Red Sox 2016 Preview

After winning it all in 2013, the Boston Red Sox have finished at the bottom of the AL East in each of the following two seasons. The departure of key players in 2014 left some huge holes to fill in the lineup. In 2015 some thought the could go from worst to first like they previously did in 2013. They thought the problems were solved with their off-season moves heading into last year. With the lack of production offensively, alongside some injuries and a mediocre pitching staff that struggled to perform, it drove the team too far back to be able to recover in time to potentially steal a wild card spot. Boston has made some moves and possibly more to come in the near future. However with the good finish they had, having some good depth within the organisation, do they currently have a shot to be a serious World Series contender?

First there is their pitching. Last year it was the weakest part of their team. They ball club added an All-Star starter as well as an All-Star closer. Did they do enough to better their pitching staff to help them succeed?

Left handed pitcher David Price who signed a monster deal to be the Red Sox ace that they desperately needed. He is expected to perform the way he did since he acquired by Toronto. As for the rest of the starters they are expected to better.Clay Buchholz will look to be dominant like he was before his surgery right after the 2013 post-season. The Sox would be happy if he were to perform the way he did prior to his injury last year, he is the solid number two guy. This can be a successful one two punch that they did not have last year. Youngsters Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens have shown that they can be dominant in the majors. If Joe Kelly can come back to how dominant he was in the last month and a half of the season before his injury. Rick Porcello will look to bounce back from a rough year while lefties Rodriguez, Owens and newly acquired Roenis Elias will look to take that last spot in the rotation with the departure of Wade Miley.

As for the relief pitchers the Red Sox have improved the back end of their bullpen. The acquisition of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel allows Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa to come in a little earlier. It also takes some of the workload off Uehara who is nearing the end of his career, they have the ability to frustrate opposing batters.

Carson Smith is another name added to the solid righties the team has but what about the lefties. Boston does not have a solid left handed pitcher out of the bullpen. They do have Robbie Ross Jr but that will not be enough. They do have lefty starters to fill up spots as well as a couple of other average relievers that might not find room to start off with the big club. It is not a priority as of now to find one but maybe in the future depending on how things work out.

Next question that needs to be answered is their outfield. Last year their outfield consisted of Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Shane Victorino. Victorino was traded to the Angels while Ramirez will no longer be playing in the outfield after not being able to adjust to left field this year.

Mookie Betts will be the only returning Boston outfielder from the start of last year. He will Be joined by Jackie Bradley Jr and Rusney Castillo. Boston also added free agent outfielder Chris Young to be the fourth outfielder. The Red Sox also have utility man Brock Holt who will be able to come in if needed.

Although their outfield has talent, we don’t know for sure if they will be producing offensively. Rusney Castillo signed a big contract to join the Sox after previously playing in the Cuban League. They are expecting him to contribute in a big way. Jackie Bradley Jr struggled with the bat for the greater part of his stints with the big club. The second half of last year saw him find his game showing that he can hit the ball and make people pay with his speed. Chris Young is the veteran leader in this group. He is expected to be an example for the other outfielders. He is a guy that can do damage to left handed pitchers and needs to put up average numbers on both sides of the ball. Everyone know what they are going to get out of Mookie Betts. He is a great defender and a leadoff batter with some power. The outfield mainly has good speed and great defensive abilities. It is the offence that is going to be looked at, Boston had one of the worst offensive producing outfields in the league last year.

Hanley Ramirez is a natural shortstop. but with Xander Bogaerts occupying that position he was moved to left field. He was supposed to be another power bat to compliment David Ortiz but got injured and was out for the year. During his rehab the coaching staff was turning him into a first baseman.

With Ramirez playing first what will happen with Travis Shaw. Shaw who can also play third, came on to the scene with some great production hitting behind Ortiz. Shaw could potentially be the Sox first baseman if they decide to trade Ramirez but his contract is a problem. If Ramirez struggles playing first then that is when a trade might happen. They could even keep him and turn him into a DH when Ortiz retires.

As for the other corner outfield position, third baseman Pablo Sandoval needs to have a better year.After signing a big contract he is expected to be effective on both sides of the ball. It was a disappointing season offensively as he had his problems switch hitting. Sandoval need to prove that he is the same player the he was when he was playing for the Giants. He needs to be the force he always was especially in the postseason.

For the middle infield, the Red Sox have the tandem of 2015 Silver Slugger award winner Xander Bogaerts and 4-time All-Star Dustin Pedroia as they look to live up to what they have done in the past.

Xander Bogaerts is coming off a career year, the 23-year old shortstop showed that he can be the guy going forward for the Red Sox organisation. As well as proving his defensive abilities, he wowed us with what he could do offensively. It is going to be hard to follow up from what he did last year, but he is still expected to put up good numbers. He has shown great talent for a young player.

On the other side of the bag Dustin Pedroia will look to stay healthy and contribute like the player he is. He is one of the best second baseman in the league, putting his body on the line every single time he goes out there. He is a key piece in their lineup and their leader on the field. He is a big time player for the city of Boston and a lot is expected from him. The workload that is put on his plate is never an issue. The issue is can he remain healthy as he has been battling injuries lately.

As for the cathers situation, Christian Vazquez, who was supposed to be the starter last year, was out for the year with an injury. Ryan Hanigan who was brought to be the backup, assumed the role as the starter with Sandy Leon backing him up who is now one of the players invited to to the Red Sox Spring Training this year. Hanigan missed some time with a broken hand allowing Blake Swihart to get an opportunity earlier that Boston had hoped. Swihart made no mistake and is now part of a complicated decision to see which two catchers make the 25-man roster to begin the year.

Vazquez, Hanigan and Swihart are all deserving of a spot. It is not clear who has a spot locked up at the moment but if I were to guess it would be Vazquez because of the fact that he was going to be the one last year. Hanigan could easily be traded or Boston could send either Vazquez or Swihart to the minors. It all depends on how they perform during Spring Training.

Finally there is David Ortiz. Ortiz is ready to retire at season’s end, that is not only used as motivation for himself but also for the team. He can only hope for many good things to happen this upcoming season.

Boston’s team looks like they can be on the rise again, competing for the division and the World Series. Can they do it? Many said last year that they could but many underachievement helped them sink to the bottom. This year is another year that people will say they can. In my opinion they absolutely can. An upgraded pitching staff as well as some likely bounce back season and a young outfield that may have its problems. On paper things look good but you will never know what will or will not be good until you see it in action. Once the season gets underway that is when a more accurate prediction will be made but for now the questions still need to be answered.

Blue Jays, Donaldson reach two-year deal

The Toronto Blue Jays and 3B Josh Donaldson avoid arbitration after coming to terms on a 2-year contract that will pay him $28.65 million. Donaldson came over to the Jays last year in a deal with Oakland that included Brett Lawrie going the other way.

Donaldson is a huge piece of the team. He is coming off a spectacular year that his play reach the next level. He was exceptional offensively which hid how well he could defend. On defense he has proven that he can make spectacular plays like dive into the stand to make a catch and on offence he is a dangerous hitter batting in the two spot.

Josh Donaldson’s career year earned him the AL MVP award as he managed to beat out Mike Trout for the award. His 41 homeruns carried a high powered Blue Jays offence. He also led the team in homeruns by beating out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion who both had over 30 of them. The long ball also helped him get over 100 RBI’s as he drove on a total of 123 runs. His clutch hitting this year has also helped the Jays to victory.

Donaldson has shown what he can do in this league. After a year like this many say that can he have a repeat performance. It is probably expected that he is still going to be a 30 homerun guy unless he proves otherwise.

Donaldson is a force to be reckoned with. He showed why the Jays decided to acquire him. He has amazing talent and when the game is on the line he is a big help on both sides of the ball. Toronto can only hope that he will re-sign with the team after the two years are up.

Chris Davis re-signs with the Orioles

Chris Davis has re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles for seven years. He will receive an average annual salary of $23 million and will receive a total of $161 million in the deal. Davis will become the Orioles every day 1B while also seeing some time in the DH role with Mark Trumbo. The re-signing of Davis will stabilize the Orioles lineup, and fills a hole that would’ve otherwise been filled by unproven rookie Christian Walker.

Davis is an all-star, power hitting first baseman who can also play third and the corner outfields. Despite not being a stud on defense, he can hold his own at first and offers versatility. Davis is a strong hitter who is very dangerous on both the inside and outside half of the plate, as he has shown great opposite field power. There has although been issues with Davis’ discipline as he strikes out an enormous amount of times and even led the league in strikeouts in 2015.

Chris Davis was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur player draft by the Texas Rangers. Davis entered the league with a bang in 2008 at 22 years old, when he hit 17 homers in a mere 80 games with the Rangers. Unfortunately for Davis, his play faded, and became solely a depth option playing in and out of the minors. On July 30th of 2011, the Rangers officially gave up on him deciding to package him to the Baltimore Orioles for finesse closer Koji Uehara. This trade was a big mistake for the Rangers.

Davis, who turns 30 in March, has been a homerun machine since joining the Orioles in 2011. Since 2012, he has hit 159 homeruns, which is an average of 40 every year. He had a career season in 2013 in which he hit a career high 53 dingers, which was good enough for best in the league, and batted .289. Yet in 2014, Davis’ play was not nearly as good, hitting only 26 home runs and batting below .200 (.196), and was even a non-tender candidate going into the 2015 season. In the end the Orioles decided to tender him, and did not regret it as he bounced back in 2015, and regained the homerun title hitting 47 of them.

Davis has shown amazing raw power with his bat, but has also shown signs inconsistency throughout his career. This seven-year mega contract is definitely a risky play for the Orioles, who hope to compete in a competitive AL East in 2016. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’ll be keeping my eye on Davis for the next couple years. Will he be the power house he has shown he can be in 2013 and 2015? Or will he be the below average first baseman we saw in 2014?

Marlins extend Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon will be returning to the Miami Marlins after he signed a 5-year contract worth $50 million. The second baseman was the primary piece in a big trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason.

Gordon was originally a shortstop that was made a full transition to second base last year. The Marlins were in desperate need of a starting second baseman and after just one season it looks like they found a guy that can be the one down the road as they look to build a contending team.

Dee Gordon at 27-years old is in the prime of his career. He is a leadoff hitter with a lot of speed. A defensive mistake with Gordon on base could lead to an easy extra base or maybe even a run. As a leadoff you are expected to be someone who can put the ball in play for a base hit. He can do that as he had a career high 205 hits this year as well as a career high .333 batting average. He also had a .353 on base percentage.

Speed is a huge factor as he had 58 stolen bases this year as well as 24 doubles and 8 triples. He look to help the team improve on the 71-91 season they had as they finished third in the NL East and 26 games out of a wildcard spot.

He has been what the Marlins wanted and he had a tremendous season that was worth the extension. the team is one step closer to reaching the postseason. They seem ready for the new season. Gordon’s extension along with the signing of pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. The team could still use a little more work but they are moving in the right direction.

Marlins sign Chen to a five-year deal

The Miami Marlins’ old prerogative of repudiating to devote money to free agents, unless to positions previously filled during a rebuild and then subsequently trading said player(s), has been fragmented. The team has signed starter Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year contract worth $80 million, all of which is guaranteed, with a player option after the second season. The deal doesn’t come with a no-trade clause.

The 30-year old is coming off a season with his lowest career ERA at 3.34; however recorded the second highest FIP of his career at 4.16 He also saw his strikeouts per nine go up to 7.2, tied for the superlative total in his career. As is the case with most pitchers that make their way to South Florida, Chen is primed for a great season after duplicitous seasons in Baltimore that saw him have an average of 1.225 homeruns per nine in Camden Yards.  As is expected when the rest of your team takes a significant a step back as the Orioles did, Chen’s win total diminished by five from the preceding season.

Chen has pitched upwards of 185 innings three out of his four career seasons in Baltimore, also countenancing upwards of 186 hits in said seasons. He had his highest WAR in 2015 with 3.8 Wins Above Replacement, his previous highest total was 2.6 in 2012.

The move coincided with the Marlins’ reported decision not to consign outfielder Marcell Ozuna to another club with the minds of Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds convincing aspersed owner Jeffrey Loria otherwise. The initial potential sentiments of the ballclub were to move Ozuna for a starter behind Jose Fernandez, which they now have in the form of Chen.

The Taiwanese lefty now slots in right behind the aforementioned Fernandez, who, prior to this point, would’ve been insulated by Tom Koehler or Jarred Cosart. The Marlins non-tendered former insulation option Henderson Alvarez after the team wasn’t alacritous to pay his $4 million cap hit; he will miss a minimum of the first moth of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. With the depth acquisition of Chris Johnson, the Marlins have accomplished to fill their inadequacies and wholes they were said to be going after prior to the Winter Meetings.

 

The Dodgers sign Yasiel Sierra to a six-year deal

The Los Angeles Dodgers have made an investment in a young Cuban pitcher by the name of Yaisel Sierra. Sierra will earn a six-year contract with the Dodgers heading into the 2016 season.

Sierra, whose birthday is not officially known to Baseball Reference, is recognized as 24 or just having turned 25. He is known to be a hard throwing righty with an average slider. In a showcase in October, his fastball was around the mid-90s consistently and topped off at 96 mph, his slider was around 87 mph. He also throws a changeup. Sierra relies heavily on that high heat fastball, which could lead to struggles as he lacks any kind of strong secondary pitch. He also seriously lacks control, and at times, really has trouble finding the plate with his heater.  As seen here:

Many compare him to now big league starter and Cuban stud Raisel Iglesias, who is currently a key component to a horrifyingly bad Cincinnati Reds rotation (no offense “media man” Matthew Ellis).

Before Sierra escaped and defected from his nation of Cuba he played in parts of five seasons in the Cuban National Series. In this league he pitched to a career 4.23 ERA as both a reliever and a starter, having his best season in 2012 at age 21, in which he pitched a 2.20 ERA as mostly a reliever. Sierra’s final year in the Cuban league in 2014 was definitely a struggle, with a 6.10 ERA,  although these numbers apparently did not scare away the Dodgers. Numbers that poor in a foreign league, in my personal opinion is something to definitely at least consider when handing out such a long contract, but the Dodgers being the never ending pit of money definitely minimizes the risks.

Sierra has a fluid and clean motion when he throws the ball. He has also been notorious to pitch from more than one arm-slot, meaning the ball comes in at different angles and trajectories, making it much harder for batters to read let alone react to the pitch. It is projected that Sierra’s ceiling is a back end of the rotation starter, some believe that he’s purely a reliever.
Sierra’s role for the 2016 Dodgers is really unclear. He likely won’t make the Dodgers 25-man roster going into 2016, and likely won’t start for the team, as the Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitchers. He could prove to be an important addition of relief depth as the 2016 season rolls along.

Rockies sign Parra to a three-year deal

Gerardo Parra and the Colorado Rockies have agreed to a three-year $27.5 million contract. There is also an option for a fourth year in which he will make $12 million. He is earning $26 million over the three years. The extra $1.5 million goes towards a buyout.

The 28- year old Parra began his career in Arizona in 2009, that year he also won the Rookie of the Year award. During his tenure with the Diamondbacks he also managed to receive two Gold Gloves.

On July 31th 2014, Parra saw himself get traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Ironically his tenure with the Brewers was exactly one year to the day in 2015, he was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles.

The Orioles, who were making a postseason push, needed some depth in the outfield especially with Nick Markakis leaving for Atlanta. Parra didn’t put up good numbers like he did in the past but he got the job done for the Orioles.
Parra is going to bring some depth to the Rockies outfield. He is a good defensive player that will also put the ball in play. He is no power threat but he has the ability to drive people in and get on base with a single.

Jays, Nats, swap Revere and Storen

The pernicious Blue Jays bullpen has garnered a boost at the expense of their one-time table-setter. Toronto shipped left fielder Ben Revere to Washington in exchange for right-handed reliever Drew Storen, no money was retained on either side.

Storen spent the first six years of his big league career with the Nationals, pitching a minimum of 50 innings out of the bullpen in five of those campaigns. The 28-year old had an untenable 2015 season coming off of a 2014 campaign that saw him put up a redoubtable 1.12 ERA, however his FIP was 2.71. The proceeding season was insatiable, at least from the Nationals’ point of view, and his ERA was up at 3.44, however his FIP was only .08 points higher than the year before. The one-time National closer was catapulted out of the role he immersed himself in for the first time since 2011, as the team’s closer. 2015 wasn’t completely nugatory for the righty due to the facts he recorded his highest strikeout per nine ratio of his career at an even 11 and only saw his hits per nine go up by 0.4.

Following a vexing start to his short-lived Blue Jay career, Ben Revere turned it on and finished the season at over .300, this being the third straight season he has done so. The 27-year old will be heading back to the National League East, a place were he spent the previous two and a half seasons as a member of the Phillies prior to being dealt to the place people douchily refer to as “The Six”. Very much non coextensive to Storen, Revere’s place insidiously rose as 2015 proceeded, recording his second straight 180+ hit season. After a pair of 40+ stolen base seasons, and was on pace for another prior to injury, the 5-foot-9-inch outfielder’s propensity to run was trumped by the arrogation of the major bats behind him in the lineup, stealing only seven in 56 games in Toronto. Contrary to popular belief, Revere wasn’t necessarily a benefit to have in your outfield. He had a -0.6 Defensive WAR last season in Canada, which wasn’t a sole conspicuously negative defensive season, he’s had a negative dWAR five out of his six seasons in the MLB.

With the egress of Denard Span via signing a three-year, $31 million contract in San Francisco, many were perplexed by the decision by the Nationals. Michael Taylor, whom the team was said to very much like, is now all but relegated to either a competition with Revere for the starting job, a platoon or a secondary role. With Harper in right and Werth in left, the center field job is very much there for the taking come spring training. The Nationals parlayed an asset they deemed extraneous with the young bullpen arms they have, in Treinen and Barrett among others, into an ostentatiously valuable player that will push one of their young players.

The opulence of having Revere in the Jays outfield was very much that, opulence. In making this transaction, they addressed a desperate need within the organization. It puts a little cocking on a massive gap of a Toronto bullpen that might have Pat Venditte in it come the regular season. The move also triggers a battle in spring training between Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders for the final outfield position. Pompey, who made the team out of spring training last season, faltered mightily once the 2015 campaign began and was subsequently in AAA for the majority of the season. Saunders on the other hand didn’t see more than 36 plate appearances, after coming to Toronto in the deal that saw current Jay J.A. Happ go to Seattle, before going down for the year due to an, obviously, severe knee injury.

Giants sign Denard Span to a three-year deal

Succeeding their acquisition of fellow free agent outfielder Nori Aoki, the San Francisco Giants have further supplemented their outfield in signing Denard Span to a three-year $31 million deal. The former National bellwether spent the first four seasons of his career in Minnesota after signing a three-year deal in Washington.
The remunerative 31-year old has been in has been a constant contributor to a once ascendant Washington lineup, with back-to-back .300 batting averages to end his tenure in the nation’s capital. He also had a resplendent NL leading 184 hits in 2014 when he placed 19th in the MVP race.
Despite his redoubtable offensive capabilities thats seen him garner a collective 6 offensive WAR over the past pair of seasons, his defence seems to be on the decline. According to Baseball Reference, after a defensive WAR of 2.4 in 2012, his dWAR has been in diminution with 0.5, -0.1 and -1.0 in the season’s following his luminescent 2012 campaign.
The outfielder also missed the majority of last season due to a hip injury after he was consigned to surgery.
Span now rounds out a relatively aged outfield, and a potent San Francisco lineup with Buster Posey playing another full season healthy.
With Span, Pagan and Pence in the outfield, their good infield and a starting rotation fresh off an offseason overhaul, should the team be graced with redoubtable health, the Giants are conspicuously in the race for the NL West crown.

Low Risk High Reward Contract Handed out to Jackson

Yesterday, the Miami Marlins signed former all-star pitcher Edwin Jackson for a one-year contract at about half a million dollars. Miami was looking for some low risk pitching depth for their thin pitching staff, and Jacksons’ versatility and experience could help the lackluster Marlins. Jackson comes at batters with a 93-mph fastball and an 87-mph slider, his two most effective pitches. He also mixes in a curveball, changeup, and two-seamer every once in a while. In 2015, his most effective pitch was his slider (.191 AVG.), and was also very strong against lefties (.169 AVG.).

Edwin Jackson, 32 years old, will play in his 14th season in the MLB in 2016. After being drafted in the sixth round of the amateur draft in 2001, Edwin played his first game in the majors at a stupendously young age of 19, in 2003. He fully broke out into the league in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in which he recorded 161 innings pitched. In 2009, Edwin Jackson had a career year and made his first and only all-star appearance with the Tigers. Since 2009, Jackson was a consistent middle of the rotation asset, (and even won a world series in 2011 with the Cardinals) just until he signed with the Cubs prior to the 2012 season. In this contract he received an average $12 million annual salary for three years, before being dismissed of that contract before the end 2015 season. During his stint with the Cubs, he had horrible numbers, and in 2014 he owned a 6.33 ERA, which was the poorest season of his career. He also lost his job as a starter; although in 2015, Jackson put up great numbers as a reliever, pitching to a 3.07 ERA where he split his time with the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins rotation consists of locks Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Tom Koehler, although the fourth and fifth spot of the rotation is very much up for grabs. Going into 2015, we are looking at a huge positional battle between Jackson, Phelps, Hand, Conley, Nicolino, Flores, and Urena for those final two spots in the rotation. If Jackson loses this battle for a role as a starter he’ll be a lock for the bullpen. He will also be payed a very small amount so there is very little risk in this deal. Jackson will be a great addition to a team lacking pitching depth, and veteran presence in their pitching staff.