In our second installment, we are staying out west but flipping over to the AL. It’s like an earthquake hit the western divisions in MLB with the moves and uncertainty in the aftermath. For the AL West though, only one of the moves appeared to fall in line with the problems we think the teams need to address.
Ken Giles could push the Astros over the edge towards a World Series. (www.todaysknuckleball.com)
The Astros took some huge strides in the second half of the 2015 season to become playoff contenders. The ALDS series against the Royals would have been a much different affair if Houston could have shortened the game with a lights out bullpen. The addition of Ken Giles gives them, with Luke Gregerson, the setup man and closer combination to do just that in crucial moments.
Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive SS in MLB and grabbing Yunel Escobar and Ji-Man Choi to round out the infield might seem like a big deal for the Angels. However, the Halos struggled in generating offense last season and none of these guys seem to address that problem. Mike Trout needs a lineup that can keep opposing pitchers honest with him. Maybe the Angels lost out to some other teams for getting the hitting and outfielding talent they need.
Andrelton Simmons and his glove could be the solution to the Angels problems. (www.rantsports.com)
The 2015 AL playoff picture was a bit of a mess with the Yankees stumbling backwards and just managing to hold onto a Wild Card spot. Otherwise, we could have seen both Wild Cards come out of the AL West; the only division that couldn’t produce a team with 90+ wins. Really though, the AL West was a promising division that collectively opened an umbrella indoors then walked outside under a ladder to find a black cat crossing their path only to step and trip on a crack in the sidewalk then break a mirror while trying to catch their balance.
BL – So what do the Rangers need to do? Recover. Make a sacrifice to the baseball gods that Yu Darvish comes back and has a 2016 season like Matt Harvey did in 2015. Will Josh Hamilton’s knee be okay? Will Cole Hamels make it through the entire 2016 season? The Rangers won the division despite being pummeled with injuries. If they can stay healthy, they’ll be in the playoff discussion in 2016.
The Rangers need to see plenty of this and not Yu Darvish sitting on the bench. (www.bleacherreport.com)
DJ – The Rangers need someone to help Prince Fielder. He led the Rangers in hits, Batting Average, HR, RBI, OBP, was second in games played, and fourth in doubles. Texas cannot be a one man show. Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland had solid years, but without solid pitching it is doubtful the Rangers can repeat what they did in 2015. Success in 2016 comes down to having a healthy pitching staff. The health and success on the mound of Yu Darvish (Tommy John), Cole Hamels, Derek Holland (shoulder), and Martin Perez (Tommy John) will decide the Rangers fate.
BL – The Mariners played a little Jekyll and Hyde last season. When they signed Robinson Cano before the 2014 season, it seemed like Seattle was moving towards becoming a big hit sort of team. More characteristically AL than NL. But the acquisitions of big hitting talent seemed to stall after getting Mark Trumbo, and then the focus shifted to pitching but that didn’t pan out well. It’s more apparent than ever that successful playoff teams can’t be made overnight. If GM Jerry Dipoto is really committed to creating a contender, then the Mariners need to establish an identity to build from. I suggest putting an intimidating rotation around Felix Hernandez and shoring up the defense. Mariners fans, if they’re like Seahawks fans, will learn quickly that stifling defense can be a joy to watch.
Taijuan Walker’s development should be on full display in 2016. (www.bleacherreport.com)
DJ – The King needs a Prince or two. Felix Hernandez is the undisputed ace in Seattle. While it is difficult to have two aces on a pitching staff, the Mariners would be smart to seek out pitchers who can be true #2 and #3 starters. Saving the bullpen early in the season can pay huge dividends beginning in August and carrying over deep into the playoffs. Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma could be those starters. The continued development of Walker along with Iwakuma having something to prove after a failed physical with the Dodgers could mean low scoring, NL style games in the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners have the pitching staff built for the playoffs, they just need Hernandez, Walker, and Iwakuma to all stay healthy and make at least 30 starts each in 2016.
BL – I’m a big fan of Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written and subscribe to Vanity Fair mostly because he’s a regular contributor. Billy Beane did something revolutionary with Sabermetrics in that he and Paul DePodesta reexamined the statistical analysis of the game and saw what the larger baseball community was missing. This was the only way to win on a budget, which was a necessity demanded from ownership. But now everyone is savvy to the Moneyball method of Sabermetrics. Moneyball worked because there was information asymmetry, like being able to count cards in a casino. Beane and Co. need find that new information asymmetry to get back on top or start spending the money necessary to become contenders.
Billy Burns is the model for how the Athletics can return to their winning ways. (www.athleticsnation.com)
“Singles hitters drive Fords, home run hitters drive Cadillacs.” ~ Ralph Kiner
The players’ parking lot in Oakland needs to look like a Ford dealership. Oakland’s big ballpark and low budget forces it to play NL style baseball. The Athletics need players who get on base early and often. A team on a budget needs a few players to hit above .300. Billy Burns led the A’s with a .294 batting average, and stole plenty of bases. However, only three players stole 10 or more bases (Burns was the only player to have more than 11 steals). Oakland has to get inventive to create sustainable offense. The rest of baseball has caught up to Moneyball, but Oakland must show that the original is still the best. Putting the ball in play, taking the extra base, and forcing the opposing pitchers to pitch in high stress situations is key for Oakland to manufacture a successful 2016 season.
BL & DJ
The Miami Marlins are in the process of dismantling a professional baseball team faster than ever thought imaginable. Less than a month after trading Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Jeff Mathis, and Jake Marisnick the Marlins are at it again. This time the team has traded Yunel Escobar, and his giant $5 million salary, to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor leaguer Derek Dietrich. While the Marlins have gotten younger and out from under several long term deals that could end badly, they have however done little to improve their team.
The Associated Press has reported as it stands now after the Escobar trade, the Marlins opening day roster would make a combined $38 million in 2013. This would mean a Major League Baseball team would only be making $10 million more than Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. If Rodriguez is able to hit 13 home runs this year he will receive a $6 million bonus from the Yankees for matching the career home run total of Willie Mays, taking his 2013 salary to $34 million. This closes the gap to only $4 million, unfortunately for Marlins fans, if any are left after this latest fire sale, the $38 million opening payroll is deceiving.
The projected $38 million payroll will not all be spent on players playing for the 2013 Miami Marlins. Nearly twenty percent, $7 million, will be used to pay former players to play for someone else. Toronto will be receiving $4.5 million of this money to help pay the players the Marlins traded to the Blue Jays. The pain does not end there. The Marlins will send $1.5 million to the Arizona Diamondback to help pay Heath Bell as well as an addition $1 million to cover part of the signing bonus Bell got when he signed with the Marlins. If you have been keeping track of the numbers this puts the Miami Marlins on opening day with the players on their team at $31 million. A $31 million payroll divided by a 25 man roster equals out to $1.24 million per player. The Major League minimum for 2013 will be $480,000.
If the situation was not bad enough, now the highest paid played on the team, Ricky Nolasco, and the $11.5 million he is due this season, wants out of Miami. Honestly, who can blame him. I would not be surprised if the Marlins realize how much they owe him and trade him for prospects and a cheaper major league pitcher, probably in the $1 to $3 million range. If Nolasco is traded, the Marlins opening day roster could have a combined salary of roughly $20 million. If the Marlins manage to keep their payroll under $20 million there would be 14 players who made more individually during the 2012 season than the Marlins opening day roster is due for all of 2013.
The Miami Marlins have single handedly ruined any chance for professional baseball to grow and develop in Miami. While the Rays continually have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, they are also competitive year after year in the AL East. The Rays are a prime example of how low payrolls do not automatically mean high low totals. No one should believe this salary dump by the Marlins was about getting better. Instead it was about saving money, and not putting a quality product on the field of their new tax payer paid for stadium.