To coincide with our Seattle Mariners of the month feature, Prospect Insider will also be highlighting a couple of top performers from around the major leagues on a monthly basis as well. In May it was outfielder Yasiel Puig and starer Corey Kluber that took home the honors. Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager took the honors for the June M’s of the month, and as a reminder, Mariners players will not be included in these posts. Let’s take a look at who were the best of the best in June. Mike Trout, OF, LAA — 102 PA, .361/.471/.759, 238 wRC+, .398 ISO, 10 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB If there was ever any doubt that Trout would be able to return to his 2013 form after a slow start to the year, by his standards anyway, that can be erased after a red-hot June. The Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder topped the league with his wRC+, ISO, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage numbers, and was fifth among qualified hitters in batting average — all while playing plus defence in center field and getting a positive baserunning score from FanGraphs. The 22-year old did battle some back discomfort and missed a game, but that didn’t stop him from accumulating seven multi-hit games in June — three of which were three-hit performances. In fact, there were just three games all month that Trout failed to reach base in, and in one of those he left after just one plate appearance due to the aforementioned back injury To sum it up, the 5-tool stud continued to do exactly what he’s done so far in his short major league career. He truly is a special talent and is well on his way to hitting the 10.0 fWAR plateau for a third consecutive year. Trout’s Angels went 15-10 for June — a pair of games were postponed — and are now in possession of a Wild Card slot and are just 3.5 games behind the division leading Oakland Athletics. If the season were to end today, the Angels would face the Mariners in a one-game playoff. Runner-UpJonathan Lucroy, C, MIL — 117 PA, .359/.427/.602, 185 wRC+, .243 ISO, 10 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD — 6 GS, 6-0, 44.0 IP, 0.82 ERA, 1.19 FIP, 1.19 xFIP, 61 K, 4 BB As ridiculous as King Felix’s month of June was, Kershaw’s month is the only one that might challenge it. Starting with the no-hitter he threw against the Colorado Rockies on June 18th — it would’ve been a perfect game sans a Hanley Ramirez error — the Dodgers’ ace has been lights out after a slow start to the season due in large part to injury. Kershaw pitched seven or more innings in five of his six starts and only allowed runs in three; he allowed a pair of runs or more on just one of those occasions. The 26-year old struck out at least seven batters in each start and a career-high 15 in his no-hitter. He also struck out 13 batters in his most recent start against the St. Louis Cardinals. His June earned run average is backed by his outstanding peripherals, and his strikeout to walk rate is other worldly. When the debate of who the best pitcher on the planet is right now, Mr. Kershaw is usually the first name that comes to mind — and for good reason. It looks like he’ll have an excellent case for winning his second consecutive Cy Young award and the third of his already illustrious career by the time this season comes to a close. Runner-UpJake Arrieta, SP, CHC — 6 GS, 4-0, 39.1 IP, 0.92 ERA, 1.45 FIP, 2.07 xFIP, 48 K, 6 BB
After a couple tough losses to the San Diego Padres earlier in the week, the Seattle Mariners have managed to pull off a sweep of the red hot Kansas City Royals and now sit four games above .500. The previous six weeks or so have been up and down for the M’s, and have included a five-game winning and five-game losing streak, but a Wild Card spot is easily within reach at the moment. Let’s take a look at what’s been covered at Prospect Insider over the last six weeks. The month of June is always an exciting month as it hold Major League Baseball’s amateur draft. This year the Mariners held the No. 6 overall pick and chose outfielder Alex Jackson from Rancho Bernardo High School, and he is expected to take a physical in Seattle on Monday and will receive a $4.2 million bonus according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports. PI’s Jason A. Churchill gave a scouting report on the 18-year old and considers the M’s to have nailed their selection — Jackson was considered by many to be the best available bat in the draft this year. Churchill also has notes and reports on the Mariners’ picks in rounds three to ten, including a report for the M’s No.2 pick, outfielder Gareth Morgan. Last week Churchill offered his mid-season prospect report for the Mariners, including an updated top-25 list to account for the new draft picks and a projected lineup and rotation for the 2018 season. Jackson takes the top spot on Jason’s list with infielder D.J. Peterson coming in at No. 2. In other draft related content, Steve Simas offers a fantasy perspective on several of the top selections from this year’s draft including Jackson, Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, and Trea Turner. Brendan Gawlowski has an excellent piece on his experience as an ‘advisor’ for a draft hopeful as well as his thoughts on the financial side of the MLB draft. Under the current NCAA policy a player who is enrolled is not allowed to have an agent, which leaves many players — including the young man in Gawlowski’s case — without much direction in terms of what they should ask for or expect to receive as a signing bonus. Of course each draft position comes with a slot value, but that doesn’t mean that that is the amount the player will or should receive. As expected, the lone free agent that was still tied to draft pick compensation, Kendrys Morales, signed a contract after the conclusion of the draft. Morales signed a prorated, one-year $12 million deal with the Minnesota Twins and since he waited until the completion of the draft, the M’s do not receive a compensatory draft pick for his departure. At the conclusion of day one I wrote that the market for Morales was expected to heat up with the Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers, and a mystery team rumored to be the frontrunners. In 55 plate appearances so far this season, Morales is hitting .216/.273/.275 with three doubles for the Twins. Roenis Elias, the winning pitcher in today’s game against the Royals, has been a pleasant surprise this year according to PI’s Chris Moran. Those thoughts were echoed by Churchill who took a look at a quote by manager Lloyd McClendon in which the skipper said Elias’ stuff is as good as any left-hander in the league. After throwing six and two third innings of one run ball today, Elias lowered his ERA to 3.74 and his FIP to 4.02 on the season; good for the fourth and fifth best marks among rookies with at least 50 innings pitched this year. Prospect Insider’s Mariners of the Month for May were Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez, while the MLB players of the month for May included Yasiel Puig and Corey Kluber. Moran took a look at King Felix’s incredible 15-strikeout performance against the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this June. Chris also analyzed catcher Mike Zunino‘s season to date including what areas he has excelled in and the ones he has struggled in. Brad Miller has also had his fair share of struggles this season, but the young shortstop has put them behind him according to PI’s Alex Gallant. Miller went 2-for-4 today to continue his seven-game hitting streak and has now brought his average up to .207 on the season. And to wrap things up on this warm summer day in the Pacific Northwest, some new scouting reports. Jason A. Churchill has thoughts and notes on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, Carlos Triunfel, Jordan Pries, and Jabari Blash as well as on the M’s Jesus Montero, Logan Morrison, Xavier Avery, and Nick Franklin. Both Montero and Morrison are with the big league club right now and Triunfel has since been recalled by the Dodgers. PI’s Matt Hervey has some in-depth reports on the Cleveland Indians’ Clint Frazier and Robbie Aviles as well as plenty of other notes to take a look at. Don’t forget there’s to vote your favourite Mariners into the All-Star Game this year — if you actually care about who makes the squads, that is.
TACOMA — There were several interesting young players in uniform at Cheney Stadium when the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) hosted the Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers) Saturday evening. The pitching matchup pitted two non-prospects in right-handers Jordan Pries and Red Patterson, but both have enough stuff and command to present a challenge to each other as well as the opposing lineups. Joc Pederson, CF The last time I saw Perderson he was trying to pull almost everything and when he wasn’t he was putting too much effort into using the whole field, often giving up opportunities to pull balls for extra base hits. In batting practice, he displayed a much more efficient swing on balls on the outer half and hit the ball well to center field. The pull power is above-average and he went yard to right field in the game. Pederson is a good athlete and might be the Dodgers’ best bet in center field over Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The problems is Ethier, Kemp and Carl Crawford are each owed about a trillion dollars, so unless a trade is made or one hits the disabled list for a long period of time, Pederson may be more likely to help the club as trade bait. I do question how consistent he will make solid contact in the big leagues, so we may be talking about a .260 hitter, but he’s shown the ability to work counts and take a few walks so the on-base percentage ultimately should be at least league average. Carlos Triunfel, SS Triunfel appears to be exactly the same player he’s been the past three or four years; a solid, yet unspectacular glove at short with a bat that teases in batting practice but doesn’t perform consistently in games. He will tease occasionally in game play, and he did so Saturday collecting three hits. Triunfel remains a hitter with almost zero discpline, swinging at pitches early in counts as if there were two strikes and he’s protecting against the strikeout. At 24, Triunfel’s big-league role is as an emergency infielder and in the Dodgers’ organization, he’s the third shortstop (behind Hanley Ranmirez and Dee Gordon) and the third second baseman (behind Gordon and Alex Guerrero). Jordan Pries, RHP Mariners fans may be wondering if Pries can make a spot start or two after Brandon Maurer and Erasmo Ramirez have struggled fiercely in the No. 5 spot this season. The short answer: Probably not. Pries will throw strikes, however, starting with a fastball at 88-90 mph. There’s arm side ride on the pitch and he commands it fairly well, particularly on the outer half of the plate against left-handed batters. There’s good sink to the two-seamer, too, a pitch he may want to go to more often. Pries hit his spots well early in this start, but when he left pitches up he was hurt by the long ball. His changeup is below average but there were a few average versions that showed sink and with good arm speed. His breaking ball is a fringe-average 78-81 mph slider with two-plane break. Pries is an athletic and strong 6-feet and 190 pounds. He repeated his delivery well throughout. He throws slightly across his body — not much more than most pitchers — but uses his lower half well, bending his knees and back in sync. He’s quick enough to the plate from the stretch at 1.29 to 1.36 and would be quicker if it weren’t for a long arm path. I don’t see enough stuff to get out big league bats with regularity, but it’s difficult to say he wouldn’t fare better than Maurer and Ramirez have. It does seem the organization believes Matt Palmer is a better bet. He was removed early, with no injury, from his last start, but Pries pitches with focus and energy. Still, he’s probably just an emergency option. Thing is, the M’s No. 5 spot may be an emergency situation. Jabari Blash, RF Blash is a good athlete and he shows off that athleticism in the field, on the bases and at the plate where his swing is fluid. He produces plus bat speed and a solid bat path that creates line drives and deep fly balls consistently. He’s patient at the plate, but perhaps remains too patient, often seen taking strike two on a pitch that may have been hittable. Blash’s two-strike swing needs altering and perhaps the swing length altogether needs shortening in order to help him make more contact. He will hit some the longer home runs you’ll see in the Pacific Coast League, but his contact rates are too similar to that of Carlos Peguero. Blash, however, has improved significantly since the end of the 2012 season, suggesting he’s still developing at a high rate and that he takes to instruction well. He’ll be 25 next month, but there’s a ton to like in Blash physically to give up anytime soon. Nick Franklin, SS Franklin looked terrific at shortstop, making two high-difficulty plays, one to his right and one to his left. He’s working well with Gabriel Noriega turning two, and the more I see him there the more I am convinced he’s adequate at the position and could be average in time. At the plate this wasn’t Franklin’s best day, but he did barrel up a fastball away and smack it to left field from the left-handed bater’s box. It was an out, but certainly a good trait from a hitter. He’s still pulling off balls middle-in or in off the plate and chased a couple of pitches down and in. When he first came up to the majors last season, pitchers were testing him with hard stuff and he was making them pay. Now, both in Triple-A and in the big leagues, pitchers are working him away more and when they do come in it’s either hard and out of the zone in or up, or it’s soft stuff nearly in the dirt. It’s an adjustment he’ll have to make before the M’s, or any club, hand him a job in The Show. Logan Morrison, 1B Morrison has been the DH mostly in Tacoma but his rehab stint is almost up and he’s playing almost everyday. The hamstring looks fully healed — he even attempted to steal in this series — and he does appear to be seeing the ball well. What we haven’t seen from Morrison is that extra snap with the bat he showed in the minors with the Marlins and early after his call-up to the majors. The discipline and batting eye are certainly alive and well, but it’s taking him a little longer to get the swing started, which may signal a problem with velocity is imminent, explaining some of his struggles when he has been healthy. Morrison isn’t trusting his hands right now; he singled softly to right field in his first plate appearance Saturday, but if he’d stayed back and exploded on the ball, he might have hit it to Foss High School. It was knee high and over the middle of the plate and he was fooled by the change of speeds off the fastball. Xavier Avery, OF Avery can run, and I love his hands, but he’s displayed timing issues every at-bat I have seen. He lunges toward the plate and does so early, and his stride may be too long for him. There’s a little pop in the bat — he homered on a middle-in fastball on the first pitch of the game Saturday — and the bat speed comes easy. The drifting is a problem, however, making him susceptible to good velocity and pitches on the inner quadrant. Jesus Montero, 1B Montero still is a mess, in my opinion. He remains at least 20 pounds heavier than he should be — he’s listed at 235 but that’s a joke — and the problems he displayed at the plate in the majors in 2013 are still around in 2014. Montero still cannot hit, nor track, the right-handed breaking ball. He was fooled by and/or swung at several of them in this game, getting himself out on numerous occasions. He gets out front just about anytime the pitcher offers something other than the fastball, robbing him of his bat speed and balance. As of today, Montero is not an option in the big leagues, in my opinion; he’s better than he was defensively, but still is buried by Justin Smoak in that category, and struggles or not, Smoak is a considerably better bet to occasionally give the Mariners something at the plate. Granted, Smoak should be batting seventh when he’s in the lineup, but if Morrison can’t help, the Mariners don’t have an in-house option to help at first base. At this stage, Montero is simply a minor league hitter that was once a good prospect. The raw power is there and the Triple-A numbers aren’t awful, but he’s hopeless against sliders and curveballs, is showing no discipline on them whatsoever and therefore has no place on the 25-man roster in Seattle. Mike MacDougal, RHP MacDougal sat 91-93 mph and showed an inconsistent 82-85 mph slider. When he was at his best in the big leagues, the 37-year-old was sitting 95 with a plus slider and occasional curveball with depth. The slider was a swing-and-miss option with sharp downward break. He did not command his fastball in this one as he had trouble finishing pitches. The slider backed up on him several times. As per usual, MacDougal’s mechanics leave a lot to be desired. His arm lags behind on every pitch because he breaks from the glove late and the arm path is long and employs three parts.
Paired with the new Mariners of the month feature, Prospect Insider will be highlighting a couple of outstanding performances by players across the major leagues each month as well. Since the M’s players have a seperate feature, they will not be included in these posts. In case you missed it, Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez were the Mariners of the month for May. Let’s take a look at a pair of players who’ve stood out amongst their peers over the past 31 days. Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD — 128 PA, .398/.492/.731, 240 wRC+, 10 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI Many have come to love the exploits of the Cuban sensation while others can’t stand his antics, but there’s little doubt that Puig has established himself as one of the top hitters in baseball — especially after his performance in May. Puig led all of baseball in batting average and on base percentage and his 240 wRC+ was 23 points higher than Seth Smith, the next highest hitter, who put up a 217 mark of his own. Although his power numbers weren’t as historic as those of Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion — his 16 long balls tied the American League record for home runs in the month of May set by Mickey Mantle in 1956 — he did reach base in every single game he played this past month, and carried a streak of 33 games of reaching base safely into Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Puig’s May also included 12 games with two or more hits and there were only two games in which he did not reach base via the hit. For a little bit of context, the 2.4 fWAR he put up in May was more than the total fWAR that Giancarlo Stanton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Prince Fielder finished the 2013 season with. The sky truly is the limit for the 23-year old, and there really is no predicting what exactly he’ll do next. Runner-UpEdwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, TOR — 130 PA, .281/.369/.763, 208 wRC+, 5 2B, 16 HR, 33 RBI Corey Kluber, SP, CLE — 6 GS, 4-0, 43 IP, 2.09 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 1.77 xFIP, 60 K, 8 BB The Cleveland Indians’ ace is off to a very strong 2014 after establishing himself as a major league starter last year. In six May starts, the right-hander didn’t complete at least seven innings of work on just one occasion — he lasted just six and two-thirds against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9. He also struck out at least eight batters in all six of those starts, including 12 and 13 strikeout performances. Kluber’s 12.56 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest of any pitcher in May, and he walked just eight batters compared to 60 punch outs. Only Aaron Harang — yes, that Aaron Harang — had a lower FIP than Kluber did in May, and his xFIP was tops in all of baseball. Perhaps the only real drawback to the 28-year old’s month of May was that he gave up three home runs. Other than that, you’d be hard pressed to find a better pitcher in baseball over the last 31 days. Runner-UpMasahiro Tanaka, SP, NYY — 6 GS, 5-1, 1.88 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 2.50 xFIP, 42 K, 6 BB
Nobody likes to admit when a deal doesn’t go their way, especially a sports franchise. But there’s no question that the Baltimore Orioles got the better end of the deal that sent Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a package of five players in February of 2008. The O’s received a prized prospect named Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Tony Butler, Chris Tillman, and Kam Mickolio in the trade and in exchange, the M’s were receiving a starter who was coming off a fifth place finish in the 2007 American League Cy Young Award voting and was establishing himself as a top pitcher in the American League. At the time, the M’s were coming off of an 88-win campaign and a second place finish in the American League West while featuring the likes of Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre playing key roles in their lineup. Seattle had been tantalized by the idea of pairing another ace with Felix Hernandez, who was already blossoming into one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and felt they could be one more key acquisition away from getting back to the postseason — so they pushed their chips to the center of the table to make the deal. There’s no doubt this deal left a sour taste in many Mariner fans’ mouths since it took place, but let’s take a look at what has transpired over the last six years for the players and teams involved since the transaction took place. Bedard, the Ontario, Canada native, was the Orioles’ sixth-round draft pick in the 1999 amateur draft and was selected two picks after the Mariners chose JJ Putz, and seven picks before Shane Victorino and Aaron Harang were taken back-to-back. The lefty would make his major league debut for the Orioles on April 17, 2002 against the New York Yankees, but he’d end up requiring surgery on a left elbow ligament and pitched just 88 minor league innings in 2002 and 2003 combined. Bedard would turn the corner in 2004, however, as he started 26 games and finished with a 4.59 ERA and a 4.22 FIP; good for 2.4 fWAR. Between the 2005 and 2006 seasons the Canadian left hander would accumulate 8.1 fWAR over 338 innings pitched — he missed 49 games with a knee injury in 2005 — before solidifying his status as an ace in the 2007 campaign. After posting a 3.76 ERA and a 3.59 FIP in 2006, Bedard managed to be even better in 2007 as he pitched to the tune of a 3.16 ERA with a 3.19 FIP and a 2.90 xFIP. Despite being sidelined with an oblique strain from September 2 until the end of the season, the left-hander still managed to throw 182 innings and post a career high 5.1 fWAR. If not for the injury, it’s entirely possible that he would’ve taken home the American League Cy Young that year. The Orioles would go on to lose 93 games in 2007 and as their ace entered his final two years of club control, it appeared likely that he would be dealt that offseason while his value was at a peak. Following the 2007 season, Seattle turned their attention to improving a rotation that produced the fifth worst ERA in all of baseball with a 5.13 mark. The subtractions of Jeff Weaver and eventually Horacio Ramirez from the rotation were improvements on their own, but in December the club signed Carlos Silva, who was coming off a 3.0 fWAR season in 2007 and his fourth consecutive campaign throwing 180+ innings, to a four-year contract. Fun fact: prior to signing Silva, Seattle would select RA Dickey, his teammate from the previous year and a participant in a future blockbuster deal of his own, in the Rule-5 Draft from the Minnesota Twins and he would start 14 games for the club the following year. The M’s would then to pursuits to acquiring a certain Oriole pitcher that was believed to be available at the time. In January of 2008, while the Mariner-Bedard connection was growing past the rumor stage, PI’s Jason A. Churchill saw the Mariners sending Adam Jones, Carlos Truinfel, and George Sherrill to the Orioles as the likely compensation in a potential Bedard deal, while FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal opined that the M’s would include Jones, Jeff Clement, and Matt Tuiasosopo in the rumored deal. Other prospects such as Brandon Morrow, Chris Tillman, and Tony Butler would appear in rumors until early February when reports that a deal between the Orioles and Mariners had been reached and was pending physicals. On the eighth of February, the Mariners would officially send Jones, Tillman, Butler, Sherrill, and Kam Mickolio to the Orioles in exchange for Bedard. The M’s had got their man. At the time of the deal things were looking good for Seattle — the rotation appeared strong, there was veteran talent in the lineup — but the lustre would fade quick, and 2008 would become a season rather forgotten. A week after being acquired, Bedard would be named the club’s Opening Day in which he would throw five innings en route to a 5-2 Seattle victory — Bedard would receive a no decision in the win. The left-hander would make one more start before making a trip to the disabled list with a hip injury. It appeared to be just a minor bump in the road however, as he would pitch well for the next two months with only a minor case of back spasms pushing a June start back a few days. Unfortunately for the Mariners, their prized offseason acquisition would make his last start of the campaign on the fourth of July as he was shut down with a shoulder injury that would ultimately require surgery to remove labrum tissue and a cyst. Bedard would make just fifteen starts in his first year in the Pacific Northwest and finish the campaign with a 6-4 record and a 3.64 ERA. His 4.32 FIP and 4.50 xFIP suggest he pitched slightly worse than his ERA showed, and his production was good for a single win above replacement according to FanGraphs. The M’s would go on to finish the season with a whopping 101 losses. Year one, bust. The beginning of the 2009 season offered promise and the return of Mariner great Ken Griffey Jr., but it would be a similar story for Bedard as he was now a single year away from reaching free agency with minimal reports of extension discussions, and rightfully so. After dealing with a hip strain in Spring Training, the lefty would string together a stretch of seven decent starts before a hamstring strain in May would cost him nine games. Bedard would return from the injury to show some of the promise the Mariners had anticipated when they spent big prospect dollars to acquire him before landing on the disabled list in June with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. Just four more starts would be made in 2009 before a second shoulder surgery would be required to repair a torn labrum and an inflamed bursa. Seattle would finish the year with 85 wins, but year two would also sadly be considered a bust. The Mariners would re-sign Bedard to a one-year deal prior to the start of the 2010 season with the hope that he’d be able to return in May or June, but he encountered several setbacks in his rehabilitation process and would only throw 11 minor league innings that year. The club would once again re-sign the starter prior to the 2011 season, but this time to an incentive-laden minor league contract. He would pitch as well as he ever did for Seattle and after making 16 starts for the club — the final two were separated by a month long stint on the DL with a knee strain — he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox with Josh Fields on the July 31st trade deadline in a three-team trade including the Los Angeles Dodgers that netted the M’s outfielder Trayvon Robinson and pitcher Chih-Hsien Chiang. Erik Bedard’s Mariner career was officially over. Just ten days prior to this blockbuster trade another one took place involving a big time left hander took place when the New York Mets acquired Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins. In exchange for Santana, who was tied with Bedard for fifth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2007, the Twins received Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra; a return many believed to not only be light, but lesser than the package the Orioles would end up receiving for their ace. Guerra is the only one of the four still with the Twins’ organization but has yet to make a major league appearance. Reportedly a package including Jacoby Ellsbury was offered by the Red Sox, but Minnesota turned it down. It was said with almost complete certainty that the any package the Orioles would receive from the Mariners in exchange for Bedard would include Adam Jones— he was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the organization and the O’s had a hole in center field with Corey Patterson leaving via free agency. There were few who weren’t enamoured with the skill set possessed by Jones, and this is what Churchill had to say about the former top prospect back in April 2007: “Jones can do a little bit of everything, covering his skill set with above-average tools across the board. He’s taken quickly to center field after spending most of his first three pro seasons at shortstop. His offense has progressed nicely, backed with plus bat speed and an improved approach to hitting. Adam Jones has as good a chance to become a regular – and a star – as any M’s position prospect since Alex Rodriguez more than 10 years ago. He’s backed up his skillset with a great work ethic and a desire to get better every season. The way he took to the position switch says a lot about who Adam Jones is as a person and teammate, and the way he took to hitting Triple-A pitching at the age of 20 says all you need to know about Adam Jones the ballplayer. I don’t think there’s any way he fails as a big leaguer. At the very least he’s a super sub with power and defensive versatility, but if things work out, he’s a multi-time all-star with more power and overall offensive ability than either Cameron or Hunter.” Jones was the Mariners’ first round pick 2003 amateur draft, No. 37 overall, and entering the 2007 campaign he was rated No. 28 in Baseball America’s annual Top-100 prospect list. He would appear in 73 games for the M’s between 2006 and 2007 so he was no longer considered a prospect prior to the 2008 season, but their were no doubts that he had the potential to be a difference maker. It wouldn’t take long for San Diego, CA native to make his mark in the big leagues as he would make the All-Star team and win his first Gold Glove in 2009, his second full campaign with the Orioles. Jones would follow up the breakout campaign with two solid yet unspectacular seasons in 2010 and 2011 — he accumulated 2.5 fWAR in each — as he made his ascent to superstardom. In 2012 and 2013 combined, Jones produced the following: a .286/.326/.499 batting line with a 122 wRC+, 65 home runs and 190 runs batted in, 74 doubles, a .213 ISO rating, two All-Star appearances, two Gold Glove Awards, one Silver Slugger Award, and a pair of top-15 MVP finishes, including a sixth place finish in 2012. He would be rewarded in May 2012 with a six-year extension worth at least $85.5 million — incentives could push the total value of the deal as high as $91.5 million — and includes a no-trade clause. Churchill had mentioned Torii Hunter and Mike Cameron as comparisons for Jones back in 2007, and there’s little doubt that he and the scouts were right on this one; Jones has become a bonafide superstar and will only continue to produce so long as he’s able to stay in good health. Man, would he look good roaming Safeco Field right about now and hitting behind Robinson Cano. It’s easy to forget about the other players the Orioles received in exchange for Bedard after perusing the impressive resume Jones has managed to put together thus far, but he wasn’t the only player to pay dividends for the O’s. George Sherrill was coming off of the best year of his career at the time, his age-31 season, at the time of the trade and immediately entered the closer’s role in the O’s bullpen. He’d make 57 appearances and accumulate 31 saves in 2008 but finished with a 4.73 ERA and a 4.33 FIP — though getting 0.5 fWAR out of a relief pitcher at a cost of just under a million bucks is solid value for any club. The left hander would make 42 more appearances as an Oriole before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers one day before the 2009 July trade deadline. The Dodgers would send Josh Bell and Steve Johnson to Baltimore in exchange for the reliever. Johnson would rise through the system as a starter including four starts for the big club in 2011, and his pitched a total of 54 major league innings since being acquired, mostly in a relief role. He’s started the 2014 campaign with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate. Bell, a third baseman, would be shipped with Kam Mickolio — the third player Baltimore acquired for Bedard — to the Arizona Diamonbacks in a deal prior to the 2011 season that brought Mark Reynolds to the Northeast. In 100 major league games with the Orioles, Bell would post a measly .195/.223/.265 line while Reynolds would chip in 60 home runs and 149 runs batted in during his two seasons with the club. However, thanks to his defensive shortcomings and limited skillset, he would actually provide negative value to the tune of -0.2 fWAR for the Orioles during his stay. The infielder would depart via free agency after the 2012 season. Back to Mickolio, who was selected by the Mariners in the 18th round of the 2006 amateur draft. The 6-foot-9 right hander made a quick ascent through Seattle’s minor league system after throwing 32 1/3 innings for the Single-A Everett AquaSox in ’06, and splitting the 2007 campaign between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma. Since he was pitching as a reliever he didn’t garner much hype as a top prospect, but he did crack FanGraphs’ Top 10 Baltimore Orioles Prospects for the 2010 season in the No. 8 spot. The hope was that Mickolio could be a future closer or set-up man for the club, but he was dealt to the D-Backs in the aforementioned trade for Reynolds after allowing 12 earned runs in 25 innings major league innings between 2008 to 2010. He would throw 58 innings with the D-Backs Triple-A squad in 2011 and he would also make six appearances for the big club, but following the campaign he would sign with the Hiroshima Carp of the JPL which is where he has pitched since. Tony Butler was the lone player involved in the deal that has not made a major league appearance, and in fact he has yet to pitch above the Single-A level. The M’s third round selection in the 2006 draft was ranked fourth on Baseball American’s Top 10 Mariner prospects list entering the 2007 season, but he failed to crack that Top 10 list prior to the 2008 campaign. Butler, a left-hander, made 11 starts for the Orioles’ Single-A affiliate in 2008, but would throw just 13 minor league innings in 2009 before undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder that July. He would be released by the Orioles in June 2010 and would rejoin the Mariners’ organization in 2011 where he made 15 starts in the low minors. Butler was last seen pitching in the Independent League in 2012. The last player Baltimore received in the deal was right-hander Chris Tillman, who has slowly but surely made his way to the show after being acquired. Selected in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft — yes, three of the players acquired by Baltimore were from that particular draft — Tillman made five starts for the AquaSox and entered the 2007 season as the Mariners’ eighth best prospect according to Baseball America and jumped all the way up to the No.3 spot prior to the 2008 campaign. After spending the entire 2008 season at Double-A, Tillman would split the next four season between Triple-A and the major league squad and in 266 2/3 major league innings across 51 starts, he would post a 4.73 ERA with a 4.97 FIP. The right-hander had struggled with giving out walks throughout his minor league career, and would record a 3.5 walks per nine innings mark during that period. But in his 15 starts during the 2012 season — which are included in the sample size mentioned — he managed to drop that mark down to a 2.95 rate and ended up posting a 2.93 ERA with a 4.25 FIP. Tillman would pitch his first full major league season the following year in 2013 and in 206 1/3 innings, he posted a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA, 4.42 FIP, and a 3.88 xFIP; an even 2.0 fWAR season. He’s off to a solid start in 2014 and all things equal, he looks set to become a fixture in the Orioles’ rotation for years to come. Hindsight is 20/20, and certainly this transaction didn’t go quite how the Seattle Mariners thought it would when former general manager Bill Bavasi pulled the trigger. But at the time, the M’s saw the opportunity to upgrade their club and determined that it was worth the risk to make the deal given the potential rewards of adding a frontline starter. These kinds of deals are always tough to predict because there’s so many variables that go into them, especially with the uncertainty that prospects carry and potential injury risks among other factors. They can end up like the Johan Santana trade that was mentioned in which neither team was really rewarded in the deal, or like the Bedard deal did where one team was the clear beneficiary. Nobody knew for certain that Adam Jones would become a superstar — although many had made the now correct prediction — and nobody could’ve foreseen the immense struggles with health that Erik Bedard would face during his time in Seattle. Perhaps the real point of contention should lie within the fact that since the trade in February of 2008, the Orioles were able to snap a 14-year playoff drought with a 93-win 2012 campaign that clinched the club a Wild Card slot — they would go on to lose to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series in five games. The Mariners are still in search of their first playoff appearances since 2001, and Bavasi was relieved of his general manager duties just four short months after the transaction with the O’s.
The 2014 Major League Baseball season is now underway as we’re several weeks into the season. The Seattle Mariners haven’t been able to continue their early success recently and find themselves fourth in the American League West with a 7-10 record as of Saturday night. If you haven’t had a chance to acquaint yourself with what to expect in the new baseball season, now is the perfect time to do so and Prospect Insider has you covered. As with every offseason, there’s been plenty of player movement and new faces in new places, and to keep track of it all look no further than Prospect Insider’s Who’s In, Who’s Out series. You can view the player movement by division by clicking on any of the following links: NL West | NL Central | NL East | AL West | AL Central | AL East. PI also released staff predictions for 2014 campaign a few weeks ago, and you can view them here. Not one of the six writers polled selected the Mariners to make the playoffs, but they all predicted that Mike Trout will take home the American League Most Valuable Player Award and that the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals will win their respective divisions. If you were wondering what Robinson Cano‘s chances of winning an MVP award in his first year with Seattle are, Chris Moran has you covered. If you haven’t gotten a chance to acquaint yourselves with the Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day roster, now is as good a time as any as there have already been a few changes. Jason A. Churchill and I give a rundown on each player that broke camp this year and a brief summary of what you can expect from them in 2014. Also, if you want to know how this year’s Opening Day roster compares to last year’s, Jason has you covered. There’s a total of 17 differences between the two rosters with the most significant differences being the free agent additions of Cano, Fernando Rodney, and Corey Hart. It’s conceivable that within the next month Seattle will field the lineup and pitching staff they were expecting to this year so long as all parts manage to stay healthy and those already hurt are able to make complete recoveries. It seems as though every year there’s a strong cast of first-year major leaguers who make a significant impact on their team’s seasons. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Award winners were Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, both of whom were essential part’s to their respective clubs last year and will be counted on heavily once again in 2014. PI’s Steve Simas walks us through potential impact rookies in both the American League and National League. While you’re watching players like Billy Hamilton steal the show, pun intended, there’s several others who could be in line for a breakout year in 2014. Brendan Gawlowski profiles several hitters who could burst onto the scene this year, including Seattle’s starting shortstop Brad Miller. He also makes note of a few players who you may not want to bet on for big years. Few years go by without at least a couple pitchers breaking out, and Chris Moran runs down several candidates from both the American League and National League. We can’t forget to mention that several players are approaching some huge career milestone in the upcoming campaign. Jason took a look at a few pitchers, including Mark Buehrle and Bartolo Colon, who are on their way to hitting some impressive career marks. I also previewed a few batters such as Albert Pujols, who are close to reaching legendary marks of their own. Last, and certainly not least, if you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the newest edition of Jason’s annual Prospect Insider Handbook, make sure you do; it’s a must read. Included in the handbook are the Top 30 Seattle Mariner prospects with complete scouting reports and analysis for the Top 10 as well as a look at the organization’s prospect depth from top to bottom.
I attended Sunday’s game between Tacoma and Albuquerque, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Albuquerque’s lineup featured two of the Dodgers top prospects: pitcher Zach Lee and center fielder Joc Pederson. Zach Lee, RHP Lee is an athletic 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander. As a high schooler, he was recruited to play quarterback by LSU, and his athleticism is evident on the mound. He works with a smooth and repeatable high three-quarters delivery. I really liked his arm action; as he delivers, he scapulates and extends his arm well and he’s able to throw all of his pitches without altering his arm slot or reducing his arm speed. He gets long leg extension — which lets him “lean” a little closer to the plate — and he hides the ball well. He throws a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, along with a curve, change up, and although he didn’t use it much today, a slider as well. Lee is a crisp thrower, though his velocity won’t blow anyone away. His fastball hit 93 mph, but he sat mostly 90-91 with some two-seam life. His curveball was 74-76 and his good ones featured true 12-6 movement. He can throw the pitch for strikes, which is good because it isn’t a swing and miss pitch. He simply doesn’t throw it with much velocity, and hitters weren’t chasing curves out of the zone. Lee’s changeup has arm-side fade and he located the pitch well throughout, never leaving one up in the zone. I was disappointed to not see more of Lee’s slider. Reportedly, it’s his best secondary offering, but of the innings I sat behind the plate — I watched him a bit from the third base side too — the only sliders he threw were in warm ups. What impressed me most about Lee was how good he was at staying out of trouble spots in the strike zone. He allowed just two hits and one walk, and arguably made just one mistake, elevating a straight fastball to Cole Gillespie. Gillespie took advantage, roping a double into the gap to generate Tacoma’s only two runs against Lee. Besides that pitch, Lee was able to live on the edges of the strike zone and he showed a good feel for pitching by working both sides of the zone. A couple of times, I thought I caught him attacking the umpire as well as the hitters: more than once, he followed up a strike one fastball with another fastball a hair farther off the plate. Lee doesn’t have strikeout stuff and consequently most prospect evaluators have been conservative when projecting his major league role. While I don’t want to put too much weight on one outing — particularly a start where he was limited to 69 pitches and didn’t have to turn over the order a third time — from what I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be more of a No. 3 instead of a back end arm. Lee lives down in the zone, and he spots his off speed pitches well enough that I think he’ll be able to compensate for his lack of strikeouts by limiting walks and generating weak contact. Joc Pederson, OF Pederson also performed well. He went 3-for-5 and made solid contact in his four plate appearances. He didn’t have much to hit on the inner half of the plate and did well to line a single to left in the first, following that up with two hard grounders for singles up the middle. Pederson has very quick hands, which not only helps him generate bat speed but also allows him to let pitches travel deep in the zone. That skill was evident in his first at-bat particularly, when he lined an elevated fastball to left. It’s worth noting that all three of his hits came against left-hander Anthony Fernandez. In the field, Pederson didn’t have too much to do. He’s a quick athlete, but never had to really run for a fly ball. He did have an opportunity to air out a throw to the plate, and I saw more of a 50-55 arm than the plus tool I’ve read about in scouting reports. Again though, it’s just one throw, so I don’t want to read too much into it. If his range ultimately doesn’t play in center though, it seems like he would be more likely to slide to left field than to right. Carson Smith, RHP Smith had a Triple-A debut to forget. He faced seven batters, allowing two hits — one of which can be attributed to Jesus Montero’s extreme lack of athleticism; more on him later — and three walks, two of which were four pitch free passes with the bases loaded. Not what you want to see from a reliever in a blowout. Part of Smith’s struggles may be mechanical. He has a funky delivery where he starts with a drop and drive but almost pauses midway through; his leg nearly stops and his upper body seemingly twists to the right as he prepares to throw. Between the hitch and a low three quarters arm slot, it’s not hard to see why he’s a little wild (he’s walked 3.6 hitters per game as a minor leaguer). Smith started the inning throwing in the low 90’s, but after his third batter, he was sitting 87-88. The pitch has strong two-seam bite, but as you might infer from the box score, he struggles to control it. His slider sits in the low 80’s and is clearly a work in progress. Some of his sliders featured vertical drop while others had almost entirely horizontal movement. This was clearly not Smith’s best outing, but it did shine a light on what he needs to work on and helped to answer why the Mariners called upon Dominic Leone — instead of Smith — when a roster spot opened up last week. Jesus Montero, 1B/DH For Montero, it’s DH or bust as a major league player. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’s the worst defensive first basemen I’ve seen among professional players. He can’t — or doesn’t want to — bounce off of first when he’s holding a runner, so he’s essentially limited to covering the line with a man on base, and as you might expect, his range is basically limited to what he can reach while standing. One of the hits Smith allowed was a soft liner about 12 feet to Montero’s left. Most big-league first basemen would have pocketed the ball easily, but Montero only made it about half way there before it bounced and spun softly into right field. For good measure, he also booted a grounder hit right at him, though he did recover in time to get the out. We’ve always known that Montero’s bat would carry him as a professional, and it’s never been clearer that he can’t do anything other than hit.
The National League West division got a whole lot stronger when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership decided to push their cards all in and spend as much as necessary to win. It was a fairly busy offseason for the five clubs, but both the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants elected to use plenty of their resources on retaining some of their key pieces. The Arizona Diamondbacks made a series of interesting trades while the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies made a couple interesting acquisitions of their own. Let’s take a look at what each club gained and lost of the past offseason. Los Angeles Dodgers | 2013: 92-70 Under new ownership the Dodgers have spent big the last couple of years in an attempt to win their first championship since 1988. The St. Louis Cardinals proved to be too much for the club to handle in the 2013 National League Championship Series as LA lost in six games, however. Run prevention was key to the Dodgers’ success in 2013 as the 582 runs they allowed were the third fewest in baseball, while their 649 runs scored were the seventeenth most. Who’s In Paul Maholm, SP — 0.7 fWAR | Signed one-year, $1.5 million dealAlexander Guerrero, 2B — Played in Cuba | Signed four-year, $28 million dealJamey Wright, RP — 0.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $1.8 million dealErisbel Arruebarrena, SS — Played in Cuba | Signed five year, $25 million dealChris Perez, RP — -0.9 fWAR | Signed one-year, $2.3 million dealDan Haren, SP — 1.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $10 million dealChone Figgins, 3B — -1.1 fWAR (2012) | Signed minor league contractJustin Turner, 2B/3B — 0.5 fWAR | Signed minor league contract Who’s Out Chris Capuano, SP — 1.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Boston Red SoxRonald Belisario, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Chicago White SoxMark Ellis, 2B — 1.8 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with St. Louis CardinalsMichael Young, SS — -0.2 fWAR | RetiredEdinson Volquez, SP — 0.4 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Pittsburgh PiratesSkip Schumaker, 2B/OF — -1.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Cincinnati RedsNick Punto, 2B/SS/3B — 1.8 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Oakland AthleticsRicky Nolasco, SP — 3.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Minnesota Twins 2014 There’s no doubt that it’s World Series or bust for the Dodgers in 2014 as they enter the season with an estimated payroll of $235 million; even higher than that of perennial big spenders the New York Yankees. The biggest move of the offseason was getting ace Clayton Kershaw locked down to a seven-year contract extension worth $215 million that also includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. The reigning NL Cy Young award winner will once again be joined by Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu in the rotation alongside Haren, the newcomer. Maholm figures to be a placeholder in the rotation while Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett recover from their respective injuries. The Dodger offence is about as loaded as it gets in baseball with all-stars at nearly every position. Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig will lead the charge with outfielders Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier all being close to full heath. Third base will be covered after Uribe was re-signed, but LA has somewhat of a hole at second base after Guerrero, the Cuban import, didn’t appear ready for show in Spring Training. It’s expected that a combination of Turner, Figgins, and Dee Gordon will man the position for the time being and as we all know, the Dodgers have plenty of resources should they choose to acquire a more established option. Los Angeles are the consensus favourite to win the NL West this year and they certainly have the talent to do so, but once again, it’s going to come down to health for the club. If Kemp or Ethier can regain their form of a few years back the Dodger offence could become very scary. Same goes for their rotation if Beckett or Billingsley can find something left in the tank. And should none of that happen, LA can probably just go out and buy the missing pieces their roster needs. Arizona Diamondbacks | 2013: 81-81 A pair of back-to-back 81 win seasons followed Arizona’s playoff appearance in 2011, placing them second in the division in 2013. The Diamondbacks’ 685 runs scored and 695 runs allowed placed them near the middle of the pack in both categories. Average isn’t going to cut it in a division with plenty of talent and the Dodgers’ ability to buy themselves out of trouble however, and the club made some interesting moves this winter to improve. Who’s In Addison Reed, RP — 1.7 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Chicago White Sox in exchange for 3B Matt DavidsonBronson Arroyo, SP — 0.8 fWAR | Signed two-year, $23.5 million dealHenry Blanco, C — -0.5 fWAR | Signed minor league contractMark Trumbo, OF — 2.5 fWAR | Acquired with RHP AJ Schugel via trade with Los Angeles Angels and OF Brandon Jacobs from the Chicago White Sox in a three team deal that sent LHP Tyler Skaggs to LAA and OF Adam Eaton to CWSRyan Rowland-Smith, SP/RP — -1.9 fWAR (2010) | Signed minor league contract Who’s Out Willie Bloomquist, SS/OF — 0.5 fWAR | Signed free agent contract with Seattle MarinersMatt Davidson, 3B — 0.2 fWARTyler Skaggs, SP — 0.1 fWARAdam Eaton, OF — -0.5 fWARWil Nieves, C — -0.1 fWAR | Signed free agent contract with Philadelphia PhilliesHeath Bell, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Traded to Tampa Bay Rays in a three team deal that sent LHP David Holmberg to the Cincinnati Reds; ARI acquired RHP Justin Choate and OF Todd Glaesmann 2014 The D-Backs have found themselves in the category of being a good ball club, but not good enough over the last couple years. Slugger Paul Goldschmidt leads the offence that gets a potentially huge boost with the addition of Trumbo in the middle of the order, although there are legitimate concerns as to whether or not he can play the outfield. The trio of Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill, and Martin Prado have quietly been a stable force of the Arizona offence and will be relied on heavily once again. A couple short weeks ago the Diamondbacks appeared to have put together a strong rotation with plenty of upside, but now that Patrick Corban is done for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the rotation has come under question. Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and the recently signed Arroyo form a solid set of starters, but none are quite the game changer that Corban is. Top prospect Archie Bradley will begin the year in the minors, but it’s likely he’ll make an appearance in the big leagues before the season is over and could become an x-factor in the pitching staff. Arizona is good, there’s no doubt about that, but the Dodgers are the clearly superior club in the division and the Wild Card race looks like it’ll be tough once again. All in all, the D-Backs may find themselves in the same position they were the previous two years: a .500 club that fell just short. San Diego Padres | 2013: 76-86 Like the D-Backs, the Padres also had an identical record in both 2012 and 2013, which is twice as disappointing after the club won 90 games in 2010. Even though they played half their games in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks, the club allowed 700 runs and their team ERA of 3.98 was just higher than the league average mark. The Padres weren’t able to produce enough offence either as their 618 runs scored was the seventh fewest last year. Who’s In Joaquin Benoit, RP — 1.6 fWAR | Signed two-year, $15.5 million dealJosh Johnson, SP — 0.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $8 million dealSeth Smith, OF — 1.1 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Luke GregersonXavier Nady, OF — -0.8 fWAR (2012) | Signed minor league contractAlex Torres, RP — 1.3 fWAR | Acquired with RHP Jesse Hahn via trade with Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Matt Lollis, and 2B Maxx Tissenbaum Who’s Out Jesus Guzman, 1B/OF — 0.0 fWAR | Traded to Houston Astros in exchange for 2B/3B Ryan JacksonLogan Forsythe, 2B — 0.0 fWARRonny Cedeno, SS — -0.7 fWAR | Signed minor league deal with Philadelphia Phillies; ReleasedJason Marquis, SP — -1.6 fWARClayton Richard, SP — -1.2 fWARColt Hynes, RP — -0.3 fWAR | Traded to Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations 2014 The Padres decided to hang on to third baseman Chase Headley for the upcoming year instead of dealing him while he still had a full season of team control remaining before becoming a free agent. Other than Headley, the lineup doesn’t really feature any elite level talent at the moment. Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera are competent hitters and if Carlos Quentin is able to stay healthy he has proven to be a key part of the batting order. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is a prime breakout candidate for the Padres as long as he can put last year’s injury riddled campaign behind him. Petco Park is widely regarded as one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks around right now, and that certainly weighed into Johnson’s decision to sign a one-year deal in San Diego. When he’s been healthy he’s been as dominant as anyone, but keeping him on the field has been a very tall task; he’ll start 2014 on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are a pair of dependable arms that’ll sit atop the rotation, but big seasons will be required out of starters like Eric Stults and Tyson Ross if the Padres are to make the playoffs. The signing of Benoit will help shore up the bullpen by giving it another needed veteran presence. There certainly is enough talent on the club to win 80 or more games, but the Padres will need career years from more than a few players if they hope to taste October baseball once again. They could be a surprise club if everything can go right. San Francisco Giants | 2013: 76-84 It’s been just over a year since the Giants were celebrating their second World Series title in three years. For the first time since 2008 the club finished with a record below the .500 mark and were a full 16 games behind the division winning Dodgers. Pitching was a strength of San Francisco’s during their championship runs, but their team ERA of 4.00 placed them outside of the top 20 teams. Their offence wasn’t a whole lot better as they only managed to produce 629 runs in 2013. Who’s In Michael Morse, OF — -1.6 fWAR | Signed one-year, $6 million dealTim Hudson, SP — 1.7 fWAR | Signed two-year, $23 million dealJC Gutierrez, RP — 0.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contractKameron Loe, RP — -1.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contract; ReleasedDavid Huff, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Acquired via trade with New York Yankees in exchange for cash considerations Who’s Out Barry Zito, SP — -0.6 fWARChad Gaudin, SP/RP — 1.1 fWAR | Signed minor league contract with Philadelphia Phillies; ReleasedAndres Torres, OF — 0.7 fWAR 2014 The Giants elected to retain their key free agents this winter in Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence who signed two and five-year contracts respectively. Hudson could prove to be a nifty little pick up as he’ll help solidify the rotation that includes himself, Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong. Perhaps the key to the pitching staff will be lanky right-hander, Lincecum, who hasn’t been able to find his Cy Young form once again but has shown improvement recently. San Francisco is finally free of the Zito contract that become increasingly burdensome as the former ace was unable to turn his struggles around over the last couple seasons. Offensively, there aren’t many that do it better than catcher Buster Posey who had a down season by his standards in 2013. Pablo Sandoval has shown signs of being an elite power bat but still has plenty to prove as he enters his contract year. How much value Morse can reasonably be expected to provide is pretty minimal, but he was the only real addition to an offence that could’ve used a boost. Although if a guy like Brandon Belt can take another step forward, the Giants may not require an outside piece to shift their offence out from under the mediocre title. Overall, the Giants aren’t really that much improved heading into 2014, but there’s plenty of potential for players to produce more than they have in recent memory and it appears the team is counting on rebound seasons from a couple players. There’s plenty of talent on the roster, that much is for sure, but it’s going to take a couple welcome surprises for the club to get back into the playoffs this year. Colorado Rockies | 2013: 74-88 It’s been a tough couple seasons for the Rockies who’ve been holding down the basement in the NL West. Despite the losing record, the club still manage to score the tenth most runs in the league with 706, but it was their pitching that once again let them down. Their team ERA of 4.44 and the 760 runs they allowed were both the third highest marks in all of baseball last year. Who’s In Justin Morneau, 1B — 0.8 fWAR | Signed two-year, $12.5 million dealBoone Logan, RP — 0.3 fWAR | Signed three-year, $16.5 million dealJason Pridie, OF — 0.7 fWAR (2011) | Signed minor league contractLaTroy Hawkins, RP — 0.8 fWAR | Signed one-year, $2.5 million dealPaul Janish, SS — -0.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contractJordan Lyles, SP — 0.4 fWAR | Acquired with OF Brandon Barnes via trade with Houston Astros in exchange for OF Dexter FowlerBrandon Barnes, OF — 1.0 fWARBrett Anderson, SP — 0.3 fWAR | Acquired with $2 million via trade with Oakland Athletics in exchange for LHP Drew Pomeranz and RHP Chris JensenDrew Stubbs, OF — 0.8 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Cleveland Indians in exchange for LHP Josh OutmanFranklin Morales, SP/RP — 0.1 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Boston Red Sox in exchange for 2B/SS Jonathan Herrera Who’s Out Todd Helton, 1B — -0.8 fWAR | RetiredJonathan Herrera, 2B/SS — 0.4 fWARRafael Betancourt, RP — 0.5 fWARDexter Fowler, OF — 2.2 fWARJosh Outman, RP — 0.7 fWARDrew Pomeranz, SP/RP — -0.2 fWAR 2014 It was a busy past couple months for Colorado who added several pieces via trade and free agency. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Michael Cuddyer make up the heart of the lineup that will be joined by Stubbs and Morneau, who will replace Helton at first base after his illustrious career with the Rockies came to an end. The departure of Fowler leaves some big shoes to fill at the top of the batting order, but Barnes is an interesting piece who could turn a few heads in the upcoming year. When Anderson has managed to stay healthy, he’s been a very effective starter, but like with the Padres’ acquisition of Josh Johnson, keeping him on the mound has proven to be difficult. The former Oakland Athletic does appear to be playing at full health and reports out of camp this spring have been positive however. Anderson will be joined in the rotation by Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, Tyler Chatwood, and Jhoulys Chacin once he returns from injury. The Rockies appear to be a fringe contender at most in 2014, but with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez in the lineup it’s hard to count them out just yet. If the rotation can stay healthy and perform well, Colorado may be able to sneak in to the playoffs, but they could just as easily find themselves at the bottom of the division once again. *All player WAR’s shown are via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
The starting pitching market moved at a snail’s pace in anticipation of a decision on whether or not Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka would become available this winter. Christmas Day provided an answer to that question as Tanaka was posted by his Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, alongside a $20 million (maximum) release fee, essentially making him a free agent able to negotiate with all thirty teams. Seattle has been seen as a logical fit given the city’s proximity to Japan as well as the previous success of other Japanese imports such as Ichiro Suzuki, Kenji Johjima, and current Mariner and former teammate of Tanaka’s, Hisashi Iwakuma. Factor in the team’s need for another starter and surplus cash still lingering, and the match is almost too obvious. Ben Badler of Baseball America suggests that the Seattle Mariners are the favorites to land the 25-year old in a preview of Tanaka’s potential market. Badler opens the Mariners’ case by mentioning the lack of financial commitments Seattle has moving forward. Aside from Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez, the M’s have minimal salary commitments outside of arbitration-eligible players. Once the new Regional Sports Network money the M’s are due over the next several seasons comes in, there’s reason to think that an annual payroll in the $100-120 million range would be a definite possibility. Earlier reports indicated that Seattle was close to their payroll limits for 2014 after signing Cano but could make an exception for the right player; Tanaka may just be that player. Not only would slotting the right-hander between King Felix and Iwakuma give Seattle an elite rotation on paper, it would also ease some of the pressure that’ll fall on top prospect Taijuan Walker should he make the rotation out of Spring Training. It’s likely that Tanaka would instead be the center of attention, at least at the beginning of 2014, as the baseball world will be watching him closely. Another positive for acquiring the Japanese ace is that he’ll only cost money. The M’s have been reluctant to meet the Tampa Bay Rays’ demands of Walker and more in a trade for their ace David Price, and free agents Ubaldo Jiminez and Ervin Santana will cost the team another draft pick if they were to sign. Badler also notes that should the M’s sign Tanaka, or any of the top available starters for that matter, they could use their prospect resources to acquire a quality outfielder since Nelson Cruz is what remains of the free agent outfield market. If that’s not enough reason to make a push for Tanaka, then I don’t know what is. With another potential ace in the fold, perhaps Seattle would be less reluctant to include James Paxton in a potential deal, especially since the righty is just 25 years old. Badler mentions Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays as a potential trade target, but he’s a free agent after this season and may be more inclined to test the market instead of signing an extension at this time. The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs are also listed as favorites in Badler’s article. The Yankees have long been connected with Tanaka given their need for starting pitching and luxury tax concerns that would’ve been eased under the old posting system. Although the new system will make things a little tougher for the Yanks, they’re still expected to be highly involved. LA on the other hand, doesn’t really have an outright need for another starter, but they seem to have more money than they know what to do with so why not? The Dodgers’ interest in Tanaka could heat up if they feel they’ll be unable to sign reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to an extension since he’ll be a free agent after this season and has a case for a record contract. While the Dodger and Yankee connections seem relatively palatable, the Cubs aren’t quite as logical a fit since they’re still knee deep in a complete rebuild. But, considering the right-hander is still only 25 and yet to hit his hypothetical prime years, he could be a perfect fit for the Cubs’ plan. Chicago isn’t likely to be a serious contender until 2015 at the earliest, and the addition of a top rotation arm would go a long ways to making that a possibility. Ken Rosenthal doesn’t quite share the same views as Badler however, as he reports the Arizona Diamondbacks are serious suitors for the righty’s services. Arizona was eighth on Badler’s list of potential suitors with budget limitations as their biggest hinderance in luring Tanaka. Rosenthal reports that the D-Backs were prepared to get in the bidding for Shin-Soo Choo earlier this winter, so they appear to have the resources required to spend more than $100 million on acquiring the Japanese star. Free agent Matt Garza has also been connected to the desert throughout the offseason. Since Tanaka’s preference are relatively unknown at this point, we can only speculate about what he’s looking for in a potential contract and team. Perhaps he wants to join an immediate World Series contender, or join a high profile market such as New York or Los Angeles. Maybe he’s strictly looking for the most cash. We’ve seen speculative numbers in the $100-140 million range on top of the $20 million release fee over a contract that could be between six and eight years in length. Many didn’t consider Seattle to be a serious landing spot for Cano earlier this winter, so there’s a realistic hope that Tanaka views the perks offered by playing in the Emerald City in the same light as the former Yankee did. It’s early on Tanaka watch. But constant theme from interested teams is: Watch out for #Mariners. Execs think they have one big move left — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 2, 2014
The news broke Tuesday with a vengeance. Trades, free agent signings and even a report out of New York that the Seattle Mariners were legitimate, major players for free agent Robinson Cano. Some have been saying it for weeks, simply because it’s well known that each team has an additional $20-25 million coming to them via the league’s new TV deal, and the Mariners, having just two guaranteed contracts on the books to boot, negotiated a majority control of their regional sports network, improving their annual revenues greatly, starting next year. Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reported Tuesday afternoon that the Mariners had emerged as a prime suitor and cited sources that suggested the M’s might be willing to go where the New York Yankees reportedly say they will not — eight years and $200 million. Let’s break this down, issue by issue. Legitimate or not? I have no doubt that the Mariners have the kind of interest in every significant free agent to pay the market rate. With Cano, that likely means $200 million guaranteed, maybe more. I believe the Mariners are willing to pay that. What I don’t believe is that Cano would take it. Even with the news coming out that Jacoby Ellsbury has agreed to a deal with the Yankees worth $153 million and knowing that Brian McCann is under contract with the Yankees for at least $85 million, it’s difficult to believe that the Yankees would low-ball Cano to the point where Seattle, of all teams and places, is the best fit. Even if the M’s are the best money, it’s difficult to believe they will be the overwhelming high bid; are the Yankees now only willing to offer Cano, say, $165 million? If so, and if the M’s are willing to go $200 million, is the $35 million enough to sway Cano? I don’t think it is. He can make up that difference in endorsements as the Yankees’ lead superstar, playing in the postseason. And if the bidding were to remain around or under $200 million — which is $100 million less than what was originally suggested for Cano — might that entice the interest of the Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers? It would only take one of those to trump the Mariners. The Ellsbury factor I don’t believe the Ellsbury signing is a factor at all. The Yankees, clearly, have given up on the idea of remaining under the luxury tax threshold so they can earn the kickback payment, and it does seem as if they are expecting a ruling in their favor in the Alex Rodriguez case, which would save them $189 million in total. Yes, the Yankees also need starting pitching, too, but again, this is the Yankees we are talking about, and they clearly mean business this offseason. While there appears to be no reason to believe they will cave and give Cano what he really wants, there’s also no reason to think they won’t spend another $40-50 million on Cano than they did to sign Ellsbury, an inferior player. Sensible for Seattle? Then there is the question of whether or not it would even make sense for the Mariners to give Cano eight years and $200 million. The easy answer is yes. Even if you believe such a deal is an overpay, this is the Mariners we are talking about, and Cano is exactly the kind of breakthrough addition the franchise needs. Remember, the money only hurts a club if they let it bog them down in their attempts at continuing to improve their club every single day of the year. It’s a decision organizations make. It’s not about $200 million payrolls, either. It’s about spending on the right players, maximizing the value of those making the big money and continuing to develop your own talent so huge contracts aren’t regularly necessary. Adding a player like Cano would do more than just give the club it’s first true No. 3 hitter since Edgar Martinez 10 years ago, his presence adds instant credibility to the Mariners brand. Getting that next free agent wouldn’t be quite as difficult. “Hey, you, free agent shortstop. Come play with Robby Cano and behind Felix Hernandez.” That’s an easier sales job than currently exists. Forget payrolls and what adding a $25 million per year player would do to a team’s self-imposed salary cap. We have absolutely no idea what the Mariners’ limits are, if there truly are any in such a scenario. As long as their next move is just as aggressive and they keep that ball rolling, the money simply does not matter. It’s not like they have never spent on payroll before — they just didn’t spend wisely. Cano would be a much wiser spend than Prince Fielder two years ago and Josh Hamilton last year. Eight years? So What Cano would be 38 by the end of such a deal, but this is an easy one, people. He’s such a good hitter that once he’s deemed unfit for second base, he can easily move to third, first or designated hitter, and be very valuable. And it’s not like there is any reason to think he’ll have to do so before he’s 36 or 37, anyway. Next. The Matt Kemp factor The Mariners have been linked to Kemp for weeks now and it’d be a huge statement if they spent on Cano and landed Kemp via trade. Jon Morosi’s report Tuesday night suggests it’s one or the other, however. The Mariners can certainly fit both into their plans for 2014, though, and adding Kemp, and perhaps a starting pitcher and a veteran closer, may change Cano’s view of the Mariners enough for him to truly consider them. Kemp is a risk, a discussion for another day, and is earning $21 million per year, through 2019. He’s had one huge year, was solid in 2012 and hurt a lot in 2013. He’s been playing center field, but belongs in right. The keys to such a trade being a success for the Mariners include using Kemp properly on defense, but for me Taijuan Walker is off limits in a deal for Kemp, and the Dodgers must help out a little with the contract burden, especially if they want three or four quality young players in return. I have no idea what the chances of the Mariners landing Kemp are, but if they want a real shot at Cano, pulling the trigger on other significant deals before the Cano decision is made can only help. It’s worth noting that Kemp does not have a no-trade clause and that Kyle Seager isn’t likely to be involved in a trade with the Dodgers, since it appears they plan to use Hanley Ramirez at third base and signed Alex Guerrero to a 4-year, $28 million deal to be their second baseman as early as 2014. Closers I mentioned a veteran closer above, and while the Mariners would love to have Brian Wilson, that doesn’t seem very likely. A cheaper arm such as Joaquin Benoit or Fernando Rodney may be an option. The club does not want to start 2014 without a proven commodity added to their young bullpen, and may be trading Tom Wilhelmsen, anyway. If the season started today, Danny Farquhar would be the closer. It’d be nice if a veteran were added to the mix, and the club clearly agrees. In conclusion No, I do not think Cano ends up signing in Seattle. And chances are, Kemp either stays put or is traded elsewhere, though I do see some matches between the two clubs in terms of talent and dollars. The Dodgers may prefer to get a true, clear-cut shortstop and a young starter, and the M’s don’t have the shortstop to move. I’m not sure any team has both, though, which in my opinion gives the Mariners a real shot, and they certainly appear to be the most intent club on that front. The M’s have been linked to Carlos Beltran, too, who reportedly was offered a 3-year, $48 million deal this week. Many believe that offer to be from the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or Kansas City Royals. If it’s the Royals, the domino effect may be that Billy Butler could be shopped, so the club can use the DH spot for some of their regulars, including an aging Beltran. The cost on Butler last offseason was ridiculous, but that has to have changed dramatically and Seattle could be a fit. I’d prefer the M’s pass and re-sign Morales or add Nelson Cruz — not for four years and $15-18 million per, of course — to use at DH.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers have made their first marks early in the 2013-2014 offseason after Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder switched area codes in a blockbuster trade last week. The Tigers have received high praise for clearing money off of their books for future considerations, while the Rangers have received praise of their own for adding a premier slugger and finding space for top prospect Jurickson Profar heading into the 2014 season. Perhaps the most surprising part of this deal is that the Tigers were about to move the seven years and $162 million still owed to Fielder, although the Rangers did receive $30 million in the deal. While Fielder’s deal wasn’t crippling to the franchise, it’s easy to see how it could become a large problem a few years down the road. The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves looking to move an albatross contract of their own and are willing to deal one of Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier this winter. The Seattle Mariners have been connected to the Dodgers outfield surplus for a while now and have already expressed interest in Kemp. While all three outfielders are sexy in name, it’s not 2011 anymore and they all carry some pretty heavy baggage heading into 2014. Crawford, 32, came to LA in last summer’s blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox after struggling mightily in 2011 and undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2012. Crawford managed to make the Dodgers 2013 opening day roster, but only appeared in 116 games do to a hamstring injury. The left fielder may be a couple steps removed from his all-star form, he did take a step forward in 2013 posting a .283/.329/.407 line while producing 1.7 bWAR and 2.9 fWAR. Steamer thinks he’s good for 2.2 fWAR in 2014, despite a projection of 122 games. Although Crawford has been a plus defender and a capable leadoff hitter in the past, he’s a tough pill to swallow with salaries between $20 and $21 million owed in the next four seasons. Kemp, the youngest of the trio at 29, has spent his entire career to date with the Dodgers and isn’t a fan of the trade talk surrounding him. The centerfielder hasn’t been healthy for an entire season since 2011 when he came second in the NL MVP voting and established himself as a premier hitter while 8.4 fWAR and 8.6 bWAR. The Dodgers rewarded their star with an eight-year extension worth $160 million after the ’11 season, which will pay $21.5 million annually from 2014-19. Things quickly went downhill however, as Kemp found himself making numerous trips to the disabled list between 2012 and 2013. Most recently, Kemp underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery to repair a fractured bone in October and is expected to be “competitive” for the start of the 2014 season. For his 2013 campaign, Kemp put together a .270/.328/.395 line across 290 PA, but saw his ISO fall to .125 and his OPS+ to 105. Kemp has always been prone to the strikeout and has never been a very good fielder so he’s a huge risk as well coming off of consecutive injury riddled seasons. Ethier has been a model of good health in comparison to his counterparts as he’s played in at least 135 games each year since his sophomore season in 2007, but he did see his 2013 season end with an ankle injury. The 31 year-old sports a career line of .288/.362/.470 in eight major league seasons, and posted career highs for home runs and RBI with 31 and 106 in 2009. Like Kemp, Ethier has always struck out a lot, a career 17 percent rate, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest he’s capable of hitting 20 home runs on a regular basis for the next couple seasons while he’s on the right side of 30. Despite the injuries, Ethier has averaged about 3 WAR in each of the last three seasons. His mobility was greatly affected throughout this past postseason as he struggled with the ankle injury, but he should be back to full health before the start of the 2014 season. Ethier is due $69 million from 2014-17, and has a vesting option for ’18 worth $17.5 million with a $2.5 million buy-out attached. It’s well known that the Mariners are in the market for an outfielder, and possibly two since they should be uncomfortable with Abraham Almonte seeing significant playing time in 2014. The potential for the two clubs to match up exists, but to be honest, it’d take a lot to make dealing for one of the three outfielders remotely considerable. Sure they all have all-star backgrounds, but the risk level associated with each is huge. Kemp in particular, may not be ready for the start of the season, and an annual payment north of $20 million makes any player risky, save for Mike Trout. Sure it’s possible for Kemp to repeat his 8 WAR performance, but the likelihood is debatable. It’s important to note that the 2011 Dodger team didn’t offer Kemp much protection or feature any other elite production, so it’s possible he could do it on his own with the Mariners if he was healthy for the full season. Even though Safeco Field has gotten less pitcher friendly the last few years, it’ll never be a hitter’s paradise and Kemp will likely need one of those to be in the equation if he plans on finding his 2011 form next year. Crawford should really be a hard ‘no’ for the Mariners. He’s struggled mightily since leaving Tampa Bay and although a change of scenery out of the spotlight could be a good thing for him, the $20 million annual salary is better spent on Jacoby Ellsbury. If the Dodgers want to give him away and pay a chunk of his salary, maybe the M’s should gamble, but realistically, his value is so low he will most likely not be leaving Chavez Ravine. If there’s a player worth pursuing out of the three, it’d probably be Ethier. Although he may be unspectacular at the plate, he’s been consistent, he can get on base, and he’s had an OPS+ of 121 or higher six years straight. He’s a very capable defender and would definitely represent an upgrade over whatever you want to call the outfield gongshow Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay provided. His salary is a bit high for a player who has yet to put up a four WAR season, but he’d probably get a similar deal in free agency so the Dodgers will likely want at least a Brandon Maurer type of prospect. The Mariners’ interest will likely be determined by how much cash the Dodgers are willing to include to make a deal happen. If the Dodgers are looking at a pure salary dump, then taking Ethier or Kemp off of their hands for minor league fodder is worth considering, but if they’re after any kind of value in return, they’ll have to include some salary relief. Payroll has proved to be of minimal concern to the club and they don’t consider the luxury cap threshold limiting, so they probably aren’t concerned with the financial cost of having a $20 million player sitting on the bench for the bulk of 2014. Actually, keeping all three outfielders may be the best thing for the Dodgers unless they can find a trade that makes too much sense to turn down. Allowing the three to share the outfield with Yasiel Puig would ease the workload throughout the season and represent a potential insurance policy if an outfielder is lost for a large period of time in 2014; a definite possibility. It’s doubtful Crawford, Kemp, or Either would be happy with semi reduced roles, but considering the injury risks involved, they could probably be reasoned with. Either way, don’t expect this market to heat up too much until free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo sign new deals and teams in need have fewer places to turn.
It may be a bit early to truly gauge what this winter holds for free agent starters, but Tim Lincecum agreeing to re-sign with the Giants on Tuesday gives us some clues. His two-year $35M deal, pending a physical, indicates more teams will likely use the qualifying offer as a measuring stick for their free agent expenditures, and as usual, it’s going to pay big you’re an above average free agent starter. Lincecum’s 3.2 WAR he’s averaged in his career is probably a bigger piece to his contract puzzle than his negative WAR’s in the previous two seasons. Today’s market values one win between $5-7M which makes it easy to see how a three win pitcher can command $15M a season. As noted by Alex, it’s slim pickings for top free agent pitching. Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jiminez and Ricky Nolasco represent the cream of the crop, and Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka will be highly sought after as well. A.J. Burnett and Hiroki Kuroda belong in that class too, but Burnett has openly stated it’s Pittsburgh or bust for him, and Kuroda seems likely to either re-up with the Yankees or head home to Japan. Kuroda and Burnett are both likely to receive and decline qualifying offers, so for arguments sake, lets assume they both stick with their 2013 clubs and sign one year deals worth around $15M, and fill number 2 or 3 roles in their respective rotations. The Seattle Mariners have only been associated with Lincecum at this point, so we can probably factor them out of the running for the others, as well as the Giants and Pirates with the resigning of Lincecum and Burnett respectively. The Yankees will have multiple rotation holes even with Kuroda back, and a desire to get under the luxury tax threshold of $189M for 2014. The Dodgers seem set on winning so expect them to spend big dollars. I could see the Rangers, Nationals, Blue Jays, Twins (yes, money will be available), Padres (they get their slice of the TV deal too), and Phillies to possibly get involved in the bidding. Nolasco and Garza will come without draft pick compensation thanks to being traded during the 2013 season, but Santana and Jiminez are likely to decline QO’s should they receive one, and they both probably will. Tanaka is an interesting case, as he’ll require a posting fee of around $55M based on what Yu Darvish brought, and a contract north of $10M AAV. However, only the AAV will count towards a team’s luxury tax number, and we’re looking at you, Pinstripes. Lincecum’s $17.5M AAV Stands as a reasonable goal for all mentioned aside from Tanaka. Lincecum’s struggles in 2012 and 2013 means he enters 2014 as a 3 win pitcher, his career average, which is comparative to the value provided by Santana and Jiminez the past couple seasons. Garza projects as a 2 win+ pitcher for 2014 after being healthy for most of the season, but most of the ace potential from his younger years is gone. Nolasco fits the mold of a 2 win pitcher next year as he looks to build on his successful stint with the Dodgers and getting out of Miami. While Tanaka appears to be the prize, he faces a risky transition to the American game, and the other four starters have their own warts by way of injury, inconsistency, and fondness of the long ball. Factoring Lincecum’s deal into the equation, let’s look at how the market shapes up for the others. Lincecum is looking to re-establish his value on a short-term deal, but considering the lack of other high quality options available, I expect Nolasco, Jiminez, Garza and Santana to be searching for deals in the 4-5 year range. Along with Lincecum’s guarantee, the $14.1M QO salary definitely has driven up the bottom line price on these pitchers. Some say the Giants paid a premium price for a reclamation project, but what they’re really doing is hoping Lincecum has turned a corner for the better in 2013, and factoring in the high cost of replacing him. Teams have become increasingly weary of sacrificing top picks to land free agents in years past. If Santana and Jiminez both have compensation attached to them, we could see their market affected similar to how it was for Kyle Lohse, last winter. Still, the two will both get paid handsomely this winter, and I could see Jiminez netting $64M on a four-year pact, and Santana being paid as if he was vintage Johan with a five-year deal approaching $90M in total value. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Garza get something similar to Santana since he won’t cost a draft pick and the Yankees will likely be involved. Nolasco will probably fall somewhere between Jiminez and Lincecum, and I can see him grabbing $17M AAV on a four year deal. Unfortunately, Mariners fans shouldn’t expect to see any of these players mentioned donning the blue and teal anytime soon, and that’s probably a good thing. If I were to make predictions right now, I would venture that the Yankees spring for both Tanaka and Garza to solidify their rotation, while the Dodgers bid with the Blue Jays and Rangers for Nolasco and Jiminez. I have a feeling that a team like the Twins or Padres will ultimately land Santana with hope that having him pitch in a true pitcher’s park will keep his numbers low enough to justify the contract he receives. Despite all the uncertainty that exists in free agent market, we can be certain about one thing: a No. 3 starter is now going to cost you $15M annually. Man, King Felix’s contract is going to look like an absolute steal in the next couple years.