Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Giants’

Dodgers-Clayton-Kershaw-Tigers-Max-Scherzer-claim-Cy-Youngs

Last summer, the National League West was the scene of the most drastic 180 in all baseball. Coming into the year, it was fully expected that the Dodgers would grab it early on for themselves and not let up, however that was far from the case. As a matter of fact, due to a mix of injuries and uncertain day-to-day lineup production, LA found itself in the cellar of the division in early May, and no other club really stepped and away either. The defending World Series champs in San Francisco were dealing with a host of injuries and down seasons, and the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres didn’t make the opportunistic push that they could have. Soon enough, they would grow to regret this.

2013 Finish

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70)

2. Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)

3. San Diego Padres (76-86)

4. San Francisco Giants (76-86)

5. Colorado Rockies (74-88)

In mid-May, the Dodgers came around and ran away with the West. Sparked by the promotion of Yasiel Puig and returns of Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and (briefly) Matt Kemp, they ran away with the division, finishing with the biggest divisional margin of victory in the Majors. Pulling ahead to this summer, they will enter with the same expectations. However, the division enters in a much better place overall that won’t allow for any temporary slips that the last time around allowed.

The Diamondbacks showed the most growth of any team that did not make the postseason last year, sparked by the coming of age of MVP runner up Paul Goldschmidt, and they made some smart additions to continue the process. The Giants never stay down for long, and with a strong core and a few additions to mend their fall of last year, they project well again too. And the Padres and Rockies both are the type of teams that can rock a boat while keeping their hand on it as well.

What does this all mean? And can it continue to be the aggressive mix of a division that has not had a repeat champ since 2009?

All-Division Team

1. Yasiel Puig -RF—Dodgers

2. Carlos Gonzalez-LF—Rockies

3. Troy Tulowitzki-SS—Rockies

4. Buster Posey-C—Giants

5. Paul Goldschmidt-1B—Diamondbacks

6. Matt Kemp-CF—Dodgers

7. Chase Headley-3B—Padres

8. Marco Scutaro-2B—Giants

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw—Dodgers

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke—Dodgers

Starting Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner—Giants

Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain—Giants

Right Handed Reliever: Joaquin Benoit—Padres

Lefty Handed Reliever: Rex Brothers—Rockies

Closer: Kenley Jansen—Dodgers

Lineup

1. Dodgers

2. Rockies

3. Diamondbacks

4. Giants

5. Padres

With five current or former All-Stars comprising their everyday lineup, without accounting for Puig, the Dodgers have a undeniably balanced offering that still could do even more than it has to date if they can get a better shake regarding health. Following their addition of Mark Trumbo, the D’Backs are the only NL team running out two 30-home run hitters from a year ago, with Goldschmidt as well. The Rockies always produce, but if Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can join NL-batting champ Michael Cuddyer and new addition Justin Morneau with some regularity, they should lead the NL in runs scored again.

The Rockies potential is greatly improved when it has its former batting champ in Gonzalez available. He has cleared .300 three of each of the last four years and 20 homers in each campaign.

The Rockies potential is greatly improved when it has its former batting champ in Gonzalez available. He has cleared .300 three of each of the last four years.

Heart of the Lineup

1. Dodgers

2. Rockies

3. Diamondbacks

4. Giants

5. Padres

The Hanley Ramirez/Adrian Gonzalez/Matt Kemp trio that the Dodgers could yield is a pure terror, as is the Gonzalez/Tulowitzki/Cuddyer mix in Colorado. However, the Giants could see a big upswing around Buster Posey if Pablo Sandoval’s re-conditioned approach pays out, Brandon Belt continues to develop and Michael Morse can rediscover his 2011-12 form, where he hit .297 with 49 homers over the run.

Table Setters

1. Dodgers

2. Padres

3. Giants

4. Rockies

5. Diamondbacks

The decision to put Puig at the top of the lineup by Don Mattingly is partially due to a lack of a true leadoff hitter, but it is also a case of getting his most diverse talent as many at-bats as possible. If he develops more patience, he could be among the best leadoff options in the NL (.391 on-base % in 2013). The Padres are a throwback of an attack, that has plenty of dash and run options. Before he lost the end of his season due to a Biogenesis-related suspension, Everth Cabrera was on pace to lead the NL in stolen bases again, and still managed to swipe 37. He is backed up by the chronically underrated Will Venable.

Depth

1. Diamondbacks

2. Giants

3. Dodgers

4. Rockies

5. Padres

Kirk Gibson has a very deep offering, with the enviable option of alternating between Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and will eventually have the versatile Cody Ross available as well. San Francisco’s Gregor Blanco is one of the better 4th outfielders in the game, and Andre Ethier is currently the best 4th outfielder in baseball—for as long as he lasts in LA.

Bumgarner has steadily risen up both the Giants rotation and the ranks of NL pitchers, reaching his first All-Star Game last summer.

Bumgarner has steadily risen up both the Giants rotation and the ranks of NL pitchers, reaching his first All-Star Game last summer in route to a 13-win, 199 strikeout campaign.

Rotation

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Diamondbacks

4. Padres

5. Rockies

For all of the depth of their everyday lineup, it is rotational depth that is the real strength of the Dodgers. Behind their big two, they have a rotation and a half, with a mix of Hyun Jin-Ryu, Dan Haren and options of Paul Maholm, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley as well. However, the Giants are not far behind them, with Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogel song providing a solid supporting group.

1-2 Punch

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Diamondbacks

4. Padres

5. Rockies

The West is home to two of the elite starting duos in the game, in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Kershaw and Greinke combined for a  31-13 record with a 2.23 ERA and 380 strikeouts  last year, with Kershaw winning his second Cy Young in three years. In SF, Cain had a down year, before rebounding with a superb second half, while Bumgarner posted a 2.77 ERA in route to earning this year’s Opening Day nod. Arizona suffered a huge loss in their top guy Patrick Corbin being lost to Tommy John surgery this spring, while the Padres have a blooming star in Andrew Cashner atop their order.

Bullpen

1. Dodgers

2. Diamondbacks

3. Padres

4. Giants

5. Rockies

LA boasts a dominant Kenley Jansen at the end of their pen, with two former closers on one-year deals auditioning for a return to the role in Chris Perez and Brian Wilson setting up for him. That’s a mix that leads to some very short games behind their already potent starting staff. The D’Backs have a similar mix, with J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler all capable of shutting the door in front of Addison Reed. The Padres annually have a superb pen, and saw to it that it continues to be so by making a big commitment to former Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit to setup for Huston Street.

While his winning two-thirds of the NL Triple Crown got the headlines, Goldschmidt also turned in an excellent defensive campaign in route to winning the National League first base Gold Glove.

While his winning two-thirds of the NL Triple Crown got the headlines, Goldschmidt also turned in an excellent defensive campaign in route to winning the National League first base Gold Glove.

Defense

1. Diamondbacks

2. Padres

3. Rockies

4. Giants

5. Dodgers

Led by all-universe defender Gerardo Parra and the Gold Glover Goldschmidt, the D’Backs can pick it, especially with a healthy Miguel Montero captaining it all behind the plate. The athletic Padres are built to make cover the spacious grounds in Petco Park, with Chase Headley a former Gold Glover and Venable, Chris Denorfia, Yonder Alonso and Cabrera all very good defenders as well. In Colorado, Carlos Gonzalez is the best defensive outfielder in the NL, as is Hunter Pence in right for the Giants.

Manager

1. Giants

2. Padres

3. Diamondbacks

4. Dodgers

5. Rockies

Bruce Bochy has played a major role in the regular success of the Giants, and with two World Series titles under his belt in the last four years, he’ll have them ready for a rebound. Bud Black doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does in getting the cash strapped, young Padres to a respectable finish each year either. Don Mattingly also proved his chops last year, by corralling the spiraling Dodgers back into the race—and saving his job in real-time as well.

Finances

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Diamondbacks

4. Rockies

5. Padres

The Dodgers can have whatever they want, it is just a reality of the game that everybody in the market has to adjust to. They are squarely in ‘win now’ mode and will acquire whatever they can to make that a reality. The other teams in the division are more modest with their resources, so what is in tow now is likely to be close to what they compete with, although the D’Backs do have some attractive young prospects they could bargain with.

Impact Additions

1. Mark Trumbo (Diamondbacks via trade)

2. Tim Hudson (Giants via free agency)

3. Addison Reed (Diamondbacks via trade)

4. Dan Haren (Dodgers via free agency)

5. Justin Morneau (Rockies via free agency)

The D’Backs mortgaged away some of their young potential to add slightly more proven young Major Leaguers in Trumbo and Addison this winter, to add much needed power in Trumbo, and late inning depth in Reed.  The Dodgers and Giants both made smart, ready-to –win contributions in Haren and Hudson to offset each other’s addition of the other.

Once he found a place in the starting rotation, Cashner became one of the NL's most dominant starters, especially at home where he sported a 1.95 ERA.

Once he found a place in the starting rotation, Cashner became one of the NL’s most dominant starters, especially at home where he sported a 1.95 ERA.

Leap Forward

1. Nolan Arenado—Rockies

2. Andrew Cashner—Padres

3. Brandon Belt—Giants

4. Jedd Gyorko—Padres

5. Chris Owings—Diamondbacks

Arenado’s rookie year got swept away by the some of the more famous ones around the NL, but he made his own instant impact as well, winning the NL Gold Glove at third base. Look for him to make a more regular impact at the plate this year, as his .311 career minor league average indicates. Cashner could be the breakout starter in the NL this year, as the eccentric, flame throwing righty posted a 2.14 second half ERA, with a .194 average against.

Rookies/Propects To Watch

1. Archie Bradley—Diamondbacks

2. Eddie Butler—Rockies

3. Jonathan Gray—Rockies

4. Chris Owings—Diamondbacks

5. Austin Hedges—Padres

The West is home to a group of the premier pitching prospects in the game, with two oddly enough being headed towards Colorado in Butler and Gray. Gray was the 3rd pick in last spring’s Draft, posting a 1.93 ERA in two stops after signing. Butler started 28 games in the minors last year, and dominated to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and 143 strikeouts. If they can carry over their success to Coors, it could signal a change of tides for the long-suffering Rockies pitching. Bradley is the top pitching prospect in the minors (12-5, 1.97 ERA at Double A in 2013), and should see action in the desert fairly early in the year due to Corbin’s injury.

PREDICTIONS

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Francisco Giants

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. San Diego Padres

5. Colorado Rockies

The prognosis for the West seems to be for it to be much more competitive than it was a year ago, even while it stands to be host to one of baseball’s most dominating clubs, it is also compromised of a few teams that are either growing into postseason form or returning to it. The Diamondbacks look to continue their growth into a postseason contender, and despite the loss of their top arm in Corbin, they still have what it takes to continue their push into the wild card picture. They will need to get help from their on-the-verge prospects throughout the year, and may need to add an arm later in the year, but they are close. The same can be said for the Giants, who are only two years removed from being the best team in baseball, and are at a crossroads with their established core. If it has one more run in it, and a consistent offering from its rotation, they will push for the post season.

The Padres are a wild card in the fact that they have the understated cohesiveness to make a difference in the division, even if they are a few years (and a legit offensive star away) from being a factor in the wild card race. The Rockies are still a one-sided affair; potent offensively, but offer very little in the way vital pitching to compete with their division mates.

But in the end, it is the Dodgers division to negotiate their way through from the very beginning. It is about not winning the West, but getting over the NLCS hump that is their task for the year. After a season where they pushed to the brink of the World Series despite never being healthy, it is definitely within reason to expect them to do better entering the year in markedly better shape than they were at any point last year. Making reality meet what paper shows is a completely different thing however, but their prime competition is not from within the West, but from the top of the other divisions.

It has been four years since a team repeated in the West, but it is time for it to happen again. The Dodgers will once again pull away with the division, although by not the same amount of games, in route to posting the National League’s best record. However, expect the Giants and Diamondbacks to compete for one of the Wild Card spots throughout the year, with the Padres being a surprisingly competitive club as well.

For more on the season to come in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to The Sports Fan Journal and I70 Baseball.

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In the second entry of this series, the spotlight turns to Carlos Beltran, who has had quite the diverse career. In his 16-year career, he’s had five stops along the road, starting with the Kansas City Royals, before a brief (yet impactful…more on this later) stop in Houston. Then he had the longest stop of his career with the New York Mets, before another brief stop in San Francisco, before arriving at his current home with the St. Louis Cardinals. All along, his career has been defined by the rare run of constant potential: the chance to be a big time player, then the opportunity to showcase it, due to a mixture of struggling clubs and injury woes. However, when all things are considered, he’s put together a solid resume of work and has been one of the better outfielders of the past decade. But is that enough for him to be considered on a historic level? Let’s see where Beltran stands on the big picture.

The Numbers (pre-2013)

–          16 years (age 36): .282 avg, 334 home runs, 1243 RBI, 2064 hits, 416 doubles, 74 triples, 306 stolen bases, .360 on-base percentage, .496 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: When he was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for the better part of his first ten seasons. He played his first full season at age 22, and also had his first 100 RBI season. He followed that with eight of the next ten seasons, averaging 98 RBI per season. Across that same time span, he hit better than 25 home runs six different times, with a career-high of 41 in 2006. It is arguable what was his greatest skill during that time span as well, his power or his speed. From 2001-04, he averaged 37 stolen bases a season, and his 38 homer/42 stolen base 2004 season made him a strong member of the 30-30 club. He is also one of the most accomplished switch hitters of all-time, hitting the sixth most homers ever for a split duty guy. He’s also the only switch hitter in MLB history to hit 300 homers and steal 300 bases.

However, his two very strong assets that set him apart from a glut of other dually capable players is ability in the field and his high pressure ability. At his best, he was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. He won three Gold Gloves from 2006-08 when his game was at its best, and twice won the Fielding Bible’s honors for best center fielder in baseball as well. He has a strong and accurate arm as well, and has eight seasons of at least 10 outfield assists.

In postseason play, he is one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He has a .363 batting average in 37 career playoff games, along with 14 home runs, including a record eight in one postseason in a 2004 October with the Astros that only consisted of 12 games. His five consecutive postseason games with a homer that season are also a record.

2. The Case Against: While Beltran’s production has been impressive; he did lose some significant years to injury in his mid-prime seasons. Over a three-year stretch from 2009-2011, he played in a total of 287 games, and only played in over half a season once. During this time he battled multiple knee injuries, which robbed him of much of his speed. From 2009-2012, he averaged only eight stolen bases a season, and had to move to right field due to both loss of range and preservation. He’s never been a particularly prolific hitter from an average sense either, only hitting over .290 three times in his career. Also, despite a long and steady career, he’s been an All-Star in less than half his seasons, and has never finished in the Top 3 in any Most Valuable Player vote.

3. Similiar Players (through age 35)

Andre Dawson (.283 avg, 346 home runs, 1231 RBI, 2201 hits, 396 doubles, 300 steals)

Dave Winfield (.285 avg, 332 home runs, 1331 RBI, 2241 hits, 375 doubles, 200 steals)

Bernie Williams (.301 avg, 263 home runs, 1132 RBI, 2097 hits, 401 doubles, 144 steals)

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Diversity is Beltran’s ally, but being able to see the peak of his abilities completely could be his undoing when it comes time for the vote.

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Beltran finds himself in a tough position regarding how he profiles for the Hall of Fame. As a centerfielder, he finds himself in an extremely difficult group to compare against in terms of all-time numbers. There have been 18 primary players at the position that have been inducted thus far, not counting the inevitable election of Ken Griffey, Jr before Beltran’s eligibility clock starts.

Once again, the potential of Beltran comes in the spotlight again. He both is, and isn’t, an elite performer at his position. Beltran’s career WAR (64.9) tells a story that shows him on the fringe of being in the top 10 players to ever play the position. His five-tooled impact during his prime and late career renaissance as a power hitter has helped him to get in range of some very solid marks. With another 20 home runs in 2013, he’ll pass none other than Joe DiMaggio’s career mark of 361, as well as move him into the top 10 all-time at centerfield. That’s an impressive, but it’s really the only strong claim to fame he’ll make.

The potential of Carlos Beltran will ultimately be his undoing. He lost the years that would have put him firmly in range to make a run at the Hall, especially in light of the productive turn he’s taken with the Cardinals in the last two years. His three-year average coming into the 2009 season, where injuries first took a substantial toll on him (at age 32, his late prime) was a .278/34/113 effort, with 22 steals and 37 doubles added on as well. An addition two years of those changes everything about what his potential is. He’d be in range to top 400 home runs and 2,500 hits, in addition to the 300 steals he’s already accumulated.

An output of that caliber would have put Beltran on par with Dawson, who was considered to be more of a fringe HOF. Who knows what could have happened in withat time. Perhaps Beltran would have filled out his entire potential, and became the best player in the National League for at least one full season (although he had terrible timing for a coming of age with the dominance of Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols happening simultaneously as his best years). Beltran has as unique niche established, but it’s all based on the ‘almost’ instead of the ‘done’. He’s a postseason hero, without a Championship. He is a power hitter, who’s never led in any major category. A Rookie of the Year, that never took the next major award step. Instead of having the case that Dawson had, being an MVP, he’s more in the haze range of Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds, and as of now, that’s proven to be very great, but not immortal.

So, when it’s all said and done, and the question is asked about Carlos Beltran’s place in history: is he in, out or in-between, the numbers are solid, but the time lost will hurt, and he will remain OUT.

For more on Beltran’s road to prove me wrong (although he’ll never ever know I wrote this in all likelihood), follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants - Game Six

The National League West was a free for all a year ago, as it was a division without a dominant team. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who pulled off a last-to-first coup to win the West in 2011, couldn’t recapture that same spark. The Los Angeles Dodgers made the most aggressive trade deadline push in history, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford from the Red Sox in an attempt to make a late charge for the division. The San Diego Padres turned in another strong second half behind the MVP-level upturn by Chase Headley, while the Colorado Rockies looked for creative ways to manage a bad pitching staff and a wounded lineup. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants caught a spark inspired by the perfection of Matt Cain and the outstanding, batting championship/MVP-winning Stan Musial Most Valuable Player” href=”https://cheapseatsplease.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/the-cheap-seats-2012-nl-stan-musial-most-valuable-player/”>return of Buster Posey. A spark that ended with a Giants sweep of the World Series, and winning their second championship in three seasons.

2012 Finish

1.                   Giants (94-68)
2.                   Dodgers (86-76)
3.                   Diamondbacks (81-81)
4.                   Padres (76-86)
5.                   Rockies (64-98)

Fast forward a year later, and much has changed in the West mostly. Gone is Justin Upton from the D’Backs and back to the Rockies is Troy Tulowitzki. The Padres have continued their Motley Crew mix of young potential and select veterans, looking to maximize their potential. The Dodgers have continued their no ceilings approach to spending, fronting the big bill to add a second top tier arm in Zack Greinke to their rotation. And meanwhile, amid all of this change, set the defending champion Giants: returning intact and healthy. Is this the season that they make everyone believers? That the most slept on success in baseball gets it’s due by holding back the big bank monsters to their south, as well as the rest of the pack in one of the most balanced divisions in baseball? It’s never easy to stay on top, whether they see you coming or not.

All Division Team

Catcher: Buster Posey-Giants

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez-Dodgers

Second Base: Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks

Third Base: Chase Headley-Padres

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies

Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies

Center Field: Matt Kemp-Dodgers

Right Field: Andre Ethier-Dodgers

Clayton_Kershaw

No other NL pitcher has approached Kershaw the previous two years: a 35-14 record, 477 strikeouts and a MLB-best 2.40 ERA.

Starting Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers

Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain-Giants

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke-Dodgers

Starting Pitcher: Ian Kennedy-Diamondbacks

Righty Relief: Luke Gregersen-Padres

Lefty Relief: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants

Closer: JJ Putz-Diamondbacks

Top 10

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
  3. Buster Posey, Giants
  4. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
  5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
  6. Matt Cain, Giants
  7. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
  8. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
  9. Chase Headley, Padres
  10. Pablo Sandoval, Giants

Lineup

  1. Dodgers
  2. Rockies
  3. Giants
  4. Diamondbacks
  5. Padres

LA has put together (potentially) a powerhouse of an everyday lineup. But injuries are already taking a toll on its early offering, with Carl Crawford still touch and go in his attempt to make his Dodger debut, and Hanley Ramirez out for two months with a broken wrist. Colorado will always kill the ball at home, but health (especially Tulowitzki’s) and road performance limit their full output. Even with these challenges, Colorado as a team finished third in the NL in hits.

The return of Tulowitzki to the join Gonzalez puts potentially two-All Stars back-to-back in the Rockie lineup

The return of Tulowitzki to the join Gonzalez puts potentially two-All Stars back-to-back in the Rockie lineup

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Dodgers (Gonzalez/Kemp/Ramirez)
  2. Giants (Posey/Sandoval/Pence)
  3. Rockies (Gonzalez/Tulowitzki/Cuddyer)
  4. Diamondbacks (Montero/Kubel/Prado)
  5. Padres (Headley/QuentinAlonso)

The potential of Kemp and Gonzalez is staggering; both have had career-high seasons of 39 and 40 homers, respectively, and could be an gauntlet to work through for opposing pitchers. Sandoval really came into his own in the fall last season, and Posey crushed lefties to the tone of an even average a year ago. The last time CarGo and Tulo hit back-to-back for a full season in 2011, they put up a combined 56 home runs, 197 RBI and 173 runs scored.

Table Setters

  1. Giants (Pagan/Scutaro)
  2. Rockies (Fowler/Rutledge)
  3. Dodgers (Crawford/Ellis)
  4. Diamondbacks (Prado/Parra)
  5. Padres (Cabrera/Gyorko)

The strength of the Giants is being able to work timely, extra base hitting. Scutaro put up a .362 average once reaching the Bay a year ago, and Pagan led the NL with 15 triples. Dexter Fowler had a career-high .300 last season for the Rocks, while Crawford has long been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in baseball. He has averaged 50 steals per 162 games for his career.

Bench

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Rockies
  3. Dodgers
  4. Giants
  5. Padres

When completely healthy, Arizona has constructed a very diverse team, which has plenty of capable contributors off the bench, such as Eric Chavez and Willie Bloomquist. The Dodgers have quietly assembled a very capable supporting cast in-between its headline signings, with Skip Schumaker, Aaron Miles and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Kennedy (36 wins since 2011) anchors a deep Diamondbacks rotation that is needed to hang in the West.

Kennedy (36 wins since 2011) anchors a deep Diamondbacks rotation that is needed to hang in the West.

Rotation

  1. Giants
  2. Dodgers
  3. Diamondbacks
  4. Padres
  5. Rockies

The long-standing strength of the Giants attack is starting pitching. Led by Matt Cain, the Giants had big game effort after big game effort from Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Madison Bumgartner in-route to winning out last season. Quietly, Arizona has assembled a deep starting five behind former 20-game winner Ian Kennedy. Brandon McCarthy and NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Wade Miley are part of a very solid group.

1-2 Punch

  1. Dodgers (Kershaw/Greinke)
  2. Giants (Cain/Bumgarner)
  3. Diamondbacks (Kennedy/McCarthy)
  4. Padres (Volquez/Richards)
  5. Rockies (De La Rosa/Chacin)

If you’ve got one Cy Young winner, why not add another if you can? That’s exact what the Dodgers paid $158 million to do when they put 2009 AL winner with 2011’s NL winner, adding Greinke to Kershaw atop their rotation. Bumgartner has increased his win total each season, reaching 16 in year three.

Bullpen

  1. Giants
  2. Dodgers
  3. Padres
  4. Diamondbacks
  5. Rockies

Despite losing closer Brian Wilson, the Giant bullpen continued to be a late game roadblock. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla combined for 39 saves, while Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and George Kontos all round out a great effort. The Padres have a very underrated bullpen collection; Huston Street saved 23 games on 1.85 ERA, and was one of four pitchers to average better than nine strikeouts per nine innings.

Defense

Although it was Headley's bat that made the loudest impact, he landed his first Gold Glove in rise of 2012.

Although it was Headley’s bat that made the loudest impact, he landed his first Gold Glove in rise of 2012.

Giants

  1. Padres
  2. Diamondbacks
  3. Rockies
  4. Dodgers

There is not one subpar defender on the field for the Giants, who just as much depend on pitching, also depend on strong defense to secure their victories. Posey, Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan are all plus defenders. Conversely, for the Dodgers, a lack of range behind their pitching staff could cause for some prolonged woes in maximizing their potential.

Speed

  1. Padres
  2. Rockies
  3. Giants
  4. Dodgers
  5. Diamondbacks

The Padres have a huge ballpark, and have added the type of speed to capitalize on it. Cabrera lead the NL is steals with 46 a year ago, while Cameron Maybin and Will Venable both topped 20 as well. If health is their ally, the Dodgers have a chance to have an impressive speed trio in Kemp, Crawford and Ramirez, all of which have swiped at least 40 bases before in their careers.

Manager

  1. Bruce Bochy, Giants
  2. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks
  3. Bud Black, Padres
  4. Don Mattingly, Dodgers
  5. Walt Weiss, Rockies

Black is quietly putting together a very strong coaching resume, with two World Series titles in the past four years; a stretch he hasn’t won less than 86 games during. Gibson won the NL Manager of the Year as a rookie in 2011, something that Walt Weiss will be pressed to do with the pitching hungry Rockies as a debuting manager this year.

Finances

  1. Dodgers
  2. Giants
  3. Diamondbacks
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

The Dodgers seem to have no ceilings in what they can put out to build the roster of their dreams. The combination of a new management team seeking to make its mark, as well as a $6 billion television deal gives them the capabilities to do as they please. The Giants have the ability to impact the market with the dollar, as Cain’s $127 million extension reflects, but being able to keep up with LA from a spending projects as difficult task for them and the rest of baseball.

Impact Additions

  1. Zack Greinke (Dodgers from Angels)
  2. Martin Prado (D’Backs from Braves)
  3. Cody Ross (Diamondbacks from Red Sox)
  4. Brandon McCarthy (Diamondbacks from Athletics)
  5. Hyunjin Ryu (Dodgers from Japan)

The headline deal was of course Greinke, and rightfully so, but the Diamondbacks were the team that made the most adjustments. Prado came over as the key piece in the Justin Upton to Atlanta deal, while Cody Ross was handed $26 million to solidify the outfield. Brandon McCarthy, who sported a 3.29 ERA in his two years in Oakland is potentially the steal of the winter if he can recapture his form after returning from the brain surgery due to the line drive that ended his 2012.

The addition of Greinke gave the Dodgers an arm that's struck out 200 and pitched 200 innings 3 of the last 4 years.

The addition of Greinke gave the Dodgers an arm that’s struck out 200 and pitched 200 innings 3 of the last 4 years, and devastating duo along with Kershaw.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Tim Lincecum, Giants
  2. Sergio Romo, Giants
  3. Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies
  4. Brandon Crawford, Giants
  5. Luis Cruz, Dodgers

To have two players as accomplished as Lincecum and Romo at the top of this list seems odd, but in their own particular ways they have much to accomplish this season. Lincecum is looking to prove that he can continue to be effective, despite a diminished arsenal. Romo, who became a late inning sensation in the postseason, is looking to prove he can hold the role in a more permanent fashion (18 saves in 19 overall 2012 chances).

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Jedd Gyorko (Infielder-Padres, MLB)
  2. Yaisel Puig (Outfilder-Dodgers, AAA)
  3. Tyler Skaggs (Pitcher-Diamondbacks, AAA)
  4. Nolan Arenado (Third base-Rockies, AAA)
  5. Zach Lee (Pitcher-Dodgers, AA)

Gyorko has hit everywhere he’s been, from the minors (.311 at Double/Triple A in 2012, 3 Spring MLB homers), and has hit his way into the everyday mix in San Diego as well. He will start the season at third base until Headley returns from injury, but will likely move to second base once he’s back. Yaisel Puig and Nolan Arenado have proven to have big bats that are forcing some tough decisions about keeping them in the minors for much longer by their respective clubs.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Giants
  2. Dodgers
  3. Diamondbacks
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

The West will be a very competitive division. Despite their undeniable success in recent years, the Giants are not the type of team that is an outright dominant club. Mostly because it isn’t an offense that scores in bulk; rather they are a timely one that wins close games. The Diamondbacks have the potential to factor into the wild card picture, if not the division, but a few things will have to go in their favor, starting with some consistency in health. They have strong pitching, and a balanced lineup. Balance is not in favor of the Rockies, who still have a mismatched pitching staff, but could fare better than a year ago with the return of Tulowitzki. The Padres have a steadily improving everyday lineup, but are still young in many areas and don’t have the firepower to keep up with the rest of the clubs in the division.

In the end, the question comes down to either the Dodgers or the Giants. While LA has constructed a formidable club in a short amount of time, there are still shortcomings in the club. Every area of the team is facing injury issues, Matt Kemp has to prove his hamstring woes are behind him, and injuries to Greinke, Ramirez, Crawford and Chad Billingsley have already plagued the team this spring. The Giants great strength is chemistry, and this is a battle tested group that knows how to rely on each other. Until the Dodgers can get fully healthy all at once and learn to play together, that’s a distinct advantage that the Giants have, and combined with the major difference making presence of Posey and a supremely deep pitching staff, the champs keep the edge and should win the West for a third time in four years.

There’s one more preview to go and to get the details on this, that and everything in between as baseball is primed to reset itself in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

So far this year in the CHEAP SEATS, the focus has been on breaking down the best units in baseball.  When we last left off, the best pitching units at the back end of games were broken down, but now it’s time to move to front end and the spotlight arms of the game. As last year’s World Series match up proved, a great starting rotation is the difference between night and day in a season. And to make this list, it takes more than just a great number one; having a great 2-4 is huge, and even a fifth arm can make all the difference.

Lee Hamels Halladay

Here is the difference between the cream, and the crop…the best starting staffs in 2013’s upcoming baseball offering. And remember, pitchers and catcher report a month from today. Spring’s saving mercy gets underway in the winter.

 

 

1. Washington Nationals: Top to bottom there’s none better, because even their bottom is better than half the team’s baseball’s top. Stephen Strasberg is on the verge of being the league’s best and is good enough to make a 20-game winner in Gio Gonzalez to second billing. Add in a potentially resurgent Dan Haren, along with two of the most underrated arms in either league in Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, and you’ve got a problem everyday of the week in DC.

2. Detroit Tigers: There’s a lot more to the Tigers than Justin Verlander (who’s averaged 20 wins the last four seasons). None of their starters have seen their 30th birthday yet. Max Scherzer actually struck out two more batters per nine innings than Verlander. Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez are tremendous options to be 3rd and 4th arms, while Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello are only 23 years old. This will be a strong collection for years to come.

3. Philadelphia Phllies: For everything that the rotation didn’t do last year, there’s still so much potential here. Cole Hamels has become a perennial Cy Young candidate, and nobody pitched to more tough luck than Cliff Lee did last year (30 starts, 3.16 ERA, but first win on July 4th). Add back a healthy Doc Halladay to the mix and this is as devastating of a top end rotation as there is, still.

4. San Francisco Giants: The strength of the World Champions is based in just how many arms can step up to be the top dog at any time. Matt Cain came into his own as an elite hurler last year, while Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgartner both sported 3.37 ERAs, while winning a combined 30 games. Barry Zito showed a renaissance in the NLCS and World Series, and if Tim Lincecum can manage a similar effort during his contract push this summer, no reason to not at least pencil them back into another October.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers: With the Zack Greinke signing, the Dodgers locked up the toughest 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Kershaw has 35 wins and a 2.40 ERA over the last two years, and Josh Beckett should serve to be an important veteran axis in the middle of the rotation. And they currently have quality options abound for the bottom of the mix, with Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley and Korean star Ryu Hyun-jin all options to round out a suddenly uber-talented mix.

Landing a reigning Cy Young winner is huge (and rare), but there's a lot more to the new Jays rotation than just RA's knuckler.

Landing a reigning Cy Young winner is huge (and rare), but there’s a lot more to the new Jays rotation than just RA’s knuckler.

6. Toronto Blue Jays: Of all the moves the Jays made to try to climb out of the bottom of the AL East, their aggressiveness to finally fix their horrible starting pitching should pay out the most. They put together a diverse group in finesse workhorses R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle, while Josh Johnson has one of the livest arms in the game, and Ricky Romero become a huge bounce back candidate as a fifth starter.

7. Oakland A’s: Billy Beane outdid himself putting together a group that came to age in a hurry last summer, and hijacked the AL West. Jarrod Parker and Tom Millone (both acquired in offseason trades) both won 13 games, and long with AJ Griffin (7-1, 3.05 ERA in 15 starts) all could make a claim to best rookie arm in the baseball, and if Brett Anderson can stay healthy to anchor the group, they’ll be a force once again.

8. Cincinnati Reds: It’s all about balance on the Reds understatedly good rotation. Cuerto has been among the NL ERA leaders the last two seasons, and Latos found recaptured his old form in his first year in Cincy. And if they hold true to their plan, and can successfully convert Arodis Chapman into a starter, this will be a very potent group.

9. Tampa Bay Rays: Not many teams could lose Matt Garza and James Shields in back to back years and stay relevant, but there’s also no other team with the young arms of the Rays. Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and the quietly good Alex Cobb make up the meat of the group, but it really doesn’t hurt to have 2012’s Cy Young winner David Price entering his prime atop it all.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks: A gut of rich young pitching gives the D’Backs is impressive. Ian Kennedy has won 35 games since the start of 2011, and Wade Miley reached All-Star level as a rookie. Add in the potential return of Daniel Hudson from Tommy John Surgery by mid-summer, and the addition of Brandon McCarthy as well, and this is a rotation that will cause a lot of trouble.

Just A Bit Outside: Yankees, Braves, White Sox

 

For more in real-time on these starters starting up their year, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Sergio Romo

The CHEAP SEATS breakout of the best units in baseball continues today, with a look at the best bullpens in baseball. This isn’t just the best closer, with a few other guys, but the teams that can make a window of opportunity really small to a get a W. There are some really strong groups of late arms coming into the league, with potentially some of the best units not even finishing among the Top 10 coming in. With Rafael Soriano still looking for a home as well, there’s still a huge piece that could change the fortune of a few of these groups, as well as a few not mention among them yet.

But this is what it is, and the series continues with a spotlight on the pitchers that don’t stand it as often…until the pressure is on highest.

 

1. Atlanta Braves: The only bullpen that can truly turn leads into six inning wins, and it got deeper this offseason. Craig Kimbrel has been the best closer in the game for his first two season in the game, converting 89 of 100 save opportunities, while opposing hitters have a .151 average against him. Eric O’Flaherty has 1.95 ERA over the last two seasons and Jonny Venters has struck out 258 batters in 229 pro innings. Add on Jordan Walden, who saved 32 games as a rookie All-Star in 2011, and you’ve got a devastating group.

2. San Francisco Giants: You’d think they would take a step backwards losing Brian Wilson at the beginning of the year, but not a skip was missed up and down their pen. That’s a testament to the game’s most balanced pen, with Sergio Romo handing in his second consecutive sub-2.00 ERA year, with 18 total saves. Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affelt and George Kontos all handed in ERA’s below 3.00 as well.

3. Baltimore Orioles: The O’s weren’t the best late-inning team in the game just due to a knack for walk off hits. Their pen was the secret strength of the team, led by Jim Johnson, who saved 51 games while walking just 15 batters in over 60 innings. Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Luis Ayala and Troy Patton were the ultimate support group and 18 won total games.

4. Oakland A’s: Whether it was Ryan Cook (14 saves, 21 holds, .166 average against) or Grant Balfour (24 saves, 15 holds, .160 average against) closing games, the entire path through the late innings against the A’s was hell. With their entire pen returning, the American League’s best total pitching staff will be trouble again.

5. St. Louis Cardinals: Once again, the Cardinals’ staff stepped up big late in the season. Jason Motte tied for the NL lead in saves with 42, and Edward Mujica put up a 1.03 ERA after being acquired from the Marlins. Randy Choate (.158 average vs. left-handers) and Trevor Rosenthal (15 strikeouts in 8.5 playoff innings) could both be huge additions over the course of the full season in 2013.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers: Around their big name additions, the Dodgers have done a good job off filling in the details as well, starting with a solid bullpen. Brandon League will resume his role as a full-time closer, after saving 37 games in 2011. 2012’s closer Kenley Jansen, who struck out 13.7 batters per 9 innings, will open as setup man, and with Matt Guerrier, JP Howell and Ronald Belisario in the mix as well, there will be no shortage of situational arms available as well.

7. Boston Red Sox: There may be no team with more “what if” talent on their bullpen mix than the Bo Sox. Joel Hanahran (36 saves, 2.72 ERA in Pittsburgh) was their biggest acquisition of the winter, but if Daniel Bard, Andrew Bailey and Koji Uehara can also find their old forms (and health), this could be the group at the top of the list by next year.

Aroldis Chapman makes the Reds group a top 3 pen collection, but even without him, Cincy still has a ton of strong late inning arms.

Aroldis Chapman makes the Reds group a top 3 pen collection, but even without him, Cincy still has a ton of strong late inning arms.

8. Cincinnati Reds: Another group that has a pretty big “if” attached to it. With Aroldis Chapman, this is a top 3 unit, but since the plan is to move him to rotation currently, it slides some. Even without him available daily, it is still a strong unit led by Jonathan Broxton, Jose Arrendando and one of baseball’s best left-handed setup arms, Sean Marshall.

9. San Diego Padres: A great unit that makes a so-so club a lot better on its own. Despite losing Heath Bell and Mike Adams the last two years, the Padres still have 10 relievers that averaged better than a strikeout an inning. When he gets a chance, Huston Street was lights out, converting 96% of saves chances with a 1.85 ERA.

10. Tampa Bay Rays: Annual guarantee in baseball is the Rays will have a dynamic bullpen. It will be needed more than ever, with a rotation thinned out after trading it’s workhorse, James Shields, and setup man Wade Davis. However, Fernando Rodney (0.60 ERA and 48 saves in 74 innings), along with Jake McGee and Joel Peralta are a strong base for the next wave of certain to follow up and comers that will join the group to build off of.

 

Just Missed: Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v New York Yankees

It’s only January, and there’s more than a few moves still to be made, but it’s not too early to assess the best units in the MLB. After all, Pitchers and catchers report next month, and the World Baseball Classic is on deck as well. While this year’s edition of my Top 100 Players won’t come out until February either, here’s a bit of a warm up series.

Rankings are based, as usual, not just on offense, but a blend of hitting, defense, talent and projection across the board. Catchers are factored in to infield worthiness as well.

1. Yankees (Mark Teixeira/Robinson Cano/Derek Jeter/Kevin Youkilis/Austin Romine): While much of the team is in flux, the infield is still the class of all in the game, with three out of four starters of All-Star quality. Cano and Teixeira are the arguably the best at gloving their positions, and their bats are as good as any. Jeter’s decline in the field is clear, but he’s still among the most productive bats in the game. Youkilis was a very solid signing, especially for a unit awaiting A-Rod to return.

2. Tigers (Prince Fielder/Omar Infante/Jhonny Peralta/Miguel Cabrera/Alex Avila): The only thing that keeps this unit from being #1 is that it’s not the defensive equal of the Yanks. Cabrera transitioned well to third, and Infante added a solid glove option up the middle when he came over as well. Fielder and Avila are offensive surpluses along with Cabrera’s obvious impact, and this will be the most productive offensive unit in the game.

3. Texas Rangers (Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, AJ Pierzynski): The best defensive complete infield in the game. Kinsler and Andrus are one of the best double play combos in the game, and the Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in either league, and has also hit over 30 homers and 100 RBI in each season in Texas.

4. Nationals (Mike Morse, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki): A ridiculously blanced unit, led by the rangy Zimmerman at third, the Nats have put together a complete unit.  Morse is the masher, Espinosa provides plus power for a second baseman and Desmond is one of the most underrated players in the game. Cap it off with Suzuki ‘s fantastic handling of their staff, and there’s no holes in DC.

5. Reds (Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zach Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Hanigan): Phillips and Votto are among the top tier, complete duos in the game, with Votto well on his way to second MVP early last year before an injury. While he was gone, Frazier stepped up and nearly took Rookie of the Year honors, and will be a valuable (and rare) right handed power bat in Cincy.

Votto and Phillips make for both a tough combo on the right side of the Cincy infield, and top of the order as well.

Votto and Phillips make for both a tough combo on the right side of the Cincy infield, and top of the order as well.

6. Giants (Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey): The M-V-Posey makes it all go, as heart of the lineup and field general, but this is a total effort collection. Crawford, Belt and Scutaro all cover plenty of range, with little flash but plenty of efficiency. Sandoval is the punch for the squad, as his World Series three homer, later MVP, effort showed.

7. Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Emilio Bonafacio, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia): Reyes and Bonafacio will continue to be the quickest middle infield combo in the league together in their move to Canada. Lawrie is a strong athlete as well, and where Encarnacion is better suited at DH, his lapses on defense are made up for with his 40+ homer level he reached in 2012.

8. Cardinals (Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Rafael Furcal, David Freese, Yadier Molina): Molina is the game’s best defensive player at any position, and has become one of its most clutch hitters as well. Furcal and Descalso together is a very efficient middle infield combo, while Freese and Craig both topped .290, 20 homers and 75 RBI.

9. Dodgers (Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Luis Cruz, AJ Ellis): The benefits of the Gonzo deal will pay out big this year, as he’s a much needed plus defender, as well as another 30 home run threat too. Hanley is as well rounded of a hitter as there is, and while he may end up back at third, there’s no shortage of possibilities with Ellis, Cruz, Skip Schumaker and Dee Gordon as well.

10. Angels (Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Alberto Callapso, Chris Ianetta): Pujols carries the heavy lifting for this group, but there’s more to it than him. Aybar is a former Gold Glove winner, and Kendrick a career .292 hitter. Add on the steady contribution of Callapso, and this is a strong collection.

Just Missed: Red Sox, Phillies, Indians

For more on the game in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

It’s the heart of the winter meetings and deals are coming back in according to form. While the trade market All-Stars (RA Dickey, Justin Upton, James Shields, Astrubal Cabrera among others) are all in pure rumor form, the free agent meter in overdrive. There has been a holding pattern at the top, with Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn all having more myth to reality about exactly who is in for them and what type of deal it will take to land them. But the middle of the market is clearing out like a two for one sale.

The Boston Red Sox have filled their shopping cart in a hurry with new talent, while the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants have done so with bringing back their own guys. The National League in general has been very active, especially among last summer’s contenders. The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves have each added a top 10 free agent to their clubs, while the LA Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals are both waiting in the wings still.

What’s waiting to explode still is both the middle of the lineup power market, and most notably the starting pitching field. All of that hinges on what happens with Greinke and Hamilton, but anything is possible and at any second, the powder keg of the field could go off and a few hundred million getting handed out to the pair could change everything.

For now, here’s a recap of the more recent signings in this winter’s free agent scramble, with some of the impact of their deals. The ranks are by their original place on the CHEAP SEATS free agent tracker. An update Top 50 will debut tomorrow, with any updated signings and a complete recap of deals thus far.

The Giants two biggest "additions" were returns, by giving out $60 million to hold on to postseason heros Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro

The Giants two biggest “additions” were returns, by giving out $60 million to hold on to postseason heros Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro

 

4. BJ Upton-Centerfield: Signed with Atlanta Braves, 5 years/$75 million

I covered this all the way at The Sports Fan Journal, check it out.

10. Dan Haren-Pitcher: Signed with Washington Nationals, 1 year/$13 million

Haren is a very strong signing for the Nationals, who needed to replace Edwin Jackson in their rotation. While he suffered from some back troubles that produced his worst year as full-time pro, his upside is undeniable and he’ll round out the Nationals starters as the strongest overall group in the NL. With a one year deal, he’ll re-enter the market next year with a chance for very strong deal.

12. Mike Napoli-Catcher/First base: Signed with Boston Red Sox, 3 years/$39 million

Nap’s the perfect signing for Red Sox club that’s getting very versatile in filling its multiple holes. Napoli can work the catcher and first base (which will be his prime position) openings, as well as spell David Ortiz at DH. With his swing, he’ll eat the Green Monster up and could be in place for another 2011 in Fenway.

15. Mariano Rivera-Pitcher: Resigned with New York Yankees, 1 year/$10 million

No surprise here; there was no shot he’d go anywhere else. Rather, it’s a fulfillment of his promise to not go out on an injury note. He’ll slide back into the ninth inning role in the Bronx and make the entire staff better.

18. Angel Pagan-Centerfield: Resigned with San Francisco Giants, 4 years/$40 million

The first big eye raiser of the winter meetings, Pagan’s deal is a high risk one. He had a strong postseason, and was a value at $10 million per in this year’s CF market, but the length of it is questionable, as he’ll be 34 when it ends and will most likely have to man a corner position due to decline. But right now, it’s a major step in the Giants staying put at the top of the West.

24. Joakim Soria-Pitcher: Signed with Texas Rangers, 2 years/$8 million

One of the game’s best closers before having to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery and missing 2012 in KC, this is a rebound chance for Soria. He’ll become a setup man in Texas, but play for a contender for the first time and could be the impact setup man Texas hoped Mike Adams would be.

25. Marco Scutaro—Second Base: Resigned w/ San Francisco Giants: 3 yrs/$20 million

The market worked very favorable deal that was aided by his strong second half, NLCS MVP effort and a late battle between the Yankees, Cardinals and Giants for his services. But the Giants get back steady contributor for just over $6 million per year and keep their greatest strength in tow: group chemistry.

26. Shane Victorino-Outfield: Signed with Boston Red Sox, 3 years/$39 million

This is a strong sign for the Sox, who are looking to fill spots across their outfield, both now and going ahead. He’ll start in right field right, but can play every spot in the outfield and could be an option in center full-time if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves in free agency next winter. His signing changes the shopping list of many teams, as the Indians, Reds, Yankees, Rays and Giants were all in for him.

30. Andy Pettitte-Pitcher: Resigned with New York Yankees, 1 year/$12 million

Another matter similar to Rivera’s return to the Bronx, Pettitte wasn’t going to pitch anywhere else. The only shocker is the $12 million he received to do it, despite making only 12 starts after coming out of retirement and being shut down by injury nearly immediately last year.

33. Russell Martin-Catcher: Signed with Pittsburgh Pirates, 2 years/$17 million

The first big surprise of the offseason was when the Pirates lured Martin from the Yankees. He’ll be a strong veteran to handle their young, up and coming pitchers and provide the type of experience a team that’s failed two Augusts in a row needs.

61. James Loney-First Base: Signed with Tampa Bay Rays, 1 year/$2 million

A solid signing for a team based on pitching strength. He won’t provide much power for a corner infielder, but he’ll carry his own weight with his glove.

69. Scott Feldman-Pitcher: Signed with Chicago Cubs, 1 year/$6 million

A quiet signing that will give the Cubs a solid amount of innings on the bottom half of their rotation, at a decent price.

 

For more on the real time dealings and rumoring around the MLB winter, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.