Archive for November, 2013

The Cheat Sheet: NFL Picks, Lines and Upsets – Week 13

Posted: November 28, 2013 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , , , , , ,

Dez_Bryant

One of the most successful, stable and thriving relationships alive is the one between football and Thanksgiving. It is a cornerstone of the holiday and a turning point in the NFL season. It’s the precursor to the stretch run of the season, and this 13th time around the NFL will see a few of the most meaningful games of the year.

Between the round 2 of the Broncos/Chiefs and the showdown for top billing in the NFC between the Seahawks and Saints, the week is sure to end on a high note. But it all begins with the traditional slate in Detroit and Dallas, and then a nightcap with the Black and Blue Division in Baltimore. And for the CHEAT SHEET, it represents and easy day to get the ball rolling back up the mountain of picks.

Week 12 represented a third consecutive week that saw the picks take a roller coaster ride around the town. Hell, there was even a tie thrown in there for the second straight year, which is the equivalent of seeing your brother and ex-girlfriend show up for dinner tonight. It’s just weird, and with six games featuring matchups of teams within one game of each other. Those are the tough calls, there are only two games (Tampa Bay at Carolina and New England in Houston) that could be call as legit safe calls.

It will be a tough week to make a safe bet, but a great one for football. And in the end, that is one thing that is close to top of every sports fan’s things to be thankful for, yet again.

RECAP

FREE MONEY OF THE WEEK: 2-6

UPSET of the WEEK: 2-4-1

Record—Last Week: 7-6-1, Season: 101-58-1

 

THURSDAY

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5) [DET -6.0, Over/Under: 48.5] $$ Free Money of the Week $$

Oakland Raiders (4-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5) [DAL -9.5, Over/Under: 48]

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6) [BAL -2.5, Over/Under: 40.5] **UPSET of the WEEK**

SUNDAY

St. Louis Rams (5-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4) [SF -8.0, Over/Under: 42]

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Cleveland Browns (4-7) [CLE -7.0, Over/Under: 40]

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4) [IND -4.0, Over/Under: 45]

Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1) [EVEN, Over/Under: 49.5]

Miami Dolphins (5-6) at New York Jets (5-6) [NYJ -2.0, Over/Under: 39.5]

Arizona Cardinals (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) [PHI -3.0, Over/Under: 48.5]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) at Carolina Panthers (8-3) [CAR -8.0, Over/Under: 41.5] $$ Free Money of the Week #1 $$

New England Patriots (8-3) at Houston Texans (2-9) [NE -9.0, Over/Under: 47.0]

Atlanta Falcons (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7) [BUF -3.0, Over/Under: 46.5]

Denver Broncos (9-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) [DEN -5.5, Over/Under: 48.5]

Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-6) [EVEN, Over/Under: 48.5]

New York Giants (4-7) at Washington Redskins (3-8) [EVEN, Over/Under: 45.5]

MONDAY

New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Seattle Seahawks (10-1) [SEA -4.5, Over/Under: 47]

greg-maddux-tom-glavine

Yesterday, Major League Baseball officially released the group of former players that will comprise the 2014 Baseball of Fame ballot. The class will be announced on January 8th, and while unlike last year, there are sure to be a few players that are inducted in this season, the ongoing saga of who deserves the honor and who does not will continue on, for a variety of reasons.

Ten players can be selected on each ballot, and from the looks of the available talent, there could be a wide range of reactions to what is offered. There are what could be considered the no-doubters, mixed with a few “no doubt second ballot” guys, the vote that goes ignores the controversy, as well as a few with stronger showings than would be guessed. Add all of that in with both the Expansion Era Committee members (which features maybe the finest group of eligible managers available in history), and this could be a one of the most diverse classes ever inducted into the Hall.

But while the manager group could be the frosting, its the players that are cake of a class, and this year’s ballot alone has some of the most premient names in not only their era, but across the history of the game, from its start to finish. Will the controversy of last year be buried? Or will the line to the Hall continue to get longer and longer? With Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz scheduled to join the mix next season, this could be the greatest era of legends waiting for their immortality ever.

But for now, here’s what’s to pick from over the next month, as the wait for to see what course history takes starts moving yet again.

THE PLAYERS

Jeff Bagwell—First Baseman: Houston Astros (1991-2005), 4th ballot (59.6%)

1994 MVP, 4-time All-Star, 449 home runs, 1529 RBI, 488 doubles, 2314 hits

Craig Biggio—Second Baseman: Houston Astros (1988-2007), 2nd ballot (68.2%)

3,060 hits, .281 career average, 668 doubles, 414 stolen bases, 7-time All-Star, 4-Gold Glover

Barry Bonds—Left Fielder: Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants (1986-2007), 2nd ballot (36.2%)

7-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, 762 home runs, 2935 hits, 2227 runs, 2558 walks

Roger Clemens—Pitcher: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros (1984-2007), 2nd ballot (37.6%)

7-time Cy Young Winner, 1986 MVP, 354-184 record, 3.12 ERA, 4672 strikeouts

Tom Glavine—Pitcher: Atlanta Braves, New York Mets (1987-2008), 1st ballot

2-time Cy Young Winner, 305-203 record, 3.54 ERA, 10-time All-Star

Jeff Kent—Second Baseman: Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, LA Dodgers (1992-2008), 1st ballot

2000 MVP, 5-time All-Star, 377 home runs, .290 average, 1518 RBI

Greg Maddux—Pitcher: Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres (1986-2008), 1st ballot

4-time Cy Young Winner, 355-227 record, 3.16 ERA, 3,371 strikeouts, 18-time Gold Glove Winner

Edgar Martinez—Designated Hitter: Seattle Mariners (1987-2004), 5th ballot (35.9%)

7-time All-Star, .312 career average, 2,247 hits, 2-time Batting Champ

Don Mattingly—First Baseman: New York Yankees (1982-1995), 14th ballot (13.2%)

1984 MVP, .307 career average, 442 doubles, 2153 hits, 9-time Gold Glove winner

Fred McGriff—First Baseman: Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers (1986-2004), 5th ballot (20.7%)

493 home runs, 2490 hits, 5-time All-Star, 1550 RBI

Mark McGwire—First Baseman: Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals (1987-2001), 8th ballot (16.9%)

583 home runs, 12-time All-Star, four 50 home run seasons, 1987 Rookie of the Year

Jack Morris—Pitcher: Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians (1977-1994), 15th ballot (67.7%)

4-Time World Series Winner, 254-186 record, 2478 strikeouts, Most wins of 1980’s

Mike Mussina—Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees (1991-2008), 1st ballot

270-153 record, 3.68 ERA, 7-time Gold Glove winner, AL-record 17 straight double digit win years

Rafael Palmeiro—First Baseman: Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles (1986-2005), 4th ballot (8.8%)

569 home runs, 3020 hits, 1835 RBI, .288 career average, nine straight years of 38+ home runs

Mike Piazza—Catcher: Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics (1992-2007), 2nd ballot (57.8%)

427 home runs, 2127 hits, .308 average, 1993 Rookie of the Year, 12-time All-Star

Tim Raines—Left Fielder: Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins (1978-2002), 7th ballot (52.2%)

808 stolen bases, 2605 hits, 1571 runs scored, 7-time All-Star, 1986 NL Batting Champ

Curt Schilling-Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox (1988-2007), 2nd ballot (38.8%)

216-146 record, 3.46 ERA, 3116 strikeouts, 6-time All-Star, 11-2 Postseason Record

Lee Smith-Pitcher: Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos (1980-1987), 12th ballot (47.8%)

478 saves, 802 games finished, 7-time All-Star, 3-time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year

Sammy Sosa—Right Fielder: Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers (1989-2005, 2007), 2nd ballot (12.5%)

1998 MVP, 609 home runs, 7-time All-Star, 1667 RBI, 2408 hits

Frank Thomas—First Baseman: Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays (1990-2008), 1st ballot

2-Time MVP, 521 home runs, 2468 hits, .301 career average, 1997 Batting Champion

Alan Trammell—Shortstop: Detroit Tigers (1977-1996), 13th ballot (33.6%)

2365 hits, .285 average, 6-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, 1984 World Series MVP

Larry Walker—Right Fielder: Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals (1989-2005), 4th ballot (21.6%)

1997 MVP, 3-time Batting Champ, .313 career average, 383 home runs, 7-time Gold Glove Winner

Other First Time Candidates: Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Mike Timlin

102613-Ellsbury

The free agent winter continues to revolve, and on the heels of the first ‘Cut The Check’ recap, it is time to see where everything stands on who’s available still. But the rankings have logic, and before we jump into where they stand, here’s why they are where they are—as well as how long they may stay there.

A few words on the big picture and select free agents:

  • The Yankees and Robinson Cano are at a stalemate. Thus far, there has only truly been interaction between both, but with the Winter Meetings looming, its getting closer and closer to leaving the window open for a mystery party. Ultimately, the Yanks are the only team with the type of resources to match Cano’s requests, but they have made it clear they will not go anywhere close to the much-discussed $300 million mark he requested, and are deep into the free agent scene everywhere else as well. There’s a time limit to everything.
  • Outside of Cano, the Yanks top target is Carlos Beltran currently. Upgrading their offense is a top priority, and the signing of Brian McCann was a big start towards those efforts. GM Brian Cashman has also made it clear that Curtis Granderson is also in the picture to return, but there is a chance that time schedules for each may not align if the Yankees don’t act early enough and it probably wouldn’t be resolved until Cano’s situation is.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is the top outfielder available, but has had a slow to develop market. It is cloudy as to who the top suitors are currently, but there is still potentially no player available that could have more teams emerge that have interest in him. A later signing works best in his favor, as he will benefit from more teams entering the fray later on. While they are not in on him now, he would make logical sense for a soon to-be aggressive Cubs team and the Mariners, who are looking to make a big splash of some sort, could be a win for him as well. A return to Boston, doesn’t seem likely currently.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals struck first in the shortstop picture in signing Jhonny Peralta, and it leaves Stephen Drew without a clear favorite in the competitors market at shortstop. Another short-term deal could be in the picture there, in the same style as last season went for him.
  • The starting pitching scene will likely start up within the next week, but it has become slow to take off due to none of the top tier arms in this year’s class (which are in all reality just midgrade arms within the actual game) wanting to take the first deal, and then see the next guy set their negotiations from it.
  • The closer scene is defined by how many ninth inning spots stay open. When the Angels committed to Erneso Frieri and then signed Joe Smith to setup in front of him, it confirmed one potential spot had closed. The Yankees and Tigers are the two highest profile teams in need of solidifying their final frame.
  • And finally, there are the Rangers, who made a gain in acquiring Prince Fielder, but took a loss in missing on McCann. However, they could be in line for a number of significant gains, starting in the form of Shin-Soo Choo. If the Yankees concentrate on Beltran first, it leaves open a chance for the Rangers to pursue him for their right field vacancy, while still staying in position to resign Nelson Cruz as well.

And there it is; there are the rumors and reasoning, and here is where the current free agent scene stands.

For original rankings, refer to the first edition of the Top 75 Free Agents

  1. Robinson Cano-2B: Yankees, Nationals
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury-CF: Rangers, Yankees, Giants, Mariners
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-RF: Yankees, Rangers, Mariners, Reds, Tigers
  4. Matt Garza-RHP: Yankees, Twins, Angels, Orioles, Nationals
  5. Carlos Beltran-RF/DH: Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Mariners, Indians
  6. Ubaldo Jimenez-RHP: Yankees, Nationals, Angels
  7. Nelson Cruz-RF/DH: Rangers, Mets, Mariners, A’s
  8. Mike Napoli-1B: Red Sox, Mariners, Rockies
  9. Ervin Santana-RHP: Angels, Yankees, Twins, Royals
  10. Masahiro Tanaka-RHP: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Japan
  11. Stephen Drew-SS: Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Yankees
  12. Curtis Granderson-LF: White Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mets
  13. Hiroki Kuroda-RHP: Yankees, Angels, Japan
  14. Joe Nathan-RHP: Tigers, Yankees
  15. Grant Balfour-RHP: Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Rays
  16. Kendrys Morales-1B: Mariners, White Sox, Indians, Mets
  17. Ricky Nolasco-RHP: Twins, Yankees, Mets, Nationals
  18. Fernando Rodney-RHP: Indians, Rays, Cubs
  19. Omar Infante-2B: Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Yankees
  20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C: Red Sox, White Sox, Twins
  21. Joaquin Benoit-RHP: Phillies, Tigers
  22. Brian Wilson-RHP: Tigers, Rockies
  23. Edward Mujica-RHP: Phillies, Angels, Tigers, Yankees
  24. A.J. Burnett-RHP: Pirates
  25. Nate McLouth-LF: Orioles
  26. Bronson Arroyo-RHP: Angels, Twins, Giants, Phillies
  27. Bartolo Colon-RHP: Athletics, Marlins, Angels
  28. Scott Kazmir-LHP: Twins, Orioles, Mets
  29. Jesse Crain-RHP: Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs
  30. Corey Hart-1B/RF: Brewers, Mets, Pirates
  31. James Loney-1B: Rays, Rockies
  32. Chris Perez-RHP: Astros, Athletics, Tigers
  33. Raul Ibanez-DH: Yankees
  34. Boone Logan-LHP: Yankees
  35. Gavin Floyd-RHP: Twins, Orioles
  36. Jason Kubel-OF/DH:
  37. Michael Morse-OF:
  38. Dioner Navarro-C: Mets
  39. Justin Morneau-1B: Rockies
  40. Scott Downs-LHP:
  41. A.J. Pierzynski-C: Twins, White Sox
  42. Matt Albers-RHP:
  43. Scott Feldman-RHP: Orioles
  44. J.P. Howell-LHP:
  45. Ryan Vogelsong-RHP: Giants
  46. Rafael Furcal-SS: Mets, Royals
  47. Scott Baker-RHP: Cubs,
  48. Jose Veras-RHP:
  49. Garrett Jones-OF (new, non-tendered):
  50. Roy Halladay-RHP: Blue Jays, Phillies
  51. Kevin Gregg-RHP:
  52. Juan Uribe-3B: Dodgers
  53. Chris Capuano-LHP: Twins
  54. Paul Konerko-1B: White Sox, Retirement
  55. Barry Zito-LHP:
  56. Kelly Johnson-2B: Yankees,
  57. Joba Chamberlain-RHP: Royals, Braves, Giants, Astros
  58. Phil Hughes-RHP: Twins, Royals, Padres, Giants, Marlins
  59. Francisco Rodriguez-RHP:
  60. Mark Ellis-2B:

For more on the free agent globe as it rotates, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

White_Sox_Jose-Dariel-Abreu_2013

Abreu represents a big commitment to an unknown quantity in Chicago, but a strong sign of a needed change of direction from the franchise.

As is the case every year around now, it is time to start sizing up the signings and deals being made around the Major League Baseball offseason. So far, the winter has been in the grasp of the trade market, and just this week we saw major deals go down between the Rangers and Tigers, as well as another between the Cardinals and Angels. Moving ahead, there will likely be more major moves made on the player-for-player waters, as headliners such as David Price and Brandon Phillips stand out among the class of nearly sure to be moved candidates.

But for now, it is time to see what the dominoes of the open market are creating as they fall. While only one of the top 10 available players in the most recent edition of CSP’s Top 75 Free Agents have signed yet (updated list later today), their market is heating up and taking shape. For now, the majority of signings have been of the support variety: a back-end rotation boost, a utility outfielder, but also a few high talent international prospects that are making the leap as well.

Here is the point and the rules going ahead: the ‘Cut The Check’ reviews overlap with the regularly updated ranking of the Free Agent class. The list will update off of the players removed via the most recent CTC, and update the rankings. Here in the first edition, everybody is ranked by their original standing and ages represent 2014 playing age.

So with no more delay, here is the impact on the upcoming MLB landscape thus far…

4. Brian McCann-Catcher-30 Years Old-2013 Team: Atlanta Braves

Signed: New York Yankees—5 years, $85 million

The clear and away best option on the market at catcher, McCann offers a rare commodity on the open market at the position as well: an in-prime, plus offensive threat that was available and not going back to his former home. The Yankees had to make an upgrade behind the plate, as they never truly answered their woes at the spot after Jorge Posada retired and Russell Martin departed. McCann represents the perfect hitter for Yankee Stadium, with his power stroke to right field (he’s hit 20 home runs in seven of his eight full seasons). The seven-time All-Star instantly becomes the best catcher in the American League.

11. Jose Dariel Abreu-First Baseman-26 years old-2013 Team: Cuban League

Signed: Chicago White Sox –Six Years, $68 million

Only Masahiro Tanaka challenges Abreu for the title of highest impact international presence in this year’s free agent market, and the White Sox wasted no time in getting a hold of him once he defected in August and was made officially available for signing. He topped 30 home runs three consecutive seasons, and hit .394 with 35 home runs and 99 RBI in the 2011-12 season, and followed with a .382/13/37 split in 2012-13 in a shortened 42 game season.

With Paul Konerko mulling retirement and a role with the team uncertain, Abreu will be the everyday starter at first base in Chicago, and hit in the cleanup spot. For a White Sox team in transition, he is a major score for the franchise, and if his solid contact-to-power ratio carries over, he’ll be the start to the steady resurrection needed on the South Side.

15. Tim Lincecum-Starting Pitcher-29 years old-2013 Team: San Francisco Giants

Resigned with Giants—Two Years, $35 million

The first of the major MLB free agents to ink his name this offseason was Lincecum, who will earn a higher than expected $17 million in 2014, followed by $18M in 2015 to remain in the Bay. While he is far from the form that grabbed him two Cy Young Awards within his first three years, he did have his best season since 2011, dropping his ERA by nearly a full run and throwing a 130+ pitch no-hitter along the way. The deal is steep for the type of deception-based hurler he has become, and is based on reputation and familiarity more than anything else, but he did show the potential to evolve into a new type of effectiveness going ahead.

17. Dan Haren-Starting Pitcher-33 Years Old-2013 Team: Washington Nationals

Signed: Los Angeles Dodgers—One Year, $10 million

The Dodgers were in the market for an addition to their rotation that was high quality, but low commitment—and Haren fits the bill perfectly. After a bad start to 2013, he settled in for the second half of the season with a 6-4 record on a 3.52 ERA. Haren took less than he could have in the deal; as returning to California was high on his list of desirables this offseason.

22. Jhonny Peralta-Shortstop-31 years old-2013 Team: Detroit Tigers

Signed: St. Louis Cardinals—Four Years, $53 million

The Cardinals were in desperate need of an offensive upgrade at shortstop, after struggling to pull production from Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso last season. Peralta represented the best offensive option at the position on the open market, and although he was suspended late in the season as part of the Biogenesis scandal, hit a career-best .303 in 107 games, and topped 30 doubles for the sixth time in his career as well (more on this to come).

23. Marlon Byrd-Right Fielder-36 years old-2013 Team: New York Mets/Pittsburgh Pirates

Signed: Philadelphia Phillies—Two Years, $16 million

Byrd was the best second-tier, outfielder on the market; one that would not be due a long-term contract and can play in a variety capacities on a team. He had a career revival for the Mets, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 71 runs before being dealt to the Pirates late in the season, where he hit .318 over the final month of the season. In Philly, he’ll be the everyday right fielder, and a much needed right-handed bat to offset the lefty heavy lineup.

27. Tim Hudson-Starting Pitcher-38 years old-2013 Team: Atlanta Braves

Signed: San Francisco Giants—Two Years, $23 million

He entered the offseason with an uncertain market after a nasty broken ankle ended his season in July, however after showing he would be healthy for the spring, his market opened up in a hurry. His deal with the Giants represents a safe-low cost option for the backside of the Giants rebuilding effort, as well as a return the Bay Area where he began his career with Oakland from 1999-2004. In nine years in Atlanta, he won 113 games, good for a .611 win percentage.

28. Josh Johnson-Starting Pitcher-30 years old-2013 Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Signed: San Diego Padres—One Year, $8 million

The Padres scored a team-friendly one year deal with a high upside arm in Johnson, who is looking to rebuild his stock after an awful 2-8, 6.20 ERA effort in Toronto. A return to the NL, as well as residing in the spacious Petco Park can help him rediscover the form that saw him win 26 games on a 2.80 ERA across 2009-10.

32. Alexander Guerrero-Middle Infielder-27 years old-(Cuban defector)

Signed: Los Angeles Dodgers—Four Years, $28 million

The Dodgers middle infield situation will get a high flexibility boost with Guerrero in the fold, who can play either shortstop or second base. While second is likely to be his regular spot, his presence (which they rewarded with a $10 million signing bonus) could potentially allow the team to move Hanley Ramirez off to third base soon. The Cuban is considered among the best all-around players the country has produced in recent years, and continues the national infusion in LA with Yasiel Puig.

The Phillies are holding out hope that a full season of Ruiz can justify the investment made in him this month.

The Phillies are holding out hope that a full season of Ruiz can justify the investment made in him this month.

33. Carlos Ruiz-Catcher-35 years old-2013 Team: Philadelphia Phillies

Resigned: Phillies—Three Years, $26 million

After some early courting from the Rockies and Blue Jays, the Phillies decided to jump in on the Ruiz market and fill their catching vacancy with the man that created it. However, they brought Ruiz back on a very unproductive deal for a team that needs to lessen costs to older players as is, especially ones with clearly declining production. Ruiz had career-lows in ten categories after returning from a 25-game PED suspension.

49. Joe Smith-Relief Pitcher-30 years old-2013 Team: Cleveland Indians

Signed: Los Angeles Angels—Three Years, $15.75 million

While the Angels made a commitment to Ernesto Fieri as their closer again for the upcoming season, improving the back end of their bullpen is still a critical need. Signing Smith, the best setup option available, is an instant upgrade. In nearly 200 innings since 2011, he has posted a 2.42 ERA and surrendered only 10 home runs.

55. Javier Lopez-Left Handed Pitcher-36 years old-2013 Team: San Francisco Giants

Resigned: Giants—Three Years, $13 million

The Giants warded of the Yankees and a handful of other squads to maintain their uber-effective left handed bullpen arm. He held batters overall to a .208 average against in 2013, a number that lowered to .156 against lefty batters in 90 plate appearances.

58. Jason Vargas-Left Handed Pitcher-31 years old-2013 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Signed: Kansas City Royals—Four Years, $32 million

A puzzling deal from the Royals, who put too many years into filling the vacancy created by Ervin Santana to a lower-half rotation presence like Vargas. A two year deal on the same annual value may have been a great buy, but he does nothing more than provide a safety valve option for a team that could be a few smart signings away from springing into the postseason.

70. Geovany Soto-Catcher-31 years old-2013 Team: Texas Rangers

Resigned: Rangers—One Year, $3.05 million

Soto is a solid sign that can start if needed to, but works best as a time-share or backup option. His batting average topped .240 for the first time since 2010 last summer, and he hit nine home runs as well in his second year in Arlington.

72. Brendan Ryan-Shortstop-32 years old-2013 Team: Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees

Resigned: Yankees—One Year, $2 million

Ryan returned to the Bronx, where he landed very late last season, to provide much needed defensive support behind Derek Jeter in his last go around. In a pinch, he can play some third and second base as well.

74. Chris Young-Center Field-30 years old-2013 Team: Oakland Athletics

Signed: New York Mets—One Year, $7.25 million

Young capitalized on the Mets thirst for some sort of power potential in their lineup, as he topped $7 million in his move to across the country after hitting .200 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in Oakland last year. He will move to right field primarily, and with the increased at-bats could take a shot at another 20 home run year, which he produced four of previously with the Diamondbacks.

For more on the ever-changing free agent landscape, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

David_Freese

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels pulled off one of the more intriguing deals of the offseason on Friday afternoon, with the Cardinals sending third baseman David Freese and pitchers Fernando Salas to LA in return for outfielders Peter Bourjos and minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk. For both teams, the deal represented a pursuit to fill in positions in need of upgrade, yet both solutions come at the hope of an upside swing of two different varieties.

On the Angels End: Anaheim has long been in need of a steady answer at third base, as they have been chasing a solution at the position since Chone Figgins departed a few years back. Alberto Callaspo had manned the role over the past few seasons, but he was more of an over-extended utility man than anything else. In Freese, they make a move for a player who carries a career .286 average and never has a season with an on-base percentage south of .340, and is just a year removed from a .293/.372/.467 2012 split, all numbers that surpassed Callaspo’s best campaign substantially.

However, Freese comes with some risk, as he’s never completed a season without at least one disabled list stint. Also, he showed major regression in 2013, as he steadily struggled with the strike zone, in addition to limited range in the field. He is an absolute upgrade from a situation that was looking to be filled by Andrew Romine or Chris Nelson as of yesterday, and saw little to no full-time solutions on the free agent market. Freese is an immediate plug and play upgrade, whom can take some time at designated hitter.

Salas has a diverse history in the bullpen, manning nearly every role in the Cardinal bullpen over the past four years, but is likely to have to compete for a role in the LA pen in the spring.

On the Cardinals End: It is a deal that represented an opportunity to get a piece that was not an absolute necessity, but too good to pass on in Bourjos. A 27-year-old, low cost outfielder that covers as much ground as any player in baseball in the outfield, he is an absolute upgrade in the Cardinal outfield that has suffered from limited range for the majority of the past two years. Bourjos also presents a speed element that has been non-existent in the station-to-station Cardinal lineup for some time as well.

As well, the team the team acquired one of the Angels’ top prospects (in an organization devoid of much talent beneath the Majors) in Grichuk. He is projected to be a strong candidate for development and should remain in the Top 10 prospects within the substantially deeper Cardinal system.

The move creates even further financial freedom for the Cardinals, as Freese was due for a raise in the neighborhood of $4.4 million for his second time through arbitration this winter. Salas was a candidate to be non-tendered this offseason by St. Louis, so including him in the deal was likely a throw in. The Cardinals get a crucial extra year of club control in Bourjos, who is not scheduled to hit free agency until after the 2016 season and makes just over $1 million currently.

Bourjos creates a multitude of options in how the Cardinals will handle their 2013 roster.

Bourjos creates a multitude of options in how the Cardinals will handle their 2013 roster, as he has played every outfield position, and enables Jon Jay and Oscar Taveras more flexibility.

The Dominos: The aftermath of the deal is in an instant fill in for the Angels, but also the loss of a player that projected to be their top offseason trade chip in Bourjos. While Freese fills a need, the Angels greatest problem is their lack of starting pitching depth. No player on their team created more interest than the young, cost-controlled Bourjos, and by not getting a starting pitcher in return for him, they likely will be forced to spend (over overspend) even more in the free agent market to remedy this issue.

The theme of the trade continues to revolve around starting pitching for the Cardinals as well, who manage to avoid having to include anyone from their stockpile of quality starting pitching within the deal. That likely would have been a non-starter within the deal, unless shortstop Erick Aybar was included as well, which was discussed but could not be settled upon.

Also of importance for the Cardinals, is the trade cleared up the pending infield time jam between Freese, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong. Carpenter can now return to third base, while Wong can inherit the second base job freely.

The Winner:  It was a swap of expendable players for both sides, and ones with similarly questionable health histories as well as potential to have much greater seasons than they are coming off. But in the end the Cardinals win out as much for getting the plus tooled Bourjos as the Angels lose in trading him for a return less than he could have netted.

For more on the Cardinals evolving offseason in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more Cardinal coverage, head to I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal for the game, the culture and the events.

The Cheat Sheet: NFL Picks, Lines and Upsets – Week 12

Posted: November 21, 2013 by The Cheap Seat Fan in Gaming, NFL
Tags: , , , , , ,

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The playoff picture is beginning to take shape, as regular season NFL is nearly down its final quarter of the year. And with that, the levels of the league are sorting out as well. The elite are who they are, the bums are likewise. Yet as always, its the middle that complicates things, as well as collisions at the top, as there are the teams that have proven they are better than we thought they are.

Chief among those teams are the Panthers, who upset the pick sheet for the second week in a row. They’re the top of the list of risers in the league, and are looking like this season’s version of the Seahawks rise from late last year. The smart money is with them, in the same way that life is returning to the Giants and Steelers, who brought L’s to the Sheet last week.

Looking to Week 12, there a few blow outs that will likely take place (starting with tonight in Atlanta and carrying right through to Monday), but there are some tight games that wreak of upset as well.  The road team could rule the week as well, and its a good chance to place the smart money not on the records, but on the situation (look no further than New York and Green Bay for proof of this).

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have a date on Sunday Night. Hell of a week ahead, and after the worst week of the year on the picks sheet, it time to have one here too again.

RECAP

Free Money Picks: 5-6

Upset of the Week: 2-4

Record—Week 11: 7-8, Season: 94-52

 

 

THURSDAY

New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-8): [NO -9, Over/Under: 53] **Free Money of the Week #1**

SATURDAY

Chicago Bears (6-4) at St. Louis Rams (4-6): [EVEN, Over/Under 45]

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-6): [CLE -1, Over/Under: 40]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Detroit Lions (6-4) [DET -9.5, Over/Under: 48]

Minnesota Vikings (2-8) at Green Bay Packers (5-5): [GB -4.5, Over/Under: 43.5] **Upset of the Week**

San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-1): [KC -5, Over/Under: 41.5]

Carolina Panthers (7-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-5): [CAR -4.5, Over/Under: 41.5]

New York Jets (5-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-6): [BAL -3.5, Over/Under: 39]

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) at Houston Texans (2-8): [HOU -10, Over/Under: 43.5]

Tennessee Titans (4-6) at Oakland Raiders (4-6): [EVEN, Over/Under: 41.5]

Indianapolis Colts (7-3) at Arizona Cardinals (6-4): [ARI: -2.5, Over/Under: 45]

Dallas Cowboys (5-5) at New York Giants (4-6): [NYG: -2.5, Over/Under: 44.5]

Denver Broncos (9-1) at New England Patriots (7-3): [DEN: -2.5, Over/Under: 54] **Free Money of the Week #2**

MONDAY

San Francisco 49ers (6-4) at Washington Redskins (3-7): [SF -6, Over/Under: 47]

 

 

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In a very sudden fashion, the first blockbuster move of the MLB offseason made its presence felt, when the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers agreed on a swap of Prince Fielder (and $30 million) for Ian Kinsler. According to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, it was a conversation that started on Tuesday afternoon, and took less than a day to agree on the parameters. What comes of it is a trade that is both a textbook marquee move, as well as a direction changer for both teams involved.

On the Rangers End: It solves one of their immediate problems that was of the utmost importance to fill: finding a middle of the order bat. Since Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli left Arlington last winter, they had an order low on power and big on gaps to fill. Add in the potential loss of Nelson Cruz, who has topped 20 home runs each of the past five seasons, a possibility as well, the Rangers power down was hitting dangerous levels.

Picking up Fielder fixes that immediately. Despite a down year in 2013, until proven otherwise, it was simply just a down year, because his track record mandates this respect. He topped 30 home runs every year from 2007-2012 and does not turn 30 until next May. He instantly becomes the cleanup hitter to support Adrian Beltre, and is a reliable as they come (playing in every game since 2011). Also, the Rangers are receiving $30 million from the Tigers to offset the difference between Fielder and Kinsler’s contracts, which will be able to be actively applied towards keeping them in the free agent batter market.

On the Tigers’ End: For Detroit, the deal is not as much of a complete approach change as it is a chance to shift its focus. They were on the hook for another $168 million with Fielder over the next seven years, and had a definite need to cut tow on some financial luggage. Many of the Max Scherzer trade rumors came from the fact they did not believe they would be able to afford to resign the now Cy Young winner after next season, but now that will not be a problem.

Also, with Omar Infante testing the free agent waters, they had a clear need at second base, and acquiring Kinsler represents an upgrade at the position, as well as a chance to move Austin Jackson out of the leadoff spot and down the lineup where he would be a better fit.

Most importantly, the Tigers have an instant replacement for Fielder of the highest order, by moving Miguel Cabrera back to where he should be at first.

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Kinsler’s departure virtually insures Andrus stays in Texas for the long-term, and makes a clear path for Profar to fit in as well.

The Dominos: The aftermath of the deal finds the Rangers as grabbing a premier bat, as well as getting a few extra bucks to play the market with. Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran or Cruz all remain in play. Incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland is coming off a good year, and with David Murphy off to Cleveland, could be in line for a move out to leftfield to replace him. But the most obvious benefit for the Rangers is the loosening of the tie around their collective infield neck, one that was on the verge of becoming a noose. Kinsler coming out of the mix allows for Jurickson Profar to take over at second, and ends any potential trade rumors of either him or Elvis Andrus.

In Detroit, the most obvious bonus is the freeing up of cash to give to Scherzer, potentially by Spring Training. There is also the freedom to more freely spend in the closer market among the solid class of Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour and Chris Perez, among others. They do have a void at third base now, but top prospect Nick Castellanos (.276, 18 HR, 76 RBI at Triple-A) is an immediate plug and play, as he is now unblocked at his natural position. Maybe the only worry point is that it does change the way that pitchers can approach Cabrera now, with the lessened protection behind him, but that with Cabrera there’s no such thing as an easy fix, so that’s not much to raise a flag against.

The Winner: Both teams come away with needs and concerns met, in a surprisingly even deal of All-Star talents. The Tigers make needed reshapes to their lineup, and get away from a burden-bearing contract early in the life of it and pre (serious) decline. The Rangers meanwhile inject a needed power source and big splash deal, on the heels of missing the postseason for the first time in three years.

There are no losers here, but the edge goes to the TIGERS, due to immediate gain of Kinsler, the lineup shakeup and both the long and short term financial flexibility.

For more in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For the rest of the works, head over to i70Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.