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.

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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.

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.

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.

Gordon re-signs in Kansas City

After learning that there was no chance, it comes as a surprise that the Royals have re-signed LF Alex Gordon. Gordon had denied the fact that Kansas City had no chance to bring him back. The rumor may have been started due to the fact that the two sides were not on the same page regarding the dollar value on the contract.

It has been said that Gordon could have been seeking a contract that paid him around $100 million. Instead the Royals were able to sign him to a four-year $72 million contract. One thing about this contract is that in the first year he will have a lower salary to allow the team to make some other acquisitions.

Gordon has played his entire nine-year career with Kansas City so far. With a career batting average of .269, Gordon has been a key piece to the Royals offense as well as their defence. The three-time All-Star also has four Golden Glove awards to his name.

His bat helps a good offensive team that can really hurt you if you make a mistake. Much like their whole lineup, Gordon is a threat with the bat in the second half of their batting order.

His presence on defense is an added bonus for the Royals , as the other outfielders at the moment are Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando. He is a star in Their outfield. He is a crucial piece because the Royals didn’t have anybody on their depth chart that can do enough to be able to replace him. They would have had to also look for a spare outfielder by either exploring the market or looking within their organization.

The Royals are glad to have re-signed a key piece of their lineup. Their lineup has barely changed. As they were last year they a huge treat to other teams around the league, especially in their division as they will most likely be chased by the rest of the teams. They have have what it takes to do the same damage as they did last year.

Nationals sign middle infielder Stephen Drew

The Washington Nationals have signed middle infielder Stephen Drew to a 1-year $3 million contract. This deal comes with the Yankees acquiring Starlin Castro, leaving no room for Drew on their roster. For the National this deal come with Ian Desmond most likely not returning as well as the signing of 2B Daniel Murphy.

Murphy will presumably be the starting second baseman for the team while Anthony Rendon will likely be the starter at third. That leaves utility infielder Danny Espinosa and prospect Trea Turner as options at short as well as Stephen Drew.

Stephen Drew is a veteran player that can be used in the middle infield to help give people a break. There is a possibility that he might even be called upon to play third if necessary. This signing gives the Nationals lots of options as to where they play their infielders considering the fact that they have a lot of versatility with the guys they have. It also makes it easier to find replacements to give some players the night off.

Drew is a depth player at the moment. If he plays well enough he could potentially steal a spot especially at short. He can be a huge factor in the success of the team. His offensive production has not been great ever since the 2013 postseason but the potential is still there and he is still very capable to contribute defensively.

He would like to improve on his .201 average that he had last year. On the plus side he did manage to hit 17 homeruns which is second to his career high 21. This is a good opportunity for the 32-year old to prove that he still has what it takes.

Pirates sign John Jaso

John Jaso and the Pittsburgh have come to terms on a two-year contract that is worth $8 million. Jaso, who was originally a catcher, is now in a first base/outfielder role.Jaso has been a solid depth player throughout his career. He will most certainly not be used as a catcher but he will be used at first base when playing against a right handed pitcher considering that he is their only left handed hitter at first. He will split duties with Michael Morse and Jason Rodgers.

He can also be used in a corner outfield position if needed. He will most probably start off as a bench player for the Pirates before taking on a bigger role.

When you think of John Jaso, it seems that he is just a low quality player. That is not true. With a career average of .263 in a span of seven seasons he is capable of producing offensively. Although he is not a power threat, he can get on base, or contribute with RBI’s.

Jaso is a great addition for the Pirates. An underrated player that will fit in their lineup. He is expected to be a depth piece and can do so very well.

Colon re-signs with the Mets

The ageless pitcher Bartolo Colon has signed a one-year deal to remain with the New York Mets; Colon’s deal is worth $7.25 million. At the age of 42, Colon has been around a long time, playing 18 seasons while pitching for 8 teams including two stints with the White Sox and a brief stint with the Montreal Expos.

With a career ERA of 3.97, Colon has not been consistent throughout the years. He’s only had an ERA under three two times (2002 and 2013). His ERA has been over five four times (includes his rookie year in ‘97 as well as 2004, 2006 and an ERA over 6 in 2007)

His pitching isn’t solid but his hitting isn’t any better. His hitting may not be like fellow pitcher Madison Bumgarner, or anywhere near for that matter, but it is pretty funny to see him run the bases. Always entertaining and makes for a good laugh.

Colon is expected to be at the very bottom of the rotation or even in the bullpen given his numbers, age and the talent they have ahead of them in Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard. He will most probably contribute with a .500 record as seen before. He could be very dominant or not be effective at all.

This is a good depth signing for the Mets. Colon can be an effective weapon when needed and could help the team make another run at the World Series.

Napoli signs in Cleveland

The Cleveland Indians have signed veteran Mike Napoli to a 1-year $7 million contract. Napoli, a former catcher who was transformed into first baseman with the Red Sox, will presumably be their starting first baseman and replacement designated hitter with Carlos Santana holding that position down.

Napoli came into the league at the age of 24, as a catcher, with the Los Angeles Angels. He would play five seasons in Anaheim before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and quickly after he became a Blue Jay, he was dealt to the Texas Rangers.

After his two years in Texas, in which he batted a career high .320 in his first year and then a below average .227, Napoli went on to sign with the Red Sox in the off season but had a few problems with the contract. What was supposed to be a 3-year $39 million contract, it turned out to be a 1-year $5 million deal with incentives that could have made him the $13 million that was originally on the table.

After a solid offensive year and a good debut playing first base helping the team win the 2013 world series, Napoli, along with his beard, signed a 2-year extension with Boston. He had a good 2014 campaign but a terrible 2015 season where he saw himself get traded back to Texas for the remainder of the season. That move proved to be good as he was able to rediscover his game.

Napoli also had sleep apnea surgery before the 2015 season, and had his jaw reconstructed to help him breathe better in his sleep. Some say that it played a role in his struggles early on.

Now Napoli looks to have success along side his beard like he knows he can. He is a great first baseman who can do damage with the bat and looks to regain his form with the Tribe.

The Mets’ second base situation

The New York Mets have been out on the market looking for a second baseman to potentially replace Daniel Murphy who had an outstanding postseason. Many thought he would immediately re-sign but that was not the case.
Ben Zobrist had mentioned that he would like just to play at second base and the Mets went out to make a deal with him. Zobrist would have been an upgrade for the Mets and a solid bat to help a little if Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t re-sign with the team. Eventually the Mets would lose out to the Cubs signing a 4-year deal as mentioned in a previous article. https://baseballsofsteal.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/cubs-sign-zobrist-to-a-four-year-deal/

So would they go back to Murphy? The answer is no. Jon Niese lost his job in the starting rotation which made him trade bait for the future. Just yesterday Niese was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for 2B Neil Walker. Walker can be an upgrade at second for the Mets. He’s got a little more pop in his bat that could be useful down the stretch.

As for Daniel Murphy his time with the Mets is most likely over. There appears to be no room for him now as it seems that the Mets are going in a different direction. It seems that a new second baseman is what the Mets wanted. Daniel Murphy will look for another option from a different team.