Posted on December 29th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Players
After a great season in Baltimore which saw Nelson Cruz lead the major leagues with 40 home runs, Cruz is taking his power and heading to the Pacific Northwest where he will attempt to boost a Mariners team that fell just one game short of the playoffs in 2014. Cruz provides much needed right handed power for the Mariners, where he figures to see most of his playing time at DH. While Cruz is already 33 years old, and will be 37 during the final year of his new four year contract, the Mariners will hope to keep him healthy by keeping him out of the outfield the majority of the time.
The Potential Upside
Looking at the glass half full, the Mariners hope that Cruz can represent one of the last pieces that they needed to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. If Cruz can replicate most of his production from last season with Baltimore, he will form a formidable middle of the order group along with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. While hitting 40 home runs again, in the larger Safeco Field, seems like a longshot, even a 30 home run season may be all that the Mariners need. After all, Seattle led the American League in ERA last season, and will be returning the majority of that pitching staff for 2015.
The Potential Downside
One the other side of the equation, Cruz is a slugger nearing his mid-30’s – a point where many power hitters begin to decline. If his power starts to go away quicker than expected, most of his value will be gone along with it. Cruz doesn’t offer many other notable skills, as his value is tied directly to the amount of power he is able to bring to the order. As a DH, Cruz will have to keep hitting for the next four years if the Mariners are going to get a good return on their investment.
For the Mariners, right field appears to be the final spot that needs to be filled before the roster will be ready to head to spring training in 2015. Most likely, the Mariners will look to make a trade to fill that spot in right field, whether it is a big name like Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, or a small acquisition. If they are able to locate a quality right fielder to add to the everyday lineup, Seattle could enter the season as the favorite in the difficult A.L. West.
As for Nelson Cruz, this contract represents what he has been looking for over the last couple of years. He signed a one year deal with Baltimore last year in order to prove his value – which he did, and then some. The reward is a lucrative four year deal, and he will now attempt to help complete the Mariners return to postseason competition.
Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Players
In a surprising move that was foreseen by no one in the baseball world, Josh Donaldson was traded by the A’s to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Lawrie and a group of younger players. Donaldson has been one of the best players in the American League in recent years, bringing a solid bat and an excellent glove at third base. While Lawrie is a talented and powerful young player, he has had difficulty staying healthy and his performance has been up and down when on the field. In the end, the evaluation of this trade from Oakland’s perspective may come down to the success of the younger players included in the trade.
What’s the plan in Oakland?
The last few months in Oakland have been interesting, to say the least. In July, they were leading the way in the American League and were the consensus pick to make it to the World Series. After trading away Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for Jon Lester, the A’s fell apart and had to hang on to even make the playoffs at all. They got into the last wild card spot on the final day of the season, and proceeded to lose that wild card game to the Royals. Instead of challenging for the World Series, the A’s went away quietly and were left to figure out where it went wrong.
It Might Be a Rebuild
In light of the Donaldson trade, it is fair to wonder if the A’s are trying to rebuild by selling off some of their valuable pieces before they get too expensive or leave as free agents. Beyond Donaldson, there is also the possibility that Brandon Moss will be moved as well before the offseason is over. Oakland is noted for their small budget in comparison to the rest of the league, so they frequently have to trade away talented players so they can acquire more affordable young players. While the A’s would certainly like to contend again in 2015, that might quickly become an impossibility if they continue to liquidate the talented players that had led them to success early in 2014.
For Donaldson, this trade could serve to take his profile even higher as he heads toward eventual free agency down the line. The Rogers Centre where the Blue Jays play is known for being a great place to hit, and his power stroke is likely to play well in that environment. Additionally, the Blue Jays are assembling a potentially contending team for the coming season and Donaldson should have a great chance to return to the playoffs in 2015.
Posted on December 15th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players
Until a few months ago, Jon Lester’s entire career has been played in a Boston Red Sox uniform. Lester has had considerable success with the Red Sox, and the team has had great success as well. For those reasons, most people assumed that Lester would be a lifelong Red Sox member despite his impending free agency. It seemed like only a matter of time until the two sides would agree on a contract extension that would keep Lester in place throughout his prime.
Maybe not so fast. Prior to the trade deadline this past season, Lester was traded to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes. Of course, at the time, the Red Sox were out of the race and didn’t want to risk losing Lester for nothing at season’s end, so they made the move to add the Cuban slugger. Even still, many people expected that once the season ended, Lester would sign back with Boston. However, as the offseason has moved along, it has become clear that the Red Sox aren’t the only team with designs on signing the powerful lefty.
The Windy City Comes Calling
While the Red Sox are still very much in the mix for the services of Lester, the Chicago Cubs are another strong contender who appears will to spend big (among others, such as the Giants and Cardinals). The Cubs are in a great position to bring in a high priced free agent because much of their roster is made up of young, talented, and affordable players. If they can combine and experienced veteran with the ability of a Jon Lester with their young core of talent, the fortunes of the Cubs could finally be turning around. In the end, the team that is able to offer an extra year on the contract will likely be the one to win the bidding.
Which City Offers More Potential?
While the past decade would indicate that Lester would be better off returning to Boston if he wants to win, the future might look different than the past. The Cubs are a young and talented team, and the Red Sox are signing older free agents in an effort to recover from a disappointing season. Only a year removed from a World Series title, the Red Sox seem to be farther away than they have in recent years. Of course, the addition to Jon Lester would go a long way toward putting Boston back near the top of the A.L. East.
The money that is offered to Jon Lester is likely to be pretty similar between Chicago and Boston, so it will likely come down to where he prefers to pitch. Does he go back to the familiarity of Fenway Park, or accept a new challenge with a young Cubs team? It will be interesting to see how this decision is settled.
Posted on December 9th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Teams
2014 didn’t go well for the Boston Red Sox. The 2013 Red Sox won the World Series, but the 2014 version never really got off the ground, and was out of the race by the middle of the season. With one of the biggest budgets in baseball, seasons like the one they had in 2014 don’t sit well in Boston. The team was sure to take quick action in an effort to turn around their fortunes in the season to come – and they did just that, signing two of the biggest free agent names on the market.
From Coast to Coast
Both of the players that Boston has signed to significant contracts for the next few seasons – Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval – are coming to the Northeast from California where they were playing in L.A. and San Francisco, respectively. Also, both were playing in the National League, and neither has ever played significant time for an American League team. Sandoval has played his whole career with the Giants, while Ramirez actually began his career in Boston but only recorded two total at bats before being traded to the Marlins. He then spent several seasons in Miami before heading across the country to L.A.
Both Players Have Questions
There is no doubt that Sandoval and Ramirez each bring an attractive set of skills to the table. Sandoval is a solid defensive third baseman, and a productive hitter. Ramirez will likely need to make a position change into the outfield, but the majority of his value comes from his bat. However, each player has concerns going forward. Sandoval has never been a physical specimen, and some worry about how he will age as he heads into his thirties. Ramirez looks like an athlete, but has a history of injury trouble that comes with him. Boston has committed big dollars to Hanley through his age 35 season, so they are going to hope that those injury problems are a thing of the past.
If it goes right, the Red Sox will have quickly kick started their offense for 2015 and beyond. Both are talented offensive players with track records of excellent production. If it goes wrong, each player could spend significant time on the disabled list over the next few years, or have their production decline quicker than expected. There is a gamble associated with any free agent signing, but these two moves seem to carry a little more risk than average. A team with the financial resources of the Red Sox can afford to take that gamble more than other teams, but their fortunes are still going to be closely tied to the production of these two players.