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San Diego is German for 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings. A Recap.

The 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego was a spectacle enjoyed by all who attended. From Job Seekers, to trade show exhibitors, and former managers to GMs, big deals were struck constantly providing entertainment for all who attended. Being here live was a great experience, and I encourage all baseball fans to make the Hajj at some point in their lives. Before digging into which teams won and lost (and there were some big winners and losers), I’d like to highlight some of the characters of professional baseball.

Clint Hurdle could host a one man show. Upon entering the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Pirates Manager was the first person everyone saw. Dressed in a boisterous purple shirt, he had a crowd of 20 people around him entrenched in his story telling and struck by his personality. There was some buzz that he was taking pulls from a Jim Beam bottle at the bar Monday night.

Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland, and Jerry Reinsdorf don’t give a Slim Jim about anything. McKeon and Jerry each had three or four cigars in their mouth/pockets/hands at all times, while Leyland chain-smoked cigarettes while looking upon the crowd in destain. These ol’ baseball boys have teams, swagger, personality (kinda), sweet old dude hair (except for Jerry, gross), own a few teams, and most importantly, have a few rings. People flocked to them as well. Also, Joe Maddon is totally loving this big market attention he’s getting.

Watching Ken Rosenthal, Brian Kenney, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, and Karl Ravech scurry around chasing stories is so much fun. Not that I am the biggest guy in the world, but these little guys move, have all of the inside tracks (literally and figuratively), and crush it on camera with breaking news. Baseball is lucky to have such great journalists covering its game. Also, Dan Plesac is a madman and the official conductor of the Cubs Big Blue Train #CubbyChubby. And, Peter Gammons is and will always be the best.
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Down to business:

The Chicago teams started strong, and the Dodgers finished The Meetings off. The White Sox starting rotation is loaded. Consider this: in July the Sox’ starting five in order could be: Sale, Samardzija, Quintana, Danks, Rodon (last years 3rd overall pick). All of those guys pitch a ton of innings, deep into games and keep their teams in it. With the addition of Duke, Robertson, and Jennings to the ‘pen, these guys could all exceed double digit wins (maybe not Danks as he is a career underachiever). With LaRoche protecting Abreu, expect MVP numbers again from Jose Dariel. I like the White Sox to contend in the Central, but with the Indians improving, the Tigers Tigering, the Royals scrappy, and the Twins with top prospects Buxton and Sano coming everyone in this division has a shot at the crown. The Sox pitching, however, is inspiringly exciting.

#CubbyChubby
It’s go time on the Northside. In speaking with Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago, Jed and Theo supposedly arrived at their suite at the top of the Hyatt on Saturday afternoon, and didn’t leave until Wednesday morning- after signing Jon Lester to one of the largest contracts in pitching history. His 6 year $155 mm (7th year vesting option for $15mm) shows the commitment the Cubs are making to winning, and that the time to win is now and over the next seven years. Adding Miguel Montero is a smooth move and may attract additional arms (David Price next year). With one more bat (think Justin Upton) and one more arm (think Shields) the Cubs will have a winning season in 2015 and contend for a wild card spot. If Baez, Soler, Bryant, Russell can mature into 80% of their ceilings, the Cubs will be a wrecking crew for years to come.

Lastly, The Los Angeles Dodgers fielded a whole new ball club. Andrew Friedman must be having so much fun literally abusing the rest of the league (except for the Chicago teams, obviously) and playing with a checkbook that has unlimited checks in it, and money. The Marlins’ are certifiable idiots right now, and The Dodgers stole their candy, and then offered it to a friend for a full sack lunch. DEE GORDON DOES NOT CREATE RUNS. Owner Jeffery Loria said that he hopes Yelich and Dee become what Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo were for the 2003 World Series champs. chartYelich is fine, however, Dee Gordon is not even close to the production of those guys. Look at this chart comparing their wOBA.

Even early in the above replacement level careers of Pierre and Castillo, they greatly outperformed Dee and set the table for  the artist formerly known as Miggy Joven to reign terror on opponents, which turned the 2003 #CubbyChubby barely into Billy “Wagner”s. Dee Gordon’s .312 wOBA last season is below any season Louis Castillo had after his 24 birthday. Okay enough ranting on how the Marlins are going to be sold with a ton of debt on them and no wins, and back to how Friedman and Zaidi and former Padres’ GM Josh Byrnes dominated the latter portion of the Winter Meetings.

They set out to do two things, change the makeup of the team, and improve the defense. By adding veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, they accomplished both of those goals. Their defense is now greatly improved, and the team can regain and begin to rebuild its identity as a hard working, smart ball club as opposed to a group full of divas fighting for the LA smoglight. I would have been okay with them keeping Heaney, but they essentially traded a bag of baseballs (Dee Gordon – His Weighted Runs Created (wrc) where average is 100 was 101 last year and Steamer has him projected at 80 for next year which is below replacement level. enough) and Matt Kemp for Kendrick, Rollins, and Grandal. And they signed McCarthy. Pretty solid stuff Mr. Friedman.

Overall, both Central Divisions are going to be extremely competitive – but don’t be surprised if the Tigers and Cardinals still win each. Additionally, each LA team improved, the Padres are in the mix, the Red Sox have 25 back of the rotation starters, and who the hell knows what’s going on in Oakland. Should be a great 2015 Campaign.
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Lester the Molestar?

Relax. Molestar means “to bother” in Spanish. And, that has been what Jon Lester has been doing to several teams, and especially fans. Fans, who are just waiting for the bat to drop, and Lester to choose where he will bring his leadership and left arm. To update, the Cubs are leading the pack in terms of dollars with a 6 year, $138MM offer on the table. The Red Sox are at 6 years and “a willingness” to go to $130MM. Both of those landing spots obviously make sense for Lester. The Red Sox appear to be ready to go from last to first again, while Lester may have to endure at least one more season of mediocrity in Chicago.

The Giants must feel like they have to spend some cash after losing The Panda Express, so they could approach those numbers and have an attractive team, an attractive battery mate (who may only catch 50 games next year) and an attractive something else that may just make the Bay Area so damn desirable (I don’t get it, but everyone seems to want to move there).

Not likely the Braves are going to be able to get up to $130, so I think they’re out and just trying to swoon their home town hero back to A-town. Not gonna happen.

I predict he is back in Boston. $1.25mm per year probably is not enough for him to go to Chicago with more risk of not being competitive. It is entirely possible that Boston starts the season with both Cespedes and Lester on the roster. (What is Billy Beane doing?) (Like seriously, what is he doing right now?)

Keith Law doesn’t know either…

Two Teams Dominating The Hot Stove

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Headlines:

“Cheer For Cherington”

The Boston Red Sox are clearly headlining this Hot Stove Season by splashing into California’s free agent offerings. It appears that once again, the Red Sox are loading up on bats and personalities as they did just a few years ago. Although that 2011 squad, with new acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, won many games, they did not have good team chemistry and ended up being trade pieces that returned a World Series in 2013 to the Red Sox. Potentially, these acquisitions are very similar and provide the team with bullets to use at the deadline. I don’t like signing Hanley Ramirez to a $100+ million contract when he is going to complain about playing left field, and may only make it through 85 games each season. But The Big Panda Express is going to be loved in Bean Town, and his beard might get a little longer. The Red Sox’ 2015 outlook is bright, and if they land Lester, then Ben Cherington can go on vacation for a few months and just field calls begging for Cespedes.

“GM Hahn, LaRoping ’em In”

The Chicago White Sox’ GM Rick Hahn is making a name for himself as a guy who gets deals done. He targets a player, as he did with Abreu last year, and ensures that if he likes someone, he is on the roster the following season. Zach Duke was dynamite out of the ‘pen last year- support The Clean Stockings desperately need. Adding Adam Laroche could lead to an even bigger campaign by the aforementioned Abreu. If that happens, then The White Sox will be contending. Also, look for Alexei Ramirez’ name to continue to pop up in trade talks. The White Sox need to continue to bolster the bullpen. Expect the Royals and Tigers to take a step back and the AL Central to be as competitive in all of baseball for the 2015 Summer. Two top tier southpaws in Sale and Quintana will lead this rotation, and if Rondon can go 200 Big League innings, and the bullpen can simply improve to middle of the pack, this team will win 85+ games in 2015.

CUBAN FREE AGENT: YASMANY TOMAS

Yasmany Tomas may look like Vladamir Guerrero at age 40, but he plays like that young exuberant Vladdy we all loved in his youth. Tomas has a medium length swing and can stay inside the pitch. Frequently hitting the ball up the middle and to right field, Tomas exhibits some maturity in his swing by going with the pitch, yet immaturity with his ‘swing at everything’ (Salvador Perez…) approach. There is definitely some free swinging in his game, yet he slaps breaking pitches the other way, and turns on hangers and heat. There’s no question that a 23-year-old Tomas has had one too many Cuban sandwiches, but with an offseason preparing for MLB Free Agency, he should be getting his large 6’1″ 230 lb frame in shape.

Other than hitting, Yasmany Tomas looks a lot of fun. He’s got a big arm, and a bigger personality – he can even run a little bit. However, it’s not all pretty for Tomas. His uppercut swing plane creates holes, and he has some significant swing and miss in his game. He could end up being a stud who hits for power yet strikes out a lot (Marcell Ozuna) or a bust who can’t succeed in a hitter’s park (Dayan Viciedo). Both of those guys are big lumbering right-handers who have had different levels of success.

With the success Jose Abreu in his first season as a Major Leaguer, it is very possible that the market for Tomas has exponentially increased. A player who profiles much more similar to Abreu than their countryman Rusney Castillo, may attract more attention, and more dollars from teams. Castillo earned a 7-year $72.5 million contract and Abreu a 6 year $68 million contract. I anticipate Tomas to earn more than both of them from teams trying to secure a middle of the order bat. I project that the Padres are the front-runner in this and are willing to go 7 years and upwards of $12 million per year. The Marlins are at that similar offer point and could win him. Both of those franchises see the success of Abreu as a building block for The White Sox and desire a similar return. If the Phillies or Rangers get involved, the price for Tomas is going up and could exceed a $100 million contract offer. Should be interesting to see what happens with this Yasmany. Inevitably, he will be making YasMany American Dollars as a risky and hopefully productive Major Leaguer. If he can

Category Present Future
Hitting Ability 5 6
Power 6 7
Running Speed 4 4
Base Running 5 5
Arm Strength* 5 6
Arm Accuracy 5 5
Fielding* 5 5
Range 4 5
Baseball Instincts 6 6
Aggressiveness 6 6
 

OVERALL Tomas is a 55-60 Prospect

 

 

GAME 6 PREVIEW

Who You Got?

Heading back to KC, not only do the Royals need to get back to their home ballpark, but they also need to get back to their style that got them to the ‘ship in the first place. The Kansas City Royals DO NOT NEED TO SCORE MORE THAN 2 RUNS to win this game tonight. Here at The Cleat Sheet, we bet on the Giants, but are supporting the Royals.
Tonight, I like that the Royals are sending Yordano out on the bump. He is wild and hums fire. It is different than the Shields, Davis, Holland mold and less predictable – IF HE THROWS OFF SPEED EARLY IN THE GAME. Sandoval, Pence, and even Crawford right now are too good at hitting fastballs when they know it’s coming. If Ventura can get through six with only giving up one run, mixing up off speed with his nasty, crazy heat keeping hitters off balance, The Royals will win this game. Yordano Ventura is a youngster with gas and spirit. If he can get the Royals to the bullpen with a lead, they will be in good shape.
On the other side, Peavy is going to bring it. There is no doubt that he will get through five giving up 3 or fewer runs. However, that may be enough for the Royals to win. The Giants are due to have an off offensive night, although their studs show no sign of slowing. Pablo Sandoval has literally made an additional $4 million minimum per year on his new contract with his play this October. If he and Pence show up, the Giants will win.
The likeliest scenerio, and I guess we’ll call this my prediction, is a 3-2 Giants win. Ventura does fine, Gordon, Moose, and Butler don’t contribute, Dyson and Gore can’t bring the Royals back, and the most professional organization in baseball, The San Francisco Giants, win their third World Series in five years and beckon dynasty calls.
Who you got?

Royals vs A’s – Do or Die

Entering the 2014 playoffs, the Oakland Athletics should be shaking in their cleats. The Royals have nothing to lose, and Big Game James will at least match lester through 7. Then, all of you reading this post knows what comes out of the Royal’s ‘pen, and the A’s can’t score. I like the Royals to win this game simply because of their ability to play small ball and push a run across in a tight game. Unless Adam Dunn struts into postseason folklore for his first postseason game, Kansas City advances, with momentum. This, of course, begs the question, did Billy Beane push too hard this year? A GM notoriously known for buying low and getting the most value for the franchise’s money, gambled to acquire an old pal. As of now, it looks like that was a losing bet, and Beane removing Cespedes from the highest scoring offense in baseball, depleted it to merely average. I am interested to see how Shields attacks a lineup that has struggling hitters and big time strikeout candidates (Moss, Dunn).

In the other dugout, the Royals may just be happy to be here. But, after thumping the Patriots on Monday Night Football, maybe the whole town of KC is feeling some mojo heading into baseball’s post season. But, one game and done may kill all that good Kansas City hangover feeling after muscling through a rack of Sweet and Sassy BBQ Brisket (Sounds good). But mayybeeee, a team that Paul Konerko said reminds him of the 2005 White Sox can use enough small ball, speed, and savvy to string together a few wins.

I think it’s going to be a great game. My prediction is that Lester goes 7 innings strong striking out 6 with 5 base runners allowed. However, 2 of those runs score. Shields goes 7 allowing 1 and the Royals win 3-1 after being able to push across another in the late innings to give their stingy bullpen more support. I like Alex Gordon to have a big hit in this one.

What do you think?

From Omaha to Kansas City

18-logoWinning back-to-back Triple-A championships does not mean that a dynasty of sub major league talent is coagulating in Omaha. All it means, in addition to it being a great achievement, is that the Kansas City Royals have supreme organizational depth. While the Royals are on the brink of a playoff berth, something rare for the major league club, the farm system has been flourishing for years. The Omaha Storm Chasers won another Triple-A Championship last night.

In a game that saw recent Cuban defect Rusney Castillo lead off with a home run on the first pitch, a catcher with years of major league experience, Brett Hayes, won the game on a scoreboard denting 2-run bomb in the seventh. Hayes, who has bounced back and forth from a Major League replacement catcher to a Triple-A stud enjoyed the glory as the ladder last night. Continue reading From Omaha to Kansas City

Chris Davis Suspended

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The Baltimore Orioles are having an amazing season. They are going to win the AL East; an endeavor that many thought unlikely at the beginning of the year. However, it is remarkable that they will accomplish this feat with minimal contribution from the 2013 MVP candidate, Chris Davis. Today, news broke that Davis would be suspended 25 games, including the first eight of the playoffs for testing positive for amphetamines. As it has become routine, Adderral was quickly the culprit for this positive test to which Davis had “an exemption” to take in 2013 – the year he bursted out with monster power numbers and had a remarkable .336 Batting Average on balls in play.

This season, Davis has walked more, 11.4% of the time, and struck out at about the same rate as last year. Therefore, Davis is begging the question from us all, did his use of a banned substance, a substance that WebMD says can “help to increase the ability to pay attention, concentrate, stay focused, and stop fidgeting,” contribute to his 2013 campaign? Continue reading Chris Davis Suspended

Joey Gallo – Raw Power

The key to determining what a future may hold for a top prospect with high hopes such as Joey Gallo, is the players ability to make adjustments and improve in areas of his game where he lacks. Joey Gallo can hit the ball to Saturn… or at least into the windshield of a Saturn at the 2014 Future’s Game 440 feet away. In Rookie and A Ball in 2013, Gallo’s OBP was .338. That number was far too low for a highly touted player in low level ball. However, Gallo’s approach at the plate has matured in 2014. His OBP has increased by 62 percentage points to an even .400. This is a good adjustment made by the young power hitter showing an ability to change.

Continue reading Joey Gallo – Raw Power

With Thanks to Beane, Cherington, Dombrowski, Mozeliak

Saving Baseball – At The Deadline

Growing up loving the game without ever the sense of winning or being the best at it, provided me with a unique opportunity to locate and delve into the intricacies that attracted me to the game of baseball. One of these characteristics, which can also be found in all major sports, is a little bit more special and unique during the dog days of summer. Just when the decline of interest in the game seems to inevitably decrease fascination with the 2014 Season, general managers of franchises seem to have found Bobby Fisher in this grand game of chess that us baseball aficionados like to call, The Trade Deadline. Continue reading With Thanks to Beane, Cherington, Dombrowski, Mozeliak