“Spring training is a time for optimism, when players bask under the warm sun of Florida and Arizona while fans dream about their team reaching the bright lights of October.” (unknown)
It’s just days away now, when team start preparing for the 2017 season and the MLBRT crew looks at some moves, free agents still unsigned and offers up some optimism (or not) for their favorite teams.
1) By the 3rd week in January both HR champions in each league… Mark Trumbo in the AL and Chris Carter (who tied for the lead) in the NL… were still free agents. Trumbo ultimately resigned with the Baltimore Orioles while Carter is still swinging in the wind without a team. These weren’t the only sluggers who struggled… or are still struggling… to find a team either… Jose Bautista to name one also had to “settle” for resigning with his former team, Toronto, after finding no takers for his desired premium salary on the open market.
In your opinion, why the problem for HR sluggers finding teams to take them on?
IF, you look at the two mentioned, Trumbo only had 157 total hits out of 613 Abs. He did reach that magical 100 in the RBI category but he was on a team where there was golden opportunity and he did better with runners on where pitchers had to pitch to him. With the bases empty he only batted .216, so he was not much of a rally starter.
It was even worse for Chris Carter. He did hit 23 Home Runs but OMG he struck out at a rate of 1 for every 3 At bats. He only batted .231 with an OBP of .321. Give me a guy that bats .280+, OBP of (middle of the pack minimum) .345, and I will be happy with 12-18 HRs per year.
Trumbo is a little bit of a question mark, but I don’t think he was really a hot commodity or a must have player.
Chris Carter brings nothing to the table besides home runs, setting an all-time record in strikeouts last season and barely cracking a .200 batting average on the season. He just signed with the Yankees, which he should enjoy for home runs, but in a tough AL East, especially with an improved Red Sox rotation, it’s kind of difficult to see him not topping last season’s strikeout total. He holds the strikeout record for two teams (Houston and Milwaukee) which isn’t impressive.
A lot of words on Bautista were due to his age, having a down year and teams not wanting to pay a 36-year-old a lot of money for a long-term deal.
While I think they can help a team, their problems were too much. Carter was the worse, really only delivering on home runs which teams don’t need to win. They need overall production. That’s why he sat so long.
Bautista and Trumbo should have been signed earlier, and, someone like Carter will likely find his way onto a contender who will probably try to bring him in cheaper than his market value, but, it is surprising that some big bats are still out there.
Power helps a club, but when you are one dimensional and are a strikeout liability, that can hurt your chances for teams to really pursue you as a ball player.
2) Which NL team, or teams, will be considered the favorite(s) to topple the Chicago Cubs from defending their World Series Champion’s throne? Why?
Or, do you think the Cubs make it back to defend their title? Why?
IF YOU FORCE me to say another team, I would be forced to choose, again, the Washington Nationals. The Nats have been underachieving in my book. They have the talent but just can’t seem to pull it all together.
Dan: I think it has to be the Washington Nationals. They still have an amazing line-up and an amazing rotation and are the second-best team in the National League. If anybody has a shot at taking down the Chicago Cubs coming into the season, it’s them, led by Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
Earl: There are a few teams who can give the Cubs a run for their money. The Mets are capable because of their pitching, and, the Nationals can say the same. The Dodgers and Giants are always threats but I think the Cubs are perfectly poised to repeat.
However, in winning the title, the Cubs have the pressure off of them. They already accomplished history. Repeating ought to be easier and they have a potent lineup, a strong rotation, and a GM who will have no problem going out there and bolstering the team where necessary.
The only team I could see really making a claim at taking them down, would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. They are also returning most of their lineup, and the addition of Logan Forsythe at 2B, is going to help them defensively in the infield as well.
3) According to CBS.com the Pittsburgh Pirates are moving Gold Glove Award-winning left fielder Starling Marte to center field and moving Andrew McCutchen from center to presumably right field.
In your opinion, do you think this is an “insult” to McCutchen that may carry to his replicating his “bad season” from last year or is it just the Pirates doing the right thing for the team and in all likelihood McCutchen is totally on board with this change?
Archie: This is internal strife. I watched as the Braves moved Chipper to left field to make room on the infield. IF, they are to do the same I think I understand it, but, not quite sure I agree with the move. Why not put Marte in RF and leave Cutch alone?
This is the thing I don’t understand. Center is the toughest of the three outfield positions and unless Marte has a history in the outfield I don’t see an upgrade at that position.
Dan: No, they’re not insulting anybody. They’re making the best team-wise move that they can while keeping the same three starters. If, McCutchen feels that’s disrespectful, then maybe they need to look at moving him to a different team. He needs to realize that it’s not about him, but about the team, and the Pirates organization will put their team in the best possible situation that they can to win.
The best fielder usually plays center field, the weakest in left and the best arm in right. To me, that’s how they have it set up with the change. I approve.
Earl: Makes sense. If, they wanted to “insult” McCutchen they could have actually traded him or just bench him. He’s still the man in Pittsburgh. He’ll just be the man in right field. Playing Marte in center just makes more sense. He can cover the position better than McCutchen can at this point.
Steve: I have no doubt that the Pirates discussed this with McCutchen. He is the Pirates franchise player and I would be shocked, if, they just did this behind his back without giving him any consideration. He is a guy who wants to do what is right for the team, and, if moving Marte to centerfield is it, then, so be it.
4) Pitchers and catchers report for spring training on February 13th… at least they do for the Cleveland Indians. The rest of the teams will soon follow within the next few days from February 13th through the 15th.
Are you on pins and needles and “can’t wait” or are you “wake me when the season starts” or somewhere in-between?
Archie: Wake me when the season starts. I see no reason to get hyped up yet. My beloved Braves move into new stadium this season and even that has caused a rift in the city of Atlanta with the populace there. They still don’t appear, at least on paper, to have done anything to contend this season let alone even a .500 record outlook in my opinion. I have definitely NOT ordered MLB Extra Innings yet this season.
Dan: I absolutely can’t wait for spring training to begin. It means that it’s finally baseball season again and I couldn’t be happier. Spring training is awesome because you get to see a lot of people who you won’t get a chance to during the regular season. You get to see a lot of new names and a lot of interesting decisions being made.
It’s also a fun atmosphere to attend games (if you take vacation or are in the areas) and there’s always a game on TV to catch as well. Reports, coverage, etc… is crazy and I absolutely love it. I get excited every year.
I do think spring training is too long (also how I feel about the pre-season in the NFL and NBA) but if that’s what they truly need for the season, then so be it.
So, pitchers and catchers reporting doesn’t mean anything to me.
BRING IT ON!!!!!
5) Are you optimistic about your favorite team’s chances this year or are you looking forward to a new season of MLB but not expecting too much from your favorite team this year? Why or why not?
Dan: I have good hopes and dreams for the Brewers this season, but, I just don’t see them really doing much. They’re in year two of their rebuild and I don’t think much effect will take place until next season or the year after. I do expect them to at least make a run at a Wild Card slot, but, I don’t expect them to reach the playoffs. They’re a talented, young team, but they just need some more talent, rotation help and bullpen help. They need just some more pieces and development and they’ll be set. They’re a young team, they’re fun to watch and I look forward to the season. But I don’t expect more than 85 wins and I don’t expect less than 75 wins this season either.
My realistic expectation is a record like 82-82 or 84-80 or 83-81. Even 81-83 will be fine. But I don’t really expect much more and definitely don’t expect less. They need another year and we have no idea what Thames will do after being in Korea. If, he can come out and give them a boost, it’ll help a lot. They need to cut down on strikeouts, errors in the field, get some innings out of their starters that are production (quality starts is a stepping stone) and the bullpen definitely needs work. We need Neftali Perez to pitch like he did in Texas, not like he did in Pittsburgh or in his final Texas’ season.
However, I’m also a Toronto Blue Jays fan and I think this is the year the Jays take a step back from the playoff picture. Losing Encarnacion is huge. I just look at them and I don’t see a team that will hang in the AL playoff picture. Sad to say.
I have reason to be optimistic about the Cubs chances for obvious reasons.
The Braves are a wild-card. They ended the season on fire winning 14 out of their last 17 games, and threatened to climb out of the cellar in the National League East. While, they did not make any key moves, I like this roster and think with a new stadium, it could draw a few more fans, and, the Braves could at least end up with a respectable .500 record. I would call that a successful season compared to the last couple of years.
So, yeah, I’m pretty optimistic about my teams.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come” –Terrence Mann – “Field of Dreams”
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