MLBTR Polls Rumors
Two years ago nine teams reached the 90-win plateau: the Tigers, Brewers, Rangers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals. Just three of those teams repeated as 90-game winners in 2012 and just four of them made the postseason. To put it mildly, winning 90 games multiple seasons in a row is really difficult.
Once again there were nine 90-win teams in 2012: the Yankees, Orioles, Rays, Athletics, Rangers, Nationals, Braves, Reds and Giants. Chances are some of these teams will regress in 2013. Sustained success requires shrewd moves and good health, an elusive combination for many organizations. Which of these 2012 contenders is most likely to struggle in 2013?
With the start of Spring Training mere days away, teams are close to having their rosters in place that they plan to take to either Florida or Arizona for the next month and a half. Clubs have spent the past few months bringing in new players through free agency and trade in hopes of putting together a squad worthy of playing meaningful baseball come October.
While many teams added a key pitcher or slugger to man the hot corner, others failed to replace departing players or make necessary upgrades around the diamond. Merely re-signing a player or two may not have been enough when teams like the Blue Jays and Dodgers made multiple additions to their respective rosters over the course of the winter. The question becomes which team has had the most disappointing offseason thus far.
It's been a busy offseason for the Athletics and general manager Billy Beane following their surprise AL West championship in 2012. The A's have exercised Grant Balfour's option and re-signed Bartolo Colon to a one-year deal while electing to let right-hander Brandon McCarthy depart via free agency.
Beyond that, the A's GM has orchestrated three trades this offseason, acquiring Chris Young, John Jaso and Jed Lowrie in three separate transactions -- two of which were three-team deals. The A's also dipped into the international market to add shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. For those who have forgotten, here's a quick recap of each of those moves:
- The A's signed Nakajima to a two-year deal worth $6.5MM. The 30-year-old is expected to play shortstop for Oakland and owns a .310/.381/.474 batting line and 104 homers dating back to 2007.
- Oakland traded Cliff Pennington to the D'backs and Yordy Cabrera to the Marlins in order to acquire Young and $500K from Arizona. The Diamondbacks also received Heath Bell, and the Marlins received cash considerations. Young is set to hit free agency following the 2013 season.
- Beane and Co. traded A.J. Cole back to the Nationals in order to acquire Jaso from the Mariners. Mike Morse was traded from Washington to the Mariners in the deal as well. Jaso is under team control through 2015.
- The A's traded Brad Peacock, Chris Carter and Max Stassi to the Astros in exchange for Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez. Lowrie is under control through 2014.
Following today, Beane uncharacteristically divulged to reporters -- including CSN Bay Area's Casey Pratt -- that the team was done making additions to its Major League roster (Twitter link). With that in mind, let's put it to a vote:
After reaching the World Series two seasons in a row, the Rangers suffered a setback in 2012 when they failed to advance past the Orioles in the AL Wild Card game. The expectations remain the same for 2013 as the organization has its goals set on taking home a ring for the first time in franchise history, even as the roster looks different entering spring training. From losing lineup mainstays to missing out on top free agents, the question becomes whether Texas did enough to address holes in the lineup and on the pitching staff.
A look at the Rangers' lineup reveals the absence of familiar names including Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. The loss of Napoli to the Red Sox may have been a win for the Rangers as the slugger went from securing a multi-year deal to eventually signing a one-year contract due to health concerns. With fewer playing opportunities each season due to the emergence of young talent, Young was sent to the Phillies where he'll have the opportunity to be in the lineup on a more consistent basis. Hamilton headed to the West Coast when the Angels offered him a contract that the Rangers were not comfortable matching.
While Texas was unable to replace its big bats with the likes of Justin Upton or Carlos Gonzalez, the front office did make two moves that should bring stability to the lineup. The team was able to bolster the catching position by signing veteran A.J. Pierzynski and add depth at designated hitter with the addition of Lance Berkman.
Pitching concerns for Texas stem more from who the team was unable to sign rather than retain. The organization had hoped to win the services of Zack Greinke but ultimately lost out to the Dodgers. While the Rangers were unable to add pieces from the free agent pool, they did commit long-term to starter Matt Harrison with a five-year, $55MM contract. Beyond the rotation, Texas signed Joakim Soria to add depth to the bullpen.
On New Year's Eve, seven of MLBTR's Top 50 free agents watched the ball drop without knowing where they would be playing in 2013. Since then, Adam LaRoche (No. 15, Nationals), Rafael Soriano (No. 17, Nationals), and Shaun Marcum (No. 19, Mets) have all signed, leaving four still out there on the open market.
Michael Bourn (No. 3) is the top remaining free agent and his situation isn't a whole lot clearer than it was a month ago. The center fielder is tied to draft pick compensation and teams aren't wild about giving up their first round choice for the right to give Bourn a lucrative deal. The Mets could appeal to MLB to argue that they shouldn't have to sacrifice their No. 11 pick, but one has to wonder if the cost-conscious club is ready to spend that much anyway. The Mariners have also been linked to the outfielder but we haven't seen a ton of movement on that front lately.
Kyle Lohse (No. 10) has also seen his stock fall thanks to the issue of draft pick compensation. No one seems willing to go beyond two years for Lohse, despite his exceptionally strong work across the last two seasons. The O's will be in if the veteran's price drops significantly and the Brewers won't rule it out, but the Angels aren't expected to chase him and the Cardinals continue to say that a reunion is very unlikely.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun heard earlier this week that Joe Saunders (No. 25) was offered a two-year, $15MM deal from a club, though those sources aren't directly in on the talks. If the offer is legitimate, however, it isn't from the Orioles, who are only interested in a one-year deal with an option for year two. The Twins are also keen on a one-year pact and the Mariners are also known to be interested.
Jose Valverde (No. 44) likely saw his market pick up after fellow Scott Boras client Soriano signed with the Nationals. Early on, the Tigers decided that they wouldn't have him back and things were quiet for the 34-year-old for quite some time. This week, however, we learned that the Mets are pursuing Valverde.
Chase Headley emerged as an MVP candidate in 2012, hitting a career-best 31 home runs and establishing career highs in on-base percentage (.376) and slugging percentage (.498). The 28-year-old will obtain a salary of at least $7.075MM in 2013 as an arbitration eligible player, and there's a chance he could obtain even more security in the form of a long-term extension.
The Padres have had some extension talks with Headley, though it doesn’t seem as though there’s currently much momentum toward a long-term contract between the Padres and the Excel Sports Management client. It’s a possibility worth considering, though. Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in October that the ownership group led by Ron Fowler and the Seidler/O’Malley families seemed to want to sign Headley long term.
Extending Headley through his remaining arbitration years (2013-14) and some free agent seasons (2015 and beyond) no doubt has some appeal to a Padres team that has had trouble scoring runs in recent years. However, Headley is getting expensive -- he could require a commitment of $50MM-plus -- and Jedd Gyorko looms as an affordable internal alternative. Plus, the Padres can't be completely sure Headley will replicate his 2012 numbers. Should they pursue an extension for Headley?
Michael Bourn entered the offseason as one of the most sought-after free agents in baseball, considered by all authorities (including MLBTR's Tim Dierkes) to be one of the top players available this winter. February is just a few days away, however, and not only is Bourn still unsigned, but he's lacking in obvious suitors that have both the need and the available finances to make a deal.
Bourn's and agent Scott Boras' demands for a contract in the neighbourhood of five years/$75MM haven't helped open up the market, nor has the fact that signing Bourn would cost a team a high draft pick due to Bourn's rejection of the Braves' qualifying offer. While the Mets may appeal to MLB in an attempt to sign Bourn and still keep their 11th overall draft choice, it seems unlikely that the league will acquiesce.
Besides the compensatory details, it may be that teams are simply unwilling to commit that much money to a 30-year-old player whose value lies in his speed (257 steals over the last five years) and defense (a +22.5 UZR/150 in center field in 2012), no matter how much Bourn may excel in those categories. The Mariners, for example, have been linked to Bourn this winter but it is believed that Seattle isn't keen to sign another speed-and-defense oriented free agent given how the Chone Figgins signing backfired on the club. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith listed a number of possible suitors for Bourn last month, a list from which we can probably remove at least the Phillies, Indians, Yankees, Braves and Dodgers in the wake of subsequent moves.
You would think that Bourn's demands would drop given such a seemingly limited market...but this is Scott Boras we're talking about, an agent who has made a career out of getting his clients big deals when none seem available. That said, Boras could also explore a shorter-term or so-called "pillow contract" for Bourn so the outfielder can re-visit the free market next winter. Will Bourn take a short-term deal, lower his asking price, or will Boras pull another rabbit out of his hat?
The Phillies already added one outfielder this winter, acquiring Ben Revere from the Twins. They’ve also considered the possibility of adding a corner outfielder, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported this week that they continue seeking a right-handed bat. The Phillies appear to have some interest in free agent Scott Hairston and trade candidates Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells. However, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. publicly suggested the Phillies are done making moves, saying "we're likely going with what we've got."
If the season opened today, the Phillies' outfield would consist of Revere and a number of corner outfielders. Right-handed hitters such as John Mayberry Jr. and Darin Ruf would join left-handed hitters such as Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix in the outfield mix. This group includes some intriguing names, but lacks the certainty. Will the Phillies stick with what they have, or acquire a newcomer?
The Diamondbacks have already traded an outfielder once this offseason, sending Chris Young to Oakland. Now that they've signed Cody Ross, they're positioned to deal another outfielder. Ross joins perpetual trade candidate Justin Upton and Jason Kubel in the team's starting outfield. Gerardo Parra projects as a bench player and prospects Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock provide additional depth for general manager Kevin Towers.
Based on the most recent rumors surrounding the team, Upton and Kubel are potential trade candidates. However, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus on which player Towers will trade. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported this morning that the industry seems divided on the topic of which player the Diamondbacks would prefer to move (Twitter link). Teams seeking a high-ceiling player who's years away from free agency will prefer Upton, while teams seeking an affordable short-term fix could pursue Kubel. Which player will the Diamondbacks trade?
Most of MLBTR's Top 50 free agents of the offseason are off the board, but there are still seven holdouts as we enter 2013. For some, the market is fairly clear cut. For others, it's suss out a list of suitors and potential fits.
Adam LaRoche (No. 15) has the attention of both the Nationals and the Red Sox, but neither team wants to give him a three-year deal and Boston isn't wild about giving up a second-round pick for him. The BoSox are also expected to back out of talks with the first baseman if they complete their agreement with Mike Napoli. Right-hander Shaun Marcum (No. 19) has received interest from the Mets, Twins, Padres, and Cubs. The Mets, Twins, and Padres are also in on left-hander Joe Saunders (No. 25) along with the Orioles and Mariners.
If the other four have made significant progress on a deal, it's been kept on the QT to this point. Michael Bourn (No. 3) is the best player remaining on the open market but it's not clear who the interested parties are. The Rangers lost out on the biggest names of the winter and the Mariners haven't made the kind of splash that some expected them to, but their level of interest is unknown. Texas isn't in on Kyle Lohse (No. 10) and the Cardinals don't have enough breathing room to bring him back. Rafael Soriano (No. 17), like many free agents, has been linked to the Dodgers, but they're not interested. Jose Valverde (No. 44) wants to return to the Tigers but they reportedly won't be bringing him back (For the purposes of this poll, please choose one of the other six if you expect Valverde to call it a career).