MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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College Football National Championship Preview

Monday January 11, 2015

#1 Clemson (14-0) vs. #2 Alabama (13-1), 8:30 P.M.

Finally college football fans get to see a National Championship Game that they have most likely wanted to see from week eight on. For years people wanted to see Oregon’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense, but this match-up  will be just as good as that hypothetical one.

Clemson has an undefeated season so far, but obviously plays their toughest opponent in this game. The Tigers have avoided choking in big games this season, something they have been notorious for in previous seasons.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been using his legs and arm to lead the undefeated Tigers.

The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, Deshaun Watson, who used his dual threat abilities to make Clemson’s offense dynamic. He is definitely motivated by the fact that Alabama running back Derrick Henry beat him out for the Heisman Trophy. He has passed for 3,699 yards and also rushed for 1,032 yards. He has struggled to complete passes against good defenses,  like Notre Dame and Oklahoma, completing around 50% of his passes against them, but uses his legs to beat these teams. He runs the offense that Alabama has trouble stopping, but he needs to have a better completion percentage to do more damage.

Courtesy of TigerNet.com

Courtesy of TigeNet.com

Running back Wayne Gallman has had the greatest season of any Clemson running back ever, rushing for 1,482 yards. That is currently the tenth best season of any running back in the ACC since 1956. He is only a sophomore so he has a chance to be one of the all-time great running backs in the ACC. He is a very hard runner, who uses the spread offense to find gaps at the line of scrimmage thanks to a good offensive line. He is hard to tackle at the line of scrimmage and averages 5.5 yards per carry.

Wide receiver Artavis Scott is one of the remaining viable targets for Watson after injuries and suspensions. Courtesy of sportstalksc.com

The wide receiving corps has lost two receivers for this game. Mike Williams was lost for the season on the opening drive of the season with a neck injury. The second-leading receiver on the team, Deon Cain, was suspended from the Orange Bowl and the National Championship Game for a failed drug test. That leaves one productive receiver, Artavis Scott, who has 868 receiving yards on the season. He is very effective on catching screen passes and getting yards after the catch by eluding defenders. On top of that the Tigers don’t throw to their tight end, Jordan Leggett, who has just 447 receiving yards on the season.

Defensive end Shaq Lawson has been the greatest surprise for Clemson this season. Courtesy of thecrimsoninsider.com

Defensive end Shaq Lawson has been the greatest surprise for Clemson this season. Courtesy of thecrimsoninsider.com

Defensively it starts and stops with Clemson’s defensive line. Defensive end Shaq Lawson expects to play in this game, after getting injured in the Orange Bowl. His 10.5 sacks on the season lead the Tigers and went way above what was expected of him. He is versatile enough to play anywhere on the defensive line and has first round draft pick potential. He leads the pass rush, which makes their secondary look so good.

Linebacker Ben Boulware has had a knack for stepping up in big games. Courtesy of campusrush.com

Linebacker Ben Boulware has had a knack for stepping up in big games. Courtesy of campusrush.com

The linebackers on this team don’t get much praise, but they are very talented. The best linebacker is Ben Boulware, who had a sack and an interception in the Orange Bowl. He seems to step up in the biggest games and will need to play well in this game for the Tigers to win.

Jayron Kearse has been a key to helping in run support from the safety position. Courtesy of chatsports.com

Jayron Kearse has been a key to helping in run support from the safety position. Courtesy of chatsports.com

The Clemson secondary also gets a lot of attention for good reason. Corner back Makensie Alexander does not have an interception on the season, but has been a great shut down corner all season. Safety Jayron Kearse has also developed into a good pro prospect. He plays like Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks and has a similar build. He is six feet five inches tall and is great at helping with run support. He has limited range and can be a liability in pass coverage, but gets away with it because of the talented corners.

The Crimson Tide lost to Ole Miss early in the season, but have won every game since, blowing out a lot of teams. By making the National Championship Game, Alabama is seeking to win their fourth championship in seven years.

Jake Coker has improved all season long and has to play well for the Crimson Tide in the Championship Game. Courtesy of alabama.247sports.com

Jake Coker has improved all season long and has to play well for the Crimson Tide in the Championship Game. Courtesy of alabama.247sports.com

Alabama has a quarterback, Jake Coker, that has struggled all year, but stepped up big in the Cotton Bowl. He completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his past four games. He doesn’t have to be great, but he has to protect the football for the Crimson Tide to win.

Derrick Henry won the Heisman by running well against good defenses. Courtesy of CBSsports.com

Derrick Henry won the Heisman by running well against good defenses. Courtesy of CBSsports.com

At running back Derrick Henry has had the best season in SEC history by rushing for 2,061 yards. He is a big physical runner that thrives on the big holes that the Alabama offensive line provides for him. His success has been the reason why the Crimson Tide’s offense has been effective, because of Coker’s struggles.

Courtesy of foxsports.com

Courtesy of foxsports.com

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is just a freshman, but had 1,031 receiving yards. In the Cotton Bowl Ridley had 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He is Alabama’s only big threat, but receiver ArDarius Stewart and tight end O.J. Howard are also threats to the Clemson Secondary.

A’Shawn Robinson has been productive for Alabama for years and is now an intriguing draft prospect.

The defensive line of Alabama is good and has a lot of depth. They are the key to holding opponents to 74 rushing yards per game, which is the best in the country. Defensive End A’shawn Robinson has great gap integrity, which has helped the whole team be able to stop the run. Jonathan Allen, who doesn’t play every down leads the team with twelve sacks to help Alabama lead the country with 50 sacks.

Reggie Ragland is the leader of the Alabama defense, which is one of the best in recent memory. Courtesy of bamahammer.com

Reggie Ragland is the leader of the Alabama defense, which is one of the best in recent memory. Courtesy of bamahammer.com

Alabama’s linebackers are very talented, but there is one that stands above the rest. Reggie Ragland is a great inside linebacker, who will be drafted early in the 2016 NFL draft. To go along with him the other linebackers have all stepped up at different points of the season, which causes problems for Clemson.

Cyrus Jones and Eddie Jackson have both been play-makers for the great Alabama secondary.

Defensive backs are players that Nick Saban has specialized in developing at Alabama. Eddie Jackson was having trouble at corner back last season and his move to safety has made him a better player. He is paired with Geno Matias-Smith, who has a lot of experience making plays at safety over his career. At the corners, Alabama has a very athletic play-maker in Cyrus Jones and a freshman who is still growing in Marlon Humphrey. One of their most surprising defensive players is the person that plays the “star” position in the secondary, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is a ball hawk who had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Texas A&M.

My pick: Alabama. The Crimson Tide have their best defense, and the best defense in the country, since their 2011 season, in which they won the National Championship. Watson is the type of quarterback that Alabama’s defense has had trouble with, but their defense is going to go down as one of the all time great defenses. With Watson not completing a lot of passes it will be hard to put up a lot of points, especially with their run defense being so stout. Henry has been running well against good defenses all season long for Alabama and all Coker has to do is protect the football, which he proved he could do in the past four games.

Final Score: Alabama 31 Clemson 22