I spent time in December defending Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, and it is time to do it again. During the Reds recent caravan, the club’s manager, Bryan Price, dropped this zinger:
“It looks like Brandon is with us. Brandon, for me, is a second baseman of tremendous value and talent, it’s hard to just assign someone else that job. If Brandon’s with us, I expect him to be playing second base.”
Oh? It does appear that the player who the club offered an extension to, giving him 10-and-five rights, is still “stuck” with the club – or is it that the club is “stuck” with him? This, apparently, came after both Walt Jocketty and Price had praised the club’s new, future second baseman, Jose Peraza, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the three-team deal that sent fan favorite Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox.
Oh? So, the team that has spent the whole offseason trading away their talent for lesser talent is now going to try to make the upcoming 90-plus loss season the fault of a 35-year-old who refused to move away. At one time, that was called loyalty. It was waiting out the horrendous contract that Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin was given to finish his career in Cincinnati, but, now…Phillips is the problem. He’s blocking the super prospect now.
The problem with this thinking, however, is that the Reds acquired a “ready” talent without knowing that they were going to be able to deal the veteran. This is the equivalent of the club dealing for young talent and acquiring the top first base prospect in baseball. Without the designated hitter, the kid would be riding the pine in favor of Joey Votto. So, why are the Reds pinning this stall in the rebuild on a player?
This fiasco is the fault of Walt Jocketty and Walt Jocketty only. Major League Baseball is not the NFL – you don’t need multiple, elite play-makers at a single position. You need to have a steady flow of talent within your minor league system, and you deal a player like Yasmani Grandal when you have a Devin Mesoraco ahead of him for the long-term. That made sense four years ago when the club was dealing young talent for proven talent and acquiring Mat Latos from the Padres. Now, Jocketty has a very unimpressive farm system that has a dearth of offensive producers, even after dealing Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Frazier since last July. Jesse Winker is the great hope for the future, and he profiles as a corner outfielder who is going to hit about 15 home runs, and if you think Peraza is the answer…you have that scum Phillips blocking him at second.
The problem continues to be the Baseball Operations side of things in Cincinnati. The organization continues to try to pass the blame elsewhere, but it starts and finishes there. For a positive change in Cincinnati, it is Jocketty who needs to go. Quit with the small-market nonsense. Get someone in there with a plan that can work.
The current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement was put into place in 2011 and expires on December 1st of 2016. With the expiration, it is likely that players will find a way or work towards eliminating the current draft pick compensation. While the qualifying offer protects small-market teams and allows them to receive compensation for losing a player, it also comes with driving the price of free agents down. For that reason, players who receive qualifying offers need to truly be elite, or they pay the price in the open market.
From 2012 to 2014, all 34 players who received qualifying offers rejected them; however, after the 2015 season, a whopping 20 players received offers, with three players – Matt Wieters, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Anderson – accepting the one-year, $15.8 million deals (the average annual value of the top 125 salaries in baseball), while a fourth, Marco Estrada, agreed to a two-year deal with Toronto. Unfortunately, there are several others who are still seeking roster asylum.
The market for Ian Desmond, Yovani Gallardo, and Dexter Fowler has been slow to develop, while we saw recent late signings for Ian Kennedy and Justin Upton, who, finally, received long-term deals with the newly popular opt-out clauses worked into those deals. In addition to Desmond, Gallardo, and Fowler, here are other names still available:
Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle, Tim Lincecum, Doug Fister, Kyle Lohse, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Alex Rios, Greg Holland (Tommy John surgery), Marlon Byrd, David Freese, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor (coming off of shoulder surgery), Alfredo Simon, Matt Joyce, Ike Davis, Bronson Arroyo (Tommy John surgery), Juan Uribe, and superstar slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
Interestingly enough, the players above do not require draft pick compensation; however, many clubs now value the cost effective, team control mantra that comes with youth movements, while refraining from the over-inflated, under-performing, declining veteran deals, which causes the shelf period for players in free agency to continue to lengthen.
It certainly makes sense for clubs to give young players additional opportunities, especially if they have very little chance to succeed in a given year. Many teams will likely attempt to match the Houston Astros complete, disgraceful collapse and eventual successful rebuild, rather than giving $8 million to a 38-year-old infielder. The perfect example of this would be my hometown Cincinnati Reds plugging last year’s shortstop, Eugenio Suarez (who gives way at short after Zack Cozart‘s return from a knee injury), in at third base instead of signing David Freese or Juan Uribe to give mediocre production at a much greater cost.
Free agency for the elite players continues to be lucrative. Free agency for large market clubs continues to be a bountiful way to reload a roster quickly. However, free agency for small-market clubs and lesser players continues to be a battle of patience, as offers are slow to develop until desperation sinks in.
All of this goes back to ways that clubs and owners are able to manipulate the market. Qualifying offers and compensation picks protect clubs, but there is still no true protection for the players – outside of that whole guaranteed contract thing. There is so much money in baseball. Though some people complain about how much players are paid, they certainly are due their fair share of the pot. That isn’t happening right now. If players continue to sit out deep into the offseason, it is fair to cry collusion among the owners. Billionaires battling millionaires. You have to love first world problems.
Remember that time that the Chicago Cubs won 97 games and weren’t even that good. Yeah…that was last year. Only, it wasn’t that they weren’t that good, it was more that they didn’t have their best players out there for the entire season. A full season of OF Kyle Schwarber and 3B Kris Bryant could be enough to get the team to 100 wins. Then, you have to factor in the addition of OF Jason Heyward, and this team is downright scary.
You don’t believe me? Just visit the 2016 Steamer projections over at Fangraphs.
Based on Steamer, the Cubs have three of the top 11 overall position players (based on WAR), as Bryant ranks 7th (5.6), with 1B Anthony Rizzo (5.1) and Heyward (4.8) coming in at 10th and 11th, respectively. If that wasn’t enough, RHP Jake Arrieta (5th, 5.2) and LHP Jon Lester (14th, 4.4) give the Cubs two of the top 15 most valuable starting pitchers in baseball.
With all of this top-tier talent, Fangraphs has the Cubs projected to lead MLB in wins, using their crystal ball to estimate that the lovable losers will earn 95 wins in 2016.
However, it isn’t just the top-tier talent that the Cubs possess. They also signed 2B Ben Zobrist to take over second base, trading 2B/SS Starlin Castro to the Yankees for RHP Adam Warren, who is can fill a role in the bullpen or the rotation, while opening up shortstop for SS Addison Russell, who turns 22 later this month and will offer improved defense at short and another player with a full season of production, as Russell spent a brief amount of time in the minors in 2015 – similar to Bryant. RHP John Lackey was also added to the rotation, adding another veteran arm to the rotation, solidifying that group for another possible postseason run. If Chicago keeps OF Jorge Soler, since he was rumored to be on the move for pitching earlier this winter, and actually have a full, healthy season out of him, that give the Cubs a 24-year-old who could blast 25 or more home runs from right field.
The front office may not be done with re-working the club for 2016, as they hope to build a consistent winner. Even with a loaded MLB roster, the Cubs possess an incredibly talent group of players in the minors, several of which made my 2016 Top 100 Prospect List, including: SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Duane Underwood, RHP Carl Edwards, Jr., OF Albert Almora, OF Ian Happ, and RHP Pierce Johnson.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 13, 2016
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs are capable of much, much more than they accomplished in 2016. After signing Heyward away from the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, they are the front runners for the NL Central and the World Series championship. Sure, there are 162 games to play, health to maintain, and possible regression and decline for some of their veterans, but with so many young, gifted, and talent players on their roster, and continuing through the minors, it will be a new team dealing with a new curse, as the billy goat sacrifices will finally come to an end around Wrigley Field.
Ken Griffey Jr. was the number one overall selection by the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 amateur draft. After a career in which he slashed .284/.370/.538 including 630 homers and winning nine gold gloves he received 99-percent of the votes for enshrinement into Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Coming out of high school the baseball world was well aware of the five tool potential of Junior as he starred for Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati Ohio.
Despite the glowing scouting reports former Seattle Mariners General Manager Chuck Armstrong tells Major League Baseball Network Radio that he Junior wasn’t the clear cut choice for the Mariners.
Hear the full interview with Armstrong here:
Back in 1987 Mariners owner George Argyros was attempting to purchase the San Diego Padres; therefore, then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth put the Mariners in trust and made Chuck Armstrong the Chief Executive Officer.
One caveat to the arrangement was that Armstrong and company still had to get permission for all moves from Argyros. As the draft approached in the M’s had four players targeted (Junior, Mike Harkey, Mark Merchant, and Willie Blanks).
According to Armstrong the choice to select Junior with the overall number one pick was met with resistance by Argyros who preferred the team select Harkey who was a college player and closer to the big leagues than the raw high schooler Junior.
Drafting players in baseball requires thorough scouting but there is also a certain amount of luck involved. The Mariners front office was able to convince Argyros that Junior was the better selection than Harkey and the rest is history.
The Los Angeles Dodgers struck out on re-signing Zack Greinke, allowing the 32-year-old to take his NL-leading 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP to the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks, who locked up Greinke’s golden locks with a massive six-year, $206.5 million deal. The Dodgers added some rotation depth by taking a risk on Scott Kazmir, whose career rebound hit a snag when he hit a wall in September, going 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over his final five starts and 24.2 innings; however, the 3.10 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 183 innings over the 2015 season may have spoken louder to the Dodger brass than his collapse in Houston. Then, the Dodgers added Japanese, right-handed sensation Kenta Maeda, who signed an eight-year, $25 million deal, which was loaded with incentives, leading to a possible $100 million-plus deal.
Kenta Maeda’s #Dodgers contract: $1m signing bonus, $3m/year for next 8 years. No opt-out. No no-trade. Incentives could take deal >$100m.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 7, 2016
Maeda, who had a 2.39 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over eight seasons and 1,509.2 innings in Japan, was given an incentive-laden deal due to some issues that came up with his physical. While the Dodgers still paid the $20 million fee to negotiate with, and eventually land, the 27-year-old, the elbow issues that scared Los Angeles into this type of offer may have been worrisome to other teams, as well.
This deal speaks to Maeda’s willingness to prove himself, but it also could speak volumes for teams and players in the future. The “Prove-It” contract has been around for quite some time, as the good ol’ “never-met-a-bad-one-year-contract” folks will approve of. It’s why the Indians giving Kazmir a look for much less than the three-year, $48 million that the Dodgers paid was so brilliant back in 2013. But there is brilliance on both sides of this contract.
For the player, you are guaranteeing yourself much less than the market value; however, if you are healthy and productive year after year, you are handsomely rewarded. Additionally, for those who are locking up years of arbitration, there is no risk of being non-tendered due to an injury, as your team would have to release you and eat the remaining guaranteed seasons if they didn’t want to maintain your spot on the 40-man roster.
For example, if Mike Trout was offered a ten-year, $75 million deal after his first season with incentive multipliers for various Triple Crown stats that could have made the deal worth up to $140 to $150 million, wouldn’t he have taken it? Imagine a 20-year-old who could guarantee himself $7.5 million over the next ten seasons, while protecting himself in case of a Grady Sizemore or Tony Conigliaro type of catastrophic, injury-related collapse…
Sure, the guaranteed money is what makes the Major League Baseball contract so welcoming to the player and so damning to the teams, but, in today’s financial market, isn’t $7.5 million chump change? Teams are willing to give lesser players $14.8 million per year on one-year deals as qualifying offers to land an additional draft pick.
The teams, while taking the financial risk, also protect themselves from paying someone, like Ryan Howard, huge annual salaries when they aren’t producing at the levels necessary to be worthy of such a deal. Yes, teams are content with getting a WAR of 28 from the first three seasons of a Mike Trout-type of player for roughly $1.8 million dollars in salary, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could have that player into his prime on agreed to incentives into his early 30s? Imagine if the Braves had given Jason Heyward, who just received $184 million over eight years from the Cubs, a deal similar to this. During his productive seasons, he would have earned more money, while the arbitration period wouldn’t have been able to look at one or two very good seasons to say that he was worthy of such significant raises to price him out of the team’s future.
With the top players in the league earning more than $30 million per season, there is certainly a reason for the Player’s Union to avoid this type of commitment. There isn’t a reason for the top players to earn $20 million with incentives when they could guarantee $30 million per year, right? This would give teams and owners too much power; however, there are positive risks involved on both sides.
Can Maeda’s contract change the way that teams negotiate contracts? I think it may be better for the game to reward players for production in this way, while not forcing fans of the Phillies to watch Ryan Howard collapse for $25 million per season and strangle the financial side of the franchise for years to come. With so much money available through television contracts and MLB Advanced Media, maybe it is time for the league, the owners, and its players to find new, creative ways to utilize it…without a salary cap.
The 2016 MLB Hall of Fame class is another group that could lead to an overflowing crowd of supporters in Cooperstown, New York next summer. After watching Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio give lengthy speeches last summer, it could (and should) be a much larger group of inductees, as the museum and its voting privileged try to come to grips with the reality in the backlog, logjam, and cluster&%$# of names, due to their own stupidity, has led to.
Luckily, many of the writers are becoming more credible by making their ballots public, which leads to the early favorite for the worst ballot: Earl Bloom, who is the only person to have publicly voted for Garret Anderson.
Of course, I was ridiculed publicly, and privately, for my own vote last season, after having said that David Ortiz is the greatest DH of all-time, and I will be redeeming myself with my vote this season and detailing why Edgar Martinez is that man. I have this wonderful opportunity due to the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). Here is some free advertising:
The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) was created July 4, 2009 to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
The IBWAA seeks neither to replace nor disparage the BBWAA, but does offer distinctions. While the BBWAA requires ten years and hundreds of dollars of paid membership for writers to earn a Hall of Fame vote, the IBWAA has no waiting period, with a $20 annual membership fee ($35 lifetime).
In the vast majority of cases, the BBWAA requires the tying of a writer’s online work to a print publication for admission; the IBWAA does not. The IBWAA believes that the hoops an applying writer has to jump through to join the older organization are too many and too narrow, and welcomes all Internet baseball writers. Those with his or her own baseball website of any kind or scope are invited to join, as are those who contribute the written word anywhere within the baseball blogosphere.
Enough of that. Below, you’ll see my 15 votes for the 2016 MLB Hall of Fame.
NOTE: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Mike Piazza were elected by the IBWAA and do not appear on the list for that reason.
The all-time home run king (asterisk if you’d like) was the most feared hitter of his era, and possibly of all-time when you consider his career intentional walks, also a MLB record. He juiced…so did most of the top players. Say what you want about integrity of the game, but Bonds still had to hit the ball, and he did it better than anyone else.
|162 Game Avg.||162||684||534||121||159||33||4||41||108||28||139||83||.298||.444||.607||1.051||324||37|
Another “juicer” who prolonged his career with the help of medicine, Clemens was a workaholic well before the steroids became his enhancer. The career that Clemens had is Hall worthy, and he was a master of his craft and dominant during an era that was dominated by the juicing hitters.
|162 Game Avg.||17||9||3.12||34||6||2||236||201||91||82||17||76||224||143||3.09||1.173||7.7||2.9||8.6||2.96|
The smile, the swing, the glove…”The Kid”. Griffey has a clean image in a tarnished era. No one truly knows who was using and who wasn’t, but the assumption is that Griffey was the one who was doing it the right way. Injuries derailed his chance of holding Hank Aaron’s record that Bonds now has, but Junior certainly has a long-lasting legacy of greatness that will, quite possibly, earn him the highest Hall vote in history.
|162 Game Avg.||162||686||594||101||169||32||2||38||111||11||80||108||.284||.370||.538||.907||136||320||15|
Hoffman and his changeup held the record for all-time saves until Mariano Rivera and his cutter took it away shortly after his retirement. His long-term success and dominance help his case, even if he closed out his career in less-than-Rivera-fashion.
|162 Game Avg.||4||5||2.87||68||56||39||72||56||25||23||7||20||74||141||3.08||1.058||7.0||2.5||9.4||3.69|
Kent was similar in his success at the keystone position as Cubs’ great Ryne Sandberg. He may have been helped by having Bond hit in front of him for several seasons, but he still had to complete his job, and he did so tremendously. He was a force, a five-time All-Star, and an MVP. He didn’t have the defensive chops of Ryno, but the bat was much more impressive for a longer period of time.
|162 Game Avg.||162||672||599||93||173||39||3||27||107||7||56||107||.290||.356||.500||.855||123||299||4|
The greatest DH of all-time. Edgar at his peak was a monster, earning a 39.8 WAR from 1995-2001 while playing all of 33.1 innings over seven games in the field. Add in his impressive WAR from 1990-1992 (17.2) while manning third base, and you can see that he was a pretty special player before moving to DH. Sure, he may not have the home run totals of David Ortiz, but he was a far superior player, especially his peak seasons.
|162 Game Avg.||162||684||569||96||177||41||1||24||99||4||101||95||.312||.418||.515||.933||147||293||9|
“The Crime Dog” was a monster for several clubs, and his constant changing of teams makes him an intriguing case for the Hall, as he didn’t spend more than five years with any team over his 19 seasons. Additionally, he fell just short of the once-impressive 500 home run club. When you consider his career stats are most similar to Hall of Famers like Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, and Frank Thomas, you can see why McGriff belongs alongside his peers in Cooperstown, especially since he hasn’t been connected to any steroid stories.
|162 Game Avg.||162||670||577||89||164||29||2||32||102||5||86||124||.284||.377||.509||.886||134||294||11|
McGwire helped save the game after the 1994 strike with his incredible home runs. He couldn’t stay healthy, and it could be due to all of the steroids in his system, but his numbers and production are just as valuable as the PED-based shoulders that carried the game back into some semblance of respectability – until the league decided to frown on the same things that lifted it up.
|162 Game Avg.||162||662||535||101||141||22||1||50||122||1||114||138||.263||.394||.588||.982||163||315||13|
“Moose” was a workhorse and a winner for a team that never won in Baltimore. While he only won 20 games once (his final season), he was a model of consistency and won 117 more games than he lost due to his efforts.
|162 Game Avg.||17||10||3.68||34||34||4||1||226||219||99||92||24||50||178||123||3.57||1.192||8.7||2.0||7.1||3.58|
The bat speed, the production, the attitude…Sheffield had it all. He, like McGriff, never found a long-term home. It doesn’t change the fact that his prime and peak seasons were seasons for the ages. He dominated the opposition and was feared for a long period of time. Who knows if he was a juicer – even if he was, he was one of the best players of the era.
|162 Game Avg.||162||688||580||103||169||29||2||32||105||16||93||74||.292||.393||.514||.907||140||298||8|
Smith redefined the closer role and if the Hall has room for Bruce Sutter, it certainly has room for Smith for the same reason. It’s actually baffling that Smith, who has 178 more saves and a much longer, successful career, isn’t in and Sutter is…but that’s just my opinion.
|162 Game Avg.||5||6||3.03||68||53||32||85||75||31||29||6||32||83||132||2.93||1.256||7.9||3.4||8.7||2.57|
As mentioned above with McGwire, Sosa was loved by all during the home run barrage of the late 90s and early 2000s, but baseball turned their back on him and the other juicers once the Mitchell Report was released. Sure, he’s tainted, but he was an incredible talent whose love of the game and long tenure with the lovable losers in Chicago made him an easy person to root for. He has blemishes but so did MLB during his time. He deserves to be in Cooperstown.
|162 Game Avg.||162||681||607||102||166||26||3||42||115||16||64||159||.273||.344||.534||.878||128||324||11|
Trammell was ARod, Ripken, Larkin, Garciaparra, and Tejada before those guys happened. His ability to hit and field at shortstop helped lay the path for talented sluggers like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Correa today. Although Lou Whitaker will not ever get in the Hall, Trammell can still afford the dynamic duo from Detroit one seat in Cooperstown.
|162 Game Avg.||162||662||586||87||167||29||4||13||71||17||60||62||.285||.352||.415||.767||110||243||3|
Wagner was one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history. He never posted a full season with an ERA higher than 2.85 and a K:9 less than 10.1 (that injury-shortened 2000 season can be scrapped). He doesn’t have Hoffman or Rivera’s save totals, but everything else lines up similar or better to the two greatest relievers in history – which begs the question…is Wagner better than Rivera or Hoffman?
|162 Game Avg.||4||3||2.31||68||56||34||72||48||21||18||7||24||95||187||2.73||0.998||6.0||3.0||11.9||3.99|
The power, the speed, the arm…Walker had it all. The only thing he didn’t have was pain tolerance or health. If he had stayed on the field, this would be a no brainer. As is, he’s a borderline candidate who did more than enough to warrant consideration.
|162 Game Avg.||162||654||563||110||176||38||5||31||107||19||74||100||.313||.400||.565||.965||141||318||10|
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 19, 2015
So, at least for the time being, Cincinnati is “stuck” with their second baseman. While it doesn’t necessarily help the Reds to keep him, this isn’t time to tweet out stupidity, like:
That comes from the NATIONAL site of SBNation. Then, you have the everyday Joe dropping gems like:
It is just as easy for people to say positive things, like:
— K (@Kaylynn1417) December 19, 2015
Now, there may be someone worth going to see at Great American Ballpark.
It seems like people will only remember Brandon Phillips in Cincinnati for his tirade on C. Trent Rosecrans. I wasn’t a fan of that outburst, myself, but Phillips is more than the guy who made a mistake, and he shouldn’t be considered the guy who had a bad moment when you consider how much he does for the Cincinnati community. And, for that, you, or those of you, who want to rip him apart for not picking up his life and leaving, should reconsider.
If Phillips didn’t want to be in Cincinnati, he didn’t need to sign a deal that kept him in Cincinnati through 2017. However, he wanted to be here and Cincinnati wanted him for the duration of the deal, otherwise, it is the Cincinnati ownership that you should be blaming. If they weren’t planning on building a contender, then they are the ones who should be considered selfish and don’t care about building a winner for the fans. It actually has very little to do with Brandon Phillips and his choices. If the Reds were fielding a great product from year-to-year, a player using a clause in his contract, as Phillips did with his no-trade option through his 10 and 5 rights, wouldn’t become such a monetary disaster for the franchise.
This is only compounded by the hellacious length and commitment owed to Joey Votto, who can veto any trade by Opening Day of 2018 with his own 10 and 5 rights.
Brandon Phillips turns 35 in June. He has been with the Reds since April 7, 2006, just before he turned 25. He has grown up and matured in Cincinnati. His game matured in Cincinnati. He had his success in Cincinnati. If he wants to end his career in Cincinnati, let him. He chose to be in Cincinnati just as much as the Reds wanted him here. If he was one of those players trying to leave for more money, he would be hated for that.
For once, a player commits to his love of his city over the money. We hate on him for it. If it was for the money over the city, we would have hated on him for that. Brandon Phillips isn’t selfish. Brandon Phillips is human. He has made his home in Cincinnati and he has the right to stay – thanks to the Players Association and not just his brain.
With so many big names finding homes, teams with holes are trying to find the appropriate signing to fill them. There are still plenty of names who make sense for so many teams, but let’s take a look at some great potential landing spots for some of the remaining unsigned players.
Rickie Weeks, 2B/OF
Good Fit: Cleveland Indians
Weeks was released last June by the Seattle Mariners after hitting just .167/.263/.250 over 84 plate appearances with the club. He failed to latch-on elsewhere after his release, which shows a lot about his career demise. While Weeks never became the same type of hitter that he was expected to become as the #2 overall pick out of college, he was an All-Star and had several productive seasons. Even after fading over the last several seasons, Weeks has a 162-game average of 28 doubles, 21 home runs, and 17 stolen bases. Now, at 33, Weeks could use his versatility to become a tremendous low-risk gamble for a club like the Indians, who will need to replace the versatility that they lost with Mike Aviles departure. Cleveland has stashed several versatile players over the last few years (Nick Swisher, David Murphy, Carlos Santana), utilizing their roster space in a very effective way. With Jose Ramirez filling the super-utility role, Weeks would be capable of manning the Ryan Raburn role from the last couple of seasons for Terry Francona and Company. Nothing more than a minor league deal, here, but certainly one worth trying out.
Dexter Fowler, OF
Good fit: Milwaukee Brewers
Fowler was a tremendous addition for the Chicago Cubs last season, showcasing his ability to get on base (84 walks) and score runs (102) with unique blend of skills. While he isn’t going to be mistaken for Mike Trout with the bat or Kevin Kiermaier with the glove, he can drive the ball, evidenced by 54 extra-base hits, and run (20 stolen bases). He turned down a qualifying offer, which is leading to some lack of interest in the open market, as teams continue to be weary of giving up a draft pick as compensation. With that being said, the Brewers have a protected pick and a possible need for a center fielder. With Domingo Santana currently listed as the club’s starter, it would make sense for Milwaukee to sign Fowler to a deal and look to deal him if they are as miserable as they were last season near the deadline. While Santana is just 23, if the Brewers were to attempt to improve their roster, they would get someone who hasn’t looked overmatched at the position, as the young outfielder has struck out 77 times in 177 at bats (43% of his at bats). Fowler would become a nice leadoff option, setting the tone for Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy; however, the Brewers would need a lot more help than Fowler to become legitimate contenders.
Matt Joyce, OF
Good Fit: Tampa Bay Rays
Joyce had some solid seasons in Tampa and would be a great bench option for the club, as long as he didn’t need to get everyday at bats. Joyce has no chance against left-handed pitchers, having posted a career .180/.252/.302 triple-slash in 382 career plate appearances; however, his .253/.348/.447 line against right-handed pitching would make his a very nice use of a roster spot for the Rays. Having come off the worst season of his career (.564 OPS), the possibility of getting him for a next-to-nothing gamble price is right up the Rays’ alley, as well. With Desmond Jennings‘ inability to stay healthy and a possible opening at DH, this could be a reasonable reunion.
Domonic Brown, OF
Good Fit: Cincinnati Reds
With the recent trade of Todd Frazier and the continued rumors surrounding Aroldis Chapman and Brandon Phillips, the Reds are in sell-mode. Due to all of the deals, they have a gluttony of inexperienced outfielders, including Adam Duvall (acquired from San Francisco in the Mike Leake deal), Scott Schebler (acquired in the three-way deal with Los Angeles and Chicago for Frazier), and Rule 5 draftee Jake Cave (selected from the Yankees). While Jesse Winker, one of the club’s top prospects, readies himself in Louisville this season, it wouldn’t be a terrible choice to give the left field job to former Phillies’ top prospect Brown, who, in 2013, was an All-Star, and now, at the tender age of 28, is jobless and in need of a revival. If you look back at the archives for this site, you’ll see quite a bit of love for this young man, and, as a Reds’ homer, he’d be a welcomed addition to this writer’s hometown team. Brown was granted free agency back in October and still hasn’t found a home. I’d be willing to open-up my extra bedroom if the Reds would give him a long look in 2016, struggles from 2015 and all.
Good Fit: New York Yankees
The Yankees have been shopping Andrew Miller this offseason and they have a great replacement in the closer role in Dellin Betances; however, the rest of their bullpen is an interesting blend of young nobodies, as the only remaining bullpen arm outside of Betances, if the club was to deal Miller, with viable innings from 2015 would be 25-year-old Chasen Shreve. Enter Janssen, who is two years removed from closing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a less than stellar season in Washington last season, but he has only walked 2.2 per nine over his career and, at 34, should have enough left to add much-needed depth to the Yankees’ bullpen. He was bought out by the Nationals after earning $3.5 million in 2015, so he could be a nice, cheap option in a down reliever market.
Tim Lincecum, RHP
Good Fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were willing to give Brett Anderson $10 million for one-year last winter and Brandon Beachy a few million dollars to rehab with the club, so gambling on Lincecum, despite “The Freak” having a few down seasons, is something that the free-spending Dodgers may be willing to do. This is especially true due to the unknown future of Brandon McCarthy‘s elbow and Hyun Jin Ryu’s shoulder. In addition, the lefty-heavy state of the Dodgers rotation (Clayton Kershaw, Ryu, Alex Wood, and Anderson) could use the right arm of Lincecum, even as a back-end option. At 32, the two-time Cy Young winner’s career isn’t ever going to rebound, but Chavez Ravine could do enough for him to make his numbers look respectable again, and the offense has enough firepower to help him out if he can’t do it himself anymore.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF
Good Fit: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Cespedes is going to cost a lot of money and the Angels could use a couple of arms to stay competitive more than another bat. Still, the Angels could use an upgrade in left over Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava, and adding Cespedes to Albert Pujols and Mike Trout has to look pretty sexy on paper for Arte Moreno, who could use something positive after the Josh Hamilton fiasco. It will cost a pretty penny to sign the Cuban outfielder, but it would certainly be a solid addition to an already powerful lineup.
When the Cleveland Indians dealt Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves in August, with cash, they were able to dump quite a bit of salary in the process. Swisher is set to make $15 million and Bourn is set to make $14 million, and the Braves are desperately seeking a deal of Swisher in their rebuilding process, which seems to be taking on horrible contracts and dealing their existing talent for prospects, as they did with Shelby Miller in their recent deal with Arizona. Regardless of the deal, the Indians are now in a very interesting spot. Their current roster, after arbitration projections from MLBTradeRumors, will earn roughly $64.9 million in 2016. After acquiring Collin Cowgill from the Angels, the Indians CAN’T be finished, right?
After finishing 14 games back of the World Series championship-winning Kansas City Royals, the Indians should look to improve on their 669 runs, which ranked 18th in MLB. It would be easy to say that the Tribe should deal from their strength – their pitching, and it is certainly easy to agree with that saying, as the team has 2014 AL Cy Young winner RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Danny Salazar, and RHP Trevor Bauer, while mixing in LHP T.J. House, RHP Josh Tomlin, and RHP Cody Anderson.
Of that group, Carrasco and Salazar seem to be longed for most by other clubs.
Carrasco, 29, is guaranteed $19,662,500 over the next three seasons, while the two club options for 2019 and 2020 ($9 million and $9.5 million) are well below market value. When you consider that RHP Jeff Samardzija just received a five-year, $90 million deal from the San Francisco Giants after posting a 4.96 ERA and leading the majors in hits and earned runs allowed, the five years and $38 million owed to Carrasco, who had a career-high 10.2 K:9 and a 2.84 FIP in 2015, seems like a very wise investment.
Salazar, 26, isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, and he is under team control, thanks to the arbitration process, through the 2020 season. The young right-hander won 14 games and struck out 195 batters over 185 innings and 30 starts in 2015.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 10, 2015
While Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi has stated that the momentum for a deal with the Chicago Cubs is pretty dead, it shouldn’t be.
The Cubs could really use some additional rotation depth in their pursuit of a title. With RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, and LHP Jon Lester at the top of the rotation, Carrasco or Salazar would slide right in as upgrades over RHP Adam Warren, RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Travis Wood, RHP Trevor Cahill, or RHP Kyle Hendricks. Not only that, but the Cubs, who recently signed OF Jason Heyward, could deal OF Jorge Soler, opening up a spot for INF Javier Baez, who could move to the outfield due to the recently signed 2B/OF Ben Zobrist, while postseason masher Kyle Schwarber takes over in the other corner.
The deal makes perfect sense for the Indians, who ranked 22nd in home runs in 2015 and have Cowgill and Lonnie Chisenhall listed as their current starting corner outfielders. Soler, who is under team control through 2021, could be a massive haul for the club offensively. While the soon-to-be 24-year-old has struggled to stay healthy, he certainly has the potential to be an asset for Cleveland.
Soler shouldn’t be enough to acquire either Carrasco or Salazar, but the Cubs have a gluttony of talented young players. Could the Indians get Chicago to add in SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, OF Albert Almora, or OF Ian Happ with Soler? If so, this becomes as necessary for the Indians as laughing at the Browns has become for rest of us.
The Indians can survive this type of deal. They would still have Salazar or Carrasco, whoever isn’t traded, to pair with Kluber at the top of the rotation, while the club could see gains from Bauer and healthy seasons from House or Tomlin to smooth over the rest of the rotation. This is a deal that Cleveland can’t pass up, especially with the trade market that has been set by Arizona’s deal for Miller and the Houston Astros’ acquisition of RHP Ken Giles from Philadelphia.
As more and more teams look for young, controllable talent, it becomes necessary for baseball fans to become acquainted with the prospects within their system. Not only are these players capable of becoming the future stars of their teams, but they are also the chips that could be cashed in for more “ready” talent to get your team to the next level. As a fan, not a scout, I’ve compiled the Top 100 Prospects in Major League Baseball for your enjoyment. Get to know the following players:
1. Corey Seager, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
3. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
4. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
5. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
6. Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Texas Rangers
7. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
8. Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
9. Trea Turner, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
10. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
11. Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox
12. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
13. Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
14. Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
15. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
16. Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
17. Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
18. Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
19. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
20. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
21. Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
22. Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros
23. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
24. Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics
25. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
26. Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres
27. Gleyber Torres, SS, Chicago Cubs
28. Jose Peraza, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
29. Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
30. Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
31. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
32. Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs
33. Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
34. Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
35. Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
36. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
37. Ozhaino Albies, SS, Atlanta Braves
38. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
39. Brett Phillips, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
40. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
41. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
42. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
43. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
44. Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
45. Mark Appel, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
46. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Chicago White Sox
47. Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies
48. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
49. Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners
50. Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
51. Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
52. Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
53. A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros
54. Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
55. Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
56. Daz Cameron, OF, Houston Astros
57. Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
58. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
59. Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers
60. Carl Edwards, Jr., RHP, Chicago Cubs
61. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
62. Francelis Montas, RHP, Chicago White Sox
63. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
64. Alen Hanson, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
65. Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins
66. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves
67. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
68. Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Cleveland Indians
69. Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
70. Duane Underwood, RHP, Chicago Cubs
71. Jorge Polanco, 2B/SS, Minnesota Twins
72. Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
73. Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres
74. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
75. Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
76. Daniel Robertson, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
77. Trent Clark, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
78. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
79. Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
80. Jonathan Harris, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
81. Garrett Whitley, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
82. Kolby Allard, RHP, Atlanta Braves
83. Gavin Cecchini, SS, New York Mets
84. Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets
85. Jorge Mateo, SS, New York Yankees
86. Cornellus Randolph, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
87. Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
88. Ashe Russell, RHP, Kansas City Royals
89. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Colorado Rockies
90. Tyler Stephenson, C, Cincinnati Reds
91. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
92. Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
93. Michael Fulmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
94. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
95. Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
96. Keury Mella, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
97. Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
98. Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleveland Indians
99. Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
100. Brian Johnson, LHP, Boston Red Sox