As Stark mentions, moving Lee is entirely dependent upon his health.
The left-hander was limited to just 13 starts last season with a flexor pronator strain in his pitching elbow. It marked the first time in his entire career that he’d been placed on the disabled list.
Despite the injury cutting his season short, he was able to avoid surgery. Instead he received platelet-rich plasma injections which – seemingly – got the job done.
Lee is reportedly healthy, throwing off a mound, and – barring any unforeseen setbacks during spring training – should be ready for Opening Day.
While health is paramount to moving the southpaw, money will also be a key factor.
Lee is owed $25 million in 2015 and has a $27.5 million option – or a not insignificant $12.5 million buyout – for 2016, so moving him will also require the Phillies to eat some cash.
Luckily, unlike some of the Phillies other, um, “less-desirable” trade chips, Lee still offers incredible value on the field.
Despite pitching injured last season, Lee still managed a 3.65 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 102 ERA+, and 8.0 K/9 in 81.1 innings; and he has been one of baseball’s best pitchers since breaking out to win the American League Cy Young award in 2008 with Cleveland.
Between 2008 and 2013, he put up an aggregate 2.89 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 140 ERA+, and a 1.08 WHIP; all while averaging 200 strikeouts and 222 innings pitched per season.
He split those six seasons between Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Texas – dominating at every stop.
It is worth noting that Lee can block a trade to 21 teams as part of his partial no-trade clause, but he cannot block a deal to the Braves, Marlins, Indians, Astros, Twins, Mets, Padres, Nationals and Rays.
The only team on that list that could be a wild card for Lee’s services is San Diego.
Depending on which rumor of the day you read, they’re reportedly in pursuit of Hamels or free agent James Shields, but if they’re unable to land either of those two, Lee could make for a very interesting fallback option.
It’s also not hard to imagine Lee waiving his no-trade clause to pitch for a contender and there are plenty of teams that could use an ace of Lee’s caliber to put them over the top for a World Series run.
Admittedly, there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before we get too excited about Lee’s potential landing spots.
He needs to prove he’s healthy – no small task at 36-years-old and coming off an injury to a heavily-worked elbow – and the Phillies need to prove willing to eat a sizable chunk of his salary.
Needless to say it could be a very interesting spring training for Lee and the Phillies.
Martinez, 36, will go under the knife on Tuesday with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews performing the surgery.
There is no immediate timetable for his return as the club won’t know the severity of the injury until after the procedure.
If it’s a simple clean-up, wherein the cartilage can be trimmed, the recovery time is typically 4-6 weeks. Not an insignificant amount of time by any means, but also not enough to cause Detroit to panic.
If it the cartilage has to be repaired, however, the recovery time increases exponentially and generally falls in the 12-16 weeks range. That type of delay could keep Martinez out of the lineup until June. If that’s the case, the Detroit front office may scramble to find some additional offense before Opening Day.
Martinez is no stranger to major knee injuries. The switch-hitting designated hitter also tore his left ACL prior to the 2012 campaign and missed the entire year. He’d also undergone a microfracture procedure on the same knee earlier that year. Needless to say, his left knee has been through a lot.
Last season, Martinez hit .335/.409/.565 with 188 hits, 32 home runs, and 28 intentional walks – all career highs. He also contributed 103 runs batted in, 33 doubles, and 87 runs scored.
Martinez was so locked in last season that he became just the third player in American League history to hit 30 homers while striking out fewer than 50 times in a season. Joining Martinez in that illustrious trio are Ted Williams (1957) and Joe DiMaggio (1950).
The strong season earned Martinez runner-up in the American League MVP voting behind Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.
The Tigers re-signed Martinez to a four-year, $68 million deal earlier this offseason with hopes that he would continue to produce at a high-level, despite his age and the wear and tear from years behind the plate as a catcher.
We obviously won’t know anything conclusive until after the surgery, but this injury coupled with Detroit’s loss of Torii Hunter and Max Scherzer suddenly makes the AL Central look wide-open as we head toward spring training.
Despite being the number three free agent starter available, the market for Shields has been incredibly slow to develop this offseason. When fellow free agent studs Jon Lester and Max Scherzer signed for big-time money, it was believed Shields would cash-in himself.
In fact, it was just a month ago that he was rumored to have a five-year, $110 million deal in hand, obviously that pact never materialized or I wouldn’t be writing about Shields’ pursuit of a contract two weeks before pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
It’s understandable that teams would be cautious about giving big money to the right-hander. Shields is 33-years-old and has a lot of miles on his right arm.
He’s thrown 200+ innings eight seasons in a row, including 227 innings or more in each of the last four years. That’s good enough for more than 1,900 total innings in his career.
While it could be argued that he’s simply shown incredible durability, he’s also seen his K/9 rate decrease in each of the past two seasons and his H/9 increase over the last four years. He’s shown improved command to make up for his diminishing ability to overpower hitters, but there are warning signs of a major regression in production and teams rarely want to pay top dollar or commit to multiple years in those situations.
If Shields and his agents are willing to re-adjust their expectations and settle for fewer years and dollars, it’s safe to assume that a number of teams could jump back into the mix for his services.
With that thought in mind, we’ve ranked the top seven destinations for Shields – assuming a contract in the four-year, $80 million range is what he’ll land – and three potential dark horse candidates to swoop in for Shields.
San Diego Padres
It’s been a very busy offseason for general manager A.J. Preller and he’s been rumored to be in the mix for a front-of-the-rotation starter for much of the winter. Shields would fit the bill and would seemingly thrive moving to the National League and pitching half of his games at Petco Park.
The Padres have reportedly been in talks with the Phillies about trading for Cole Hamels throughout much of the offseason. If Shields – who makes his home in San Diego – could be signed for something similar to or even below what Hamels has left on his deal, it’d be hard to imagine San Diego would balk at the opportunity.
The Diamondbacks were rumored to have “in the mix” for Shields earlier this offseason before reportedly backing off when it seemed as though his price was sky-rocketing. In reality, it’s done just the opposite and Shields still makes a lot of sense for a club that’s desperately in need of an ace – sorry Josh Collmenter, you don’t count – to lead the club and gobble up innings.
The club has a protected first-round pick and will gain significant financial flexibility with the contracts of Trevor Cahill, Bronson Arroyo, and Aaron Hill all coming off the books in the next two seasons. If his price has dropped, he’s a perfect fit for Arizona.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox retooled their rotation in a big way this offseason adding Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello to build a groundball heavy staff that may or may not workout as planned. The two incumbents to the rotation: Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly are solid enough arms on paper, but it’s not a stretch to say that the rotation lacks a bona fide ace.
Shields might not be an ace in most clubhouses, but in Boston, he’d be the reliable, innings-eater that the club could use. He’d also be the only real power pitcher on the roster. The Red Sox spent a ton of money to upgrade the offense, adding a big arm – at a discount – could be a huge win for Boston.
The Brewers have money to spend and are in need of an ace after trading away Yovani Gallardo in January. Trade talks to acquire Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon and his bulky salary appear to have cooled, so there is still plenty of room in Milwaukee for Shields. He would join veterans Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse at the front of the rotation. His addition would, however, push one of Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, or Jimmy Nelson to the bullpen.
The Brewers are notorious for making big splashes late in the winter – they did the same with both Lohse and Garza in each of the past two winters – and the presence of Shields in the rotation could help Milwaukee contend for a pennant in the highly-competitive National League Central.
The Cubs have been busy this offseason and appear primed to become contenders in the near future. The rotation behind recent signee Jon Lester is good, but not great. The addition of Shields would give the club arguably the top one-two punch of any rotation in National League Central.
Shields to Chicago might be a long shot with a slew of much younger free agent starters slated to hit the market next winter, but if the Cubs are serious about turning themselves into legitimate contenders this season, adding Shields to the rotation would go a long way toward making that happen.
The Marlins showed interest in Shields last month and would rank higher if Dan Haren’s “will he or won’t he” saga had ended with him hanging up the spikes. Instead, Haren will show up at spring training and the Marlins have a lot of money tied up in their roster as currently comprised.
Shields would give the Marlins a cushion until Jose Fernandez recovers from Tommy John surgery and he’d be around as a stabilizing presence in the rotation if/when Haren and Mat Latos leave via free agency at the end of the season, but similar to the Cubs above, it might be better for the club to wait and buy into next year’s younger crop of free agent starters instead.
Chicago White Sox
Much like their crosstown counterparts, the White Sox have been very active this offseason adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Jesse Crain, and Emilio Bonifacio. Despite those additions, the club is still far from a lock for a postseason berth this season. The addition of Shields would help their cause in a major way.
Samardzija is a free-agent after the 2015 campaign and signing him to an extension figures to be the club’s primary concern, but luring him into a long-term deal could be much easier if Chris Sale and James Shields are already anchoring the top of the rotation for the foreseeable future.
New York Yankees
The Yankees went on record numerous times this offseason saying that they were not interested in Shields (or any other high-profile free agent for that matter). That was before Shields was still a free agent in February. It’s hard to imagine the Bronx Bombers passing up a chance to land the very familiar right-hander at a significant discount.
Shields has had plenty of success in the American League East in the past and his durability would do wonders for a club that’s got a slew of injury risk tied up in the rotation’s front three of CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda. They’re a long-shot, but they’ve got deep enough pockets to never be out of the conversation.
When the offseason started, it appeared as though he was tearing apart his roster for a rebuild. It didn’t take long for it to become abundantly clear that he was just moving pieces to keep the club in contention, provide some financial flexibility, and reload a minor league system that was weakened with some “going for it all” trades over the summer.
Money is always the issue with Oakland, but with both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin still working their way back from Tommy John surgery and Scott Kazmir due to hit free agency after the season, it might be worth opening the checkbook for a legitimate innings-eating machine to stabilize the rotation.
St. Louis Cardinals
On the surface, the club seems set with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez. That having been said; Wainwright is still working his way back from injury, Wacha was hurt much of last season, and Lackey was mediocre in his St. Louis debut late last summer. Should Wainwright or any of the others falter, the club would turn to oft-injured right-hander Jaime Garcia or young lefty Marco Gonzales.
While Shields isn’t an obvious fit, he would improve and stabilize the rotation in a big way. The club likely won’t spend the money, but if there are any lingering injury concerns about the rotation as it stands, Shields – at a discount and reduced years – seems like a good fit.
So there you have it, our top seven destinations for Shields and three potential dark horse candidates.
Do you think we were close? Did we miss wildly? Do you think he’s headed somewhere else?
Josh Hamilton’s tenure in Los Angeles hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that came with the five-year, $125 million contract that he signed before the 2013 season.
Now it looks as though he’s run into yet another speedbump.
Angels’ beat writer, Alden Gonzalez is reporting that Hamilton will undergo surgery to repair the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder. The timetable for his return is roughly six-to-eight weeks.
Hamilton, 33, originally hurt his shoulder late last season and missed the bulk of September before returning to the field looking like a shell of his former MVP-self in the postseason.
The surgery and recovery time make Hamilton unlikely to be ready for Opening Day.
Since joining the Angels, Hamilton has hit .255/.316/.426 with 31 home runs, 123 RBI, and 116 runs scored.
As a point of reference, in his final year with Texas he hit .285/.354/.577 with 43 home runs, 128 RBI, and 103 runs scored in roughly 350 fewer at-bats than he’s had in his two years in Los Angeles.
It’s been a far cry from the .313/.370/.583 line and 33 home runs, 107 RBI, and 93 runs scored that he averaged during his final three years with the Texas Rangers.
Throughout his entire five-year stint in Texas, Hamilton was one of the best hitters in the game. He was a five-time All-Star, a three-time Silver Slugger, a won the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player award.
He’s yet to match any of those accomplishments in Los Angeles and this setback won’t do him any favors as he looks to get his career back on track in 2015.
Matt Joyce – acquired via off-season trade – figures to benefit the most from Hamilton’s early absence. Joyce has been roughly as good as Hamilton over the last two years and is three years younger, so it’s not impossible to imagine him pushing Hamilton for playing time after his shoulder has healed.
If that happens, it’s safe to assume it won’t do anything to quiet the rumors that Hamilton will be moved before the end of his contract with Los Angeles.
Hamilton’s story should be an interesting one to follow this season.
The star prospect is now free to sign with any Major League Baseball team and make lots and lots of cash in the process.
Until very recently, the process was taking months of back-and-forth between the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Major League Baseball as the process for allowing Cuban players to sign with MLB teams has long been convoluted and time-consuming.
Recent changes in the government’s policy regarding Cuba, however, prompted MLB to overhaul the process and allow for Cuban players to sign with major league teams much more quickly and with fewer hassles.
The new process requires Cuban players to present a sworn affidavit to Major League Baseball proving that they are residents of another country, have no intention of returning to Cuba, and are not Cuban government officials.
Once that has been done, the player is free to sign with major league teams immediately.
The new process means that – in addition to Moncada – fellow Cuban infielders, Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez should be on the fast-track to free agency as well.
Moncada, 19, however, is the cream of the crop and is widely-regarded as the top international prospect available.
The infielder is a switch-hitter who possesses excellent bat speed and raw power that is still developing. It could develop quickly as he continues to fill-out, he was listed at 6 feet and 210 pounds while playing in Cuba.
In addition to his promising bat, he’s got top-notch wheels and offers defensive versatility. The youngster has experience at shortstop, second base, third base, and – sporadically – in center field.
Due to his size and the demands at shortstop, it’s believed he’ll ultimately wind up at second base – his primary position for Cienfuegos during his stint in Serie Nacional – or at third base when he reaches the big leagues.
There is some speculation that a club could try to maximize his speed and arm strength by utilizing him in the outfield, but given his incredible upside as an infielder, it’s unlikely a club would sign Moncada and not give him a chance to win an infield job before moving him to the outfield.
Moncada held a showcase for a number of teams in November and has held private work outs with a number of clubs including the Rays, Dodgers, Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres.
It’s also believed the Cubs are very interested, but wouldn’t be able to sign him until after June 15, due to international signing restrictions from spending big in previous years.
Despite rampant interest, it’s likely that only the clubs with the deepest pockets have a chance at landing Moncada as he is pegged to sign for $30-40 million.
If that seems like a lot of money, it’s worth noting that this figure doesn’t include the penalty the team will pay for exceeding their bonus pool amounts. Moncada is subject to the international bonus pools as he’s considered an amateur.
The penalty for exceeding those allotted pools figures to result in a 100% tax on every dollar spent, making the final cost to the winner something closer to the $60-80 million range.
In addition to the monetary cost, whichever club signs Moncada will also lose the ability to sign any pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. This is the same restriction currently placed on the Cubs.
The Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox are heavily-speculated to be the front-runners, but Moncada is considered a big enough talent for plenty of dark horses to sneak into the mix and spend big.
Steven: Chick-fil-A’s “Eat More Chikin” cow will score a fat man touchdown.
Jesse: Justin Verlander publicly breaks up with Kate Upton after the airing of her “God of War” Super Bowl commercial.
Graves: Taylor Swift makes a full heel turn by attacking Katy Perry backstage with a folding chair. She then proceeds to perform the half-time show herself, while Perry is rushed to the hospital for medical attention. The world gets a drastically-improved half-time show as a result and Katy Perry learns a very valuable life lesson about crossing Tay-Tay. Don’t do it. Ever.
Justin: Late in the 4th Quarter Beast Mode finds his inner Bo Jackson and does this to win the game…
Ryan: Vince Wilfork scores a rushing touchdown as Walter Peyton cries in the afterlife.
Now it’s your turn.
Head to the comments section and leave your Super Bowl predictions, especially your outlandish predictions.
If anyone manages to correctly predict the winner, score, and MVP – (tiny disclaimer: all submissions must be posted by 6:00pm Eastern) – they will win a prize from the Cheap Seat Chronicles team!
Bust out your crystal ball, call your local fortune teller, flip a coin…do what you gotta do, just get to predicting!
Congratulations on becoming the top-ranked player in Minor League Baseball! I’m sure this is a very exciting time for you as you try to prove to your Major League affiliate that you are the perfect for for their long-term plans!
Pushing Chicago back into the playoffs – and potentially the World Series – would surely land a Rookie of the Year award on your mantle. We know this is obviously a part of your larger goals and we hope you obtain all the success in the world, but we have a warning for you, Mr. #1 Prospect in Baseball:
Watch. Your. Back.
This warning does not come lightly or without just cause.
You see, Mr. Bryant. There is some type of karma that has it out for the guy who is handed the title of the best prospect in baseball. Something doesn’t want to see them succeed; and whatever it is that is bringing the hammer down on these prospects, frankly, scares the hell out of me.
…and then the injuries came. And they didn’t stop.
Throughout the entirety of 2014 Buxton just couldn’t seem to stay healthy. As a result, he naturally produced less-than-stellar numbers, and certainly nowhere near “best prospect in baseball” territory. On the whole he put up a triple slash of .234/.307/.395 in only 30 games of High-A ball, and one partial game at Double-A.
It started out with a spring training wrist injury that cost him three months. After finally returning to the field he was eventually promoted to Double-A, where in his first game there he collided with teammate Mike Kvasnicka, making the hearts of each and every Twins fan skip a beat while watching him get carted off the field in an ambulance. Check out the nasty collision below:
Despite this initial shock and panic, this collision only resulted in a concussion, albeit one that ended Buxton’s already disappointing season in August.
Buxton was eventually cleared to participate in the Arizona Fall League in the hopes of recouping some of the lost playing time, but instead of re-establishing himself, he dislocated the middle finger on his left hand while diving for a ball in the outfield.
Needless to say, Buxton’s stock has fallen quite a bit and rather than hype and big expectations; Buxton, and Twins fans alike, are simply hoping for a healthy year in 2015.
If the proof of the baseball Gods striking down Byron Buxton isn’t enough, Mr. Bryant, then look no further than Buxton’s predecessor as the number one prospect in baseball, Jurickson Profar.
Profar finally got his chance to prove what he could do in an extended look with the Rangers when second baseman Ian Kinsler was put on the disabled list on May 19, with a strained rib muscle. Without a full-time position to play after Kinsler returned, Profar was moved all over the diamond over the final part of the 2013 season. At 20-years-old, he showed flashes of promise during an otherwise unsuccessful campaign, hitting .234/.308/.336.
Despite not tearing the cover off the ball in his brief big league stint, he’d shown enough for the Rangers organization to deal Kinsler, to the Detroit Tigers for slugging first baseman, Prince Fielder. Profar was slated to be the Rangers everyday second baseman coming into the 2014 season.
Bryce Harper always had talent, aggression, charisma, and a certain flair for the game. All of that was on full-display during his season with CSN and it only further elevated his already soaring draft stock. He was drafted by the Nationals first overall in 2010, and showed so much promise after his first year of professional baseball that he became the number one prospect in 2011. He was bestowed with that title again in 2012.
Harper was called up to the Nationals in April of 2012 at a mere 19-years-and-195-days-old. He served as a spark-plug and helped propel the team to 98 wins and their first division title since the franchise moved to Washington. Although the Nationals were eliminated in the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Harper ultimately went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year, proving just how right everybody was about him.
As you can see, Harper sustained great success during his rookie season, and looked on pace to be one of best the game has ever seen.
…and then the injuries came. And they didn’t stop.
As a result, Harper was sapped of his power and was forced to tone down his aggressive, all-out playing style.
The injury that started it all was when Harper took on a wall – twice in a one month period – and the wall won both times. The wall shot that did the most damage was in May of 2013. Harper was tracking a deep fly ball hit by the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis. He lost track of where he was on the field and crashed into the wall at full-speed. He suffered a jammed left shoulder and a cut under his chin that required eleven stitches.
This same collision with said wall was also blamed for knee issues that Harper fought on-and-off throughout the rest of the season, curtailing his power in the second half of the season. The knee eventually required Bursa Sac surgery in October of the same year.
It was expected that 2014 would finally provide Harper a clean, injury-free slate to continue his building the early stages of his “legacy.” Unfortunately, it was more of the same and 2014 wasn’t any kinder to the young outfielder.
Harper was benched in late April by new manager, Matt Williams for a perceived “lack of hustle,” despite nursing a tight quad. Less than ten days later, he suffered a left thumb injury sliding into third base in an attempt to leg out a bases clearing triple. An MRI later revealed that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament that would require surgery on the thumb. Harper finally returned to have a rough month of July before righting the ship and hitting .279 with seven home runs in August.
Clearly, there is room for redemption and happy endings, but recent history has not been kind to top prospects.
Kris, if I were you, I would stay away from mirrors, ladders, and I would never, EVER, step on the foul line. It doesn’t help that you already play for the “cursed” Cubs franchise.
You have been the epitome of an amazing MiLB player, and I want to see these skills translate into the Major Leagues. Your 2014 Minor League season was one for the ages; hitting 43 dingers is not easy at any level, and I hope you will have a long, successful, and injury-free MLB career. It is time to break the injury streak and provide the Cubs organization a homegrown super star that they desperately need on their road to becoming relevant again.
This will be used as a trial and – if it goes well – could be brought to Major League Baseball in an effort to speed up the game.
In 2014, the average length of a MLB game was 3 hours and 8 minutes, up from 2 hours and 51 minutes in 2004.
It seems three hours is the threshold length of tolerance for a sporting event. Anything longer is too slow-paced for fans and their dwindling attention spans.
Ideally, MLB could do some damage control to those that think their game is “boring” by making the games faster. I would think the actual plan would aim to get games to be in the 2 hour and 45 minute to 3 hour range.
But if faster = better, let’s make baseball the best game it can be with these suggestions:
1) No “Kiss Cam”. Commercials breaks matter. If there is less time between innings, the total length of game can be reduced. Just taking out 30 seconds between half innings saves around eight minutes. Less time for commercials means less time for gimmicks to keep the fans entertained during pauses in play. If you want to kiss someone, go find a plate of spaghetti in a back alley someplace.
2) Keep 100 baseballs behind the pitcher. When balls get scuffed or knocked out of play, the umpire has to put new baseballs into play. That supply comes from his “umpire satchel” or whatever the actual name is. If the satchel empties, a ball boy has to run out and give the umpire more balls. If we keep a giant case of baseballs right behind the pitcher, he can get his own ball. Think of the entertainment value of watching a pitcher scrounge around for a new ball from the case in disgust while the hitter rounds the bases. Anyone concerned about the ball case affecting any play of the field should calm down. There is a hill in deep center of Minute Maid Park. There is a giant wall in left field of Fenway Stadium. There are catwalks that get hit by batted balls in Tropicana Field. The ball case would be part of the fun.
3) Men with stun guns. Keep a man with a stun gun just outside the batter box, behind the batter. The batter is allowed to step out once per at bat. Anything more and the “stunner” is allowed to use the stun gun on the player. The pitcher is allowed to throw a pitch while the batter is convulsing.
4) No more than three pitches per at bat. A walk hasn’t always been four balls. Sure, it’s been four for well over a century, but the game is allowed to change. So from now on two balls is a walk and two strikes is a strikeout. Batters can “earn” a strikeout by fouling off a ball as well. This makes sense because the batter shouldn’t earn another try just because he couldn’t get the ball into the field of play. You don’t get an extra down in the NFL if you throw a pass out of bounds. If it’s a huge concern, just move the walls right up to the foul line (more fans = more money!).
5) One Relief Pitcher. Since a pitcher will be throwing less pitches per game, there needs to be fewer pitching changes throughout. Also, when the relief pitcher is brought in, he must pitch within twenty seconds. It’s not like bullpen is that much different.
6) Two substitutions (non-pitcher) per game. No more of this “double switching” and “defensive replacements” all willy nilly. The manager gets to make two non-pitching substitutions per game. However, injuries do happen. If the manager has to do a third change, the player being subbed for cannot play for the next seven days.
These are just starting points and hopefully we can try these out in the minor leagues before they get instituted in MLB.
If you have any additional ideas to improve the pace of play, share them in the comments.
The WWE’s Road to WrestleMania begins tonight with the Royal Rumble live on the WWE Network and pay-per-view.
The Royal Rumble emanates from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and should be an exciting event.
The top two matches on the card are the annual Royal Rumble match and a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between the champion, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins.
The rest of the card is, um, happening to help kill time before the two marquee matches of the evening. To help you get up to speed on the event, Ryan Gehrke and I decided to tag-team our coverage of the Royal Rumble.
We’ve got some quick match previews and our picks for each match of the evening.
Banks was a Hall of Fame shortstop and first baseman who spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971.
Over those 19 years, Banks hit .274/.330/.500 and hit 512 home runs. He took home back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player awards in 1958 and 1959.
In 1958, Banks hit .313/.366/.614 and led the National League with 47 home runs and added 119 runs scored, 11 triples, and 129 RBI. All of that was good enough for 9.4 WAR.
In 1959, he hit .304/.374/.596 with 45 home runs and a league-leading 143 RBI. He also posted a 156 OPS+ and drew a league-best 20 intentional walks. All-in-all, he posted 10.2 WAR.
The slugging shortstop also played in fourteen All-Star games during his prestigious career, won two Gold Glove awards, and led the NL in both home runs and runs batted in on two different occasions each.
In 1999, Banks was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team.
Banks was a legend in Chicago and to this day is often referred to as “Mr. Cub.” He was also the first player in Cubs history to have his uniform number – No. 14 – retired by the team.
He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and is widely-regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time.
Beyond his on the field contributions, Banks was beloved throughout the sport and among the public for his bubbling personality.
He is credited with coining the phrase “Friendly Confines” in reference to Wrigley Field and could often be heard saying “Let’s play two!” upon arriving at the ballpark each day.
Between his on-field talent, positive attitude, and infectious spririt, Banks was truly a very special player and a wonderful man.
The baseball world lost one of the good ones today.
Whether it was shrewd planning or just good fortune, Beane has a fallback plan in place.
Clippard, 29, saved 32 games for the Nationals in 2012 and should get the first crack at the ninth inning in Doolittle’s absence.
Clippard has been an elite setup man in the Washington bullpen for years posting an aggregate 2.68 ERA, 1.047 WHIP, 148 ERA+, and averaging 10.3 K/9 during his seven-year stint with the Nationals.
Free-agent closers Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Casey Janssen are all still readily available on the market should Beane feel the need to further solidify the back-end of the Oakland bullpen.
Doolittle suffered through a series of injuries and setbacks early in his career, before breaking through with the A’s in 2012. Here’s hoping he can work through this, avoid surgery, and return to the hill this season.
In a move that makes very little sense for Milwaukee, the Brewers are reportedly deep in talks to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia has been trying to move Papelbon for quite some time as the club is finally undergoing a long-overdue rebuild and digging its way out from under a mountain of bloated contracts.
There haven’t been many trade partners willing to take on Papelbon’s salary – or perceived attitude and ego – and thus far the trade winds have remained calm.
That all changed last night when Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that Milwaukee was suddenly in “serious discussions” to acquire Papelbon.
Papelbon, 34, is coming off his best season in five years with 39 saves, a 2.04 ERA, .905 WHIP, and a 183 ERA+
He has seen his strikeout numbers tumble and his velocity has diminished at an alarming rate in recent years, both factors have led many to wonder if his high-level of performance is sustainable.
Papelbon is owed $13 million in 2015 and has a $13 million option for 2016 that vests if he finishes 48 games, a feat he’s accomplished nine years in a row.
Papelbon can reportedly block a trade to the Brewers as part of his limited no-trade clause, but it’s believed that he would waive that if the vesting option for 2016 was guaranteed.
It’s possible that has already been worked out as ESPN’s Jayson Stark is reporting that the “last remaining obstacle” to this deal getting done is the vesting option. The clubs are reportedly trying to hammer out how much of the 2016 option Philadelphia would cover in the swap.
The move seems out of place for a Brewers club that just traded long-time ace Yovani Gallardo to Texas, a move that freed up $9 million.
Papelbon would be an odd-use of resources as the club already has Jonathan Broxton on the roster as a potential in-house closing option and he’s already slated to make $9 million himself in 2015.
If the club wasn’t interested in Broxton taking the reins in the ninth inning, they could reunite with free-agent Francisco Rodriguez who has spent the better part of the last four years with the club.
Rodriguez, 33, was an All-Star for Milwaukee last season when he saved 44 games, with a 3.04 ERA, .985 WHIP, and a 125 ERA+. He’s also likely to cost about half of what Papelbon will, especially factoring in the 2016 option.
In addition to Rodriguez, former closers Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen are both also available as free-agents and looking to restore their value after faltering late last season.
The Brewers could realistically sign two members of this free-agent trio – if not all three – for less money than Papelbon is likely to cost over the next two seasons.
In doing so, they’d save cash and avoid losing any players via trade.
It’s a move that seems to make very little sense for Milwaukee, unless we learn that Philadelphia is eating 95% of the salary – for both years – and the return for Papelbon is some holdover Prince Fielder merchandise and a dozen batting practice balls.
At that point, it seems like an alright deal. Anything less than that and I’ll still be left scratching my head.
Suzuki will serve as a fourth outfielder in Miami as the club already has perennial MVP-candidate Giancarlo Stanton and burgeoning superstars Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna in place as starters.
Suzuki has been a below-average hitter since 2011, posting a meager .275/.308/.353 batting line split between Seattle and New York.
It’s a far cry from Suzuki’s first ten years in the league when he hit .331/.376/.430, made ten All-Star teams, won the 2001 Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player awards, and earned ten-straight Gold Glove Awards.
It isn’t surprising, given Suzuki’s age and the mileage on his body, that his once-blazing speed has diminished and his top-notch defense has been slipping steadily in the outfield.
What is surprising is that his strikeout percentage has nearly doubled from where it was early in his career, while his walk percentage continues to slide in the other direction. With his other skills eroding, losing his batting eye and patience has not done Suzuki any favors.
For what it’s worth Suzuki still grades out as a decent right-fielder, so if he’s not expected to cover in center field for long periods of time, he should be serviceable.
He also continued his trend – despite losing speed – of being incredibly efficient on the bases swiping 15 bags in 18 attempts.
At this point in his career, he’s a good fit as a light-hitting fourth outfielder and veteran presence on a young ball club.
Suzuki seems fully-aware of his role at this stage in his career and it’s not hard to imagine that he’s hanging around less for a playing time or salary and more for a chance to make history.
He currently sits at 2,844 hits in his big league career; just 156 shy of the hallowed 3,000 mark.
Suzuki has fallen short of that number two seasons in a row now, so it would require a bounce-back year and an unexpected amount of playing time for him to reach the milestone this season.
If a member of the Marlins dynamic outfield trio should go down with an injury, Suzuki would have an outside chance at reaching the mark with a healthy and productive season.
He’s given no indication that he’s interested in retiring, so he’s likely to reach the mark – even if it’s not in 2015 – but it adds another level of intrigue to each of his at-bats in Miami this season.
Vogelsong, 37, is coming off a 2014 season where he posted a 4.00 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and a 151/58 K/BB ratio over 184.2 innings for the World Series champions.
It was a nice bounce back for the right-hander who was a train wreck in 2013 sporting a 5.73 ERA and 1.563 WHIP.
Vogelsong originally resurrected his career with San Francisco when he went 27-16 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 297/123 K/BB ratio over 369.1 innings from 2011-2012 after he’d been out of big league ball since washing out as a reliever with Pittsburgh in 2006 season.
The Giants rotation appears loaded – and potentially overloaded – already with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum in the projected starting rotation. Swingman Yusmeiro Petit is coming off a solid season of his own and would seemingly be first in line should a spot in the rotation open up.
Vogelsong will likely start the season working out of the bullpen in a role similar to Petit that sees him shifting between long relief and the occasional spot start.
If the Giants were being honest, they’d label his role for 2015 as “in-house insurance plan.”
While the rotation may appear to be set on the surface, Bumgarner is the only lock coming into the season; and that’s assuming there are no ill-effects from his heavy workload in the postseason.
Petit is coming off a fantastic year, but could be do for regression. Prior to his solid campaign in 2014, the right-hander had a carer 5.20 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, and 84 ERA+.
Lincecum and Peavy have both been mixed bags in recent years and it’s tough to imagine them both remaining effective for the entire season or having the ability to save the bullpen by pitching late into games.
Additionally, the Giants are currently banking on 40% of their starting rotation coming back from significant injuries; Cain had season-ending elbow surgery in 2014 and Hudson is coming off a right ankle surgery of his own.
In short, you can never have enough pitching.
And that’s exactly why Ryan Vogelsong is returning to San Francisco.
The Atlanta Braves continued plugging holes for the 2015 season with the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year, $4 million deal with a vesting option.
Gomes, 34, had a rough 2014 hitting just .234/.327/.330 with eight doubles, six home runs, and 37 RBI over 112 games split between the Red Sox and Athletics.
Despite his struggles last season, Gomes can still crush left-handed pitching. He has a career .861 OPS versus southpaws and just a .721 OPS against right-handers. As such, it’s expected that Gomes will be part of a platoon in left field with Zoilo Almonte.
Gomes is regarded as a terrible defender by scouts, fans, the media, traditional stats, advanced defensive metrics, and blind people (probably) so he’ll likely give way to Almonte most days; despite being the better hitter of the pair.
Gomes is often referred to as a “good clubhouse guy” which – while nice – generally has a lot more to do with being in the right place at the right time. Mediocre-to-good players who are eccentric – or sometimes just loud – will earn the “good clubhouse guy” tag when they play on a winning team.
Gomes has certainly done that, having played for teams that made the postseason in five of the last seven seasons; including the last three seasons consecutively.
You’ll note that there are very few mentions of “good clubhouse guys” on losing teams. As such, don’t expect to hear too much about Gomes’ status in that regard this season.
The Braves are poised to be very bad in 2015 – and likely 2016 – after trading away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis in preparation for a couple of lean years before the club moves into their shiny new ballpark – SunTrust Park – north of Atlanta in 2017.
How bad will the Braves be this year, you ask?
Well, as it currently stands, Gomes – along with Nick Markakis – is one of the club’s two most high-profile acquisitions of the offseason.