Incentives and Risk: How Kenta Maeda Could Change MLB

Could Maeda change the way MLB teams negotiate contracts? Courtesy: Yahoo Sports

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.

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.

Would Trout have taken an incentive-based deal? Courtesy: Sports on Earth
Would Trout have taken an incentive-based deal?
Courtesy: Sports on Earth

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.

Incentives could end of suffering of teams and fans over declining players with long-term deals.
Incentives could end of suffering of teams and fans over declining players with long-term deals.

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.

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Free Agent Fits: Where Remaining Free Agents Should End Up

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.

Weeks could be a nice, cheap addition for the Tribe Courtesy: USA Today
Weeks could be a nice, cheap addition for the Tribe
Courtesy: USA Today

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.

Fowler would be an upgrade...if the Brewers want to field a good team
Fowler would be an upgrade…if the Brewers want to field a good team

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.

Brown has punch and could come cheap for the rebuilding Reds
Brown has punch and could come cheap for the rebuilding Reds

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.

Casey Janssen

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.

"The Freak" has lost his freakiness, but could be a nice gamble by LA
“The Freak” has lost his freakiness, but could be a nice gamble by LA

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.

Cespedes with Trout and Pujols would be a very pricey murderers row.
Cespedes with Trout and Pujols would be a very pricey murderers row.

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.

 

What Kind of Prospects Can Cueto Bring Cincinnati?

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

Johnny Cueto will not be a Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher come August 1st. The question is no longer if but when the right-handed ace gets traded by Cincinnati, and, just what is he going to be worth?

Cueto, a free agent after the season, will be owed less than $5 million over the rest of the season. He will not net the team that receives him a draft pick if he leaves in free agency, so does that mean the Reds won’t receive a generous package for him?

For comparisons sake, there have been a few free agency bound starters who were traded over the last several years:

Jon Lester was dealt by the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland Athletics, along with Jonny Gomes, last season for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance (Round B) pick. Cespedes, an All-Star last season, was under team-control for 2015 ($10.5 million), but he was dealt to Detroit over the winter for RHP Rick Porcello, who was under control for 2015 before signing a four-year extension. Lester, 30 at the time of the trade, was a year older than Cueto, yet, he had six seasons with 190 or more innings pitched in his career, while Cueto only has two. Lester would leave Oakland for a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs after the 2014 season.

Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com
Courtesy: mlbdailydish.com

Zack Greinke was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena. Segura headlined the deal, ranking No.55 overall (by both MLB.com and Baseball America) prior to the 2012 season. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2013 and was a fixture at shortstop for the Brewers by August after the deal. Greinke was 29 at the time of the deal, the same age as Cueto, and had reached 200 innings in three seasons during his career at the time of the deal. Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million deal with the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2012 season.

CC Sabathia was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player to be named, who became Michael Brantley. LaPorta was the supposed prize of the package, as he ranked the No.23 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season. Sabathia would go on to sign his eight-year, $182 million deal with the New York Yankees after having shown himself as a dynamic workhorse with seven seasons with at least 180 innings pitched and a Cy Young award by the age of 27, when he was traded. The Indians have benefited most from Brantley, who was an All-Star for the first time in 2014, but LaPorta hasn’t been in the majors since 2012 and is now out of organized baseball after compiling a .238/.301/.393 line over 1,068 career plate appearances in MLB.

It is anyone’s guess as to what Cueto is actually worth; however, these deals provide a sort of blueprint for what the Reds could be seeking. Below are the names of some teams who are rumored to be interested in trading for the Reds’ ace, and some prospects who may interest Cincinnati.

Kansas City Royals

Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals? Courtesy: Fox Sports
Could the Reds snag Mondesi in a deal with the Royals?
Courtesy: Fox Sports

Raul Mondesi – ranked 27th by Baseball Prospectus, he has moved quickly through the minors and has more glove and speed than offensive production to this point; however, he has projectability in his ability to hit the ball. He would be a tremendous get for the Reds, though, they may have him spend some time in the minors to let his game even out a bit.

Miguel Almonte – Almonte doesn’t have eye-popping numbers like some prospects have in the minors, but he would be a solid addition to the Reds rotation by mid-2016. He has three solid offerings, including a change that he can use as a punch-out pitch. He was ranked as the No.56 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2015 season.

Scott Blewett – A 6’6″, 19-year-old right-hander, Blewett possesses electric stuff. He is only in the short season South Atlantic League, so he is a project, but he has the kind of fastball that would make him a nice additional piece in a possible deal including either of the two players above.

Jorge Bonifacio – This 22-year-old outfielder hasn’t lived up to his potential to this point, but he has a dynamic arm for right field and plenty of power potential. He was rated as the No.90 prospect in baseball prior to the 2014 season, but saw his stock fall a bit due to some struggles in Double-A. Now repeating the level, Bonifacio has 18 doubles and 15 homers. Again, he isn’t a centerpiece in a Cueto deal, but he would be a solid piece.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Chris Anderson – The big (6’3″, 235 pounds) right-hander has the makings of an innings-eating, mid-rotation starter. He was a first round pick in 2013 out of Jacksonville University, and he would be someone who could help the Reds by the middle of the 2016 season, having already made 17 starts at Double-A. He has three potential above average pitches in his fastball, slider, and change.

Jose De Leon – The 22-year-old right-hander has catapulted himself into prospect watcher’s eyes by striking out 251 batters in just 171 innings since the start of the 2015 season. Ranked as the No.7 prospect in the Dodger system by Baseball Prospectus prior to the season, he will give Julio Urias a run for the money in a race to Los Angeles, and may have performed his way out of becoming a piece in a trade.

Toronto Blue Jays

Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto? Courtesy: Jays Journal
Is Norris worth giving up for a run in Toronto?
Courtesy: Jays Journal

Daniel Norris – The 22-year-old left-hander jumped four level, all the way to Toronto, by dominating at every stop last season. His reward was five starts to begin April with the Blue Jays before being sent down to work on his craft. He hasn’t dominated in Triple-A this season, but he has the stuff to be an asset in Cincinnati. He would be a tremendous addition, though his No.17 prospect ranking by MLB.com prior to the season could make him a long-shot.

Jairo Labourt – The 21-year-old lefty looked solid in the Futures Game. He has a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s and can miss bats (9.8 K:9 last season), but he needs to work on his command (5.2 BB:9 this season). He would make for an interesting project.

Anthony Alford – After giving up football, Alford has taken off this season. In 20 games since being promoted to High-A Dunedin, he has a .349/.406/.523 triple-slash with 10 extra-base hits and six stolen bases. As a center fielder with tremendous athleticism, he could take over the gig if Billy Hamilton continues to lack the on-base skills necessary to utilize his speed in the near future.

 

30 Shades of Hot: Take Notice of These Scorching Players

Over the last month, some players have inflated their production to incredible levels. With all of the excitement from the NBA and NHL Playoffs, the Supreme Court, and…the Women’s World Cup…perhaps you’ve missed it. Below are some players who are getting back on track or having career seasons.

Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?  Courtesy: USA Today
Arizona 1B Paul Goldschmidt for MVP?
Courtesy: USA Today

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Last 30 days: .394/.525/.713, 6 2B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 15:27 K:BB, 5 SB

You could argue that Goldschmidt has been the best player in MLB this season, even though he ranks 3rd in WAR (4.3) behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (5.1) and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis (4.6). Goldy has compiled a .354/.473/.654 line to go along with 15 doubles, 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a league-leading 59 walks (17 intentional). While the Diamondbacks sit at 35-37, they are just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card hunt. Goldschmidt will continue to be pitched around as the primary source of fear within the Arizona lineup.

Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Last 30 days: .354/.381/.770, 14 2B, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB

Frazier is the Reds’ Ambassador for the upcoming All-Star Game in Cincinnati, utilizing his friendly personality and love of Frank Sinatra to become a beloved figure in Reds Country. He is becoming a beloved figure around baseball, especially fantasy circles, due to his incredible power outburst over the last month. Frazier has been the 4th most valuable position player in baseball (based on WAR, 4.1), as he has become an asset not only for his bat, but his slick glove at the hot corner.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

Last 30 days: .333/.416/.818, 3 2B, 15 HR, 30 RBI, 5:13 K:BB

“Prince Albert” has found the stroke that made him such a force in his Hall of Fame worthy time in St. Louis. After averaging “just” 25 home runs, 91 RBI, and an .810 OPS in his first three seasons for the Angels, many thought the days of 40 home runs, 121 RBI, and 1.037 OPS, his average year in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, were long gone. Pujols currently leads the AL in bombs (23), and will continue to be a part of the two-man wrecking crew that the Angels have with him and Mike Trout in the order.

Giants' 2B Joe Panik - career year or start of something special?  Courtesy: goldengatesports.com
Giants’ 2B Joe Panik – career year or start of something special?
Courtesy: goldengatesports.com

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

Last 30 days: .336/.405/.542, 10 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12:12 K:BB, 2 SB

Panik likely wasn’t on your list of players who could post a .300/.400/.500 season, but he has been that player over the last month, and very good over the entire season. Panik’s .310/.380/.463 line, 19 doubles, six home runs, and 141 wRC+ (2nd among second basemen in MLB) aren’t all that different from his .296/.365/.403 line over his minor league career, yet, he has nearly reached each of his season-long projections that were set forth by Steamer and ZiPS. His 2.8 WAR has allowed him to show more value than the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kolten Wong, Brian Dozier, and Jose Altuve. Panik was a first round pick out of St. John’s University in 2011. At just 24, he has shown himself to be quite productive, and, if all else fails, he has a slick glove at second.

Justin Turner, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Last 30 days: .361/.418/.639, 6 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 11:7 K:BB

Based on 190 plate appearances, Turner is the 15th most valuable position player in MLB (2.9 WAR). He is having an excellent month, while continuing to shine in the opportunities that he is provided, which are coming in bunches since the Dodgers traded Juan Uribe. While Corey Seager continues to mash in the minors, it is likely Jimmy Rollins at short who is more likely to be replaced than the do-it-all Turner. A career .260/.323/.361 hitter over his first five seasons (2009-2013, 926 plate appearances), the 30-year-old third baseman has hit .334/.400/.526 triple-slash over 512 plate appearances since the start of the 2014 season, with 33 doubles and 17 home runs.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Texas Rangers

Last 30 days: 2-0, five starts, 0.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 31 IP, 26:10 K:BB, .193 BAA

Gallardo looked like a lost cause early this season, posting a 4.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in his first five starts for the Rangers. With the way that the ball flies out of Arlington, it was only a matter of time before the Mexican hurler’s numbers would look even worse. However, that hasn’t been the case. Since May 1st, Gallardo has a 2.51 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 61 innings, including his impressive run of starts over the last 30 days. While the velocity and strikeout totals continue to dip, Gallardo is finding more success by cutting back on his curve and increasing the use of his slider and change. We’ll see if he can continue to stay hot as Texas heats up.

Braves' RHP Williams Perez - will the league catch up to him?  Courtesy: foxsports.com
Braves’ RHP Williams Perez – will the league catch up to him?
Courtesy: foxsports.com

Williams Perez, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Last 30 days: 4-0, six games (five starts), 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1 save, 32 IP, 20:15 K:BB, .219 BAA

Who? Unranked by Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the season, the 24-year-old has moved quickly through the Atlanta system since reaching full season ball in 2013. He jumped to Triple-A to start the season and made five starts before joining the Braves bullpen. He made all of two appearances before he joined the rotation – minus a random save opportunity on June 13th. In his seven starts, Perez has a 2.14 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. While the walks would need to come down for him to become a more valuable option, Perez has youth and results on his side to this point.

Nate Karns, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Last 30 days: 1-1, six games (six starts), 2.65 ERA 1.26 WHIP, 34 IP, 31:12 K:BB, .238 BAA

Karns has stepped up to take on a major role while the Rays battle health issues that have landed Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Drew Smyly on the disabled list for extended time this season and Matt Moore continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old late bloomer, drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, had shown some impressive strikeout skills in the minors (10.3 K:9 over 449.1 minor league innings), but, though he hasn’t reached those numbers to this point, he has certainly shown that he can get major league hitters out. Over 15 starts, Karns has a 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP to go along with his 8.2 K:9. The Rays continue to have a process to maintain success, even after losing Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers from their front office. Karns, acquired by Friedman and Company in February of 2014, looks like a solid, long-term option for the Rays.

 

 

 

 

2015 Season Previews: Los Angeles Dodgers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Los Angeles Dodgers

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com
Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

2015 Projected Record: 97-65 (1st in NL West, 1st in MLB)

Manager: Don Mattingly (354-293 in four seasons with the Dodgers)

Top Three Players: LHP Clayton Kershaw (4.9), OF Yasiel Puig (4.9), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (3.3)

Bounce-back Player: LHP Brett Anderson

Despite making all of 62 appearances (51 starts) since the start of the 2010 season, Anderson was able to secure a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers. It speaks volumes to how much talent Los Angeles still feels the 27-year-old left-hander possesses. Anderson did have Tommy John surgery back in 2011, but all of his injuries since then have been back, ankle, or finger related (broken right ankle and a finger broken by a pitch). The injuries and recovery times have been enormous, but he showed in Colorado last season (2.91 ERA in his 43.1), though it was just eight starts, that he still has something, and Dodger Stadium could be friendly to him. He just needs to stay on the mound, which has been the same response on Anderson for years.

Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season Courtesy: lockerdome.com
Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season
Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Joc Pederson

Pederson was an offensive monster in the minors, but he struggled in his brief trial in 2014, posting a .143/.351/.143 line in 38 plate appearances. He has shown this spring, however, the same type of ability he showed in the minors, posting a .367/.397/.750 line over 63 plate appearances, including six bombs. After dealing Matt Kemp, Pederson appears to have very little competition in center, as Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey are the players who could push him back to the minors if he struggles. Pederson, however, doesn’t look like he is going to. Even in his brief trial last season, Pederson wasn’t overmatched, as his plate discipline will allow him to be a difficult out. With the offensive force around him in the order, Pederson can ease into the production that he is going to be capable of in the future, but he’ll still be quite productive in 2015. Expect a .270/.340/.475 line from the Rookie of the Year favorite.

Offseason Overview: The Dodgers may have lost SS Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but they quickly found a replacement by acquiring Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies for a couple of pitching prospects. Dee Gordon was moved to Miami for Andrew Heaney, who didn’t have time to put on a Dodger cap before he was flipped to the Angels for Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick. They also added Joel Peralta from Tampa Bay to strengthen the bullpen. The Dodgers didn’t just make trades, as they opened up their endless bank account to sign RHP Brandon McCarthy (four-years, $48 million), Anderson (one-year, $10 million), and Tommy John rehabbing RHP Brandon Beachy (one-year, $2.75 million, $3 million 2016 team option with incentives). The Dodgers continue to reload and spend money, putting out the best team that money can buy, stealing that title from the New York Yankees, who used to take so much more heat for the same type of activity.

The Verdict: The Dodgers are a fantastic group. They have the best pitcher of our generation, Clayton Kershaw, with the best number two pitcher in baseball, Zack Greinke. They have a top ten talent, Yasiel Puig, who has become a superstar and one of the faces of the sport that so desperately needed one. Adrian Gonzalez continues to quietly produce Hall of Fame numbers, while the team has a budding young star in Pederson. If they get production out of OF Carl Crawford and SS Jimmy Rollins as they continue to get older, this team would be the best team in baseball, and that’s with the issues that they have in their rotation. I love Brandon McCarthy, but – can he stay healthy? Hyun-jin Ryu is on the shelf with shoulder soreness already, so Juan Nicasio appears to be filling the No.5 spot in the rotation, which is horrifying considering that he was just as awful away from Colorado as he was in Coors Field. With McCarthy, Anderson, and Ryu’s reliability in question and Nicasio being Nicasio, the rotation is only guaranteed to be strong two out of every five days. With the offense behind them, can anyone be plugged in and allow the Dodgers to be successful? Maybe. I still think the Dodgers will win 90 games, but they aren’t the top overall team in baseball.

Why Matt Kemp to the Reds Makes Sense

The 2014 season has been a difficult one for the Cincinnati Reds and their fans. Sitting at 31-34 and eight games out in the NL Central, the Reds find themselves in a difficult situation. Are they going to compete over the rest of the season and aim for one of the two Wild Card spots (which didn’t work out so well for them in 2013), are they going to become buyers to get over the hump and make a run for the division, or are they going to have a fire sale and start things over again? With so much money invested in Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, it seems nearly impossible for the club that consistently screams small-market and small payroll to right this ship quickly, but there is a deal out there that could make a lot of sense for the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds RHP Mat Latos
Reds RHP Mat Latos

When the Reds signed Bailey to a six-year, $105 million extension, they seemed to have closed the door on any extensions for Johnny Cueto (a free agent after the 2015 season who has a $10 million team option for 2015), Mat Latos (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season), and Mike Leake (arbitration-eligible in 2015 and a free agent after the 2015 season). The Reds have a nice problem right now with Latos coming back from his elbow injury and having to decide who to boot from the rotation between the breakout, 9-win starter Alfredo Simon and the young, hard-throwing lefty Tony Cingrani; however, beyond the six pitchers (Cueto, Bailey, Latos, Leake, Simon, and Cingrani), the Reds starting pitching depth is rather weak. Jeff Francis is the club’s top option from Triple-A Louisville, while the club waits on the maturation of Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen at the Double-A level to refine the future of the Cincinnati rotation.

With that being said, the Reds are in desperate need of offensive production. The club ranks 26th in MLB in team batting average, 25th in MLB in OPS, and 25th in wOBA. With Joey Votto’s knee injury and Jay Bruce‘s lack of production (.212/.320/.364, 89 OPS+), the Reds have leaned heavily on the production of Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier to keep the team treading water during the struggles and absences of the stars, but the Reds could use an influx of offensive talent, and the only way to do that is to deal from the club’s strength.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Mat Latos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Kemp and cash considerations.

With the cost of a win reaching $7 million and the revenue streaming in from MLB Advanced Media and television contracts, small market teams could find it quite challenging to shell out the kind of money necessary to compete with large market clubs in free agency. For that reason, the Reds could acquire a talented, powerful right-handed batter from the Dodgers to put into the middle of the Cincinnati order between Votto and Bruce, while improving the less than stellar production in left field that has managed a .672 OPS for the Reds in 2014.

Dodgers OF Matt Kemp
Dodgers OF Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp is due a whopping $107 million between 2015 and 2019, but whoever takes on the contract from the Dodgers could acquire cash, as well, due to Kemp’s struggles with injuries over the last couple of seasons. When the Dodgers took on the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford contracts, they added hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll, which made the Andre Ethier contract and the Matt Kemp contract seem nearly immovable due to the money and years involved. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Ethier’s contract is quite possibly the worst contract in baseball ($56 million between 2015 and 2017), while the club has very little leverage in trades due to the gluttony of outfielders that the club has with Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson raking in the minor leagues. By trading Matt Kemp and $30 million in cash considerations, the club would rid themselves of $77 million in payroll over the next five season ($15.4 million per season), while acquiring additional talent to compete in the NL West.

Mat Latos would be the perfect acquisition for the Los Angeles Dodgers if they were to trade Matt Kemp. Latos, while coming off of some elbow and left knee woes currently, is just 26 years old. He has compiled a career 3.35 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 849.2 career innings. Prior to the 2014 season, since he hasn’t thrown a pitch yet as of this article being posted, Latos had missed time to the disabled list twice in his career (2010 for an abdomen strain and 2011 for shoulder inflammation), but he hadn’t had any types of surgeries until bone spurs were removed from his elbow after the 2013 season and the surgery to repair his left meniscus this spring. Latos makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers with Josh Beckett heading towards free agency, taking his $15.75 million salary off of the books. Latos would sit nicely in the Los Angeles rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu, especially with Chad Billingsley and Dan Haren having options that may lead to their dismissal from the rotation and club in 2015, as he would solidify an already dangerous rotation.

mattkemp
Can Kemp lift the Reds offense to new levels or is this unlikely to happen?

While the Reds would miss Latos in the rotation, they still have quite a bit of existing talent, at least through the 2015 season. By taking on five-years and $77 million in Matt Kemp, the Reds would be paying less on an annual basis for Kemp than what Shin-Soo Choo is getting paid annually by the Texas Rangers after he left Cincinnati for a seven-year, $130 million deal. Kemp is just 29 and the right-handed power in the cleanup spot can’t be understated when he could be put between Votto and Bruce. If you consider that the Reds are paying Ryan Ludwick $7 million in 2014 and he has a -0.1 WAR, you can see how it would make perfect sense for Cincinnati to pay an additional $8.4 million to have a player like Kemp take his spot in left field in 2015.

Would the Dodgers do this type of deal? Perhaps if they are given an opportunity to work out an extension with Latos prior to the completion of the deal, and, a bigger question, would the Dodgers include that amount of cash without receiving additional talent with Latos, or is the loss of $77 million in future payroll worth making the deal? For the Reds, their long-term pitching could take a hit, but they already knew that they could potentially lose three starters after the 2015 season going into this season, which is likely why they acted quickly on Homer Bailey. Now, Cincinnati needs to act on adding to their offense, as the additions of Skip Schumaker and Ramon Santiago by Walt Jocketty this past offseason has done nothing to help the club.

 

Kevin Towers: Where the Diamondbacks Are Going

Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com
Courtesy: HalosHeaven.com

Maybe this is an overreaction, but Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers appears to be crippling the future of the team by making some strange trades. Certainly, Towers has many years of experience, holding the San Diego Padres GM position from 1995 through the 2009 season before being fired in October, then taking over in the desert in late September of 2010. As with any operational move completed by a baseball franchise, some will work and some won’t, but the last three major moves by Towers appear to be crumbling the foundation of long-term success for the Diamondbacks.

Skaggs
Angels new LHP Tyler Skaggs

When the club acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels last week, they added a powerful bat, but they also added a first baseman and designated hitter who will be playing the outfield, as current first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, was already present and had an MVP-caliber season in 2013. The Diamondbacks first had to acquire an additional arm to trade to the Angels, and they did so by dealing Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox for left-handed starter Hector Santiago. Towers then packaged Santiago with 22-year-old prospect Tyler Skaggs, who was rated the No.10 prospect in baseball by MLB.com prior to the 2013 season, in the deal for Trumbo, while acquiring a couple of fringy players, outfielder Brandon Jacobs and right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel, as players who were named later in the deal. Eaton, who turned 25 in early December, was listed as the Diamondbacks’ starting centerfielder prior to the deal, and he has been supplanted by A.J. Pollock, who turned 26 in early December and appears to have a lot of Drew Stubbs to his game (solid defender, good power and speed, and a lot of swing and miss). Eaton was highly regarded by many saber-guys for his .450 career minor league on-base percentage and .951 OPS, and giving him up for Santiago, a back-end rotation starter (along with his five years of team-control), to acquire Trumbo was odd, but then Towers moved Skaggs. While Skaggs was pretty terrible in a very difficult league for pitchers in 2013 (4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), he managed to strikeout 9.3 batters per nine as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. After watching Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran go from a 5.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as a 21-year-old in Triple-A in 2012 to 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP as a 22-year-old in the majors in 2013, could the Diamondbacks have just given up the arm that they appear to now covet in free agency, as they have been rumored to be interested in both Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka. Power may be in short supply around the league and you may never know how a prospect will turn out, but if Arizona had kept Skaggs and Eaton and signed Shin-Soo Choo, wouldn’t they be just as likely to contend?

Speaking of a powerful bat…

Upton
Braves OF Justin Upton

With power in such short supply, as Kevin Towers so boldly claimed after acquiring Trumbo, wouldn’t dealing Justin Upton and his team-friendly contract, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury have been considered a bad idea when using that philosophy? There were a lot of underlying issues that led to the Diamondbacks apparent “need” to deal Upton last off-season, but, considering the type of prospect that they just gave up to get a player with a career .768 OPS, shouldn’t Towers have aimed higher in dealing Upton, who has a career .830 OPS? Certainly, Martin Prado is a fine player and his versatility is very useful, but his bat doesn’t play all that well as a full-time third baseman, where he will be playing in 2014, and heading into his age-30 season, it is fair to wonder if he should have been the centerpiece in an Upton deal, especially as Upton enters his age-26 season in 2014, making him younger than even Trumbo! If power is so valuable, why would Upton not be worth a legitimate prospect and a player, considering his contract and disregarding whatever “issues” were making him so useless to Arizona?

Furthermore, the trade that sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians for Lars Anderson (designated for assignment on 1/24/2013), Tony Sipp (designated for assignment on 11/20/2013), and Didi Gregorius is just as questionable as the package that is highlighted by Skaggs. Bauer was rated as the No.14 prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season and the Diamondbacks seemed to sour on him due to his desire to train and prepare in a way that is strange to nearly all people who have had the pleasure of viewing him, with long-tossing from foul pole to foul pole and a crow hop seed from the pitchers mound to the catcher as his first warm-up pitch being a part of his hour long pitching preparation. Still, at just 23 on Opening Day of 2014, his long-term outlook is very good and drafting Bauer 3rd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft and dealing him nearly 18 months later for a slap-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop seems very odd, even with defensive metrics and shortstop values being taken into consideration. When looking at the value that the Indians received in Shaw and Albers, along with the fact that the Diamondbacks no longer roster two players that they received in the deal, this was a steal by the Cleveland Indians…and that is all before looking at how Gregorius may lose the everyday shortstop job to a prospect who was in house when the Bauer deal happened, Chris Owings, since Aaron Hill won’t be giving up the second base job.

Diamondbacks' GM Kevin Towers - answering serious questions?
Diamondbacks’ GM Kevin Towers – answering serious questions?

It is easy to question the style that a franchise is taking and it is even easier to say that you could make better deals than your favorite team’s general manager, but when you consider the recent track record of Kevin Towers in Arizona, most fantasy baseball managers agree – they could do a better job. Is Arizona now the New York Yankees of the west, trading all of their top minor league talent to fill their major league holes? Well, the Yankees never seemed to give away their top prospects without certain, immediate help. Can the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers? Matching power with Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be an option, as a full season of Matt Kemp (if he isn’t traded), Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and others will likely make the Dodgers that much more dangerous, and Arizona doesn’t have enough “grit” to overcome the L.A. payroll and talent – especially when they are trading the pieces that could get them over the top for veterans who have shown what they can do. Trumbo and Prado aren’t winning the Diamondbacks any championships, and, while they will make Arizona a bit more competitive, it is the front-line, affordable pitching that would have helped the Diamondbacks slither into contention.

Kevin Towers doesn’t seem to have a clear philosophy of where he is taking the Diamondbacks, and if the moves that he has made this season don’t work out, it is fair to wonder if he can make intelligent decisions going forward for any organization, experience be damned.