CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett, Ben Sheets, and Ryan Dempster have all been generating a lot of buzz this winter, but I also want to analize the second tier of starters; the players beyond the top 5. Oliver Perez, Jon Garland, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Andy Pettitte, Braden Looper, Jamie Moyer, Randy Wolf, Odalis Perez, Paul Byrd, Freddy Garcia, and Tom Glavine represent this tier. Some of these players will take one year deals with their former team, while others will look to sign 3 or 4 year deals. Of the above mentioned names, it seems that Maddux will retire. Glavine, Moyer, Pettitte, and Odalis Perez seem destined to resign with their former teams. That would leave Oliver Perez, Garland, Johnson, Looper, Wolf, Garcia and Byrd as the players who could truly be available. Johnson seems like the best bargain of the bunch; he had the best stats and will take a one year deal. He could generate the same buzz that Curt Schilling did last year. Garcia, Looper, and Byrd are solid back-of-the-rotation options that could come in on 1 year deals. The latter two have a lot of experience, and could be attractive to bad teams looking for veteran guidance. The Pirates seem like a team that could fit in well. Garcia has a lot of upside and should be a hot commodity once bigger names fall. The Giants, Brewers, Astros, Tigers, Indians, and Braves could find themselves a match in this cheaper group. The only players that will atempt to get a multi-year deal out of this group are Oliver Perez, Garland, and Wolf. Scott Boras will try to get 4 years for Perez because he is a young player with great stuff that racked up 180 strike-outs last year. All of this despite his 4.22 ERA. Garland will be a much tougher sell. He was bad last year with an ERA of 4.90 and very few Ks. However, he is about as solid as it gets when it comes to eating innings. He’s gone at least 190 innings per year for 8 straight years. If you want a young innings eater that won’t get hurt and could give you league average production, you’ll look at Garland. Wolf was very solid last year. He had an ERA of 4.30 to go along with 162 strike-outs in 190 innings, his most since 2003. He is quite a gamble because of his health issues, however. I could see him netting a 2 year deal under the right circumstances, though. So teams may find many bargains in the second tier because only 3 players will most likely look for multi year deals.
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It seems as if it is getting more and more likely that the Tigers will place Magglio Ordonez on the trade block this offseason. They want to open up payroll so they can go out and fill a need or two via free agency. Their projected payroll if they keep everyone is about 125 million. They want to lower it to the 110 range. Magglio would have to go in that situation. He is set to make 15 million next year. They could probably stomach a 115 or 120 million payroll. So if they trade Magglio they still have 5 to 10 million to spend. One possible destination is to the Blue Jays for Scott Downs and a pitching prospect. Downs is the reliever they need. Marcus Thames could handle right field, but a platoon would be more helpful. They can sign David Eckstein for shortstop. A bargain-basement starter and a righty-mashing right fielder could also help. Maybe they sign Eric Hinske or Cliff Floyd. The starter they add could be a guy like Randy Wolf or Paul Byrd. Another possibility is to trade Ordonez to the Braves for Rafeal Soriano or Mike Gonzalez. One of them could be available if the Braves resign John Smoltz for the bullpen. Both are signed on one year deals. They could then do the same I stated above to fill their other holes. It would be tough for the Tigers to improve by trading away one of their best hitters, but it is possible if they can fill multiple holes with the money opened up.
Here is your top ten teams. I’m sorry I’m a day late. I was busy yesterday.
1. Cubs. The Cubs have easily taken over the Angels for the best team in the MLB. They have the better rotation, better lineup, even though the Angels have Mark Teixera, and a better bullpen. They are all around a better team and are the favorites to win the world series.
2. Angels. They are still holding strong at number 2. They haven’t fell because they have done bad, just because the Cubs have done better. This is still a very good team. They are still going to be a very tough team to beat in the playoffs.
3. Rays. Tampa Bay has been extraordinary this year. I almost moved them up into the second spot, but decided to move them up to three. They have continued to win even after losing Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to injury. They have the best 1-2-3 in the AL, and a lights-out bullpen. If they could get hot hitting in the playoffs, this team could go a long way.
4. Brewers. The Brewers move up a spot mainly because the Red Sox are falling fast. They have scored a ton of runs in August, however, and the starting pitching remains phenominal. This is a team that has a decent chance at getting to the world series and a great chance at making the playoffs. If only they had a better defense and a better bullpen.
5. Red Sox. Despite their fall, they still land at number five. Their pitching will get healthy eventually. Bartolo Colon, gulp, is getting there, and could be the team’s fith starter untill Josh Beckett returns and maybe after if they decide to move Paul Byrd to the bullpen. What a great move by Theo Epstein to aquire Byrd. That man is a genious. When the pitching gets healthy, they might be able to go somewhere in the playoffs again this year. I think they will sneak past the Twins for the wild card, as I have said in my Predictions.
6. White Sox. This team is better than the Twins. They have the far better offense and a better bullpen. If it weren’t for their outfield defense, they’d be much better than they already are. They have to win this division, and if they do, they have a slight chance at going somewhere in the playoffs. It would be tough, but they could beat the unproven Rays, and if the Red Sox beat the Angels like they usually do, I could see The White Sox getting to the world series if they upset Boston.
7. Twins. The Twins are still where they were last month: right behind the White Sox and Red Sox. They have a very good team, but don’t have the offense to take this division. They could possibly get past Boston for the wild card, but I think they have a better chance at catching the White Sox. They’re really close right now, and all they have to do is keep on winning an they’ll make it there.
8. Phillies. They will win the division over the Mets, and are a better team than the D’Backs or Dodgers. They have the best combonation of hitting, starting pitching and bullpen between the remaining teams.
9. Diamond Backs. They sneak up into the top 10 this time. This is just a better all around team than the Dodgers. They move up to number 9 after being unranked.
10. Mets. This is not a great team, but they’re better than the Dodgers or Yankees, so they get the final spot of the top 10 teams. They still need to figure out the bullpen issues, but if they do that, they could beat out the Phillies for the eastern division.
Arguably the bigest dissapiontment of the 2008 season, the Detroit Tigers will try to retool this offseason. It will be tough, however, because they want to cut the payroll from 135 million to 110 million. They already have about 105 million locked in on contracts, so look for them to either make one samll signing or make a trade to clear salary and then go after a bigger free agent. One player they could consider trading is Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez’s contract is kind of tricky. He makes 18 million next season, and has two 15 million club options for 2010 and 1011. It’s not that bad, but if Mags get 27 more at bats this year (he definatley will unless the Tigers sit him becasue of the options) the options for 2010 and 2011 will vest. If I’m a team looking in to trading for Magglio, I’m not sure I would want to take on 3 years, 48 million for a declining slugger. Plus, if they lose him it doesn’t matter what kind of free agent they sign becasue no right fielder on the market is as good as him, and they would just add tiny pieces if they spent the money on many players. So a Magglio trade is unlikely. The next guy is Carlos Guillen. He has been a good player for them, but will earn 12 million next year and 13 million in ’10 and ’11. This is also unlikely, but because of the weak free agent market for third and first baseman, he could bring back a decent pitcher. It would hurt their team losing this guy, though. That’s it for position players. Next up is starters they could trade. Justin Verlander is safe. They probably want to keep Jeremy Bonderman and see if he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Dontelle Willis and Nate Robertson are the most likely to be shopped. Willis has 22 million left on his deal through 2010. Robertson has 17 million on his deal through 2010. If the Tigers eat 7 million, Robertson might be atractive to some team looking for a veteran starter with upside. If they can do a deal like that I would pull the triger in a second. That would give them 10 million so they can sign a starter like Freddy Garcia or Paul Byrd to a small deal, then sign a reliever. Not great, but it doesn’t hurt. The bottom line is that the Tigers don’t have much flexibility and likely won’t be competing in ’09.
The Chicago White Sox are in a dog fight for the AL central right now with the Twins. (Don’t forget, I will do my predictions on September first) But today I will look ahead to what they should do in the offseason. This team should be one of the most quietest teams, with only one need, second base. Their designated hitter Jim Thome’s option is likely to get picked up, because the White Sox have a lot of money coming off the books when Orlando Cabrera and Joe Crede leave. (I think both will) All they have to do is sign a second baseman on a 1 or 2 year deal. So, sign one of Mark Grudzielanek, Ray Durham, and David Eckstein. They can then shift Alexie Ramirez to shortstop. This is all they have to do, but with Kenny Williams you never know what they will do. It seems like Williams wants to move Jose Contreras. If they do, they would have to get a starter. Maybe sign a guy like Paul Byrd or trade for a guy like Jason Marquis if the Cubs eat salary. These are guys on one year deals that can be a stopgap to top pitching prospect Aaron Poreda. They have former top prospect Josh Fields ready to take over for Crede. However, Fields has struggled this year and could be traded. That would put the White Sox in the hunt for a third baseman. So the bottom line for the White Sox is: All they need to do is one little move, but they could end up being very active.
The Red Sox were almost a lock for the playoffs 2 weeks ago, and had a legitamate shot to catch the Rays, but now are only a game over the Twins for the wild card, and 5 games back of the Rays. Their pitching has fallen appart because of injuries to Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett. 2 weeks ago they had a ton of pitching depth and just got more with the Paul Byrd trade. I will repeate the saying again: “You can never have too much pitching.” I will be making my predictions very soon, on September 1, just like I said. I will not give away which team I think will win the wild card. You’ll have to wait untill September 1. I’m just stating how close the race has gotten and how fast it has happened.
I will also make some changes for other teams when I make my predictions, but you’ll have to wait untill then.