Tag: Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals: Soto is a Star

The Pending Free Agency Doom of Bryce Harper is Healed and…Forgotten???

Robles will return this season. He was ranked higher than Soto, but will he produce in the same way?

At the end of the 2017 season, Nationals all-world super-prospect Victor Robles made his arrival to Washington and showed some of the power and speed (two triples) that made him the No.4 prospect (MLB.com, I, personally, had him No.6) in all of baseball heading into the 2018 season. He would, likely, be in Washington right now if not for his hyperextended elbow, which shelved him on April 9th at Triple-A Syracuse. Sadly, his injury has opened the door for a new player, Juan Soto, who is never going to give up his spot.

Padres Nationals Baseball
This teen is producing in ways not seen for quite some time.

Soto was a highly ranked prospect in his own right. He signed for $1.5 million in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. At the tender age of 19, he has obliterated every minor league level, posting a .362/.434/.609 line, with 30 doubles, eight triples, 20 bombs, and a 66:58 K:BB in all of 512 minor league plate appearances. He played in all of eight games at Double-A before jumping to the majors, where he has done nothing short but continue to rake, posting a .344/.447/.641 line in his first 20 games and 76 plate appearances (going into Friday’s game).This is one teenager who has lived up to the hype. As someone who has watched the entire career of Bryce Harper, I can comfortably say that Juan Soto’s arrival will make his departure from Washington an easier pill to swallow. For all of the love that Harper receives, and don’t get me wrong – he is a gifted player, he hasn’t had the career that warrants the type of contract that some sad team will inexcusably hand him and Scott Boras after the 2018 season. Sure, he has youth on his side – he’ll be just 26 this October- but youth and prior production doesn’t lead to years of production in later seasons. You can look at the contracts of Jason Heyward with Chicago, Chris Davis in Baltimore, and Jacoby Ellsbury in New York for the possible void of truth in that type of logic.

Harper is as good as gone…or is he?

Harper’s best season was his 2015 MVP campaign. He followed that up with a down 2016, an injury-shortened 2017, and an interesting start to the 2018 season. He’s leading the NL in both home runs  (19) and walks (50), while currently sporting the worst average of his career (.224). Despite that low average, his OPS would rank the 3rd highest of his career. The .213 BABIP doesn’t help, nor does his ability (or inability) to hit against the shift. There was an amazing article on his lack of success this season at Fangraphs that you should read, and the trends have continued since the article was published on 6/5. Still, who in their right mind would bank $300 million or the $400 million that some think it would take over a decade to a player who peaked at 22? The Nationals should feel comfortable not being that team. They have Max Scherzer through 2021 and Stephen Strasburg through 2023, Robles could be another producer, while Soto has, albeit in a small sample size, proven that his minor league, video-game-like production could be his norm at the top level. This is a team that can build in more productive ways than the franchise debilitating super-contract that would come with re-signing their star.

Juan Soto, a 19-year-old who became the first teenager to hit two home runs and walk once in the history of Yankee Stadium, a young man they call the “Childish Bambino”, a young man who can’t possess a Budweiser but does possess the barreling bat of a dynamic veteran, has taken over the future of the franchise in Washington. As fans watch Harper have a season of three outcomes, they can see this star in the making give a glimpse of life without the hard-nosed, oft-injured star, resting comfortably in what the future holds.

Statistically Scouting the Lower Minors – 6/11

There are a lot of things that make prospects special – their incredibly smooth deliveries, their sweet swings, and their game-changing gloves; however, I don’t have time to travel around the country. Therefore, scouting becomes what baseball is all about – the numbers. Based on the numbers, here are some prospects to watch in the coming months:


Midwest League

This monster is a few years from crushing the ball in Wrigley Courtesy: Baseball Prospectus
This monster is a few years from crushing the ball in Wrigley
Courtesy: Baseball Prospectus

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs

Signed as the No. 1 international prospect in 2013 for $2.8 million, the Cubs look to have another dynamic bat coming up through their system. The 6’4″, 200-pound right fielder is second in the MWL with eight home runs, while his 18 doubles show that the power is coming and will translate to future longballs. The rich are getting richer, though it will be at least a couple of more years before Jimenez is making it rain for the Cubbies.

Matt Hall, RHP, Detroit Tigers

The numbers speak for themselves with Hall, whose microscopic ERA and 10.24 K:9 scream that a promotion is needed, but not as much as his age. Though he is 22 – a bit old for the MWL, Hall was a 6th round pick in last year’s draft, so he just needed to get some innings in the minors. Still, he is ready for the Florida State League after dominating to this extent.

South Atlantic League

Brian Mundell, 1B, Colorado Rockies

Like Hall, Mundell was a 2015 college draftee (7th round), and, like Hall, Mundell is dominating his league as a 22-year-old. His 32 doubles are 11 more than the next closest player, while his .351 average is pacing the league by a whopping 26 points. Add in his solid approach (30:22 K:BB), and you have yourself a potential star in Colorado at first base…if he continues hitting like this as he moves up, which should happen soon.

Could Keller become the next homegrown talent for the Pirates? Courtesy: piratesprospects.com
Could Keller become the next homegrown talent for the Pirates?
Courtesy: piratesprospects.com

Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Keller could be creating his own version of “Mitchapalooza” by dominating and becoming the next big arm in the Pirates system. In his first taste of full-season ball, the 20-year-old, 6’4″ righty has a 69:6 K:BB and is holding opponents to a .195 BAA. When you strike out 10 per nine, don’t walk anyone, and don’t allow many hits, you can become a pretty valuable arm.

California League

Travis Demeritte, 2B, Texas Rangers

The Rangers don’t need much help up the middle, but Demeritte looks like a guy who can provide offensive production wherever he ends up playing. After ripping 25 homers in his age-19 season, Demeritte looks to be enjoying his time in the offensive heaven of the California league, having driven 15 bombs and 13 doubles in his first 58 games. There are some things he needs to work on, including his swing and miss, as his 80:31 K:BB in just 217 AB is grotesque. Plus, he was suspended for 80 games for PEDs last season. Still, power has value and Demeritte appears to have it.

Sam Howard, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Howard has received a promotion to Double-A after posting a 2.47 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 65.2 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .184 average. At 23, he is right where he needs to be now, and as a college arm, Howard could jump another level in 2016. He allowed a single run over 6.1 innings in his first Double-A start, so he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Also, he’s left-handed and breathing, which is always useful.

Carolina League

Drew Ward, 3B, Washington Nationals

At 21, Ward is having his best season to date. He leads the Carolina League in OPS, matching his career-high with 10 homers this season. His 15 doubles show solid power, as well, but it is his 53:28 K:BB that shows the best improvement, as his 13% walk rate is, by far, his best in a full season league. At 6″3′, 215-pounds, Ward could continue to develop power and become a useful piece for the Nationals.

Matt Cooper, RHP, Chicago White Sox

At 24, you’re probably wondering why Cooper could be a prospect in Advance A-ball. Well, this is his first season as a starter and he has struck out 11.4 per nine. His 92 strikeouts, in 72.2 innings, top the league by 28 punchouts. The 2014 16th round pick out of Hawaii was dominant as a reliever prior to this season, and he looks like a solid late-round find by the White Sox.

Florida State League

Stewart could move quickly to Detroit Courtesy: MiLB.com
Stewart could move quickly to Detroit
Courtesy: MiLB.com

Christin Stewart, OF, Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ 1st round pick last season, Stewart has shown impressive power (16 home runs and 12 doubles) and an advanced approach at the plate (60:43 K:BB) in his first taste of the FSL. As a college draftee out of Tennessee, he could move pretty quickly for the Tigers, who are in the middle of a “rebuild-while-winning” situation.

Chance Adams, RHP, New York Yankees

Adams was a 5th round pick last season by the Bronx Bombers. They eased him in as a reliever last season, but they have converted the 21-year-old to a starter this season. He has responded by striking out 11.4 per nine and holding opponents to a .196 BAA. At 6′, 215, he won’t intimidate, but you have to approve of the results.



2015 Season Previews: Washington Nationals

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!

Washington Nationals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 92-70 (1st in NL East, 2nd in MLB)

Manager: Matt Williams (96-66 in one season with Washington)

Top Three Players: 2B/3B Anthony Rendon (5.1), OF Bryce Harper (4.2), RHP Max Scherzer (4.0)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

Shoulder woes have slowed Zimmerman in the same way that they did Scott Rolen, but the Nationals have moved Zimmerman to first, where he won’t have to make as many throws. The end result should be a healthier, productive season; although, a thigh and fractured finger were the primary injuries that allow Zimmerman to play in only 61 games last season. This will the the 11th season in a Nationals uniform for Zimmerman, and this is his age-30 season. Don’t consider him washed up. He is locked in at .280/.350/.480 with about 25 home runs and 85 RBI in a dynamic lineup.

Harper isn't going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season. Courtesy: CSNWashington.com
Harper isn’t going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season.
Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Bryce Harper

Duh, right? At 22, Harper is ready to continue his assault on opposing pitchers, but THIS is the year that he reaches 30 home runs and stays healthy. What is he capable of when he stays on the field and has Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and Ian Desmond on the field with him? This is a dangerous lineup and Harper has the potential to be the most productive player in that lineup. This is the year that he starts heading towards that ceiling, closing in on a .300/.400/.500 line, while increasing his power output as he becomes more physically mature.

Offseason Overview: When you have five very good starting pitchers and you’ve won 96 games, what do you really need to do to improve? Well, sign the best free agent pitcher on the market to a seven-year, $210 million deal, which is what they did when signed RHP Max Scherzer. The move pushed Tanner Roark (15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 31 starts) to the bullpen, while making LHP Ross Detwiler expendable, as he was shipped to Texas for a couple of prospects. The Nationals didn’t need to do much to improve their team, but they still made a huge splash and got better.

The Verdict: A healthy Zimmerman and Werth will help the Nationals to 100 wins, but it will be Harper, Rendon, Desmond, and the pitching that will get them to 95 wins. This is the best team in baseball, regardless of PECOTA projections. The pitching is elite and they have Roark ready in a swing role and A.J. Cole ready in Triple-A. With Lucas Giolito and Joe Ross likely to start the year in Double-A, they are far off from making an impact, either. Michael Taylor, a powerful, speedster, will be taking over center for the first several weeks with Denard Span on the shelf. The Nationals are very good, and this is the year that they put it all together.

2015 Predictions and Useless Guesses

For my 500th post, I decided I’d go away from the previews for a moment and look forward to the season in a different way, with my annual predictions and useless guesses. While there are other, more important analysts who gather data and use systems to generate these types of lists, I just use the ol’ noggin. You can find my 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions to see how I did in the past, but this is a new season and a new idea on how the league will look at the end of the 2015 season.

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Baltimore Orioles

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. New York Yankees

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

1. Oakland Athletics

2. Los Angeles Angels

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Texas Rangers

5. Houston Astros

AL Wild Cards

Los Angeles Angels

Baltimore Orioles

NL East

1. Washington Nationals

2. Miami Marlins

3. New York Mets

4. Atlanta Braves

5. Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

2. St. Louis Cardinals

3. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Chicago Cubs

5. Cincinnati Reds

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Diego Padres

3. San Francisco Giants

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

5. Colorado Rockies

NL Wild Cards

San Diego Padres

St. Louis Cardinals

World Series Prediction

Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox in six games

AL Manager of the Year?
AL Manager of the Year?

AL Manager of the Year

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

The Detroit Tigers lost RHP Max Scherzer to free agency and RHP Rick Porcello in a trade. Sure, they still have LHP David Price and they added OF Yoenis Cespedes to their offense, but this will be a new AL Central, one that will be very competitive, and will have a division winner who isn’t Detroit for the first time since 2010. The Indians have a very intriguing team, full of youth and talent, with much of that talent still not totally tapped. The rotation has reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, with RHPs Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco behind him, while healthy seasons out of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher will add to the production of Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis (who should rebound from a lousy 2015), and Michael Brantley. All Francona needs to do is utilize the talent, which is something that he is an expert at doing. Cleveland will win more than 90 games and have their first division title since 2007.

NL Manager of the Year? Courtesy: USA Today
NL Manager of the Year?
Courtesy: USA Today

NL Manager of the Year

Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

The NL East is going to be down…way down. The Nationals will likely win the division by ten or more games, but the Marlins will be competitive, and Redmond will look very intelligent by being in the position as the field general. He has Giancarlo Stanton and his massive power to lead an offense that has quite a bit of talent. Christian Yelich will solidify himself as one of the top outfielders in the NL this season, and Marcell Ozuna will round out the outfield with his impressive power in center; however, it doesn’t stop there. With Mike Morse providing more power at first, Martin Prado being acquired to handle the hot corner, Adeiny Hechavarria‘s slick glove at short, and Dee Gordon‘s blazing speed at second, the Marlins will shock a lot of people. The possible mid-season addition of Jose Fernandez to the rotation could push them over the top, as Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, and Jarred Cosart hold down the fort until then. The Marlins are a solid team, and after the Mets lost Zack Wheeler, the Braves went into rebuild-mode, and the Phillies continue to be awful, they’ll be the only team capable of hanging around Washington in the NL East in 2015.

Trout has reason to smile with another MVP season
Trout has reason to smile with another MVP season


Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

This young man doesn’t turn 24 until August and he already has been an All-Star three times, been an All-Star MVP, and an AL MVP – he has 2.67 career MVP shares thanks to finishing 2nd in each of his first two full seasons. People may become nitpicking about things with Trout, such as his 184 strikeouts in 2014, just to try to disprove the fact that he is the best player in baseball. That won’t change in 2015. Even the computers think that Trout is going to continue his tear:

Depth Charts: .299/.396/.557, 103 R, 31 HR, 20 SB, 96 RBI

ZiPS: .301/.401/.577, 113 R, 35 HR, 23 SB, 114 RBI

Steamer: .297/.391/.537, 105 R, 30 HR, 21 SB, 90 RBI

If you had the No.1 overall pick in your fantasy draft, the only other acceptable player to take would have been…

McCutchen may get more respect after another MVP in 2015 Courtesy: ESPN.com
McCutchen may get more respect after another MVP in 2015
Courtesy: ESPN.com


Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen continues to be an incredible producer, hitting the elite .300/.400/.500 level the last three seasons, while having a unique blend of power and speed. He is the leader of the Pirates outfield, which could become one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco reaching their peak years of production in coming seasons, but McCutchen will continue to be the anchor of that group, and of the Pittsburgh franchise. The 2015 season won’t be any different for this superstar, who will win his 2nd MVP award in his age-28 season, leading the Pirates to the top of the NL Central.

Could he REALLY be getting better with age?
Could he REALLY be getting better with age?

AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

“King Felix” had his best season to date in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to earn his second Cy Young award, as Corey Kluber’s majestic season was able to catch the eyes of the voters, and with good reason. Still, it’s unbelievable to see Hernandez reaching new levels of excellence considering he has been such a dominant starter for nine full seasons. Even in his age-29 season, it’s likely to see continued gains in the production, as Hernandez demonstrates a mastery on the mound that rivals that of…

So...so good.
So…so good.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

The last several seasons, I didn’t want to believe. I questioned Kershaw in the past due to his higher walk rates, so I kept thinking that the NL West would belong to Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner had an incredible run last season, he can’t carry Kershaw’s jockstrap, and it’s likely that we’re watching the closest thing to Sandy Koufax that our generation will ever see. It is just coincidental that Kershaw has the Dodgers uniform and left-handed delivery in common, and, hopefully, those are the only similarities that we will see between the two. Kershaw is gifted, and he is a gift to baseball fans. He will continue his dominance in 2015, likely winning 20 games again due to his incredible individual talent, as well as the talent behind him on the field.

Heaney will strengthen the Angels' rotation in 2015 Courtesy: Getty Images
Heaney will strengthen the Angels’ rotation in 2015
Courtesy: Getty Images

AL Rookie of the Year

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

Getting Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick may go down as a coup for the Angels. Not only did they free the payroll of $9.5 million, they got a major league ready arm with a half-a-dozen years of team-control to put into their rotation. While Heaney doesn’t have No.1 starter stuff, he is quite capable of having a long, successful career. He’ll begin that run of success in 2015 on Day One, and while Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giovatella aren’t as good at baseball as Kendrick, it was a deal that the Angels had to make, as they don’t have the talent in the minor league system to improve their rotation, and they needed that youth with C.J.Wilson aging quickly and Jered Weaver not getting any younger.

Soler is just as good and better than Bryant in 2015, and will win NL ROY
Soler is just as good and better than Bryant in 2015, and will win NL ROY

NL Rookie of the Year

Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

Many will be swinging on the coattails of Kris Bryant, I’m all aboard the Soler bandwagon in 2015. He has incredible power and he managed to bulk up his already impressive physique over the winter. In his age-22 season, he reached the majors and combined to hit 20 home runs and drive in 77 runs in 86 games and 333 plate appearances over four levels. If Soler stays healthy, he will have better numbers than Bryant, and he won’t be spending the first month in the minors. The end results will be impressive, even for a 23-year-old who will need to adjust to the league having tape on him.

10 BOLD Predictions

  1. Trade bait?  Courtesy: twinsdaily.com
    Trade bait?
    Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

    Johnny Cueto will be on the Boston Red Sox by the trade deadline, as the prospects would be more valuable to the Reds than a draft pick.

  2. Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will combine for over 340 strikeouts, 27 wins, and 59 starts covering 390 innings for the Cleveland Indians, but Corey Kluber is still their best pitcher.
  3. Masahiro Tanaka will not make 15 starts before he finishes the tear of his UCL and has Tommy John surgery.
  4. Gerrit Cole will finish in the top three in the NL Cy Young – behind Kershaw and Bumgarner.
  5. Xander Bogaerts will hit 20 home runs and drive in at least 75 runs at the bottom of the Red Sox order.
  6. Drew Hutchison is the top pitcher on the Blue Jays, and a top 30 starting pitcher, while Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez flop in their roles at the back of the rotation.
  7. Addison Russell finishes the season as the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop when Starlin Castro is traded for young pitching at the trade deadline.
  8. Jose Ramirez is so valuable to the Cleveland Indians that they don’t call-up Francisco Lindor until September.
  9. Joc Pederson hits 25 home runs and steals 30 bases while striking out over 160 times and posting a batting average under .250 – George Springer-lite.
  10. Justin Verlander rebounds and posts an ERA under 3.85, a WHIP under 1.30, and more than 190 strikeouts in 215 or more innings.


  1. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox: crazy speed and he looks like he’s the Opening Day starter
  2. This is the year Gausman becomes an ace...right?
    This is the year Gausman becomes an ace…right?

    Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: the chains should be off and he is on his way to stardom

  3. Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: if Yasmany Tomas has hands of stone and can’t handle third, Lamb will, and he has managed to hit .321/.406/.553 in 1,079 minor league at-bats.
  4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Arenado makes contact, plays in a hitter’s paradise, and will see many of his doubles turn into home runs as he matures. He’s well on his way to becoming elite.
  5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz is bound to be hurt, Joe Kelly is questionable (at best), and Justin Masterson may never rebound to his 2013 form – enter this guy.
  6. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, New York Yankees: Huge fastball, tremendous gains in his walk-rate, and he will begin to miss more bats. He’ll end up being the Yankees’ top starter due to Tanaka’s injury.
  7. Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros: Even after finishing 4th in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014, McHugh may sneak under the radar. His 9.1 K:9 and 6.8 H:9 are for real. He could, sneakily, become the next Corey Kluber.
  8. Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: He struggled with command in Cuba, but he has electric stuff, a strong repertoire, and a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. As bad as they look on paper, he has plenty of opportunities for run support with a healthy Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier.
  9. Hahn is on the rise in Oakland Courtesy: Mercurynews.com
    Hahn is on the rise in Oakland
    Courtesy: Mercurynews.com

    Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics: Hahn posted solid numbers in 12 starts for the Padres in his age-24, rookie season in 2014, but he’s going to a similar offensive-drowning park in Oakland, with a very talented roster behind him. He could be a top 30 starting pitcher by the end of the season with his strikeout potential.

  10. Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers: Better known as “Chi Chi”, Gonzalez, a former 1st round pick out of Oral Roberts in 2013, has been a quick-moving prospect for the Rangers, reaching Double-A Frisco last season, with good reason. He has a mid-rotation ceiling, but with the Rangers desperate for healthy pitching with their sudden curse on their roster and talent, Gonzalez could get a long look, showing enough talent to be roster-worthy in fantasy leagues.

Nationals: Pitching to the Max


The Washington Nationals have signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract, shocking the world of baseball by locking-up the market’s top free agent arm, while creating a new philosophy in negotiating tactics that could influence free agent signings in the future. By extending the $210 million over 14 years by deferring $15 million per year, they also free up a bit of payroll for additional signings in years to come.

Perhaps that deferred money will allow them to lock-up Bryce Harper, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season; however, in the moment, this deal does much more for the Nationals than make them creative, financial gurus.

Max Scherzer will now lead the Washington rotation, a rotation that already featured Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark. Obviously, depth in a starting rotation is always nice to have, especially with two pitchers on club’s roster already having Tommy John surgery on their resume (Strasburg and Zimmerman), and Gonzalez having dealt with some shoulder issues last season. What is truly incredible about the Scherzer signing is that Roark appears to be the man who would be bumped from the rotation, even after the 15 wins and 2.85 ERA over 31 starts in his age-27, 2014 season.

The Nationals have the flexibility to deal an arm, with Jordan Zimmermann already rumored to be the one who could be moved.

The Red Sox certainly have the prospects to make a deal for Zimmermann or any other player in baseball, so this isn’t all that surprising. Mookie Betts would make an excellent long-term second baseman – if the Nationals are content with moving Anthony Rendon to third base long-term, and the club doesn’t, or any club this side of the Dodgers, doesn’t appear capable of locking up a Scherzer/Zimmermann/Strasburg trio to the nearly $90 million annually that it would require. Zimmermann, who is due $16.5 million prior to reaching free agency after the 2015 season, arguably, is worth the same type of deal that Scherzer received and possibly more.


After all, when comparing these two players, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of envy from other clubs:

Player A: 45-22, 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 608.2 IP, 496:112 K:BB

Player B: 55-15, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 622.1 IP, 723:179 K:BB

Zimmermann is Player A and Scherzer is Player B. Those strikeouts are certainly a big difference, but Zimmermann is just as dominant in overall numbers – outside of the swing-and-miss stuff.

Still, the Nationals sit here today with the most feared starting rotation in baseball. Just a week ago, ESPN’s Buster Olney had Washington atop his top 10 starting rotations in baseball, and that was BEFORE the club added Scherzer.

Bryce  HarperAs long as Washington is able to produce some runs in 2015, they appear to be capable of winning 100 games. The rotation, as is, features five pitchers capable of 15 or more wins and ERAs under 3.20, so if Jayson Werth, Harper, Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and company can do their part, this is a very, very dangerous team.

The rich continue to get richer, which appears to be a theme in Major League Baseball, and while the Tigers lose Scherzer from the rotation that they had in 2014, they still have one season with David Price at the top before they need to panic. The Nationals don’t look like they’ll be in that position for several years.

Minor League Report, 6/14

Cubs super-prospect 3B Kris Bryant
Cubs super-prospect 3B Kris Bryant

The 2014 season has been quite interesting to this point. With so many teams floating around contention due to unforeseen parity in a game that has had so little over the years, we haven’t seen many top talents reach the big leagues to assist their clubs compete. Gregory Polanco finally reached Pittsburgh, but the Cardinals just sent Oscar Taveras back to the minors following the activation of Matt Adams from the 15-day disabled list. With injuries to Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Archie Bradley, and Taijuan Walker, the elite level prospects haven’t provided a lot of positive material for minor league analysis. For that reason, you have to reach deeper. Here are some names that you may be familiar with, but, if you’re not, you should get to know a little better.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

2013 21 -0.8 A–A+-Rk 36 146 128 22 43 14 2 9 32 1 11 35 .336 .390 .688 1.078 88
2013 21 1.3 Rk 2 7 6 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 .167 .143 .333 .476 2
2013 21 -0.2 A- 18 77 65 13 23 8 1 4 16 0 8 17 .354 .416 .692 1.108 45
2013 21 -1.8 A+ 16 62 57 9 19 5 1 5 14 1 3 17 .333 .387 .719 1.106 41
2014 22 -2.6 AA 66 286 240 60 86 19 0 22 57 8 41 75 .358 .462 .713 1.174 171
2 Seasons 102 432 368 82 129 33 2 31 89 9 52 110 .351 .438 .704 1.141 259
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Bryant is a one-man wrecking crew in the Double-A Southern League in 2014, and you should already be familiar with him, as Bryant was the No.2 overall pick out of San Diego in the 2013 MLB Draft. For all of the fears that went along with the holes in his swing, which is still present based on the 75 strikeouts, Bryant can still draw a walk while producing elite-level power from the right side. He may have to move to an outfield corner in the long run due to Starlin Castro being at short and Javier Baez likely moving to third, as the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo locked up through 2021 (including options) at first. Regardless of where he plays, he’ll be an All-Star talent. The Cubs don’t need to bring him up due to their 27-38 record and ongoing rebuild, but the scariest part of his numbers are the fact that they could only get larger with a move to Triple-A and the Pacific Coast League. He could break camp with the Cubs in 2015 and will likely get a nice audition this September.

Victor Sanchez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

2012 17 -4.3 A- 6 2 3.18 15 0 0 85.0 69 37 30 5 27 69 1.129 7.3 2.9 7.3 2.56
2013 18 -3.8 A 6 6 2.78 20 1 1 113.1 106 42 35 4 18 79 1.094 8.4 1.4 6.3 4.39
2014 19 -5.5 AA 3 2 4.06 9 1 1 44.1 45 26 20 10 12 39 1.286 9.1 2.4 7.9 3.25
3 Seasons 15 10 3.15 44 2 2 242.2 220 105 85 19 57 187 1.141 8.2 2.1 6.9 3.28
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

The Mariners have a lot of young pitchers who get a lot of attention with Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Erasmo Ramirez each earning some starts at the major league level over the last couple of seasons; however, with those names receiving so much attention, there is a sneaky exciting talent coming up who isn’t getting nearly as much recognition as most players with his skills would, and that is Victor Sanchez. At 19, Sanchez is already in Double-A, having skipped the horrific pitching environment of the California League, and he is pitching very well. Over his last two starts, Sanchez has allowed just two earned runs over 13.2 innings (1.32 ERA), striking out 13 and allowing 11 base runners (0.80 WHIP). Sanchez isn’t a dynamic strikeout pitcher, but he has plus command and, at his age, he may further develop his stuff to take another step forward. He could certainly give up fewer home runs, but when you consider that he is 5 1/2 years younger than the average player in the Southern League, he deserves a break. He’s a very mature pitcher given his age and deserves more attention than he is getting.

Astros OF Preston Tucker
Astros OF Preston Tucker


Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

2012 21 -0.1 A- 42 187 165 32 53 7 0 8 38 1 18 16 .321 .390 .509 .899 84
2013 22 -1.4 A+-AA 135 601 535 97 159 32 2 25 103 3 56 91 .297 .368 .505 .872 270
2013 22 -0.9 A+ 75 333 298 61 97 18 1 15 74 3 29 45 .326 .384 .544 .928 162
2013 22 -2.0 AA 60 268 237 36 62 14 1 10 29 0 27 46 .262 .347 .456 .803 108
2014 23 -1.2 AA-AAA 66 294 265 42 73 17 0 17 43 3 26 48 .275 .347 .532 .879 141
2014 23 -1.2 AA 65 290 261 41 72 17 0 17 43 3 26 46 .276 .348 .536 .885 140
2014 23 -3.7 AAA 1 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 1
3 Seasons 243 1082 965 171 285 56 2 50 184 7 100 155 .295 .366 .513 .879 495
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Another Houston Astros prospect who is near ready to make an impact at the major league level, Tucker was just promoted to Triple-A after being near the top of the Texas League in doubles, home runs, and total bases. After thriving in 2013 between High-A and Double-A, Tucker has made the adjustments necessary to continue his progression to Houston to join Jon Singleton and George Springer, while the club waits for Carlos Correa and others in the lower minors to help make Houston a World Series contender in the next three seasons. Even thriving against left-handers, Tucker is capable of being more than just an average outfielder in the majors.

Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

2012 21 -0.1 A- 22 93 81 12 23 5 0 2 9 2 10 14 .284 .376 .420 .796 34
2013 22 -0.7 A+-A-AA 103 439 393 51 118 27 0 11 56 2 34 67 .300 .362 .453 .815 178
2013 22 0.4 A 31 131 116 19 41 5 0 3 20 0 11 16 .353 .420 .474 .894 55
2013 22 -0.8 A+ 55 239 215 25 62 17 0 8 35 2 17 41 .288 .343 .479 .822 103
2013 22 -2.4 AA 17 69 62 7 15 5 0 0 1 0 6 10 .242 .319 .323 .641 20
2014 23 -1.6 AA 65 284 258 43 79 10 1 17 58 1 22 58 .306 .363 .550 .913 142
3 Seasons 190 816 732 106 220 42 1 30 123 5 66 139 .301 .364 .484 .848 354
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

After being taken in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of South Carolina, Christian Walker had a somewhat productive first full minor league season in 2013 (.815 OPS, just 67 strikeouts in 439 plate appearances), but it was also somewhat disappointing (11 home runs). Walker did play at three levels in 2013, so, perhaps, he wasn’t in one location long enough to make the adjustments necessary to showcase his power, but the 2014 season has been quite different. Walker already has 17 home runs and is sporting an OPS of .913 as of publishing. While his strikeout rate has increased, that is allowing him to produce at higher levels. With Chris Davis under team control through the 2015 season, could you be looking at the future first baseman in Baltimore? It could be the case, but Walker has to continue his offensive outburst if he is going to make it in the majors as a right-handed hitting first baseman.

Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres

2008 17 -1.5 FRk 67 267 232 34 46 13 1 9 37 9 28 106 .198 .296 .379 .675 88
2009 18 -2.2 Rk 50 216 197 44 69 8 1 8 44 14 15 52 .350 .398 .523 .921 103
2010 19 -2.5 A–A-A+ 117 481 441 59 102 26 7 3 38 31 32 119 .231 .288 .342 .630 151
2010 19 -2.3 A- 53 225 203 35 55 13 6 0 12 17 17 53 .271 .335 .394 .729 80
2010 19 -2.4 A 50 201 188 21 36 11 1 2 20 11 10 54 .191 .234 .293 .526 55
2010 19 -3.8 A+ 14 55 50 3 11 2 0 1 6 3 5 12 .220 .291 .320 .611 16
2011 20 -1.7 A-A+ 131 580 510 89 152 31 9 12 68 66 53 108 .298 .365 .465 .830 237
2011 20 -1.6 A 116 519 455 81 145 30 8 12 62 65 47 95 .319 .383 .499 .882 227
2011 20 -2.7 A+ 15 61 55 8 7 1 1 0 6 1 6 13 .127 .213 .182 .395 10
2012 21 -2.2 A+-AA 127 520 465 65 130 32 4 8 61 32 41 119 .280 .350 .417 .767 194
2012 21 -1.6 A+ 74 314 282 41 84 22 2 5 41 22 21 69 .298 .360 .443 .803 125
2012 21 -3.1 AA 53 206 183 24 46 10 2 3 20 10 20 50 .251 .335 .377 .712 69
2014 23 -1.2 AA 66 282 252 38 69 14 2 11 40 10 25 73 .274 .344 .476 .820 120
6 Seasons 558 2346 2097 329 568 124 24 51 288 162 194 577 .271 .338 .426 .764 893
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Even after missing all of the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery, Rymer Liriano is young for his league. The 22-year-old outfielder is back on track, showcasing all of his tools, though the swing and miss looks to be a bit larger than anticipated after his long layoff. Regardless, in 2011, Liriano showed the speed (66 steals) and power (50 extra-base hits) that make fantasy baseball fans salivate. He could probably make the Padres offense a little better if he were called up today, but he still has some work to do to become an All-Star level talent in the future.

Luke Jackson, RHP, Texas Rangers

2011 19 -2.8 A 5 6 5.64 19 0 0 75.0 83 57 47 9 48 78 1.747 10.0 5.8 9.4 1.63
2012 20 -2.3 A+-A 10 7 4.65 26 1 0 129.2 130 72 67 6 65 146 1.504 9.0 4.5 10.1 2.25
2012 20 -1.6 A 5 5 4.92 13 1 0 64.0 63 37 35 4 33 72 1.500 8.9 4.6 10.1 2.18
2012 20 -2.9 A+ 5 2 4.39 13 0 0 65.2 67 35 32 2 32 74 1.508 9.2 4.4 10.1 2.31
2013 21 -2.2 A+-AA 11 4 2.04 23 0 0 128.0 92 32 29 6 59 134 1.180 6.5 4.1 9.4 2.27
2013 21 -1.8 A+ 9 4 2.41 19 0 0 101.0 79 30 27 6 47 104 1.248 7.0 4.2 9.3 2.21
2013 21 -3.5 AA 2 0 0.67 4 0 0 27.0 13 2 2 0 12 30 0.926 4.3 4.0 10.0 2.50
2014 22 -2.5 AA 7 2 2.86 12 0 0 72.1 50 23 23 5 19 74 0.954 6.2 2.4 9.2 3.89
4 Seasons 33 19 3.69 80 1 0 405.0 355 184 166 26 191 432 1.348 7.9 4.2 9.6 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Prior to the 2013 season, Jackson was heading towards becoming an organizational arm, even though he was a first round draft pick in 2010. Then, it all seemed to click last year and over his last 200.1 innings he has a 2.34 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and 208 strikeouts. Now, with the Texas Rangers reeling and in need of pitching depth after injuries to Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison, Luke Jackson has positioned himself for some time in Arlington at some point this summer.

Nationals OF Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals

2010 19 -0.9 Rk-A 43 164 141 14 28 5 3 1 13 1 15 33 .199 .276 .298 .574 42
2010 19 -0.7 Rk 38 149 128 14 25 4 3 1 12 1 14 31 .195 .270 .297 .567 38
2010 19 -2.6 A 5 15 13 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 2 .231 .333 .308 .641 4
2011 20 -1.4 A 126 488 442 64 112 26 7 13 68 23 32 120 .253 .310 .432 .742 191
2012 21 -1.6 A+ 109 431 384 51 93 33 2 3 37 19 40 113 .242 .318 .362 .680 139
2013 22 -0.8 A+ 133 581 509 79 134 41 6 10 87 51 55 131 .263 .340 .426 .767 217
2014 23 -1.6 AA 62 271 233 50 77 11 2 16 49 17 32 83 .330 .416 .601 1.017 140
5 Seasons 473 1935 1709 258 444 116 20 43 254 111 174 480 .260 .333 .427 .759 729
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Michael Taylor is breaking out. After an impressive repeat of High-A in 2013 (57 extra-base hits and 51 stolen bases), Taylor has reached a career-high in home runs in just 62 games, while still showing tremendous speed (17 steals) in his first go-round in Double-A. There is a lot of swing and miss in his bat, but the power and speed skills that he possesses make him an intriguing prospect, especially when you consider that he could be in a pretty electric lineup with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and company in the next couple of seasons. With Denard Span due a $9 million option or a $500,000 buyout in 2015, Taylor is likely leaving a lot of questions for Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and Washington management about just what to do in center field in 2015. If nothing else, Taylor could spend some time in Triple-A next year, or even later this season, before earning a full-time role in 2016.

Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

2012 21 0.1 Rk 67 315 280 47 92 22 5 9 57 8 24 51 .329 .390 .539 .930 151
2013 22 -0.7 A+-Rk 69 304 248 48 75 22 0 13 52 0 50 75 .302 .421 .548 .969 136
2013 22 2.3 Rk 5 21 17 4 5 2 0 0 5 0 2 5 .294 .381 .412 .793 7
2013 22 -0.9 A+ 64 283 231 44 70 20 0 13 47 0 48 70 .303 .424 .558 .982 129
2014 23 -1.6 AA 65 273 239 42 78 25 4 11 55 0 25 58 .326 .399 .603 1.002 144
3 Seasons 201 892 767 137 245 69 9 33 164 8 99 184 .319 .404 .562 .966 431
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.

Jake Lamb was a 6th round pick out of Washington in 2012, and all that he has done since getting drafted is hit. This season, his numbers in the Southern League are being mocked by Kris Bryant’s absurd outburst, but they are still very, very good. The doubles and home runs show the power potential in Lamb’s bat, and the .996 OPS in 59 at-bats against left-handed pitching shows that Lamb is quite capable of becoming a regular in Arizona. With Kevin Towers around, Lamb could be traded before ever reaching the desert, but he would be an extremely solid option to force Martin Prado off of the hot corner, and joining Paul Goldschmidt as a tremendous offensive threat in the Diamondbacks lineup in the near future.

The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.