The Red Sox, Cubbies, Marlins and Dodgers have been busy little beavers this Hot Stove seseaon… each team except for the Dodgers didn’t fare that well in 2014. And, the Dodgers got bumped from the playoffs rather abruptly. Is any of what these teams doing enough to make any of them a contender in 2015? Or, are they just treading water? Find out what the Round Table crew thinks, along with what they think will be the one singular Hot Stove moment that takes the baseball world by surprise…
1) The Red Sox have been active beyond compare, so far, during this Hot Stove season… think they’ve made enough moves to go from the bottom to the top and contend for the World Series now?
Archie: While Adding Sandoval and Ramirez was huge I am not convinced they have done enough. Letting Lester slip away is definitely going to be felt down the stretch. I don’t know who they have in mind to replace him. Uehara might be the answer, but he did not start a single game last year.
They pretty much had “starter by committee” last year with 9 different pitchers starting double digit games for them. And, now that Lester is gone and they have not added an arm yet; they might have too many shortcomings in pitching to overcome the added value of Panda and Ramirez.
Sandoval and Ramirez were great additions, as was Porcello and Miley, but, the Sox are still missing an ace. If, they ponied up the money for Jon Lester, and, made that move, I’d give it to the Sox. But, without the ace to lead the staff, I’m not even sure they win the AL East.
I also like what Toronto has done, and, it’s still a little too early to count out the Yankees. Especially, with Shields and Scherzer still out there.
Joe: I think they evidently improved their offense, but, not so sure about solidifying their defense. As for their pitching… right now they got a stranglehold on #3 and #4 starters, with no true #1 or #2 starter. I think they could go from the bottom to the top of the AL East becasue no one in that division impresses me, but, probably, not much further.
Toronto, with all their moves, does not impress me at all… sorry.
The Yankees are team with a lot of “ifs”. If, everybody comes back from injuries then who knows…
Tampa? They’re in a rut and seem to be doing nothing of any import except for looking for a new stadium.
So, yeah, from bottom to the top in the AL East… maybe. But, not all the way to the World Series unless they get somebody (or two) to front the pitching staff, and, then they still need to shore up their bullpen.
Steve: I think the Sox really put themselves in a pickle. Do I think they have improved? Yes. But they are still a ways away from a World Series title. I think they had their minds made up that they were going to get Jon Lester off of Free Agency, and, had that happened, they would have that piece of the puzzle. Now they unloaded Cespedes for Porcello, which I believe hurts their offense, and, does not do a whole lot for their pitching. Adding Sandoval, and Ramirez will help, but, they still have some work to do with their rotation.
2) Last week the question was… What the heck are the Atlanta Braves doing? Is it fair to now ask… What the heck are the Los Angeles Dodgers doing?
Archie: Yes. Simply put yes. I don’t understand them not matching and retaining Ramirez as well as trading Kemp. I don’t get it. What good does it do to bring in Hamels when you vacated so much offense? They billed the trade as “gaining a slugging Catcher” in Grandal, but, he does not come close to matching offense of Kemp or Ramirez. The only thing I can think is that the owners overspent in the beginning and they are having buyers remorse now and trying to back down on the payroll.
Earl: The Dodgers are building a team now instead of a collection of big names and I like it. Trading Kemp was necessary because of all of the additional outfielders, and, I wouldn’t be too surprised, if, Ethier is also dumped before spring training.
The Dodgers have some kids in the pipeline that need to be pushed up to the majors and under new President Andrew Friedman, they seem to be making the moves to get a little younger and a bit more flexible. They could still win the NL West with all of their moves and they might actually make a little playoff noise for once.
They got a killer front 3 in their rotation… Clayton Kershaw (MVP & CY), Zack Greinke & Hyun-Jin RU and signed a couple oft injured guys in Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Who could be big, if, they stay healthy and if they get to the form that once was predicted for each player, but, that neither has really come near to achieving.
So, the Dodgers dumped big star attractions, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp; added some very good, or potentially good, players and new depth and yet… meh…
Steve: I am not nearly as confused about the Dodgers as I am with the Braves.
The Dodgers still have the best one-two punch as far as pitching in all of baseball. Kershaw and Greinke are both top 5 starters in my opinion. So, I still think LA are, and will be, the favorites in the West next season.
Unloading Dee Gordon hurts them on the bases, but unless you are the Kansas City Royals of last year, that will not win you championships.
3) In baseball, arguably, the value of a player is whatever an owner is willing to pay… having said that, is Jon Lester worth $155 mil over 6 years (an average of $24 plus mil per year)?
Archie: IMO no starter is worth more than $20 mil per year; but then I think there are way too many contracts over the $15 mil per year mark. Let’s say he has 34 starts which is the max nowadays for starters; that is $705,882.35 per start. Of course that per game amount changes with every missed start. He has averaged just over 200 innings for most of his career so I see where his new team considers him durable. But even that puts him between $115 to $120 thousand per inning. Really?
Earl: It’s a bit of an overpay, but, the Cubs had to do something. They’ve been down for so long, but, the light appears to be at the end of the tunnel; with Joe Maddon on board and some interesting young players reaching the major league level. They had to something and that was Lester. In my opinion, they aren’t done. And, landing Shields or Scherzer would go a long way for the Chicago Cubs.
Joe: No, no, no… pitching is maybe where it’s at these days in baseball, but, to pay Lester an average of that much money per year is just stupid in my opinion. That type of money, if it ever could be justified, should be for a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Lester has yet to prove he is one, or even close, to that level.
Steve: For the Cubs? Yes he is. I think the Lester signing was exactly what the Cubs need to put them in the conversation as division contenders. Lester has a tremendous ERA, and with the Cubs young core of players, adding a veteran like Lester is going to propel them over the next couple of years. He is the kind of pitcher than can last until he is 38 years old, which is what he will be at the end of the contract. The Cubs are in it, I am calling it now.
4) The Miami Marlins signed Mike Stanton to that eye-popping big contract, and, then went out and traded for pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren plus all-star 2nd baseman Dee Gordon… are they ready to contend with the Washington Nationals in the National League East?
Archie: I am never a believer in the Marlins. Sorry fans. As soon as they reach the trade deadline and are more than 8-9 games behind, they will have afire sale like they always do. Why? Because Florida in general has never supported the team by filling the stands. Even the years they won it all as the Marlins they never averaged more than 30k fans per game. In fact, in 2003 when they won the world series they only averaged 16,089 fans per game.
How can owners buy and afford players like Stanton, Latos, Haren and Gordon along with the rest of the team IF they don’t fill the seats? Last year they averaged just over 21K per game. Only the White Sox, Indians and Rays (another Florida team) averaged less. With that kind of support, owners have a tendency to cut payroll when things don’t jell early and adding new players does not always equal early on success.
Earl: Yup they are, only because I look at the NL East and I don’t see that one dominant team. The Nationals are good, the Braves have some questions, the Phillies are old in the tooth, and, the Mets have done diddly squat so far. The Marlins however are doing what they can to field a good team and stay in the race until their young ace Jose Fernandez gets healthy at some point in summer 2015.
Joe: Don’t know if they can win the division, but, yeah, I think they can make a run at it. They somehow finagled getting another decent pitcher in Matt Latos. whom a consider a border line ace and they added 2nd baseman Dee Gordon and pitcher Dan Haren. Yeah, Haren says he won’t pitch anywhere but in LA but let’s see what happens. I think he will pitch in 2015 and it will be in Miami. Haren can be spotty but he can also be good. So, yeah, I think they can make a run in the AL East, if, things stay as they presently are in that division.
Steve: Why is it that they sign Giancarlo Stanton for the largest deal in mankind, and then sign Mike Stanton, who really has not done a whole lot recently, that the Marlins are now considered a contender for the East? No, the Marlins only have a few core players, and one top notch pitcher. They are probably the second or third best team in the East right now. They are not a division contender. Possibly a wild-card contender but that is as far as I will go with it. I see the Marlins as a 78 to 81 win team next year, while the Nationals are still a 90 plus win team.
5) In your opinion… What’s the biggest surprise, so far, for this Hot Stove season? And, any surprise predictions…either free agent or trade market… in your personal crystal ball?
Archie: My biggest surprise was Atlanta trading Heyward. I still can’t believe they did that. They paid B.J. the kind of money they did, as well as Uggla,and, then they go and trade their best defensive player for virtually nothing. I know Miller started off well in the league, but come on, last year he finished at an ERA+ of 98. Ninety Eight is BELOW average.
(Sarcasm) As far as predicting, I can see the Braves trading away J.Upton and E.Gattis for virtually nothing as well. Or, giving some SP like Bruce Chen about $6 million to come in and pitch half a season like Floyd did last year. And, then, of course, the Braves finish in the cellar of the NL East this season.
Headley, but, offering him 4 years and $50 million took me by surprise some. I just didn’t think they’d budge, especially, considering they seemed to have no problem letting David Robertson walking to the White Sox using the same negotiating tactics. So, the Yanks surprised me, and, I think they’ll surprise me again when they somehow come away with Cole Hamels.
The Phillies are going to deal Hamels. That’s my predicition, and, I suspect, he’ll make the short drive up I-95 to New York City.
Joe: I’m really surprised by a lot… Miami’s moves this hot stove season… and, LA making what seems like a gazillion moves to revamp their lineup, and Boston getting Ramirez or Sandoval didn’t shock me but both!?
So, my biggest shock? Just everything about this Hot Stove season. It was one of the most active winter meeting sessions I can ever remember, and, the amount of players moving was nothing short of being amazing.
My crystal ball stays Matt Scherzer is going to go to some team nobody has even thought about… Seattle?
Steve: First I think the biggest surprise is the fact that Atlanta unloaded Jayson Heyward to the Cardinals. The Braves were an offensive nightmare (for the Braves) last season, and, couldn’t hit a beach ball coming to the plate. Heyward was one of the few who could hit, and even with signing Markakis, losing him as a crowd and hometown favorite, still has me puzzled.
As for predictions, I think the Nationals by signing Harper fortwo years gives them the edge, and they will not have that hanging over their heads all season long. I think the Nationals are going to be the best team in the National League again next season, and I look for them to be the early favorites to win the pennant.
The Cubs have made some big moves, and, if, they do call up Kris Bryant, I will go on record right now, and, say the Cubs will win the NL Central next season.
Bold prediction, but I will call it. With the contingency of Kris Bryant being called up.
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