Tag Archives: National League

MLB Hot Stove: Giants acquire McCutchen as Pirates rebuild continues

Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins were in fire-sale mode when they traded the likes of OFs Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Now, the Pirates seem to be dismantling their team to build for the future. Just two days after trading SP Gerrit Cole to the Astros, they are getting rid of another centerpiece of the team, sending OF Andrew McCutchen to the Giants.

The Giants were one of the teams who were reportedly interested in acquiring Stanton before he went to the Yankees, they and later turned their attention to McCutchen. Although he hasn’t hit higher than .300 since 2014, McCutchen is still a good hitter and had a bounceback year last season after a down year in 2016, hitting .279 last season with 28 home runs, the second-most of his career. He joins 3B Evan Longoria, who the Giants acquired earlier in the winter, to provide a power boost for a team that hit the fewest home runs in the majors last season. With the additions, the Giants seem to be heading in the right direction to compete in the NL West.

Although what players the Pirates are getting in return has not yet been announced, it is not expected to be much since McCutchen is entering the final year of his contract and will be a free agent next winter. Along those lines, two of the Giants’ top prospects — OF Chris Shaw and P Tyler Beede — are reportedly not part of the trade.

Also since our last update, the Twins signed RP Addison Reed to a two-year deal to further solidify their bullpen after already adding RPs Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke earlier in the offseason. And the Nationals have agreed to a two-year deal with OF Howie Kendrick, who they acquired from the Phillies in a July trade.

There’s still a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, with many players still out there in free agency and on the trade block — including potentially Pirates 3B Josh Harrison if they continue to move veterans — so there are still many moves to be made on the hot stove.

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MLB Hot Stove: Astros beef up rotation with Cole

It’s been slower than expected since our last hot stove report in late December, but there was a significant trade made on Saturday, with the defending World Series champion Astros adding to their starting rotation, picking up SP Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. The other big name who solidified his future plans in the last couple of weeks was RP Wade Davis, who signed with his new team.

The Cole trade is the big news of this period. There were reports during the week that the Astros and Pirates had reached an agreement on a deal for him, but it turned out those stories were not true. On Saturday, though, the trade was finalized and officially announced by the teams. In exchange for Cole, the Astros sent Ps Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, 3B Colin Moran and minor league OF Jason Martin to the Pirates.

Cole was a top prospect for the Pirates  when he first came up, but he hasn’t lived up to the potential people thought he had in his first five seasons in the league. His best season came in 2015, when he posted a 2.60 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 208 innings. In the two years since then, his ERA has steadily increased to 3.88 in 2016 and 4.26 last year, both career worsts at the time. In the Astros rotation, barring injuries, he will likely be the No. 4 starter in the rotation behind SPs Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. That should take some pressure off of him as the Astros won’t be relying on him to be one of their top pitchers. He is, however, going from the National League to the American League — which means he’ll be facing designated hitters instead of opposing pitchers — and going to a more hitter-friendly ballpark at Minute Maid Park as opposed to PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

For the Pirates, the centerpiece of the deal is probably Musgrove. He has a career 4.52 ERA in 49 major-league appearances in the regular season, but he excelled in the second half of the season after the Astros moved him to the bullpen. In 23 games of relief, he posted a 1.44 ERA compared to a 6.12 mark in 15 starts last season. The Pirates’ rotation isn’t as deep as the Astros’, though, which should give Musgrove another chance to prove himself as a starter in the middle or back of the Pittsburgh rotation. Moran hasn’t had much experience in the majors yet in his young career, but he should get a chance to be the Pirates’ starting third baseman coming out of spring training — a chance he wouldn’t get in Houston with Alex Bregman the long-term option at third there. Feliz is just a middle reliever with a 5.13 career ERA  who can serve as a long man when needed.

The big recent free agent signing was Davis inking a three-year, $52 million contract with the Rockies. The veteran closer is coming off a season in which he set a career high of 32 saves (in 33 opportunities) with the Cubs, but his 2.30 ERA was his worst mark since 2013. He struck out 79 batters — the most since 2014 — in 58.2 innings. He takes over the closer role from free-agent RP Greg Holland, who has not yet signed on with a new team, but there are rumors about him potentially going to the Cubs.

Although the team has not yet officially announced the signings, the Mets have reportedly signed a couple of veterans, OF Jay Bruce and 1B Adrian Gonzalez. Bruce’s deal is reportedly worth $39 million over three years. Gonzalez, who the Dodgers traded to the Braves earlier this winter and was subsequently released by Atlanta, signed a one-year deal, pending a physical, that will pay him the league minimum as the Braves are on the hook for the rest of the $21.5 million he is owed for the 2018 season under his original contract.

In addition to Holland, other notable free agents who remain unsigned include SPs Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, along with hitters J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. There could be more players traded before the start of the season, as well, with names like Orioles SS Manny Machado, Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen, Rays SP Chris Archer, and Marlins SS Starlin Castro, OF Christian Yelich and C J.T. Realmuto all potentially on the trade block.

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MLB Hot Stove: Marlins fire sale continues, Angels keep building around Trout

The MLB Winter Meetings are now over and while some coveted free agents — including Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta — are still on the market, there have been some transactions of note made since our last hot stove report, including the Marlins continuing to trim payroll and the Angels adding to the team beyond the signing of Shohei Otani.

As far as the Marlins are concerned, after trading 2B Dee Gordon and OF Giancarlo Stanton, they shipped OF Marcell Ozuna out of town, sending him to the Cardinals in exchange for four minor leaguers, including OF Magneuris Sierra and P Sandy Alcantara. Ozuna had a career year last season, hitting .312 with 37 home runs 124 RBI on the way to being named to his second straight National League all-star team. He’ll be joining an outfield in St. Louis that includes Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals also traded OF Stephen Piscotty to the A’s for a couple minor leaguers and added RP Luke Gregerson to provide late-inning work out of the bullpen, and potentially compete for the closer role.

The Angels made the first big splash of the winter when they signed Ohtani, known as the Japanese Babe Ruth for his ability to both pitch and hit, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring other players. They made a trade with the Tigers to get 2B Ian Kinsler for a couple minor league players and they signed SS Zack Cozart, who hit a career-high 24 home runs in 2017, to a three-year deal. The Angels, who finished five games out of a playoff berth in October, appear to be going all-in in an attempt to make a World Series run while they still have OF Mike Trout, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season. It won’t be easy, though, being in the same division as the defending World Series champion Astros.

The Cubs have been focused on adding to their pitching staff this offseason. After having already signed Tyler Chatwood, this week they added SP Drew Smyly and RPs Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to their team. The addition to their rotation and bullpen are likely in anticipation of losing Arrieta and Davis in free agency.

A day after finalizing their trade for Stanton, the Yankees shed some salary by sending 3B Chase Headley, along with RP Bryan Mitchell, to the Padres — with whom Headley played the first several seasons of his career before being traded to the Bronx — in exchange for OF Jabari Blash. And, although it’s not official yet, the Yankees are reportedly going to re-sign SP CC Sabathia on a one-year, $10 million contract.

In addition to getting Headley, the Padres traded for Phillies SS Freddy Galvis and are rumored to be pursuing Hosmer as they continue to remake their infield as they look to improve upon their 71-91 record from last season.

There were a couple more notable trades made in the last couple of days, both involving other NL West teams. The Giants traded veteran SP Matt Moore to the Rangers, who lost out on the Ohtani sweepstakes, for a couple of minor leaguers. And the Dodgers — who came a game short of winning the World Series — made a salary dump, sending 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Charlie Culberson, and Ps Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to the Braves in exchange for OF Matt Kemp, who played for the Dodgers from 2006-2014. The Braves have already designated Gonzalez for assignment.

Among other signings that have taken place over the last week, the Twins signed SP Michael Pineda and RP Fernando Rodney, who will likely serve as the team’s closer when the season begins; the Rockies re-signed RP Jake McGee and added RP Bryan Shaw to their bullpen; the Phillies reached an agreement with RP Pat Neshek; and the Astros added to their bullpen, inking RPs Joe Smith and Hector Rondon.

There were rumors during the Winter Meetings that the Orioles might trade 3B Manny Machado, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season. While they didn’t reach a deal to move him, that’s something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks as the team continues to consider its options, knowing that they will likely lose him to free agency in a year if he isn’t traded now. The Yankees are reportedly interested in acquiring Machado, but the Orioles probably aren’t interested in trading him within the division, especially to the team that just acquired the reigning NL MVP. They’re likely not going to make the playoffs in 2018, though, so they should probably trade Machado this offseason to get something for their best player.

The next couple of weeks of the hot stove could be quiet as team executives and the players’ agents take some time off, but then the activity should pick up again in January as guys like Martinez and Darvish start to sign deals. Other lesser-but-notable names still available include pitchers Greg Holland, Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia and position players Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce and Lorenzo Cain.

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MLB Hot Stove: Ohtani to the Angels, Stanton in pinstripes

It’s been more than a month since the Astros won their first World Series title, but it’s been a slow start to player signings and trades in the offseason. Part of that is probably teams and players waiting to see where the winter’s two biggest available names — Japanese sensation Shohei Otani and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton — would land. They have now both found new homes in the last two days, which means the hot stove should start to heat up, especially with the Winter Meetings now upon us.

Ohtani was the first domino of the two to fall, signing with the Angels on Friday. Earlier in the week, his camp announced that he had narrowed his choice to seven teams, and the Mariners were thought by many to be the frontrunners of that group. The 23-year-old, who comes to Major League Baseball from Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, signed a six-year deal with the AL West runners-up that will pay him just $2.3 million (with a $20 million posting fee paid to his former team) due to the way MLB’s international free agency rules work.

Ohtani has been referred to as the Babe Ruth of Japan for his ability to both pitch and hit. Joining an American League team gives him the chance to hit as a DH on some days when he isn’t the starting pitcher. He was hampered by injuries last season, but Ohtani was named the MVP of Japan’s Pacific League in 2016. That season, he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA on the mound and at the plate he hit .322 with 22 home runs and a 1.004 OPS. Joining an Angels rotation that includes SPs Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, Ohtani is expected to serve as the No. 1 guy in the rotation. Offensively, he’s joining former MVPs Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Pujols has served as the team’s DH in the majority of the games he’s played over the last two years, but if Ohtani is in that role a couple games a week, that will force Pujols to play first base more often, which could hurt the team defensively as he will be 38 years old by Opening Day on March 29.

The other coveted player who was expected to be on the move this winter was Stanton. News came out Saturday morning that the Marlins reached an agreement in principle, pending physicals, to send the right fielder and approximately $30 million to the Yankees in exchange for 2B Starlin Castro and minor leaguers Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Stanton had a full no-trade clause so could choose where he wanted to go. He would not waive his no-trade clause to the Giants or Cardinals. His first choice was reportedly to go to the Dodgers, but they couldn’t agree to terms of a deal with the Marlins. The Yankees were reported to be second on Stanton’s wish list, and they were able to reach a deal with the Marlins’ new co-owner Derek Jeter.

Stanton hit .289 last season with a MLB-best 59 home runs and 132 RBI on the way to earning the first NL MVP  honors of his eight-year career. Over that time, he is a .268 hitter with 267 home runs and 672 RBI. He does have a history of missing time with injuries, however. He played in 159 games last season, the first time he surpassed 150 games played in his career; he played 119 in 2016 and just 74 in 2015. Going to the AL could help his durability as it gives him a chance to take a break from playing the field and settle in at DH some days, but the Yankees have other players who split time in that role.

Stanton joins a Yankees lineup that includes OF Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs in his rookie season in 2017, and C Gary Sanchez, who launched 33 homers in 122 games last season. There’s no question that the Yankees have power hitters in their lineup but also some guys who strike out a lot — including Judge who led  the majors in that category last season.

Other transactions that have been made since the conclusion of the World Series include the Diamondbacks trading for RP Brad Boxberger, the Mariners acquiring 1B Ryon Healy in a trade with the A’s, the Rangers signing Ps Doug Fister and Mike Minor, the Tigers signing P Mike Fiers and OF Leonys Martin and the Cubs inking P Tyler Chatwood. The Mariners also traded for 2B Dee Gordon and international signing money from the Marlins in a deal that was thought to help them land Ohtani, which of course didn’t come to pass.

The Winter Meetings, which is traditionally when a lot of signings and trades happen, begin in Orlando on Sunday and last through Thursday. Notable free agents still on the market include pitchers Yu Darvish, Wade Davis, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Brandon Morrow, CC Sabathia, Jaime Garcia and position players J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gonzalez, Jonathan Lucroy and Mitch Moreland.

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World Series preview: Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers — Another title drought ends

For the second straight season, we have a World Series consisting of two teams who have not won a championship in decades, with one team that has never won the Fall Classic. The Houston Astros, who are representing the American League after shutting out the New York Yankees 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS, have never won the World Series since entering the league in 1962 (as the Colts .45’s). This is just their second World Series appearance, having been swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005. On the National League side the Los Angeles Dodgers are playing in their 20th World Series, but it’s their first since 1988 when they won their sixth title. They advanced to the World Series with a 11-1 win over the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS.

Both teams finished the regular season with two of the three best records in MLB during the regular season. The Astros won 101 games, which was the third-highest total in the league, three behind the Dodgers’ MLB-best 104 wins. This is the first time since 1970 (and eighth time overall) that two teams that won more than 100 games during the season are meeting in the World Series. For the first time, the team with the better record has home-field advantage, giving the Dodgers Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home. If the old rule — the winning league in the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage — was still in effect, the Astros would have home-field thanks to the AL’s win in July.

Games 1 and 2 are at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday with first pitch scheduled for 8:09pm. After a travel day Thursday, the series moves to Minute Maid Park in Houston for Games 3-5 set for Friday through Sunday. First pitch for Games 3 and 4 is at 8:09pm, with Game 5 (if necessary) set to begin at 8:16pm. If the series goes beyond five games, Games 6 and 7 are back in Los Angeles on October 31 and November 1, respectively. First pitch of Game 6 would be 8:09pm with Game 7 getting underway at 8:10pm, if it’s played. All games are on Fox in the U.S., and all times are Eastern.

How did they get here?

After winning the AL West by 21 games, the Astros began their postseason run by beating the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, 3-1, in an ALDS before beating the East’s second-best team, the Yankees, in an ALCS that went the distance, with the home team winning all seven games. The Dodgers ended the regular season as NL West champions, winning the division by 11 games, then swept the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-game NLDS. They then beat the defending World Series champion Cubs, 4-1, in a NLCS that was a rematch of last year’s series. Through their first two series of the postseason, the Dodgers have played just one game over the minimum.

Pitching

Some of the game’s best pitchers are in this series, with two of them scheduled to kick off the series on Tuesday. The Astros send 14-game winner Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 1 to face potential NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who went 18-4 during the season. Game 2’s pitching matchup has Justin Verlander — who has been stellar since the Astros acquired him from the Detroit Tigers on August 31 — going up against Rich Hill for the Dodgers. The teams haven’t announced their starters yet beyond that, but the Astros are expected to go with Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. for their other two starters, with the Dodgers expected to use Yu Darvish, who they acquired at the July 31 trade deadline, and Alex Wood.

I give the Astros a slight advantage in starting pitching. Kershaw may be the best pitcher of the bunch — though Verlander’s 9-0 record and 1.23 ERA (including the postseason) since joining the Astros may have something to say about that — but I think the Astros have the better rottion overall. Verlander and Keuchel are a strong 1-2 at the top and the way McCullers pitched in the ALCS makes it seem like he’s healthy and has his stuff back, making him a better No. 3 in my mind than what the Dodgers have. Morton could be an X-factor. If he can have another start like he had in Game 7 against the Yankees, he would be a solid No. 4 for the Astros.

There’s no question the Dodgers have the advantage in the bullpen. During the season, they had the fourth-best ERA in the majors at 3.38, while the Astros ranked 17th with a 4.27 ERA. The difference is even more distinct in the postseason, with the Dodgers bullpen leading the pack with a 0.94 ERA. The Astros’ 5.03 ERA out of the bullpen ranks seventh out of the 10 postseason teams. Having RP Kenley Jansen in the closer role at the end of the game should give the Dodgers more confidence he’ll be able to close out games than the Astros have in their closer, RP Ken Giles.

Offense

The Astros had the best offense in the majors during the regular season. Among the offensive categories in which they led MLB were hits (1,581), doubles (346), RBI (854), average (.282), OBP (.346), slugging percentage (.478), OPS (.823), OPS+ (127) and strikeouts (1,087). They were also second to the Yankees in home runs. 2B Jose Altuve, who I think should win the AL MVP award, led the majors in hits for the fourth straight year and batting average for the third straight season. He also had 24 home runs, which tied his career high. Overall, the Astros had 11 players with double-digit home runs. OF George Springer led the team with 34, and SS Carlos Correa and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez — who led the team with 90 RBI — also had more than 20 home runs. The offense did go through a bit of a slump in the ALCS, including OF Josh Reddick going hitless until Game 7, but they scored 11 runs in the final two games of the season and it appears as though they are back to how they were during the regular season. In 11 games this postseason, the Astros are hitting .247 with 12 home runs.

The Dodgers didn’t have nearly as potent of an offense during the regular season, finishing outside of the top 10 in home runs and in the bottom third of the majors with a .249 average. Rookie 1B Cody Bellinger led them with 39 home runs, with OF Yasiel Puig behind him at 28. Their power was more top-heavy, with eight guys hitting at least 10 home runs and six of them at 21 or more. 3B Justin Turner led the team with a .322 average and 1B Chris Taylor was at .288 during the season; Turner and Taylor each hit 21 regular-season home runs. In the postseason, the Dodgers are hitting .273 with 13 home runs in eight games.

Now that it appears the Astros are out of their slump they were in at the start of the ALCS, I think they have the offensive advantage.

Defense

Although the Astros made some nice plays in the ALCS, the Dodgers are a better defensive team statistically. During the regular season, the Dodgers made 88 errors compared to 99 for the Astros. In the postseason, the Dodgers’ two errors are half of the four committed by the Astros.

Managers

A.J. Hinch, the 2015 AL Manager of the Year, is in his third season managing the Astros and fifth season overall as a manager. The 2016 NL Manager of the Year Dave Roberts is in his third season as a major-league manager, second with the Dodgers. Both are managing in their first World Series.

Prediction

I expect this to be a close series. One concern for the Dodgers is SS Corey Seager, who was left off of the NLCS roster as he dealt with a back injury. He is expected to be on the World Series roster and ready to play in Game 1 on Tuesday, but you have to wonder if he is at full health. I think the Astros have the advantage in starting pitching — assuming McCullers can pitch as well as he did in the ALCS — and on offense, where there’s no easy spot in the lineup for opposing pitchers to face. I’m going against the “pitching beats offense in the postseason” adage and the Dodgers having home-field advantage, but I think the Astros offense will be able to put runs on the board against Dodger pitching and will fulfill the prophecy predicted by Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter in 2014.

Astros in seven.

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LCS Predictions: Yankees-Astros and Cubs-Dodgers

With the division series in the books, we’re down to the final four teams in Major League Baseball’s postseason, with the Astros and Yankees battling for the American League crown and the Dodgers and Cubs in the National League as the Cubs look to continue their quest to repeat as World Series champs.

American League Championship Series

The Astros didn’t have much trouble taking care of the Red Sox in the ALDS and the Yankees went the distance, upsetting the Indians in five games. I think the Astros will take a 2-0 lead at home coming off what I expect to be strong starts from SPs Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in Games 1 and 2, respectively, of the ALCS. The Astros offense, which led the majors in most offensive categories, should be able to score against the Yankees rotation. The Yankees’ biggest advantage is the bullpen, but the Yankees may be playing from behind in most games, which would negate that advantage. OF Aaron Judge — who struck out more times in the five games of the ALDS than Tony Gwynn did in the entire 1995 season, 16 to 15 — should be able to do better against the Astros because, aside of Verlander, they don’t have the same type of strikeout pitchers that the Indians do. That said, I think the Astros win the series behind their top two starting pitchers with potential AL MVP 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa and OF George Springer leading the way offensively.

Astros win in six games.

National League Championship Series

Like the Yankees, the Cubs needed to play all five games to beat the Nationals in the NLDS, and they needed some bad baseball by Washington to help them. The Dodgers, on the other hand, dispatched of the Diamondbacks in a three-game sweep. The Dodgers went on a lengthy losing streak in September but they seem to be back on track after that. Despite getting the win, Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw’s postseason struggles continued in Game 1 of the NLDS, giving up four earned runs. But he’ll be on seven days rest when he takes the mound against the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS. Neither the Cubs offense — 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo each hit .200 in the series — nor the bullpen did well against the Nationals, and they won’t have much of a chance against the Dodgers if those struggles continue. The Dodgers are the better team right now, and I think that will lead them to their first World Series appearance since winning it in 1988.

Dodgers win in six games.

If the Astros-Dodgers World Series comes to pass, that means one team will win the championship for the first time in a long time; the Dodgers last won in 1988 and the Astros have never won a World Series title.

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MLB Postseason Preview: 2017 Predictions

Now that the Wild Card games are over and the division series are set, time to predict what’s going to happen in the rest of the postseason.

American League
Division Series
Astros beat Red Sox in 4 games
Indians beat Yankees in 4 games

Championship Series
Indians beat Astros in 7 games

National League
Division Series
Nationals beat Cubs in 4 games
Diamondbacks beat Dodgers in 5 games

Championship Series
Nationals beat Diamondbacks in 6 games

World Series

nationals

beat

indians

in 6 games.

I’m 2-0 after the Wild Card games, let’s see how I do with the rest of my picks.

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