tried his plan out and he just ended up picking the wrong players. Some of that wasn’t obvious at the time, but sometimes it was. Jack’s a draft and develop guy at his core, and he won’t change his ways over the next year. He may go out and get a Jacoby Ellsbury, but he won’t sign Robinson Cano or make a James Shields type of trade. He’s smarter than that (… I think).

Sum it Up with a GIF (from SB Nation)
hugz
Iwakuma love you ❤

The Mariners are a team on a rise that isn’t rising quite yet. They have to avoid any major mistakes that will put their future in jeopardy, but I don’t think that will happen. This team’s future looks bright, but they’ll need to find a source of power to drive the offense. This team is a prime candidate to go out and get Giancarlo Stanton when he comes available, and they should. They need that kind of bat to help move this team forward.

For now, they need to cruise with their young talent and see what they have before making any rash decisions. They also need to hope that Felix continues to be the ace he’s been since getting to the majors. It’s not all bad, but the promising future isn’t guaranteed, it’s just sitting there right in front of them. They just have to grab it.

26. Philadelphia Phillies: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

utley
Welcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

The Phillies won it all in 2008 and returned to the World Series in 2009, but times haven’t been as wonderful since. Age has caught up to the Phillies, and with it has come injuries. Ryan Howard has only had 609 plate appearances in the last two seasons and has seen his power numbers drop in that time. Chase Utley has had only two season of more than 500 plate appearances in the last four seasons while battling injuries, and former MVP Jimmy Rollins put in a replacement level season in 2013.

General manager Ruben Amaro has tried to keep the band together for as long as he could, but it’s finally time to admit that they aren’t as good as they used to be. This Phillies team was about as healthy as it gets these days, and they only managed to win 73 games (which was well above their Pythagorean [aka expected] record of 66 wins). The Phillies won’t be able to move Howard, seem unwilling to move Utley, and likely won’t trade Rollins, Hamels, or Lee, so there’s not a lot this team can do. The Phillies these days are more like a daily reunion of the 2008 and 2009 World Series teams than they are a contender to get there in 2014.

phillies_losses

The Phillies didn’t lose too much this season, aside from Roy Halladay’s enormous $20 million contract, but all signs point to them bringing him back, probably for something like a one year, $10 million deal. Ruiz was only signed for $5 million, and he’ll probably be back, too. Michael Young made $16 million last season, but most of that was paid for by the Rangers, so it’s not like the Phillies are going to have a ton of money to spend should they re-sign all of their players. They’re also not losing any impact players, but their core just isn’t good enough any more to keep them afloat.

phillies_contracts

Look at that 2014 guaranteed money! $119 million on the books before arbitration and free agency! This team won 73 games last year, lost $37.5 million worth of payroll, and owes it’s team almost $120 million in guaranteed money alone! To make things even worse, it’s not like they have a bunch of money that’s coming off of the books. Only Rollins and Adams will see their contracts expire after next season. Lee, Utley, and Papelbon are owed a ton as well and expire after 2015, and Lee has a gigantic option year. This team’s a mess. It’s so much worse than I thought it was. It’s a total disaster. 73 wins!

phillies_lineup

The Phillies lineup looks pretty good until you realize Utley, Rollins, and Howard are all either 34 or 35 years old and Revere has to hit .300 in order to be a decent lead off hitter. Brown and Asche inject some youth on a team that is severely lacking it and have some upside to them. Brown managed to hit 27 home runs last year and became a verifiable asset for the first time since he was the top prospect in all of baseball in 2010. They have a manageable hole in right that they can fill with Mayberry and Ruf, and a need at catcher that may be filled by Ruiz.

phillies_pitching

The top of the Phillies’ rotation looks really good. The bottom looks awful. Gonzalez and Kendrick are fourth and fifth starters if Gonzalez continues to build on his workload from last season, and Ethan Martin wasn’t good enough to crack the Phillies’ top five prospects last year (he was sixth). The rotation is probably a starter away from being legitimate, but given the small amount they’ll pay for Gonzalez, it’s better than I thought. It’s just very, very top heavy. The bullpen is a mess, though. Papelbon is clearly their best reliever while Adams can be a legitimate set up man if he’s healthy and Bastardo struggled. His name literally means bastard, by the way. It’s his last name! How can that be a last name?!

phillies_prospects

Biddle dealt with some pretty serious command issues after walking over 5 batters per nine innings, but was young for Double A and posted a good strikeout rate. Franco looks like a legitimate impact player after reaching Double A as a 20-year-old. While he was there he posted a .339/.363/.563 line, so he could be on the fast track to the majors given the team’s hole at third. Morgan will be looking to have a bounce back year after pitching just over 70 innings with very bleh results in Triple A. If he gets it together, he could be the addition this rotation needs. Quinn struggled to make contact at Low A and Joseph only had 131 plate appearances in 2013, so both of them have some work to do. Crawford was drafted as a solid defensive shortstop with power (not a ton, but it’s there) and started off his professional career hitting .300. The hit tool is the big question with him, so his performance in that area will be something to keep an eye on.

deal

LHP Cliff Lee to the Yankees for RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Jose Campos, and OF Mason Williams

It was harder to find a home for Cliff Lee than I thought it would be. He’s owed a lot of money, is an older player, and will probably require a nice haul of prospects to bring in. The Yankees aren’t a great fit for Lee, but it does make sense. They have the financial muscle to make this move and also should be willing to part with Ramirez and Campos. For the Phillies, they clear most, if not all, of the money owed to Lee and get some good upside prospects in return. Ramirez could impact their rotation within a year and Campos within about three. They would also hope Mason Williams regains his 2012 luster.

dollas

C Dioner Navarro – 1/$3 million

Navarro just finished a very nice season with the Cubs and hit a career high in home runs. He’s five years younger than Ruiz, and should be a better offensive player than him as well. He won’t require a ton of money to sign and should be easily re-signed the following year if they want him back. It may take a two year deal to get Navarro, but it shouldn’t be much for a team that has flexed its financial muscle lately.

philosoraptor How long will it take for this franchise to move away from their old, core players?

I’m not saying the Phillies need to release everyone and start over, I just wonder how long it will be until this team is willing to let youth overtake it. When young players become the focus instead of the old ones, this team will start to move back on track to relevancy. Howard, Utley, and Rollins can still be on this team, but they need to see them as veterans that will influence the youth in the organization, not as cornerstones of the franchise that will lead them to the playoffs.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

The Phillies will resign Halladay and Ruiz, and won’t trade Hamels or Lee.

Ruber Amaro’s track record is clear: he doesn’t take age into effect all that much, and he is willing to bring back his veteran players. They need to get younger, but I don’t see it happening under Amaro. Ok, ok, so let me give a second prediction then: Ryan Sandberg will be fired within three years. Why? Because Amaro is going to be fired sooner than later, and when a new GM comes in, they usually want a new manager that they hired. We see it happen all the time, and I expect no different in Philly.

Sum it Up with a GIF (from Philly Mag)
JROL

I almost picked a more meaningful GIF, but I just can’t justify making the Phillies’ gif anything but Jimmy Rollins giving the “suck it” sign to whoever it is who just hit a walk off home run. I’d imagine this mystery hitter must have been confused, wondering why Rollins was taunting him. Therapy must have been ordered and an apology later issued.

Unfortunately, the Phillies are a puzzling team. Their farm system has some impact in it, but how they get to the playoffs again is a mystery. They have so much money guaranteed over the next two seasons that it will be hard for them to do anything to make themselves relevant again.

I know I really pounded away on the direction of this franchise and how they need to move on from Lee, Hamels, Rollins, Howard, Utley, Ruiz, and Halladay, but that’s the biggest issue this organization has, and it’s not clear they’re going to make the right choice. They recently added Marlon Byrd to their team, a 36-year-old outfielder, which just continues to prove to me that this team is trying to win now and has learned nothing from their other contracts to older players. If Amaro trades Cliff Lee in the next few months, it will be a step in the right direction for a team that needs a serious reboot. I just don’t think that’s where Amaro is right now, so I fully expect Halladay and Ruiz to come back and make one last(?) half-hearted playoff push. If that’s where this team is headed, it’s not going to be pretty.

27. Colorado Rockies: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

tuloWelcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

When Troy Tulowitzki was just a rookie, the Rockies made a push to the playoffs and made it in by the skin of Matt Holliday’s teeth. They then found themselves in the World Series, facing the Boston Red Sox. It didn’t go well for the Rockies, as they lost in four games. They’ve made the playoffs only once since that World Series trip, and have struggled to develop pitching in an environment built to rip the heart out of young starters.

Not helping matters, the Rockies are one of the most injury-prone teams when it comes to their star players. Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dexter Fowler all spent time on the DL and only Tulowitzki eclipsed the 500 PA mark, and he only did it by 12. There’s no doubt the Rockies will always be able to pelt the ball as long as their home ball park has the Mile High City air to help the ball travel, but turning that advantage into a consistent model that wins has been a challenge the Rockies front office hasn’t been up to thus far.

rockies_losses

The Rockies lost a franchise cornerstone in Todd Helton, but luckily he plays at one of the easiest positions to address offensively that will be that much easier to fill thanks to Coors Field. Aside from Helton, the Rockies lost a bunch of bottom of the roster types that should not be missed. Eric Young, Jr. is the possible exception to the group, but he hasn’t shown the ability to put up a consistent offensive performance. Overall, the Rockies’ roster won’t look all that different next year unless a bevy of changes come over the off season.

rockies_contracts

I was honestly surprised that Carlos Gonzalez only had four years left on his contract. It’s actually a very good and very tradable contract thanks to Gonzalez performance away from Coors Field last season. Meanwhile, Tulowitzki is just starting on his seven year extension and should be worth the money. He can always move to third eventually where the bat will play just fine. Other than those two, the Rockies have a bunch of one year deals that could be traded in the off season, or simply left as expiring deals. The Rockies should have some money to spend in the future, but attracting the pitching they so desperately need will be next to impossible in free agency without a significant overpay.

rockies_lineup

I expected this line up to have more holes, but that’s just not the case. There are certainly some soft spots, but those spots at second and third are manned by young players, one of whom just won a gold glove (Arenado, and deservingly so). The Rockies have two middle of the order bats in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez (who finally started to hit on the road like a star player should), but both players are about to exit their primes. Fowler looked like a star before he got hurt, but he has massive home/road splits. Cuddyer turns 35 next season and Rosario can’t take a walk. This offense is good enough to win, but should be reworked to improve it for the long haul.

rockies_pitching

This Rockies rotation is really bad. It’s full of fifth starters and maybe a fourth starter or two that are being masked by Coors Field. De La Rosa is not an ace and probably not a mid-rotation guy, but will lead this Rockies pitching staff. Chacin is a solid pitcher, but couldn’t manage to strike out six batters per nine innings last season. Chatwood and Nicasio both had WHIPs above 1.40 and Bettis pitched like a guy who wanted to go back to Triple A. The bullpen is in better shape, but not by much. Brothers is a good closer while Belisle and Ottavino are middle relievers working as set up men. The Rockies have no one they can trust on the mound on a regular basis. This is a franchise that badly needed to develop arms and has seemingly done nothing in that regard.

rockies_prospects

When you look at what happened to these five guys, it’s pretty ugly. Arenado won a gold glove while staying afloat offensively. He needs to improve at the plate or be replaced later, even with the plus plus glove. Dahl didn’t do much in Low A and Story racked up 183 strikeouts in High A, while Bettis reached the majors and struggled. Matzek saw his strikeout rate plummet from 9.7 in 2012 at High A to 6.0 last season in Double A. The only real hope for this team is the third overall pick, Jonathan Gray. Gray can hit triple digits as a starter and may have had the highest ceiling of any player in the 2013 draft. If the Rockies have found the ace of the staff, they are starting to rebuild the right way. They should really send a thank you letter to the Cubs, because Gray is the guy they need. Badly.

deal

OF Carlos Gonzalez to the Red Sox for RHP Matt Barnes, OF Jackie Bradley, Jr., and LHP Brian Johnson

The Red Sox need to revamp their outfield, and Gonzalez fits the bill well. He or Victorino could play center while the other played in right, that way they would get the maximum defensive value from both of them. Gonzalez could slip into the three spot of the lineup between Pedroia and Ortiz. His power should be able to play in the friendly offensive confines of Fenway Park. As for the Rockies, they would get a top of the rotation arm and a project arm, with Bradley thrown in as a replacement outfielder for Gonzalez. This might be a little high of a price to pay for Gonzalez, and perhaps Allen Webster replaces Matt Barnes in the deal, but the framework is in place for this to make sense.

dollas

1B James Loney (2/$14 million)

What better replacement for Todd Helton could you find than James Loney! They’re like the same guy! Loney’s power will be maximized at Coors, and he’ll play a great first base defensively. They can build on what the Rays did with him and maybe even see him eclipse the 20 home run mark with the help of Coors Field. They could go after a pitcher, but it’s hard to see one accepting a deal to come and play at Coors. The only one who would make sense might be Ubaldo Jimenez, but he wasn’t all that happy with the Rockies last time I checked.

philosoraptorCan this team build a pitching staff from scratch in the next two years?

If the Rockies don’t want to go into rebuilding mode, they’ll need to assemble a serviceable pitching staff quickly. That’s fine when you are playing 81 games at Petco or ATT Park, but not when your home field is Coors Field. If Gray can speed through the minors and they overpay a ground ball pitcher to be their mid-rotation starter, they have a chance to contend again with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.

But if that doesn’t happen, they will have to trade both of their star players and start from scratch. This team needs to do what the Cubs have been doing the last couple years and just draft arm after arm after arm in the draft. They’ll have a lot of good picks in the coming seasons if nothing changes and two guys who should bring sizable returns, so the Rockies turnaround could go quickly.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

Changes are coming to the Rockies front office.

The current front office is about to get cleaned out. They haven’t done anything to help build a pitching staff or team to surround their superstar players, and now it’s time to pay for it. The talk of the off season is going to surround Tulowitzki going to the Cardinals, and when you trade away a guy who should be the best player in your franchise’s history if he sticks around, it’s time for a change. They tried to win with Jim Tracy and failed. They tried a four man rotation with a 75 pitch limit and were ridiculed. It’s time to clean house.

Sum it Up with a GIF (from MLB GIFs)
bounce
This shouldn’t ever happen…

The Rockies were almost my number 28 team, but they have two superstar players they can deal and a top of the rotation arm in Jonathan Gray, so they could get plenty of impact players to fill their roster again. Sure, they don’t always work out, but the Rockies have had good fortune before, and Coors Field always helps. What they need to do now is improve their amateur scouting so they can develop their own pitching and get those arms to the majors, because what they have now is bad, and it’s made even worse by their home ballpark.

The Rockies could make a quick turnaround, but I don’t know if their current leadership will get the job done right.

28. Chicago White Sox: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

Hawk_Harrelson_2007_CROPWelcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

Just a few months ago I thought this team was going to be the next Astros, picking first in the draft for multiple years while the farm system was built from scratch and the major league team was full of Triple A types. That’s where they were heading, but now there’s hope this team can latch on to that should cause the south siders to avoid such an awful fate.

While the farm system remains barren, they are working on it. They also have young players at the major league level who should help secure a brighter future. But most importantly, this team knows where it is and what it will take to get back to the playoffs. The White Sox front office may get panned by those who haven’t taken a look at them closely, but this is a bright group that will not accept rebuilding via losing.

wsox_losses

The White Sox said goodbye to a bunch of old, overpaid players at the end of the season. Peavy was effective but useless to this team, and the same can be said of Rios. The two relievers were excess for a team with an excellent bullpen while Wise wasn’t needed in the outfield any longer. The Sox are likely going to lose a franchise player in Konerko this season, as he may retire. And Gavin Floyd, who is as inconsistent as they come, made only five starts. In the end, the losses the Sox took are manageable and free up a lot of money older players were taking up.

wsox_contracts

The Sox have a lot of money tied up in their players, but most of the money is going to young players like Sale and Abreu. Danks’ contract is a legit albatross contract and Keppinger’s $8.5 million might as well be thrown into a giant metal trash can and burned for heat. The rest of the guaranteed money isn’t too bad, with one year deals for Dunn and Lindstrom, and Alexei is probably worth his contract, but shouldn’t be getting his checks from the White Sox at the end of it. The young veterans for the team are all in arbitration now for the Sox, but they’ve never been shy about spending money, so it’s not a big deal.

wsox_lineup

It’s trivia time! Who on the White Sox led the team in OBP? If you answered Alex Rios, congratulations, you guessed right. Now a bonus question: what was his OBP? Would you believe it was a mere .328? That’s right, Rios’ .328 OBP led the Sox. That’s awful. Really, really awful. Even the Astros had three players who played significant time finish with higher OBPs. The point is this offense is a mess, and the team will lean on Abreu and Garcia to help raise the bar on offense. Flowers and Keppinger are gaping holes at the bottom of the line up, while De Aza and Viciedo don’t get on base enough to legitimately bat first and third.

wsox_pitching

If there’s one thing the White Sox do well, it’s find pitching and make sure they stay healthy. Quintana and Santiago are surprisingly young and help form a pretty solid rotation behind Sale, who is a legitimate Cy Young contender. Danks and Axelrod are innings eaters who should probably be replaced down the line. This bullpen is pretty good, and Reed’s a solid closer. Jones and Veal are both solid set up men who could be traded before the end of next year.

wsox_prospects

Let’s get it out of the way now: this is a terrible farm system. I won’t go as far as to say it’s the worst, but it’s bottom three for sure. Hawkins was aggressively assigned to High A (other high school players drafted last year were assigned to Low A, including Buxton and Almora, both of whom were drafted before him) and struggled mightily there, hitting .178. Thompson spent a full season in Double A and hit .229 without power. Sanchez spent the year in Triple A while posting a .241/.293/.296 line. Johnson actually pitched well in Triple A, but failed to do much in the majors. Snodgress saw his strikeout rate go under 6 per nine innings in Double A. As for Anderson, he’s a speedy shortstop with some pop who is an athlete. Man, this is really, really bad.

deal

SS Alexei Ramirez to the Pirates for SS Alen Hanson and RHP Luis Heredia

The Pirates are in need of someone to fill their hole at shortstop, and Ramirez makes some sense. He isn’t owed a ton of money, and in this trade the Sox should probably chip in a little. In exchange for Ramirez, the White Sox get a future shortstop who can hit a little and an arm with upside. The Sox could then flip things around and sign a guy like Stephen Drew to deal and still get to pick third in the draft since they’ll be protected from compensation. It works out for both sides.

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C Brian McCann (4/$56 million)

Tyler Flowers is not a good player, and the Sox need someone at catcher who can fill the void, both offensively and defensively. McCann makes a lot of sense for this team. He can slip into the middle of their order and help develop whatever young catcher comes through the system in the future. McCann may not want to playing on this sorry Sox team, so they could focus their attention to someone like Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Regardless of who they sign, the White Sox need to improve at catcher.

philosoraptorHow aggressive will this front office be, and will it hurt them long term while missing the playoffs?

The moves I made for this team were fairly aggressive. You would think a team that just finished with the third worst record and no farm system wouldn’t go out and spend on a catcher and a shortstop, but this is the team that would do that. The White Sox have always been aggressive, and when you look at their roster on the whole, they aren’t that far off from contention given the money they have to spend. I don’t know if they’ll get to the playoffs, but they could get pretty close, especially in their miserable division.

But I wonder if that’s their best bet. Why not be bad for just one more year and see what you have in the pieces you’ve collected? Why not get back-to-back top five picks and build your franchise around those guys? We see teams all the time that build around two or three players for over a decade and win because of it. Why shouldn’t the White Sox follow that model? I honestly don’t think either way is worse than the other, but waiting could prove fruitful for this team.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

The White Sox will trade Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez before the end of the 2014 season.

Adam Dunn is in the last year of his contract with the White Sox, and the Sox shouldn’t be anywhere close to the playoffs, so it’s no surprise the club would move on from him at DH, probably some time in August. But Ramirez has two years on his contract and is 32 and doesn’t fit the youth movement the White Sox are on now. No, the White Sox don’t have anything coming down the pipe, but finding a Brendan Ryan type shouldn’t be hard for the Sox.

Sum it Up with a GIF (from GameDayR)
vici
Viciedo has trouble

Unlike the baseball Viciedo is trying to grasp a hold of, I believe the White Sox are in capable hands. Even though Kenny Williams and co. have mishandled parts of this club, they clearly understand where they are as a franchise. They aren’t like the Phillies, who are deluding themselves into contention and holding on to every piece that can help them win despite those players’ ages, the Sox moved Peavy and Rios at the deadline to save money and get young players to build on. They get it. They understand that $68 million sounds like a ridiculous amount of money to give a player who hasn’t played a professional game yet, but look at the money handed out to players in free agency. Hunter Pence just signed a $90 million deal! At least with Abreu, you get the best years of his career.

I believe this team can make the playoffs sooner than everyone else thinks. I don’t know if they’ll contend in 2015, but I bet they’ll be close. Never doubt Kenny Williams, he knows what he’s doing.

29. Milwaukee Brewers: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

sausage raceWelcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

The Milwaukee Brewers are just two years removed from an appearance in the NLCS, so things couldn’t be so bad that they go from amongst the top four teams in the league to the bottom four teams in the league, right?

Sadly, that’s exactly what has happened to the Brewers. That 2011 Brewers team had Zach Grienke and Prince Fielder on it, along with a not-suspended Ryan Braun, a healthy Corey Hart, and effective versions of Ricky Weeks, Yovanni Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, and John Axford. The biggest pieces left in free agency, while the rest aren’t what they used to be, and neither are the Brewers.

This is the first off season the Brewers will face the cold, harsh reality that they are not contenders in the NL Central like they have been since Ryan Braun was called to the majors. This team, as it seemingly always has been, is looking for pitching and needs to reinvigorate their offense. Unlike many teams in the basement, the Brewers don’t have the farm system ready to bring them back to relevance.

brewers_losses

The Brewers traded away two veteran relievers who haven’t been as good over the last two years than they were at their peak. They managed to get some value in those trades while saving some money, so at least they have that. I would have liked to see them make some more trades, but the trade deadline has been much quieter lately, so I can’t criticize the Brewers for holding out. Corey Hart is the team’s biggest loss, but he missed last season entirely due to injury. Betancourt and Gonzalez are washed up infielders who probably won’t see much more than a spring training invitee in March, and Mike Gonzalez is nothing special out of the pen and should be easily replaced. Overall, not a lot going on here.

brewers_contracts

Here is the problem with the Brewers in one graphic. Look at all of those one year deals. Aoki, Ramirez, Gallardo, and Weeks all have one year left (although Ramirez does have an option year) and Lohse has only two years left. This team is going to fall apart at the seams very quickly, and the Brewers need to maximize their return now and start to retool the organization for the future. If the Brewers could move Aoki, Lohse, and Gallardo before the start of the season, they’d save $35.5 million and drop their guaranteed money to just about $50 million, which would be much more manageable for this small market team. And then if they could move Weeks and Ramirez before the trade deadline next season, they’d save even more money while starting to build the farm system again.

brewers_lineup

This is actually a good line up, but it doesn’t have much a shelf life. Weeks has an option for next year that will almost certainly be declined thanks to his poor defense and meager offensive performance during the last two seasons. There’s always hope, but I wouldn’t count on him. Ramirez will turn 36 in the middle of next season and has an option for next year that will also probably be declined, and Aoki will hit free agency next year as well. Corey Hart has said he is willing to take a discounted offer from the Brewers to return next season, so he’d be a nice addition to the team, but doesn’t change things in a meaningful way. That leaves the Brewers with Segura, Gomez, Braun, and Lucroy, which is a nice core, but they have to address their rotation in order to have any measure of success.

brewers_pitchers

The Brewers starting staff actually isn’t that bad. Gorzelanny shouldn’t touch the rotation if the Brewers can help it, but the rest of these guys actually fit fairly well in place. All this team needs is another mid-rotation guy to compete, but they should avoid doing that as their window is closing. Gallardo is a free agent at the end of the year and just had a mediocre season, and Lohse should be dangled this off season for prospects. Estrada is a solid number four starter and the Brewers should just cross their fingers and hope Peralta figures it out. The bullpen has been pretty miserable since Axford lost the job, but Henderson is actually a pretty good closer. The rest of the pen is full of bottom of the bulpen guys like Kintzler and Badenhop, who don’t walk many batters, but they also don’t strike out that many either. Their lack of organizational depth from the farm system shows.

brewers_prospects

The Brewers didn’t get to pick in the first round last year since they signed Kyle Lohse, but it shouldn’t end up being a huge loss as they could turn Lohse into a decent enough prospect to make up for that. If they sign another free agent tied to compensation again this year it’s a sign of some big problems to come for the Brewers. Peralta spent last season in the majors with very mixed results. He established himself as a fifth starter, but given his stuff, a lot more is expected of him. He could be a mid-rotation guy at least if he figures it out, but we have yet to see such progress. Hellweg and Jungmann have next to no control, posting very high walk rates without striking enough guys out, and Thornburg looks to be moving into the bullpen. Roach was old for Low A but still managed to strike out a ton, so not much will be expected of him. This is a really bad top five.

deal

RHP Kyle Lohse to the Dodgers for OF Joc Pederson and RHP Zachary Bird

The Brewers badly need to rebuild their farm system, and getting a nice upside arm in Bird along with a very nice corner bat in Pederson is just what the Brewers could use. Bird’s far enough away that the Dodgers would be fine with parting with him, and the crowded outfield makes Pederson redundant, so the Dodgers shouldn’t have any trouble peddling them away for a starter that will add even more depth to their rotation without a major  financial commitment, not that they care.

dollas

RHP Jair Jurrjens (1/$2 million)

It’s been a wild couple of years for Jurrjens. After posting a sub-3.00 ERA in 2011, Jurrjens struggled immensely in 2012 and barely whiffed the majors in 2013. But that shouldn’t be enough to make the Brewers shy away from the 28-year-old. That’s right, he’s only 28! He’s a ground ball pitcher, which should play well for the homer-prone Miller Park and can easily fill a rotation spot at minimal risk. If he doesn’t work out, they can just DFA him and move on, but if he pitches well, they should get a third or fourth starter to help their rotation and a possible trade chip in July.

philosoraptor What’s the plan here?

The Brewers can go in quite a few directions. That line up may be a division winning group, but the rotation is such a mess they should easily fall out of contention in a division with three 2013 playoff teams. There’s just too much damage here to think about pushing for the playoffs, so the front office and ownership should be figuring out how to retool this team for the future.

If the Brewers decide to start building for the future instead of the next season, it will be interesting to see who they decide to keep around and who they move. Gomez, Lucroy, and Braun are all pieces most teams should be interested in, although Braun carries a ton of baggage with him. They could decide to move the pending free agents (Aoki and Gallardo) and try and trade Ramirez and Weeks (highly paid veterans) at the deadline. As long as they do something to shake things up and surround their current block of talent with young players, the organization will be moving in the right direction.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

Ryan Braun struggles for a month, then goes back to being Ryan Braun.

I can see it already: baseball writers will write article after article on how this scrub Ryan Braun was made entirely by PEDs and how he’s facing his maker now and should be released by the Brewers. But that’s not reality. Braun is still a really good player, but I think he’s going to struggle to adjust to the pouring of boos he is going to get at each visiting stadium and probably his own as well. But he’ll get over it and accept what he did and the consequences that come with it and get back to bashing the bejesus out of baseballs.

Sum it Up with a GIF (from CBS Sports)
SeguraSteal
Jean Segura steals first base

It’s about the most amazing thing that’s happened on a baseball field that doesn’t have to do with a player’s ability to play baseball. Segura symbolizes what the Brewers are going to have to do in order to win. They have to start over and try and get back in contention by trading away their remaining assets to get younger. They need better pitching, too. They need to focus on the draft and minor league scouting the next couple of years so they can improve their chances of getting back to the playoffs. If they don’t, this team might be in some truly incredible trouble. Just trade them! Do it! The Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds are going to be good for the next few years! Be the bad team in the division and get some high picks! Last time they did it they got Braun and Fielder!

30. Miami Marlins: 2013 MLB Offseason Preview

marlinsWelcome to the MLB Offseason Preview! Click the images for links to useful information regarding each graphic. Confused by the rankings? Click here for an explanation as to how they were sorted.

It’s never good when your owner is a well known part of your franchise, and unfortunately for Marlins fans (if they even exist), we know exactly who Jeffrey Loria is. It disgusts me that he is tarnishing the name we share, and I demand that he start acting competent. But that isn’t going to happen, and hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. You know, for entertainment purposes. Oh, you thought I meant for the Marlins? Oh no. Oh no no no, that’s terrible news for the Marlins.

Whereas the Astros are terrible by design, the Marlins are terrible thanks to a design that failed. After splurging in free agency, opening a new ballpark, and finishing in last place in their division with a 69-93 record, the Marlins traded pretty much every player making more than the minimum to Toronto, Arizona, and Los Angeles. There are some bright spots on this team, but it’s far from a playoff spot thanks to some sizable holes littered throughout the roster.

marlins_losses

The Marlins weren’t very active in the free agent market just a year after nearly spending all of the moneys, signing Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle to multi-year deals. Instead, in 2013 they got Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, and Jon Rauch. Those inspired signings failed to do anything beyond putting a warm body on the field (forgoing the opportunity to have a “Double Header at Bernie’s” night were a dead man plays third base), so the Marlins won’t really lose anything from their current roster. I guess the only real loss for the Marlins is Ricky Nolasco, who is an up and down pitcher who at least provided solid innings for the team.

marlins_contracts

Things are starting to get a little pricey for the Marlins, as Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, and Steve Cishek are all hitting arbitration at the same time as three of their other teammates. This usually means the Marlins are about to make some trades, but with so little invested in their players long term, the Marlins can feel free to spend some money on extensions. That won’t be easy given the mess that is the Marlins, and no one appears to mirror that sentiment more than right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. The odds of him signing an extension are extremely low, since they basically made a trade that was the polar opposite of The Decision. Can’t you just see the pep rally where the Marlins’ announcer says, “Number three, at shortstop thanks to the Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes trades, Adieeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnyyyyyyyyy Hech-iaaaaavariaaaaaaaaaa!!!!”

marlins_bats

Look at that top three! It’s always great when you can get your outfield to be a legitimate top three in your line up. The problem for the Marlins, unfortunately, is that their infield is absolutely awful. It’s the worst infield in the major leagues and it’s not even close. They have automatic outs at second, short, and catcher and a hole at third. I liked Morrison a couple years ago, but now I don’t know if he’ll ever hit enough to be a real factor, especially given his awful defense. It’s really, really bad. The Astros’ infield is probably twice as good as this Marlins infield, and I think that says it all.

marlins_pitching

The Marlins’ rotation is actually respectable. This team does have talent on it, but unlike that great outfield, the rotation has a lot of 4 and 5 starters and not much to speak of at the top of the rotation aside from Jose Fernandez, who is amazing. A 2.19 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP make him the best young pitcher in baseball who also happens to be one of the youngest players, too. I have concerns with Turner, a product of the Tigers’ farm system shipped over in the Anibal Sanchez trade, and think a lot of the hype behind him came in his age-to-league comparison. I’m just not sure he’ll ever be anything but a fourth starter, but I could certainly be wrong. Eovaldi and Alvarez are fine, but nothing special, and Koehler should be competing for a starting job next season. Cishek should be traded this off season for infield help, but that won’t happen because for some reason no one learned anything from Moneyball, the Kansas City Royals and Joakim Soria, or every single season of the one-inning closer era.

marlins_prospects

If you are a small market team, it really helps when your top prospect comes the major leagues as a 20-year-old and shoves it for 5 1/2 months, which is exactly what Fernandez did. Christian Yelich is a legitimate two hitter in a line up right now and has yet to truly tap into his power. Marisnick could be a Starling Marte type in center for the Marlins, giving them one of the top outfields in baseball as long as Stanton is still there. Nicolino and Heaney are a couple of nice arms for the team to surround Fernandez with, although Nicolino struggled a bit last season. Third baseman Colin Moran is a much needed upgrade that should get to the majors by the end of 2015 for a team whose infield is absolutely horrendous. Moran was seen as a possible first overall pick, partially due to his age-to-league comparison and his excellent performance in college.

deal

OF Giancarlo Stanton to the Diamondbacks for LHP Tyler Skaggs, 3B Matt Davidson, SS Chris Owings, and RP Will Harris

The Marlins badly need to upgrade their infield and unfortunately, they’ll need to do it at the expense of their outfield. Stanton clearly doesn’t want to stay in Miami longer than he has to, so you might as well get as much value as possible. While this trade doesn’t have the splashy prospect that one would typically get back in such a trade, the Marlins will get four pieces ready to contribute right now with little to no service time. The close gigantic holes at shortstop and third base while Skaggs can fall behind Fernandez in the rotation. This trade probably wouldn’t happen because the Marlins would want Archie Bradley over Skaggs, but it’s not a bad trade regardless.

dollas

RHP Dan Haren (1/$5 million)

It’s hard to say what the market is going to be for Haren next season, but the Marlins should be able to sign him for a reasonable amount of money if no one goes crazy and gives Haren a multi-year deal. Given the Marlins gigantic home ballpark, Haren’s issues with home runs should be diminished and increase his value for a trade. As long as he’s willing to sign, Haren would be a nice addition to the team.

philosoraptor Will Jeffrey Loria get in the way?

The reason the Marlins are the 30th team on this list is a combination of a few things: a bad roster, the team’s unwillingness to spend money on players, and a meddling owner. Those last two are on Jeffrey Loria, who has blown up three different Marlins teams now. At least the first two times were after winning World Series.

Loria is the biggest problem for an organization that is unreliable because the guy at the top gets in the way. It’s not just selling off the team, but other things. Things like deciding who is pitching, promotions and demotions of players, and firing managers like fry cooks. Loria is now effectively the general manager, and even the players know it, and they are scared. Oh, and Loria fired his long-time general manager. It’s that bad in Miami right now.

Fante_di_bastoniPrediction

Jeffrey Loria will meddle with the team and it will be a huge story.

Loria is on the radar now. When he was blowing up World Series winning teams, Loria was just cheap. Now he’s cheap and meddlesome. I don’t know what he is going to do, but he will eventually make a move that becomes a national news story that gets talked about a lot more than any of those previously mentioned stories. I don’t know if it will actually put Loria’s status as owner in jeopardy, but something is going to happen. It’s inevitable at this point.

Sum it Up with a GIF (from The Big Lead)
marlins-slide-1_original
Two Marlins, One Base

This gif says it perfectly. It’s just mass confusion in Miami, and we have no idea who’s in control of the team from a baseball operations side. Will new GM Michael Hill have any power in his role, or is he just going to run the team and hand in his moves to Loria so he can make a final decision? This team has talent, and more is on the way, but the owner situation is a disaster waiting to happen. Loria has never spent money (for more than one season) and is screwing with the team now. Nothing good is coming for this team if things don’t change.