Ohtani

Where will Shohei Ohtani land?

Shohei Ohtani is the king of the offseason at the moment. The MLB has not seen anything like him since Babe Ruth was smacking home runs nearly a century ago. Ohtani has the potential to be a two-way star, so when he was posted, every team in the majors wanted a piece of him. Right away though, Ohtani has slashed the field down to seven teams already. Out of those seven teams, where might he sign?

The only two teams that are deeper into the mainland of the United States who still remain are the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The other five teams are the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani prefers the west coast

The west coast has a much more prevalent Japanese population compared to elsewhere in the country. On top of that, it would be closest to his homeland. Ohtani has already informed 23 teams that he would not sign with them, and they almost all are outside of the west coast.

You can’t blame Ohtani for picking the California teams as well as Seattle, as he still wants to remain close to his roots and there is nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old has the freedom to choose whatever team he wants as he is the hottest commodity this offseason. Many people thought that his preference would have to do with money or a DH, but it always came down to geography for him.

Which teams fit?

Shohei Ohtani

Dipoto and the Mariners have been working on their pitch for Ohtani all year long (Photo Courtesy of NW Sports Beat)

The DH position may be more in Ohtani’s scope now that he has narrowed down the west coast. Money is not a huge factor at this point though. Due to rules on rookie contracts, there is only so much money he can make at first. That is, he will make the maximum salary for a rookie the first three years before he is available for arbitration.

It has also been reported by the New York Times that Ohtani prefers a smaller market. Considering Los Angeles does not fit that bill, it will be unlikely he goes to the Angels or Dodgers even though he is expected to meet with both teams.

Although it has not been reported how big of a factor the DH is, it would not be wild to assume that an American League team would make much more sense for the Japanese star. That would knock out the Padres, Cubs and Giants from the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers would the remaining candidates.

The Mariners have a history of Japanese ballplayers playing for them. Most notably, one of the all-time baseball greats, Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro built up a real reputation for players across the pond, as if you were to combine his NPB and MLB hits, he would have the most in baseball history. Along with that, the Mariners fit the bill for being on the West Coast, more so than the Texas Rangers.

That is why the Mariners are the most likely destination for Ohtani. Seattle is not far off from being a contending team, so a spark from Ohtani could boost them into the playoffs.

How will Ohtani translate to the MLB?

Shohei Ohtani

MLB teams will try to figure a way to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiro Nogi–Getty Images)

There doesn’t seem to be much of a question that Ohtani’s pitching will translate to the United States. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio and has a career 2.52 ERA in his five seasons in the NPB.

Some wonder if his hitting will be at the same level in the major leagues. He has been able to hit over .300 the past two seasons, and has shown signs of power as well. It would be hard to believe him not getting steady opportunities throughout 2018 to prove his ability at the plate.

The one thing that Ohtani is not custom to is the grueling process of a 162-game season. Also, the month of spring training along with a month long playoff can be very physically demanding. Former NFL and MLB athlete, Brian Jordan, stated that playing a 162-game baseball season is one of the toughest things to do in sports.

Ohtani has not come too close to that mark, however he may not when he is playing in the majors anyway. In order to ensure he is an effective pitcher and hitter, it will be imperative that the coaching staff is able to manage his fatigue well in order to get maximum effectiveness from the star.

Overall, Ohtani could prove to be one of the best players that has come from Japan. Only time will tell if he will be able to make the jump to the majors, but signing with Seattle could give him the opportunity to showcase everything he has in a place he would be happy to be.

 

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Stanton

Where things stand with Giancarlo Stanton

There has been no doubt that the MLB offseason has been engulfed by the rumors surrounding the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. At this point, mostly all there has been is speculation. There are a lot of factors that go into a trade of this magnitude, so there are a lot of things that have to go right in order for it to go through. Here is an up to date summary of all that has been going on surrounding Stanton.

No-trade clause

Stanton

Magic Johnson and the Dodgers probably don’t have the ability to take on Stanton’s contract (Getty Images)

One of the biggest factors in Stanton’s contract at the moment is not only the large amount of money he is owed, but the fact he can reject any trade the Marlins may put in front of him.

Stanton is a SoCal native, and he reaffirmed that when he put the Los Angeles Dodgers as his preferred spot to be traded to, per MLB.com columnist, Jon Morosi. The Dodgers are the only team to be reported on that list. It has also been reported by Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald, that Stanton would reject a trade to either Boston or St. Louis. However, that report has been refuted by others.

The Jon Morosi report suggests that Stanton is keeping an open mind to where he could be traded. He will evaluate his options once there is some more light shed on them though.

This is not the first time a no-trade clause has been a factor lately. Justin Verlander told the Tigers as well that he would prefer to play for the Dodgers. However, once late August came around, Verlander realized that he would not be going to Los Angeles. He then accepted a trade to the Houston Astros, and the rest is history.

Best fits for the Marlins

Stanton

Reyes is a very attractive pitching prospect for the Marlins (ESPN)

The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are the teams that appear to be pursing the Miami slugger the most. While all of them could use him in their lineup, there are some that can offer more to the Marlins than others.

The only two teams who have actually submitted an offer to the Marlins are the Giants and the Cardinals. It has been reported that Joe Panik and Tyler Beede have been mentioned in that offer. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching to give, and one name mentioned in the offer was Sandy Alcantara while other details remain unclear.

What the Marlins are looking for out of this trade are to relieve some of the financial burden of Stanton’s contract, and to acquire some young pitching. The team that has the most to offer in that department are the St. Louis Cardinals, who may have the best pitching prospect in baseball in Alex Reyes. They are also well below the luxury tax cutoff, giving them a lot of financial flexibility.

The number one priority for the Marlins right now though is speaking to the Dodgers and seeing if they can come to an agreement. Stanton will not consider any other teams without knowing that Los Angeles is out of the running. The Dodgers are already likely going to go over the luxury tax, so it would not be in their best interest to add the largest sports contract in the world to their payroll. It would not make sense for the Marlins to take on a large part of Stanton’s contract for the Dodgers either, as then there would be little point to be trading him at all.

The Marlins need tor rule them out quick though, as some reports have indicated that other teams want a resolution from Stanton by December 10th, the first day of the Winter Meetings. This is so they can move onto other options as the free agent market remains untapped.

What all this means for Stanton

Stanton has made it clear that he does not want to go through a rebuilding phase. Derek Jeter has suggested that rebuilding may be the route the Marlins take though. Stanton has been in the league for seven years now and has yet to play on a winning team. In order to avoid this, he is going to have to redefine where he would like to be traded to.

The Cardinals make sense from a baseball perspective for Stanton. They are in big need for a game changing bat in the middle of the lineup, and are looking to consolidate talent. The Cardinals have also only had one losing season since 2000, so he would be playing for a winner. St. Louis isn’t far off from competing with the Chicago Cubs, and this offseason will really define their future. Stanton would play a big part in helping them compete, and surely could make them into World Series contenders.

The case seems to be that Stanton wants to play in a more high-profile place rather than St. Louis, and who can blame him? He is a young baseball star with loads of money and wants to spend nights out on the town. Not to mention he is also from Los Angeles and has family and friends there. Stanton will have to make the decision as to what is more important to him though.

The Giants don’t seem to fit the criteria of being soon to be winners either. The fact they don’t have much to offer the Marlins on the prospect side doesn’t help either. Boston would make sense for Stanton as they seem to be perennial contenders. That is why Boston and St. Louis seem like the most likely destinations with all things considered. Which means Stanton has to reevaluate his options in order to play for a winner.

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Andrew Knizner

How Andrew Knizner’s AFL performance impacts St. Louis

Andrew Knizner has been making waves in the Arizona Fall League. The seventh-round pick in the 2016 MLB draft for the Cardinals had a solid season in the minors. The 22-year-old catcher managed to rack up 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 95 games between Single and Double-A this past year.

Adding to the Cardinals’ catching core

The Cardinals have had the most reliable guy they could ask for behind the plate since 2004. Yadier Molina has put in more innings and excelled more than any other catcher during that time. He has established himself as a premier catcher and has come close to reaching a Pudge Rodriguez level of excellence.

Knizner

Molina has been one of the best catchers of this generation (Photo from SI.com)

Not only does St. Louis have Molina through 2020, but they have the best catching prospect in baseball, who is ready for some major league action. Carson Kelly is a converted third basemen, who has adjusted to the catching position very nicely. He has established himself as a potential Gold Glove winner, and has had his bat catch up to his glove the last couple of years.

The only problem is that Kelly is not getting younger. Molina’s contract extension through the 2020 season leaves some doubt as to how Kelly will get playing time in St. Louis. Kelly would soon be turning 27 by the time he could get consistent playing time with the Cardinals. This is what makes his future with the ball club murky.

Andrew Knizner is another name to bring some intrigue behind the plate. He is a converted third baseman, much like Kelly, and is still learning the tricks of the trade. He has not had a lot of flubs behind the plate, but his bat is what garners some attention. Knizner has shown that he can put the ball in play with solid contact, while also showing good plate discipline. Pitch selectivity is always good to see in young guys because it is an important skill to have when dealing with nasty pitching in the big leagues.

What Knizner’s success means for the offseason

It sure is a good thing that Knizner is breaking out in the AFL. He currently has a .358/.403/.537 slash line along with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 67 at-bats. That should give the Cardinals more comfort that they may have another option behind the plate after Molina hangs up his cleats.

The Cardinals are exploring trades before any free-agent signings according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The Cardinals have a lot of prospects they could potentially trade away. Knizner’s performance puts him as well as Kelly in the mix of the names that could be traded away this offseason.

Knizner

Knizner or Kelly fitting into a Miami trade could make sense, it is whether or not Stanton allows it to happen (Photo by Getty Images)

The team that the Cardinals have been attached to the most is the Miami Marlins. They are looking to lose most of the salary that is guaranteed to Giancarlo Stanton, so it appears evident that they will try to move him by the end of the offseason. If the Cardinals are looking to make that move with the Marlins, either for Stanton or another outfielder, both Kelly and Knizner could be thrown in there as the Cardinals can afford to give one up.

The Marlins already have a young and successful catcher in J.T. Realmuto. Much of Realmuto’s value comes from his performance at the plate though. He has also spent some time at first base.

If the Marlins are really looking to go into rebuild mode, then their current first baseman could be on the move. Justin Bour had a career year and could get a couple solid prospects in return as he has a team-friendly contract.

Kelly’s defensive prowess and young age could play a part in this trade. As the best catching prospect in baseball, it would be hard for the Marlins to turn that away. It would be contingent on Bour being dealt as well as mentioned earlier.

St. Louis is still in very early talks with Miami. Kelly or Knizner could play a role in how things play out as they are showing to be valuable prospects.

Other possibilities

In case a Stanton trade doesn’t work out for the Cardinals, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich may be on the table as well. Not only that, but the Cardinals have showed interest in Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado. Both the Blue Jays and Orioles are in need of younger catching prospects, so Kelly or Knizner would make sense as pieces in a trade like this.

Even if these big name trades don’t happen, the Cardinals are still shopping around to see where they can improve. The front office knows they need to prove they are serious about contending with the Cubs. They have money and lots of prospects. Knizner only helps their bargaining power and gives them more flexibility for the future.

All in all, the reality to take away from his performance and potential is that Carson Kelly may not play a full season in St. Louis. With Yadier Molina blocking him, it would make sense for the Cardinals to move him somewhere else. Then they could look for Knizner to be the successor to Molina.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Honoring baseball's military veterans

Honoring baseball’s military veterans

Veteran’s Day is upon us once more, so it is only fitting to honor baseball’s military veterans today. From the Civil War, our nation’s greatest struggle, to the rice paddies of Vietnam, there have been dozens of baseball men that have fought alongside the “common Joe”.

Some of the names of the men who’ve served our nation in its greatest time of need you will know, others you will not. The list of names is too exhaustive to name them all, but we tip our caps all the same. Here are five men who’ve served with distinction.

Morgan Bulkeley – Civil War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

First president of the NL and Civil War veteran, Morgan Bulkeley. (Photo courtesy of: National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Morgan Bulkeley never played in a game, but the Hartford-based businessman was the first president of the National League. Bulkeley would only hold the National League’s presidency for one season in 1876. Not wanting to make baseball his life’s work, he walked away from the post.

In 1937, Bulkeley was enshrined in the Hall of Fame with Ban Johnson, the first president of the American League.

Bulkeley has the distinction of being the only Baseball Hall of Fame member to serve during the American Civil War. Even though he came from money, Morgan Bulkeley and his brother Charles both enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. An unusual choice given these were the sons of Aetna Insurance co-founder, Eliphalet Bulkeley.

For those that aren’t up to date on their Civil War history, the unusual nature of the Bulkeley boys’ enlistment lies in money. During the Civil War, a person could buy their way out of the draft and pay for another person to serve in their place. The Bulkeley boys choosing to enlist was the exception to the rule, make no doubts about it. For Morgan Bulkeley’s brother Charles, this decision would seal his fate. He would not survive the war.

For Morgan Bulkeley though, he spent his time under the command of Gen. George McClellan in the 13th New York Regiment. It must have been a shock to go from a life of extravagance, to marching around the dirty, dusty countryside in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is exactly the life Bulkeley lived from the years 1861-1865.

Grover Alexander – WWI

Alexander is a name that rests among the greatest names in the history of pitching. What you might not have known, however, is Alexander also saw live combat in World War I.

Prior to the war, Grover Alexander broke into the big leagues in 1911 with Philadelphia. From that time on, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. He led the NL in wins five times between the years 1911-1917, posting three consecutive 30+ win seasons from 1915-1917. On top of those 30-win seasons, he also posted sub 2.00 ERA in each of those three years as well. He did all of this while war threatened to consume the entire world.

The United States had managed to keep a “veneer” of neutrality for most of WWI, but in the spring of 1917, peacetime was over. The U.S. was now on a war footing with Germany, and with an army that had been drastically reduced in strength over time, needed fresh recruits.

In 1917, and for the first time since the Civil War, the nation’s men were subject to conscription into the armed forces. This is the avenue by which Grover Alexander found his way into the Army.

Three games into the 1918 season, Alexander, at the rank of Sergeant found himself among the killing fields in France. A member of the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion. It was at his post, while under an enemy artillery barrage, that Alexander suffered severe hearing damage from a nearby shell explosion. This explosion also left Alexander with epilepsy.

It was 99 years ago today, that peace was reached between the belligerents of WWI, and by the spring of 1919 Alexander was back at his old post. On the hill, toeing the rubber as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Warren Spahn – WWII

Honoring baseball's military veterans

All of Warren Spahn’s 363 career wins came after he won the Purple Heart in WWII. (Photo courtesy of: Dailydsports.com)

Spahn, a fresh-faced rookie in 1942, got his first taste of big league ball with the Boston Braves. He made two starts over four appearances in 1942, and by December he would be finding himself in Army green.

Spahn was one of the “luckier” baseball players of his generation in that his career was interrupted at the beginning, rather than during his prime years. Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio are just a few players that lost some of their peak years.

It was in December of 1944 that Warren Spahn would find himself fighting for his life during the Battle of the Bulge. This was the last gasp offensive of by the German war machine. Spahn, a combat engineer, was part of the under-equipped troops that were left to face the onslaught.

Spahn did several interviews after the war, in which he would recall the bitter cold and terrible conditions in which they fought. He has also recounted how fierce the fighting was while his unit tried to break free from the German forces that had surrounded them.

When the 1944 German winter offensive was stopped cold, Spahn’s unit was sent to Remagen. It was here, while working on the Ludendorff Bridge in March 1945, Spahn would get hit in the foot with shrapnel. This would be the end of the line for his time at the front.

It earned him a Purple Heart, but it was an incredible twist of good fortune for Spahn. The following day, the entire bridge collapsed into the river below taking over 30 men to their untimely demise. For his actions at Remagen, Spahn earned a battle-field commission of 2nd Lieutenant.

Ted Williams – Korean War

Ted Williams is all legend. This man was the game’s best hitter when he was called away to service during WWII like so many others.

Williams was drafted into service in 1941, but was exempted due to having a dependent mother, but he would later enlist in the Marines in 1942. After completion of his triple-crown season in ’42, Williams was off to training. It was during the years 1943-1945 that Williams would earn his pilot’s wings. The war would end before he would see any active combat.

However, the 1950’s brought with it a new fight. The Korean War.

Of the 1.8 million soldiers that fought in Korea, Ted Williams was one. Immediately Williams was back at flight school learning the controls of the F9F Grumman jet fighter. His involvement in the conflict would consume the majority of his 1952 and 1953 season’s.

In Korea, Williams was the wing man of future space traveler, John Glenn. In Glenn’s estimation, the pair flew together on about half of Williams’ 39 combat flights. Glenn would later recall that Williams was a very active pilot, and an excellent one at that.

Ted Williams was right in the line of fire taking on enemies in the air, and he almost was a goner on a few occasions. On one of those occasions, Williams’ plane was on fire after being badly hit. The landing gear on his smoking wreck was inoperable. The only option left was to attempt a belly landing. In true Ted Williams fashion, he did what he always did. He stayed calm, and he stuck the landing. Williams escaped the cockpit just moments before his mangled plane was engulfed in flames.

Al Bumbry – Vietnam War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

Al Bumbry never lost a man during his time leading troops in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)

Bumbry has the distinction of being one of only 10 major league players to fight in the Vietnam War. He would win the Bronze Star for his actions under fire as a platoon commander.

The most remarkable thing about Bumbry’s time in combat, is that he never lost a man under his command. This takes on even more significance when you realize the amount of responsibility on the young lieutenant’s plate. In an interview with The Washington Times, Bumbry said, “I was a tank platoon leader in Vietnam for a year. It was all very stressful. I had nine vehicles and 45 men in my platoon, and I was responsible for all of our activities.”

Bumbry, like the millions of others like him, returned home a changed man. He also returned a better ballplayer, to which he credits an accelerated maturing process forged in the fires of Vietnam. Though Bumbry floundered in his first 35 minor league games before being called to active duty in the Army, when he finally returned, he went on a tear through the minor leagues.

In 1972, Al Bumbry was called up to the big club in Baltimore where he played in nine games. The following year, 1973, Bumbry would solidify a spot in the Orioles lineup, and win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Following his RoY campaign in 1973, Bumbry would firmly entrench himself as the everyday center fielder in Baltimore. From the years 1973-1985, Al Bumbry would put together a respectable career in MLB. He was a 1980 All-Star, a (.281) lifetime hitter and a key member of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship team.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: fadeawaypodcast.com)

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Washington Nationals 2018

Washington Nationals team profile

After a successful regular season, the Nationals came up short in the postseason once again. The franchise still has not won a postseason series. This year looked to be their year, as their roster had few holes in it especially after bolstering their bullpen. However, Game 5 in the NLDS slipped through their fingers, and now Washington is in a state of perplexity. What can they possibly do at this point that they have not already done?

The managerial carousal

The Washington Nationals fired another manager at the end of 2017. This time, Dusty Baker was the victim despite winning 192 games in two seasons and winning the NL East both years. He is also the third manager to be fired in five years in Washington.

Washington Nationals 2018

Dusty Baker is the latest example of how Washington is insecure at the manager role (Photo from AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What makes the situation interesting is that they have still won their division four times in seven years. Not only that, but two of the three managers (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) have won the NL manager of the year during their tenure in Washington.

Is the management really the problem? It is understandable why the front office points to the skipper role as the issue with their teams. This is apparent in the fact that there are no glaring issues in the roster. The bullpen was by far the weakest aspect of the team at the beginning of the season, but were able to make it an asset through trades.

Replacing the manager will not fix the Nationals’ issues. Dave Martinez has accumulated a lot of experience under the wing of Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. However, he still has a lot to learn as a manager seeing as this is his first gig. What it is really going to come down to is the Nationals being able to execute in the postseason.

Washington found themselves down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Cubs. They were able to win Game 4 in order to force a fifth and final game, and the offense really showed up when it needed to. The only problem was that Matt Wieters fell apart when it mattered most, and his mistakes cost the Nationals three runs in what ended up being a one run game.

The players need to be held more accountable, rather than thinking that the manager is the problem.

Bryce Harper and free agency

2018 marks the final year on superstar Bryce Harper’s contract, and oh boy will teams be coming out for him this time next year. No matter where he signs, expect for him to surpass Giancarlo Stanton for the largest contract in the sports world.

What has Nationals fans worried is that Harper has been rather aloof when it comes to his status in Washington. Harper asked Washington for a $400 million extension, which the team of course was not able to meet.

This is purely speculative, but it seems Harper made a rather high asking price just to see if the Nationals would meet it. It is hard to think that he expected Washington to pay up that kind of dough. It is very tempting for Harper to test free agency, so why not see if you can get that much?

Harper had to be ecstatic when he heard of Stanton’s record contract. That is because most teams would value Harper over Stanton at this point in time, despite the 59 home runs Stanton hit this year. The precedent of Stanton’s contract may just boost Harper’s value through the roof.

One ridiculous move that will never happen is Washington possibly trading Harper this offseason. Harper has never said out loud that he would like to stay in Washington, so his future there looks murky. With the high possibility of him chasing the money in 2018, why not see what you can get for him this offseason? One season of Harper’s services for a contender could be worth some very valuable prospects in the long run, and Washington should have an eye past 2018. This is especially the case since their current formula can’t seem to get them past the NLDS.

What is in store in 2018 for the Nationals?

Don’t expect a whole lot different in 2018. The NL East is going to be controlled by Washington once again. Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Jayson Werth are some notable names leaving, but the core is still in tact. On top of that, Adam Eaton will be returning from his devastating injury he sustained early in the season.

Washington Nationals 2018

Eaton’s return to Washington will have a large impact. (Photo from MLB.com)

The Nationals ought to target an arm or two in order to bolster their bullpen. Other than that and maybe adding an arm like Jaime Garcia to the rotation, they shouldn’t be too active at the winter meetings barring any big news.

Derek Jeter and the Marlins will be taking a step back next season as the front office has expressed a desire to tear things down and build back up. Miami finished second place in the East despite being 20 games back of the Nationals. The Mets may be making moves this offseason in order to get back into their World Series form from a few years ago, but they are still far behind the Nationals.

The main questions is, who will face Washington in the NLDS? Also, will Dave Martinez make the difference that the front office hopes he can make? Either way, all of the 2018 season is already riding on whether or not they will make it past the NLDS.

The ultimate goal is the World Series obviously. However, they first need to win their first playoff series in franchise history.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated

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Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

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Edge

2017 World Series: Who has the edge going forward?

Coming off of a thrilling game two in Los Angeles, the Astros are going to look to carry their momentum through their time in Houston. An offense that was shut down by Kershaw and the Dodgers in game one really turned things around by exploding for four home runs and taking an epic game away from Los Angeles.

Houston’s offense is back

2017 World Series

Altuve and Correa have kept Houston in the thick of things (LA Daily News)

The Astros offense has had cold stretches this postseason. During the ALCS, Houston was only able to score nine runs in the first five games. There was reason to be worried after game one of the World Series as well, when they only had one run on three hits off of Clayton Kershaw.

Houston was somehow able to prove in game two that Kenley Jansen is touchable after slumping for a bit. Jansen was one of the most successful closers in the regular season, only blowing one save and giving up just five home runs. Marwin Gonzalez’s home run off an 0-2 count against Jansen in the ninth may be a point we look back at and say that is when the Astros took over.

Each of the Astros big three (Springer, Altuve and Correa) proved why they should be feared in game two. They are going to look to ride that feeling in Houston in order to get ahead of Los Angeles. The Dodgers pitching may still be a cause for concern though.

The Dodgers pitching is still dominate

2017 World Series

Kershaw may have had his best postseason performance in game one (Photo by Washington Times)

What Houston still has to look forward to is facing Yu Darvish in game three. This is an interesting matchup considering Darvish pitched in the same division as the Astros since 2012. Darvish has had Houston’s number, as a collective they have a .190 batting average against the Dodgers summer acquisition.

The one hitter to keep an eye on is George Springer. Springer is 6-18 against Darvish in his career, and two of those hits have gone for home runs. Other than Springer though, the Astros have looked lack luster against Darvish.

Game three will be a very important game for the Astros especially. Although Alex Wood is currently tabbed as the starter for the Dodgers in game four, there is still a chance that Kershaw could make the start if they lose game two. Although Kershaw could have probably pitched all the way through game one, Dave Roberts made the right call by pulling him after seven innings. Keeping Kershaw’s pitch count low gives the Dodgers the opportunity to use him in game four if need be. That way, if the series goes to seven games Kershaw can start the final game with decent rest.

Who has the edge?

The Astros will be pitching Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton over the weekend. Both only have limited exposure to the Dodgers, but in that limited exposure the Dodgers have had their number. A.J. Hinch may be looking to go to his bullpen early in games three and four in Houston.

The Los Angeles offense has looked on point this whole postseason. Even without their star shortstop in the NLCS, they still managed to put up some crooked numbers against the Cubs. They weren’t able to beat the Astros on Wednesday night, but that was more on the bullpen rather than any inability by the offense.

After George Springer’s thrilling go-ahead home run in Los Angeles in game two, it is hard to bet against the Astors for the rest of this series. It will be a tough fought battle the whole way through. However, the Dodgers bullpen will most likely not unfoil as much as it did. It is October, so anything can happen. It is hard to see them giving up two leads like that again though.

Based on performance this postseason, the Dodgers have the edge on their pitching staff as well as their offense. On paper Houston may have the sexier lineup with Springer, Altuve and Correa. Los Angeles has remained consistent through the postseason though, and with Kershaw most likely getting two more starts in the World Series it will be difficult for Houston to get past them. The series will most likely go back to California, but the Dodgers should be favored to take home the Commissioner’s trophy in the end.

 

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Jose Oquendo

St. Louis has brought back its secret weapon

The Cardinals announced this week that Willie McGee will be joining their coaching staff. The 1985 NL MVP has not had a specific role announced on the staff yet, but it does make for a fine addition to the club. The Cardinals had lots of mistakes on the bases early in the 2017 season, but McGee should be able to help relieve that.

The addition was exciting for Cardinal nation. However, the fans were in for an even bigger treat shortly after. The team announced that they will be bringing back former third base coach Jose Oquendo, and the fans rejoiced.

Oquendo will bring back the old Cardinal Way

Jose Oquendo was a key cog in the Cardinals coaching staff that occupied the dugout for such a long time. Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Oquendo all were at the forefront of the Cardinals’ success for nearly two decades. Since they have all left, St. Louis has struggled to find its identity that fans have become so custom to.

Jose Oquendo

Mike Matheny is going into his seventh season as manager, making him a seasoned vet. (Photo from Viva El Birdos)

Some of the current Cardinals players have suggested that new guys were not embracing the “Cardinal Way”. What this means is they were getting lazy on the field and at times would look like a minor league team.

Oquendo had been working with minor league players in Jupiter, Florida in the Cardinals’ system the past couple of years while he was rehabilitating his knee. His impact was evident by the success of minor league players at the big league level. Names like Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez and Luke Weaver are evidence of success of coaching in the minor leagues. This is because the guys that started in the minors in 2017 were the best players on the Cardinals when they came up.

What this hire does is bring stability back to the Cardinals coaching staff. In the middle of 2017, the front office shuffled the coaching staff to show that they were serious about getting the club back into shape. Oquendo provides that presence back into the clubhouse that will get the attention of everyone.

Not only will the players be impacted by this, but it puts Mike Matheny in an interesting position.

Oquendo wanted the managerial job in 2012

After the Cardinals won a historic World Series in 2011, Tony La Russa made a surprise announcement that he was leaving the skipper role. Not only that, but long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan also announced he would be leaving the club.

Jose Oquendo

Oquendo has experience managing the Puerto Rico national team. (Photo from Zimbio)

These departures left a real gap in leadership that the Cardinals had for a long time. Oquendo was sticking around though. He has been coaching the club since 1999, so he would be the perfect candidate right? Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny was instead given the job. This made many fans wonder if it was the right call to overlook the long-time third base coach.

Now that Matheny has had six full years as manager, we have had a good look of what he is capable of. In his first three years, the Cardinals were able to reach the NLCS twice and the World Series once. Pretty solid for a first time manager.

Since then, the Cardinals have only won a single playoff game. This is cause for concern because this is when there is very little remnants of the old coaching staff of La Russa and Duncan. Since Oquendo left the big league club in 2015, they have not made the postseason.

There may be cause for concern if your name is Mike Matheny. Next season may be a test to see who the Cardinals skipper should really be. St. Louis has not missed the postseason three consecutive years since 1997-1999. Matheny may be on the hot seat if signs show they will not be able to make the playoffs again. Oquendo’s name would also be a strong possibility to take over that role if the dominoes fall that way.

Will the hire lead to wins?

Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have lacked discipline, and it has shown on the field. Silly mistakes and untimely errors have cost them the chance to get back into the postseason. This is evident through the fact they had the second most one-run losses in the regular season.

Oquendo is the perfect guy for getting the young Cardinals talent back into shape and improving on an already talented team. Look for them to seriously contest with the Cubs next year in the central.

 

Featured image by St. Louis Post Dispatch

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Firing Dusty Baker will not solve the Nationals’ woes

Being a Nationals fan has got to be tough. For the fourth time since 2012, Washington has finished the regular season with at least 95 wins. That makes them one of the more successful regular season teams in that span. They have not had a losing season since 2011, so one would think they would have at least won a playoff series by now right? Well, it’s not that simple for Washington apparently.

On Friday the Nationals fired Dusty Baker, making him the third Washington manager to be canned since 2013. What is interesting to note with the two other managers that have been fired (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams), is that each of those managers won the NL Manager of the Year while in Washington. Not only that, but they won the award the year before they each got fired.

Dusty Baker did not win Manager of the Year while in Washington, but that does not mean he should be used as a scapegoat for the Nationals’ failures.

Ownership is addressing the wrong issues

Nationals

Baker is the third Nationals manager to be axed in five years (SI.com)

The only real issue with the managerial position in Washington is its lack of stability. After Dusty Baker was brought in after the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was ecstatic.

After two years, the front office doesn’t seem to think that this All-Star staff is cutting it. Which begs the question: What will? What manager is out there that will be able to change to the culture and play of Washington so much that it will help them win game 5 of the NLDS?

This is what it really comes down to. In 2012, 2016 and 2017, the Nationals got to game 5 of the NLDS. Only one win away on three occasions were the Nationals from winning their first playoff series in franchise history. They obviously have not been able to get it done though.

Washington has built one of the most solid rosters in all of baseball. It is difficult to point out a whole lot of issues at any position. Especially after management traded for some reliable relief pitchers during the summer. That is what makes it difficult for them to blame the players for the inability to follow through in the postseason.

Since 2012, the Nationals are second in the majors in regular season wins. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the one team ahead of them, and it is only by four wins. Thus, it is reasonable to say the Nationals have put together a solid team of players that know how to win. When it comes down to clutch time, the inability to move on in the postseason falls squarely on the shoulders of the players.

Dusty Baker managed under a microscope

By saying the Nationals played under a microscope, what is really meant is that Dusty Baker managed under a microscope. What he had to be thinking in the back of his head during every move in the postseason is whether or not the move would get him fired.

Ownership never necessarily were fans of Baker. Washington originally wanted Bud Black, but when that fell through they hired Dusty Baker. With him getting the Nationals to the postseason twice in two years, it is hard to believe this firing has much to do with performance. Baker probably thought his job was on the line from the moment he started.

Having managers worrying about their jobs at all times is not the way to run an organization. It can lead to impulsive decisions and make a manager do what they think ownership wants them to do.

The Nationals knew this was the year they needed to really prove themselves. They have one of the most well put together teams in baseball, and showed they were during the regular season. A 97-65 record and finishing 20 games in front of the second place in your division is nothing to be taken for granted.

Inability to come through in the clutch

Nationals

The Nationals watched another team advance to the NLCS on their home field (SB Nation)

Teams get defined by their postseason performance. In 2012, the Nationals were favored to beat the Cardinals in the NLDS. The series was pushed to five games where the Nationals had the home field. The Nationals had a 7-5 lead, and Drew Storen blew it in the ninth by giving up four runs and losing the game.

In 2016 the Nationals were pushed to another game 5 where they had home field advantage. Washington had a one-run advantage going into the seventh against the Dodgers, where they then exploded for four runs and eventually won the game 4-3. In that seventh inning, there were five pitchers and none of them faced more than two batters.

This year, the Nationals were down 2-1 to the Cubs. They fought back in order to force (wait for it) another game 5 in Washington. It was another hard-fought game, but the Nationals’ mental errors cost them.

Where the Nationals really got hurt was the defensively play of their catcher, Matt Wieters, who had two errors and a passed ball. He ultimately cost the Nationals three runs in a game where they scored eight.

The players themselves need to be held more accountable for their inability to come through when it matters.

What the Nationals can do

Nationals

2018 will most likely be Harper’s final year in Washington (Sports Illustrated)

It is too late now, but what the Nationals need is stability at the managerial position. The constant coaching carousel in Washington makes it difficult for players to truly get behind their leader.

However, it seems unlikely for that to happen when their next manager (who is yet to be decided on) will probably be on their way out the door before the 2021 season.

Here is a bold statement: The Nationals should trade Bryce Harper. Now, that would never happen in a million years. However, what the front office should think about is what is going to happen this year.

Washington will probably not get the experienced manager they are looking for. If the past is any indication, they will reach the postseason again where they will lose it in the NLDS.

Bryce Harper is in a walk year, and is anticipating a massive haul for his services. Ten years, $400 million is not out of the question for Harper who will be 26 when he hits the market, and has already cemented himself as one of the best hitters in the league.

The Nationals won’t be able to give him that payload, and it doesn’t seem Harper is thrilled about staying in Washington. If the Nationals were to trade one year of Bryce Harper to another contending team, they could get players who could help out immediately as well as good prospects. Now, the chances of succeeding this one year with Harper are slimmer, but it would be much better for their future.

Harper is going to have his fourth manager since he joined the league in 2012. That has to be frustrating for any player. One would think that doesn’t bode well for his opinion on ownership. Especially considering they can’t manage to keep solid leadership in the clubhouse. It also gives off the impression that they don’t necessarily know what they are doing. Either way, Washington has a lot to think about this offseason.

 

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Kershaw

Will Kershaw prove himself in the NLCS?

Playoff success has eluded Kershaw who is now in his seventh career postseason. Don’t be mistaken, he has not been unreliable by any stretch of the imagination. However, he has shown that he can be prone to blow up in playoff games. In 16 career playoff starts he has given up four or more runs on six occasions. In the 2017 season, Kershaw only allowed four or more runs in 27 starts.

It will be unpredictable

Kershaw

Despite Kershaw’s solid record in regular season play, he struggles to be reliable in October (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

One way to see how a pitcher may fair in certain match ups is what their history against the opposing team looks like. Kershaw faced the Chicago Cubs in last year’s postseason in two separate starts. Each start garnered two very results.

In game two of the 2016 NLCS Kershaw had the Cubs’ number. He managed to cash in seven innings shut out innings while only holding the Cubs to two hits. One would think he would be able to save the Dodgers season when they were on the hook in game 6 of the series, right?

Wrong.

Clayton Kershaw had four earned runs in five innings pitched, which included two home runs. Usually when dealing with a guy like Kershaw, you can tell when he has a hitter’s number. He is the most dominant pitcher of the past decade and does not look like he is slowing down in his regular season play. The playoffs look to be a whole other story though. If the Cubs push through to the NLCS, they may have a pretty good shot at getting to him. Their recent history against the Dodgers’ ace is much stronger than the Nationals.

Washington has struggled against the lefty during the regular season the past couple of years. In two regular season starts in the past two seasons, Kershaw has held the Nationals to just two runs in 14 innings pitched. This makes it seems like it would be a breeze if they met in the playoffs. However, the Nationals tattooed Kershaw for eight runs in 11.2 innings last postseason.

The Dodgers need him

Los Angeles has been to the NLCS four times since 2008. As you probably know, they haven’t won a single one of those series. Much of that may be because of their ace not showing up when it is needed most. Kershaw has made five NLCS starts in his career, and the Dodgers have only won a single game out of those five.

The Dodgers prided themselves on their pitching this season. It was the best pitching staff in the majors by far, especially after they picked up Yu Darvish. The Kershaw, Darvish, Hill, Wood combo is going to cause fits for any team they face in the postseason. This year may be different for that reason. Los Angeles isn’t nearly as reliant on Kershaw as they have been in the past because of the depth of their rotation in bullpen.

The commonality between all of the NLCS appearances they have lost though are Kershaw’s poor performances. Now is the time for the lefty to prove himself in the postseason.

Kershaw needs it for his legacy

Kershaw

Every great athlete is heavily judged by their postseason performance (Photo by Washington Times)

Clayton Kershaw is already a lock for Cooperstown. Some writers say that even if Kershaw were to retire at the end of this season, he would still get into the Hall of Fame despite only being 29 years old.

What Kershaw doesn’t want to happen is get the Dan Marino reputation. Marino is known as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. However, he is also remembered as one of the greatest to never win a championship. Kershaw has yet to even make it to the World Series. With the team he has around him, the time is now for him to prove himself and propel his team to a championship.

The Dodgers currently have a solid setup. Their team is getting some extra rest as they swept the Diamondbacks out of the postseason while the Cubs and Nationals have battled it out to a fifth game. If the NLCS happens to go to seven games, there is a good chance that Kershaw will get the nod in a decisive seventh game depending on his performance.

Kershaw is already in the mix for one of the greatest pitchers ever. In order to keep him in that top echelon of pitchers, he will need to pitch when it matters most. If he is able to put together the starts we all know he is capable of, the Dodgers will feel good about their chances of ending their 30 year championship drought.

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