Tag Archives: Nationals

MLB Hot Stove: Brewers add to the outfield, Hall of Fame announces ’18 class

The slow offseason news cycle picked up a bit this week, starting with the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class on Wednesday. But the bigger news as it relates to on-field moves came on Thursday, when the Brewers added to the outfield via a trade and the biggest free-agent signing to this point of the hot stove season.

The trade was announced first, with the Brewers acquiring OF Christian Yelich from the Marlins — who continue to trade their stars as they begin what looks to be a lengthy rebuilding process — in exchange for a package of four prospects led by OF Lewis Brinson. Also going to Miami in the deal are OF Monte Harrison, IF Isan Diaz and P Jordan Yamamoto. Shortly after that trade was announced, the Brewers announced the signing of OF Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million contract.

In Yelich, the Brewers get a 26-year-old who is a career .290 hitter in five MLB seasons. He has started to show some power in the last couple of seasons, hitting 21 home runs in 2016 and 18 homers last season. He’s also had double-digit steals in four of his five seasons and has steadily increased his walk totals over the last three seasons. Yelich was expected to be traded by the Marlins after he and his agent have publicly shown his displeasure for the Marlins’ trading teammates Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna earlier in the offseason. Yelich is under team control through 2021, with a team option for the 2022 season.

Cain is the first player this offseason to sign a contract of longer than three years. Signing with the Brewers is a homecoming for the former All-Star, who was drafted by the Brewers and played his rookie season there before being traded to the Royals in December 2010. He spent the last seven season with the Royals, with whom he was part of the team that won the 2015 World Series. He is also a .290 career hitter but doesn’t have much power, hitting a total of 57 home runs in his eight seasons. He does have speed, though, averaging nearly 16 steals per season, with 26 last season. He made the American League All-Star team in 2015, when his career year — .307 average, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 28 steals — helped him finish in third place in AL MVP voting.

With these additions, the Brewers’ regular outfield will likely consist of Yelich in right field, Cain in center and Ryan Braun in left field. The acquisitions also give the Brewers depth in the outfield, allowing them to potentially use someone like Domingo Santana or Brett Phillips as trade bait to try to add to the starting rotation, which is the weak spot on the team as it stands. The Brewers were already an 86-win team in 2017 and finished just a game out of the playoffs and look to improve upon that record with these moves, which give them a bump on offense.

Other deals that have been made in the last couple weeks include the Blue Jays trading a couple minor league pitchers to the Cardinals for OF Randal Grichuk and signing OF Curtis Granderson, the Cubs signing P Brian Duensing, the Giants inking OF Austin Jackson and the Mets re-signing SS Jose Reyes. That leaves names like pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, along with hitters such as J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer remaining in free agency.

The other big news of the week was the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class. The BBWAA voters elected four members to the Hall — 3B Chipper Jones, 1B/DH Jim Thome, OF Vladimir Guerrero and RP Trevor Hoffman. They join P Jack Morris and SS Alan Trammell, who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Committee in December. Jones and Thome were in their first year of eligibility on the ballot, while Guerrero was in his second year and Hoffman his third.

Jones spent his entire 19-year career with the Braves, finishing his career with a .303 average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He was an eight-time All-Star and a member of the Braves team that won the 1995 World Series. He was named the National League MVP in 1999. He earned 97.2% of the vote.

Thome spent 13 of his 22 seasons with the Indians. He played more than 2500 games in his career, swatting 612 home runs to go along with a .276 career average and 1,699 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star who finished fourth in NL MVP voting in 2003 (with the Phillies). He earned 89.8% of the vote.

Guerrero played 16 seasons, spending the majority of his career with the Expos (eight seasons) and Angels (six seasons). He hit .318 in his career with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI. He was elected to nine All-Star teams and won the AL MVP in 2004, his first season with the Angels. He earned 92.9% of the vote, a significant jump from the 71.7% he got his first time on the ballot in 2017. He has announced that he will go into the Hall of Fame as an Angel, becoming the first inductee to represent that team in the Hall.

Hoffman spent 16 of his 18 seasons on the Padres, amassing a then-record 601 saves by the time he retired in 2010. In 1,035 appearances, he threw 1,089.1 innings, with a 2.87 ERA and 1,133 strikeouts with a 61-75 record. He was named to seven All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting in 1998 and 2006. He earned 79.9% of the vote.

Just missing election was DH Edgar Martinez, who got 70.4% of the vote, falling a few votes shy of the 75% needed. That means he likely has a good chance to get elected next year in what will be his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Also on next year’s ballot will be a list of first-timers that includes RP Mariano Rivera (who surpassed Hoffman’s saves record), 1B/OF Lance Berkman, 1B Todd Helton, OF Juan Pierre, and SPs Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and the late Roy Halladay.

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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: Longoria goes west, Phils nab Santana

It’s been less than two weeks since our last hot stove update and there haven’t been many big names that have changed teams in that time, but the biggest name of the bunch was the centerpiece of a five-player trade, with the Rays, who appear to be in rebuilding mode, trading all-star 3B Evan Longoria to the Giants.

In that trade, the Rays sent Longoria and cash to San Francisco in exchange for veteran OF Denard Span and a trio of young players, led by SS Christian Arroyo, who didn’t do much of note in 125 MLB at-bats last season. Trading Longoria opens up a spot at the hot corner for Ryan Schimpf, who the Rays acquired in a trade with the Padres earlier in December. Schimpf has some power — with 34 home runs in 142 games over the last two seasons — but has hit just .195 in the majors during that span. For the Giants, adding Longoria provides power in the middle of the lineup for a hit that hit the fewest home runs in the majors in 2017.

Other moves in a slow period since our last post include the Phillies signing 1B Carlos Santana to a three-year contract and his former team, the Indians, signing 1B Yonder Alonso as his replacement on a two-year deal. The Dodgers signed P Tom Koehler to help in the bullpen, the Brewers signed Ps Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo, the Nationals inked 1B Matt Adams, the Reds signed RP Jared Hughes, the Twins picked up P Zach Duke, and the Yankees finalized the previously reported one-year contract with SP CC Sabathia.

Activity should pick up early in the new year when the notable players who remain free agents start signing, including Ps Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb, along with hitters like J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce. There should also be some more trades made in the coming weeks, with one that seems to be percolating being the Pirates making a deal to send SP Gerrit Cole to the Yankees. There’s still the possibility of the Orioles pulling the trigger on the oft-rumored Manny Machado trade as well. Other players who could be available in trades are Marlins OF Christian Yelich and C J.T. Realmuto as the new owners continue to try to trim the team’s payroll, and the Rays could move a pitcher like Chris Archer.

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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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MLB Postseason Preview: National League Wild Card game — Rockies at Diamondbacks

This year’s Wild Card game in the National League pits two teams from the NL West who are familiar with each other as the Diamondbacks, who finished the regular season 93-69, host the 87-75 Rockies, who are making their first postseason appearance since 2009. The Rockies are giving SP Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA) the start and SP Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA) gets the start for the home team in the winner-takes-all game.

The Rockies went 41-40 on the road this season, and the Diamondbacks were 52-29 at Chase Field.

Greinke has the distinct experience advantage over Gray, including in the playoffs; this is his 10th career start in the postseason so he knows what it’s like to pitch on a big stage like this. Greinke is 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA in the playoffs. Gray, on the other hand, is getting his first taste of postseason action. In his 20 starts this season, Gray recorded 112 strikeouts in 110.1 innings to go along with his 3.67 ERA. He has gone 13 straight starts without allowing more than three earned runs and only exceeded that number three times in 2017. Greinke struck out 215 batters in 202.1 innings over 32 starts in his second season with the Diamondbacks. Other than allowing eight earned runs in his penultimate start of the regular season, Greinke has also put up good numbers over the last several weeks. Both pitchers have put up good numbers this season, but I like Greinke in this game more because of his extended history of success in the majors, including in his nine previous postseason starts.
Advantage: Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have a better bullpen, with their 3.78 ERA ranking as the fifth best in the majors this season with the Rockies’ relievers posting a 4.40 ERA that was 20th in MLB. Rockies RP Greg Holland recorded 41 saves this season, but put up a subpar 3.61 ERA in the process, which tied him with RP Jake McGee for the best ERA among the team’s main relievers. Holland recorded 70 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Serving as closer for the Diamondbacks is veteran RP Fernando Rodney, who posted a pedestrian 4.23 ERA while saving 39 games.  He did strike out 65 batters over 55.1 innings. The star of Arizona’s bullpen is RP Archie Bradley, who had 1.73 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 73 innings over the course of 63 appearances. Relying on Rodney to save the game is worrisome, but I think Bradley is the best reliever on either team and could be called upon to pitch more than an inning if needed. He could be an X-factor in the game.
Advantage: Diamondbacks

On the offensive side of things, the Rockies’ .273 batting average was the second best in the majors while the Diamondbacks were just below league average at .253. The Diamondbacks have more power, though, racking up 218 home runs compared to the Rockies’ 192. A big factor in Arizona’s home run total was the July trade for OF J.D. Martinez, who knocked 29 balls out of the park after joining the team on July 19. He also hit .302 in the 62 games he played with the Diamondbacks. Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt added 36 home runs and a .297 average for the team. The Rockies had three players who reached or surpassed 30 home runs — 3B Nolan Arenado and OF Charlie Blackmon each hit 37 and 1B Mark Reynolds got 30, with another 24 from SS Trevor Story, who had a disappointing season after a monster rookie year in 2016. I think the Rockies offense is more evenly spread out and less top-heavy than the Diamondbacks so I’ll give Colorado the advantage here, with the caveat that Martinez and Goldschmidt are each capable of hitting multiple home runs in the game.
Advantage: Rockies (barely)

The Rockies have the advantage on defense, with their 77 errors ranking as the third fewest in the majors. The Diamondbacks were in the bottom 10 with 105 errors.
Advantage: Rockies

I think Greinke will be able to outduel Gray and give the Diamondbacks the victory at home, earning them their first NLDS appearance since 2011. My biggest concern is having Rodney come in late in the game if it’s a close score, but he’s a veteran and I think he’ll be able to get the job done if called upon.

Whoever wins advances to the National League Division Series to play the NL West champion Dodgers. The other NLDS is already known and will pit the NL East champion Nationals holding home-field advantage in the series with the Cubs, who are looking to defend their World Series championship after winning the NL Central this season. Both National League series begin on Friday.

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MLB Weekly: One more week

Teams are making a final playoff push as the last week of the regular season begins in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Next Sunday, October 1, is the final day of the MLB regular season, which means teams in the playoff picture have just a week left to either qualify for the postseason or improve their playoff seeding.

All but one of the playoff spots have been clinched in the American League, with just one Wild Card spot up for grabs. But playoff seeding is still left to be decided among the Indians, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, who are the four teams who have guaranteed their spots in October baseball. The Indians and Astros have clinched the Central and West, respectively, but they are fighting for the top seed in the American League, which would guarantee home-field advantage in the ALDS, ALCS and possibly World Series. The Indians currently lead the Astros by 1.5 games for the best record in the AL.

The Red Sox currently lead the AL East, but the Yankees still mathematically have a slight chance to pass them in the division, sitting four games back entering Sunday. The Twins are in possession of the league’s second Wild Card and are 4.5 games ahead of the Rangers, Royals and Angels, who have slipped in the standings after losing six in a row. In both cases, that kind of lead is hard to make up with fewer than 10 games remaining on the schedule. The Rays and Mariners are also technically still alive but need a lot to go right for them to make it to the postseason.

AL standings

In the National League, there is more uncertainty. The Nationals and Dodgers have locked up the East and West, respectively, but the Central and the two Wild Cards still haven’t been clinched. The Cubs, who have won eight of their last 10 games, lead the Brewers by 4.5 games and appear to be headed to their second straight division title on the way to defending their World Series championship. The Brewers are more likely to make the postseason as a Wild Card rather than a division winner. They are one game out of landing one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots that are currently held by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Cardinals are also part of the four-team race for the NL Wild Cards, just 1.5 games behind the Rockies. Every other team in the National League has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

As far as the seeding goes, the Dodgers still hold the best record in the NL despite being just 7-16 in the month of September. They are 4.5 games better than the Nationals and, barring another extended losing streak like they had earlier this month, should be able to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs.

NL standings

The coming week is critical to teams like the Brewers and Cardinals still hoping to make it to October. In the National League, the Cardinals host the Cubs for a four-game series starting Monday that could give St. Louis a chance at closing the gap in the division race if they can win at least three games, and that would also help them stay alive in the Wild Card race. The Brewers have Monday off before playing three games at home against the Reds from Tuesday to Thursday. The Diamondbacks and Rockies begin the week hosting the Giants and Marlins, respectively, Monday through Wednesday before getting their final off-day on Thursday. Then for the final weekend of the season, the Brewers and Cardinals play each other in St. Louis, while the Rockies host the Dodgers — who likely will have the top seed wrapped up and may be resting some of their stars — and the Diamondbacks visit the Royals.

Probable pitchers are more in flux during the last week of the season than usual, depending on how all the playoff positioning works out as the week progresses, but here’s how it currently looks. The Diamondbacks have their three best starters slated to go against the Giants, with SPs Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke set to take the mound on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They likely could have the first Wild Card wrapped up by the time the series with Kansas City gets underway. The Rockies are set to have SPs Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray go against the Marlins, with SPs Chad Bettis and German Marquez currently scheduled to face the Dodgers. For the Brewers, SPs Zack Davies, Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter are scheduled to start in the Reds series, with SPs Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson penciled in for the Cardinals series. The Cardinals have SP Luke Weaver scheduled to begin the all-important Cubs series on Monday, followed by SPs Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. SP John Gant is currently slated to begin the Brewers series, with Weaver then set for a second start in the seven-game week for the team.

The schedule for the American League contenders sees the Red Sox hosting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, then the Astros come to Boston for the final four games of the regular season. Interestingly, those two teams could also play each other in one of the two American League Division Series. Before the Red Sox series, the Astros are on the road against the Rangers for three games starting Monday. After an off-day Monday, the Indians have six home games — three against the Twins and another three against the White Sox. After visiting the Indians, the Twins host the Tigers for their final series of the regular season. And the Yankees have a makeup game against the Royals in the Bronx on Monday, followed by three-game series against the Rays and Blue Jays at home as they look to overtake the Red Sox in the division.

The Red Sox have a mixed bag of starters set to go this week, starting the week with SPs Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello scheduled to face the Blue Jays and SPs Eduardo Rodriguez, Doug Fister and Pomeranz again set to go against the Astros. Indians SPs Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are on tap to face the Twins with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber penciled in for the White Sox series, but if the Indians have the top seed locked up by then don’t be surprised to see that change. The Astros have set up their rotation to avoid having aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander pitch at Fenway Park, so they’ll take the mound against the Rangers, along with SP Collin McHugh, who’s slated to get a second start in Boston along with SPs Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The Twins have SPs Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson facing the Indians, with SPs Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios set to go against the Tigers. As the Yankees look to catch the Red Sox, they’ll send SPs CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray to the mound against the Rays, with SPs Jaime Garcia and, potentially, Sabathia facing the Blue Jays.

With all of that in mind, I don’t think the Brewers or Cardinals will be able to sneak into the playoffs and all of the teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today will actually make the postseason when the season does end in a week.

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