Author Archive

How 1st Month of MLB Offseason Moves Have Changed Market Landscape

The 2014-15 MLB offseason began like any other.

Then everything changed.

The Milwaukee Brewers were able to fill their void at first base by trading Marco Estrada to the Toronto Blue Jays for Adam Lind. With potentially two more seasons of club control, Lind is a fantastic pickup for the Brewers, especially when we consider the cost was a spot starter who gives up way too many home runs.

The Atlanta Braves, needing to improve the starting rotation, traded right fielder Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals for starting pitcher Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. It was a move precipitated by new leadership in Atlanta and the untimely passing of Oscar Taveras.

Then Hanley Ramirez was scooped up by the Boston Red Sox. In and of itself, the fact that the Red Sox signed Ramirez isn’t what impacted the free-agent market. It’s that the former shortstop is slated to play left field for manager John Farrell.

And let’s not overlook the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A’s the day after Thanksgiving after signing Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million free-agent contract on Nov. 17.

The point we are trying to illustrate is that there have been several unexpected twists. True, it’s the nature of the business, but it’s wreaking havoc on the free-agent market.

The Braves were supposed to offload B.J. Upton, as David O’Brien from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out toward the end of the season, not the reigning Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year. And adding Miller, who has four more years of club control, set every second- and third-tier starting pitcher back one franchise.

The Red Sox went into the offseason needing to address the outfield. Melky Cabrera and Nick Markakis were options general manager Ben Cherington could have explored to fill the spot—Ramirez was not. At least he wasn’t supposed to be.

And didn’t the Blue Jays need to add a second baseman for next season? Sure, they sent Anthony Gose to the Detroit Tigers for Devon Travis, but Travis won’t be ready for another year. Now word from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is that the club is looking at Alberto Callaspo to play second, but either way, trading Lawrie along with three prospects for Donaldson seemingly came out of nowhere.

For that matter, the same can be said about the addition of Martin. After all, Dioner Navarro is under contract next season and played fairly well in 2014. Inking a catcher didn’t seem high on the list of things to accomplish.

Don’t take that the wrong way. Both moves are huge upgrades for general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ club.

It’s just that their additions (along with the others mentioned) created ripples in the market that changed the fabric of free agency. Players who thought they had an option with one club or another are finding that may not be the case.

And if you think that trades involving players like Donaldson and Heyward happen every year, think again. Sure, there are a few examples, but last offseason, the biggest move in November was the blockbuster that sent Prince Fielder and cash from the Tigers to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler.

To be sure, the move paid off for the Tigers, but when the deal was made, Fielder had just put up a 2.3 fWAR, and Kinsler finished 2013 with a 2.5 fWAR. In contrast, Donaldson finished the 2014 season with a 6.4 fWAR, and Heyward compiled a 5.1 fWAR for the Braves. The difference in talent is plain to see.

The Donaldson trade also illustrates another problem.

See, the A’s were already rumored to be interested in moving starting pitching prior to the move, and with the addition of Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, the club now “possesses no less than nine viable starters,” per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. That makes it quite likely that general manager Billy Beane will move Jeff Samardzija or Scott Kazmir, who were both mentioned by CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder.

To that end,’s Phil Rogers opined that it’s “hard to imagine” Samardzija is still with the club next season. As Beane said in a conference call following the Donaldson deal, his club has “spent a lot of minor league capital the past couple of years,” acquiring talent for a playoff push, per USA Today’s Gabe Lacques. Trading Samardzija for prospects makes sense.

What does that mean, though, for guys like Aaron Harang and Jason Hammel?

With Samardzija and Kazmir potentially on the block, Harang’s and Hammel’s marketability has to go down. Fact is that with no less than 10 quality rotation options on the free-agent market, it was already weakened. Taking a spot away via trade depresses the market even more.

Samardzija and Kazmir are not isolated in their availability by any means.

There is an inordinate amount of talent either attainable or already dealt. In addition to the guys we’ve touched on, Justin Upton, Brandon Moss, Evan Gattis, Yoenis Cespedes, Cole Hamels, Mat Latos, Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Kemp and a host of others have been floated about in various scenarios by multiple sources.

True, most of those names are entering their final season before hitting free agency or have a large amount of money left on their deals, but that is a lot of talent. Better yet, some of them could be eligible to receive a qualifying offer next season. And with that comes a compensatory draft pick should the relationship end after one year and the player signs elsewhere.

In other words, going for it with a short-term acquisition may not be as foreboding as it once was. There is the chance of getting at least part of a lost prospect back by way of the compensatory draft pick.

Also worth noting this offseason is the way the contracts are structured.

What should jump out is that with the exception of the contract given to Yasmany Tomas, none of the free agents have signed for more than five years. And none of them have hit nine figures.

It would seem, then, that position players like Chase Headley, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera can forget about signing four- or five-year contracts. Flat out, if Ramirez, who is the best pure hitter among the bunch, doesn’t get more than four guaranteed years and can’t top $90 million, Cruz can forget about getting $60 million through 2018.

The math doesn’t add up. Several players are going to sign for less money than they assumed they would because of the way the market is developing.

Now some of the remaining free agents are immune from the financial squeeze. Andrew Miller, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and David Robertson are going to sign immense contracts.

Lester and Scherzer are simply exceptional pitchers capable of being the ace on all but a few clubs. No amount of competition will prevent the two of them from signing for a king’s ransom.

Miller and Robertson are in a class unto themselves this offseason, and it’s not just about their production in 2014. Since 2012, for example, Miller has pitched to a 2.57 ERA, 1.050 WHIP and recorded 13.6 strikeouts every nine innings. Robertson has been as impressive for a longer period of time, putting up a 2.2 ERA and a 1.097 WHIP over the last four years.

Because of those stats, Miller and Robertson should approach (perhaps surpass in latter’s case) the four-year, $50 million deal given to Jonathan Papelbon by the Philadelphia Phillies in advance of the 2012 season.

By and large, however, the market is flooded with options, pushing down the amount of money front offices around MLB are willing to commit. Simply put, there won’t be any position players inking contract for more than $100 million. And let’s not forget that just last season, three players—Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Robinson Cano—signed new contracts well in excess of that mark.

What a difference an offseason makes.


Unless otherwise noted, all traditional, team and advanced statistics are courtesy of and Contract information pulled from Cots Contracts. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of

Follow @MatthewSmithBR

Read more MLB news on

Sleeper MLB Teams That Could Surprise with Huge Splash This Winter

By now, every MLB fan knows that the Boston Red Sox are going for broke. And we all know that the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants have been linked in some way to just about every big name on the open market.

What about teams that may not have pockets quite as deep? What about those clubs best described as sleepers when put into the context of being big players on the free-agent market?

Well, let’s take a look at three such franchises.

To be clear, we will stay away from clubs like the Chicago White Sox. They have already signed two of the top 31 free agents based on fWAR (FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement) in the form of Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke. It’s safe to say they’ve already made a splash.

We’ll also steer clear of teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. They are expected to make multiple moves this offseason and have significant financial resources.

And for those of you wondering about the Arizona Diamondbacks, well, you can forget about them being included. After all, they just inked Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million deal, per’s Jesse Sanchez. True, general manager Dave Stewart likely isn’t finished, but that splash is about as big as they come.

Here are three MLB sleeper teams presented in alphabetical order that could surprise everyone and make a huge splash this winter.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Trade Ideas Based on Latest News, Rumors and Speculation

The signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez by the Boston Red Sox have rightfully dominated the discourse around MLB for the past two days.

For as incredible as the saga detailed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman is, however, there’s been plenty of movement on the trade front.

Here are four MLB trade scenarios based on actual need and published rumors from the last week. Each of them is a blockbuster in its own right.

As a standard note, the following proposals are nothing more than postulation. The point here is to build a trade based on someone else’s written or spoken word.

They are balanced deals that are fair for each team, taking into consideration each MLB franchise’s strengths and weaknesses. They are also independent of one another. That is to say that each trade presented here is a singular move and does not take into account any of the other proposals put forward.

Begin Slideshow

10 MLB Free Agents Whose Values Have Peaked at the Perfect Time

There are three types of MLB free agents.

There are those who are flat-out special and have been for some time. Then there are those coming off of their best season as they head into free agency. And sometimes, a free agent is both.

You can consider Russell Martin an example of a special player—offense, defense and leadership all wrapped up into one right-handed-hitting catcher—who played his finest baseball in 2014, parlaying it into a five-year, $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

This list will not focus on guys like Martin—for the most part. There are a couple of free agents who are (or were) stars but who needed to take advantage of certain situations to set them up for the most money this offseason.

By and large, however, we will look at players who’ve been good for several seasons but, thanks to exceptional efforts in 2014, solidified their spot as a free agent who will demand a longer-term contract for more money than they would have received had they simply performed to their past capabilities.

Here are 10 MLB free agents, presented in alphabetical order, whose value has peaked at the perfect time.

Begin Slideshow

Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants: Keys for Each to Win NLDS Game 2

When San Francisco Giants starter Jake Peavy toed the rubber in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, he was winless in five postseason starts with an abysmal 9.27 ERA and a fitting 1.925 WHIP.

Well, Peavy and his teammates walked off as winners thanks to his efforts, generally solid relief pitching and timely hitting from Joe Panik, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It was a huge win for the Giants.

Next up is a Game 2 matchup between Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA, 1.072 WHIP) and veteran Giants hurler Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57, 1.231) Saturday afternoon.

Here are some keys for each team to take a critical Game 2.


Keys for the Nationals

Make Tim Hudson Pay for His Mistakes

In the final month of the regular season, Hudson went 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA and a .357/.400/.531 slash line for opposing batters. It wasn’t pretty.

In digging a bit deeper on his player card at, we see that almost every pitch in his repertoire failed him.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what those numbers indicate, it is the batting average on balls that were put in the field of play. What they tell us is that far too many batters squared up Hudson’s offerings over the last month.

There is a certain amount of luck involved, of course, but the bottom line is that Hudson isn’t locating the ball very well. If the Nationals can jump on his mistakes, it could mean an early lead. And with the quality of the Nationals’ pitching staff, early leads are usually held.


Keep Joe Panik Contained

It goes without saying that Zimmermann has to keep Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval in check during Game 2. For as dangerous as those three can be, however, it will be as important to keep Panik off the basepaths.

He’s been a terror.

Starting on Aug. 2 through the end of the regular season, the second baseman put up a .338/.367/.414 slash line with eight doubles and 25 runs scored. In the wild-card matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he went 3-for-5. And during Game 1 on Friday, he went 2-for-5, driving in one run and scoring another after a huge triple to lead off the seventh inning.

He’s been so good, he’s set a franchise record.

Another thing to keep in mind: In three games at Nationals Park during the regular season, Panik slashed out at .417/.462/.667. Notably, he had a big three-run home run that helped end a 10-game winning streak the Nationals had been on in August.

It won’t just be on the Nationals’ starters, though, as Panik can start a late-inning rally, just as he did in Game 1. It is imperative that the left-handed hitter is off the basepaths throughout the contest.

On the bright side, Panik is 0-for-3 vs. Zimmermann, so if the big right-hander can replicate his past success, the Nationals already have an advantage.


Zimmermann Must Keep the Big Guys Down

We’ve already touched on the need to keep Sandoval, Posey and Pence contained, but two of them are of particular interest to Zimmermann.

Of the three, Sandoval and Pence have given Zimmermann fits over their careers. In 20 at-bats, for example, Pence is slashing out at .400/.455/.700 with two home runs and four RBI. Meanwhile, Sandoval has a .462/.500/.538 slash line with a double in 13 at-bats.

The bottom line is this: If Zimmermann can limit the damage from the players who have historically given him trouble, he will breathe life into the crowd and give confidence to his teammates.


Keys for the Giants

Find a Way to Get to Zimmermann Early—and Often

On Aug. 23, the Giants got off to a 2-0 first-inning lead thanks to a two-run home run by Pence. After that, Zimmermann retired 23 of the next 28 hitters and was in control throughout.

“He didn’t get rattled at all (after the homer),” center fielder Denard Span noted, via CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman. “If anything, it seemed like he just focused a little bit more and buckled down and kept them right there.” 

It is what he’s done for the majority of his career.

For the Giants to find success, they need to keep the pressure on. That means working the count and not letting Zimmermann take control of an at-bat. It is easier written than accomplished, to be sure, but it is what must be done.


Keep Denard Span and Anthony Rendon off the Basepaths

Attempting to keep the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in manager Matt Williams’ lineup off the bases is common sense. After all, the fewer run-scoring opportunities the middle of the Nationals’ batting order has, the better it is for the Giants.

Doing it against Span and Anthony Rendon takes on added value, as Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post explains:

In the postseason, top-of-the-order, all-fields hitters with high on-base percentages, low strikeouts, stolen base speed, bunting guile and hit-and-run creativity often have a better chance to cope with the pitching aces of playoff teams than free swingers who can be neutered by pure swing-and-miss stuff. …

… Both are better base runners than they are sprinters; they get fine jumps, read balls in the air accurately and cut bases sharply with no waste.

They are just dynamic ballplayers.

And since Hudson no longer has “swing-and-miss stuff” he is going to have to locate effectively and change speeds if he hopes to keep them off the bases. For the season, Span scored 94 runs and had a .355 on-base percentage while Rendon scored 111 times and finished with a .351 OBP.

If the Giants can jump on Zimmermann early and hold the top of the order in check, they could very well head to AT&T Park up 2-0 in the best-of-five series. If not, the Nationals may even the NLDS at a game apiece and gain some needed momentum for Game 3.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Game information is courtesy of

Follow @MatthewSmithBR

Read more MLB news on

2014 Reviews, Offseason Outlooks for All of MLB’s Non-Playoff Teams

The 2014 MLB regular season has been over for two days, meaning that the Wild Card Round is set to kick off and usher in the postseason for the 10 teams that earned the right to play October baseball.

What about the other 20 clubs that didn’t make the playoffs?

Well, there are certainly plans in place to improve the rosters on each of them with the idea that 2015 will be a better season. Some have longer to-do lists than others, but they all have the same goal—win it all next year.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the franchises that didn’t make the MLB playoffs, reviewing where they were and surmising what the offseason could hold.

Begin Slideshow

Ideal MLB Playoff Scenarios We Would Most Like to See

With the MLB playoffs fast approaching, it is time to take a glimpse into some ideal scenarios that set up well as part of the larger conversation.

To be sure, nothing has been finalized with relation to seeding and no one has clinched a playoff berth yet. As such, we are going to keep things simple by only referring to teams that qualify for the playoffs as of game time Monday.

We will also keep the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds out of the conversation up front. We will instead focus on ideal scenarios for the American League and National League Wild Card Round and then focus on the championship series in each league.

After all, the very concept of “ideal matchup” means that there is a variable at play, such as not knowing who will end up advancing from the Wild Card Game to face the No. 1 seed.

And while the World Series is indeed part of the playoffs, we will not discuss ideal scenarios for it. That is another column altogether.

And this is not about popularity. The Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers are certainly a bigger draw nationally than the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates, but ratings have no place here.

This is an attempt to balance statistics with historical perspective. This is not a prediction or a guarantee.

Here are four ideal scenarios we would most love to see in the 2014 MLB playoffs.

Begin Slideshow

Updating the Latest 2014-2015 MLB Free Agency Rumors, Speculation

Before we know it, MLB free agency will be upon us. In fact, the rumors and speculation have been in full swing for some time.

What about the latest news, though?

What has been said in the past week regarding some of the bigger names set to cash in on large paydays or switch teams?

To be clear, we will not be covering all of the top targets set to hit free agency, nor will the main speculation come from ideas posited earlier in the season. Older rumors and speculation may be used as supporting information but will not be central to the premise.

The names presented here have all been discussed since last Friday by prominent writers from around the country. That way we can keep the conversation driven by credibility. 

Here are some updates on the latest MLB free-agency rumors and speculation.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Rumors: Analyzing All the Latest Whispers, News and Speculation

Thanks to the endless stream of MLB whispers, news and speculation, it is a fine time to be a fan of the game.

From watching the waiver wire to see who’s cleared and is eligible to be traded to keeping up with the latest rookie call-ups and analyzing the postseason picture, there is always something to grab your attention. 

So what new bits of gossip that made their way around MLB over the last seven days are there for us to dissect?

As a standard note, this won’t be an all-inclusive list. That would take a novel’s worth of reading to digest. Rather, we’ll examine some of the juicier bits.

With that noted, let’s take a look at what’s going on around MLB.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Latest News, Rumors and Speculation

This will be the last installation of MLB trade ideas based on the latest news, rumors and speculation before the deadline passes on Sunday, whereby players who are acquired are eligible to participate in postseason play.

Needless to say, the situation is tense around MLB. That said, what types of trade ideas are possible with the information we already have at hand?

Here are three MLB trade scenarios based on actual need and published rumors through the end of Monday, Aug. 25. As a standard note, the following proposals are nothing more than postulation.

The point here is to build a trade based on someone else’s written or spoken word. They are balanced deals that are fair for each team, though, and take into consideration each franchise’s strengths and weaknesses.

Begin Slideshow

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress