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MLB Trade Ideas: 10 Closers the Rangers Could Target If Feliz Becomes Starter

This time last year, Neftali Feliz was just another reliever.

Well, not quite.

Feliz entered last season as one of baseball’s five best prospects, but with the Rangers rotation full and Frank Francisco seemingly entrenched as the team’s closer, Feliz started the season pitching in the middle innings.

Francisco, however, faltered early in the season. Feliz stepped in, and the rest is history. From the All-Star game, to the 40-save season, to the Rookie of the Year Award. 

Generally, when a player has so much success in one role, a team is hesitant to move him—and that is likely the case in Texas.

However, the Rangers are a smart organization. They realize how much more valuable a great starting pitcher is than a great closer—and coming through the minor league, Feliz was a great starting pitcher. 

But will he start?

That remains to be seen, even with Opening Day fast approaching. But it is a distinct possibility.

Should he start, the Rangers will be in need of a closer.

Frank Francisco, of course, was traded for Mike Napoli this past winter and the internal options are rather thin. Arthur Rhodes, Darren O’Day and Alexi Ojada are interesting options, but Ron Washington has indicated he’d prefer someone with closing experience.

So who might the Rangers traget? Here are 10 possibilities. 

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MLB Preview 2011: Projecting the Chicago Cubs’ Starting Lineup for 2011

The last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was president and World War I was six years in the future. Yeah, it’s been a while.  

Three years ago the Cubs made a run at the playoffs, but a couple of bad seasons and a strong NL Central have pushed the lovable losers to the back-burner of Major League Baseball. A lot has happened since their last playoff appearance though, and a new ownership group coupled with a new manager may offer Cubs fans some hope. 

While this team may be a year, and one future Hall of Famer, away from making a serious run, the NL Central is wide open and this is a talented club. With their roster nearly set, it’s time to take a look at their starting lineup and see what kind of support Dempster, Zambrano, Garza and Co. can expect in 2011. 

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Los Angeles Dodgers: Grading Ned Colletti’s Offseason Moves

The Dodgers have gone through a tough patch. 

After a year of ownership conflicts, down seasons and traded stars, some might forget that the Los Angeles Dodgers were the best team in baseball for much of the 2009 season, and that their core—Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton—remains intact and young.

Joe Torre’s gone. Manny Ramirez is gone. But the team remains talented.  

Ned Colletti spent this past offseason trying to supplement LA’s core and return the Dodgers—who finished below .500 last year—to the top of the division. While the team made few major additions, it retained some key pieces and supplemented that talent with bench players.

How did Colletti do?

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MLB Trade Rumors: 9 Potential Landing Spots For Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton is really good. A year ago, few would have disagreed with the statement that Broxton was the best closer in baseball, and it seemed inconceivable that the Los Angeles Dodgers would let him go anywhere. Broxton struggled down the stretch however, and even lost the closing job for a while.

With Hong-Chih Kuo’s emergence as an elite reliever, the Dodgers’ ownership issues, and Broxton’s soon-to-be expiring contract Jonathan Broxton could be on the move. Despite a few blown saves in 2010, he’s still seen as an elite closer in Major League Baseball, and his age makes a long term contract feasible.

Where might Jonathan Broxton be headed? And will he be moved now? This summer? Maybe not at all? Let’s take a look. 

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MLB Power Rankings: Who Is the American League’s Top Power-Hitting Lineup?

The best power hitting team in the game came out of the AL East in 2010. No, it wasn’t the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the Rays. It was the Toronto Blue Jays. Lead by outfielder Jose Bautista, combined the Jays led the league in home runs by a mile.

The Blue Jays return a majority of their lineup, but with Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston, and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira looking for rebound seasons, the Blue Jays title will be under siege. Who will be the best power hitting team in the American League in 2011? Let’s find out.

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MLB Predictions: Picking the Major Award Winners for the 2011 Season

You know what time it is. The NFL playoffs are just days away, but more importantly, pitchers and catchers report in just over a month. With that in mind, it’s about time we start handing out these end of season awards.

The voters have been doing a much better job of late. Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez rightfully received the big four awards in 2010. The year before, the voters correctly selected Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum.

Unfortunately, no one seems to be getting better at predicting these awards in January. I’ll give it a shot.

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MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 12 Best Values Remaining on the Market

As 2010 comes to a close, the free agent market is no longer what it was just a month ago. Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth have signed, and top relievers like Bobby Jenks and Pedro Feliciano are now off the market.

This thinning of available talent can be dangerous for teams in need of a boost. While Adrian Beltre, Carl Pavano and Rafael Soriano can help just about any team, few clubs want to get into a bidding war over their services.

Thankfully, there are bargains remaining for any smart general manager with holes in his roster and some money to spend. While the elite talent will be overpriced, several above-average players remain under the radar. These players range from injury-prone starting pitchers to a couple of future Hall of Famers well past their prime.

The market might not be in love with these guys, but these types of moves win championships if executed properly.

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10 Panic Moves Teams May Make after Missing Out On Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford

Heading into the offseason, the Yankees considered themselves favorites to land Cliff Lee, and the Rangers definitely thought they had a chance. The Angels though they could sign Carl Crawford, and several teams around the league believed they could bring in Zack Greinke.

With all three players off the market—Lee in Philly, Greinke in Milwaukee and Crawford in Boston—GM’s around baseball are scrambling to find that backup plan, fill their budgets and put a competitive team on the field heading into 2011.

Some backup moves work out. But when teams panic, things rarely go well.

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Cliff Lee: Where Do the Yankees Go With the Ace in Philly?

In a stunning turn of events Monday night, 2008 Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee agreed to return to the Philadelphia Phillies, turning down higher offers from the two teams long believed to be the only contenders in the Lee sweepstakes.

As fans in Philadelphia drool over a rotation led by possibly the two best pitchers in all of baseball, fans in both Texas and New York are left wondering where they go now.

For the Yankees, this is nothing short of a disaster. Lee came within hours of pinstripes several months ago before David Adams injured ankle caused the Mariners to back out of a potential deal and landed Lee in Texas.

Lee led Texas past the Yankees and into the World Series; as he hit the open market, nearly everyone in baseball believed he would sign with New York.

The Yankees could enter 2011 with a rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, far from championship quality. But with upwards of 20 million dollars over the next six or seven years not commuted to Cliff Lee, the question remains: Where do the Yankees go from here? How can they compete with the newly improved Boston Red Sox and the Phillies in the national league?

It’s worth noting that this Yankees team, almost entirely as is right now, won 95 games last year. A similar team won the more than 100 games and a World Series in 2009, led by CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and a shaky back of the rotation.

The Yankees have a true ace in Sabathia, an emerging front line starter in Hughes, and a massive question mark, albeit a very talented one, in AJ Burnett.

The Yankees first priority at the moment is likely to re-sign Andy Pettitte. Should they bring back Pettitte, they’ll have retained just about every piece from the playoff 2010 team.

While Andy is currently leaning towards retirement according to several sources, Cashman will likely go hard after Pettitte in the coming months. A rotation of Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett and Nova, while far from ideal, wouldn’t look too shabby.

In any other offseason, simply retaining a 95 win team would be viewed as a success, especially with players such as Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte hitting free agency.

But the Red Sox improved their team greatly by landing Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, and the Phillies now look like the class of the national league with a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt.

Expectations were set very high for the Yankees heading into the winter meetings, with some sources even reporting the team would land both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford. It didn’t work out that way.

If the Yankees want to improve their rotation, there are a few options still out there on the free agent market.

Brandon Webb is the kind of player who could really help the Yankees. While health is a major concern—he’s thrown just four innings in the big leagues over the past two years—he finished first, second and second in national league Cy Young voting in his last three healthy seasons.

He could be had relatively cheap, and if he was even a shadow of his former self the Yankees could have a solid No. 2 starter to pair with CC Sabathia. If he truly returned to dominance, which isn’t impossible given his age, the Yankees would have the two aces they covet to go with a solid back of the rotation.

The Yankees aren’t really seen as players for Webb at the moment. A name they have been more connected to is Zack Greinke.

While some are understandably skeptical about how Greinke would play in New York, the guy is 27-years-old and clearly one of the five or 10 best pitchers in baseball. He was the best pitcher in the league in 2009, and while his ERA spiked last year, his underlying numbers indicate he was still one of the 10 or 15 best pitchers in the league.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Dayton Moore doesn’t seem to like what the Yankees have to offer and Greinke would cost a lot. He’s a possibility, but a long shot at this point.

Beyond Greinke, there isn’t really another ace on the trading block. Josh Johnson, Francisco Liriano and Felix Hernandez aren’t going anywhere; Chris Carpenter might be a fit, but if the Cardinals sense they wont be able to re-sign Albert Pujols this coming winter, they’re much more likely to go all out in 2011.

Carpenter is also rather old himself and health is still somewhat of a concern. If the Yankees can’t land a No. 1 starter, they’ll probably look to acquire a No. 2 starter they can pair with Sabathia, someone who won’t make headlines like Lee but who will help to solidify their rotation.

For this role, I think Wandy Rodriguez might be a good fit. He’s always been a bit under the radar, but the Astros are in full out rebuilding mode right now and Wandy is on the wrong side of 30. He’s not a flashy name and he’s not a No. 1 starter, but he’s a safer bet at the No. 2 spot than Hughes, Pettitte or Burnett, and he’s probably a more realistic option than Greinke or Carpenter.

Another name to consider: Chad Billingsley. The Yankees have been attached to Billinsgley rumors for a few years now, thought nothing has ever come of them.

Billingsley is still young and very talented and he’s also a good No. 2 starter, a guy who could really help to solidify New York’s rotation and wouldn’t cost too much. Given the Dodgers ownership situation and the rate at which the NL West has improved over the past year, they might be willing to move Billingsley for younger players, and the Yankees, with their depth of catching and pitching prospects, would be a natural fit.

At the end of the day, I expect the Yankees will be OK. They won 95 games last year and rotation of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte was good enough to win the World Series in 2009.

I expect Pettitte will be back next year and that Cashman will make a move to bring in one more starting pitcher.

Will the Yankees put together a super-rotation and take back the headlines from Boston? No.

But come April, they’ll still be one of the most talented teams in baseball and come October, they’ll still be right in the thick of things.

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MLB Free Agency: Ranking the 20 Best Pitchers Still Available

It’s the middle of December and as a blizzard hits the Midwest United States, the baseball hot stove is just heating up.

In the past couple of weeks, the Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. The race to sign Cliff Lee has sped up and several lesser free agents have fallen into place.

But what if your team still needs pitching help? Don’t worry. Even if you don’t get Lee, there are still several starting pitchers and relievers worth bringing on board for 2011.

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