October 31, 2012

Biggest Free Agents to Watch

The season is over and and the San Francisco Giants are the champions. That's all well and good for all of the Bay Area baseball fans, but for the fans of the other 31 teams in the league, the time has come for off-season contract talks and Free Agency. All fans will be following intently to see if their team's GM makes the right moves to take their team deep into the playoffs. All that being said, here are some of the biggest Free Agents available, and some of the rumors swirling around them currently.

Josh Hamilton (OF)- I was going to save Hamilton for last, but his case is too interesting to ignore. His season ended in a chorus of boo's as he watched the Rangers crash and burn at the end of the season, ultimately being eliminated by the Orioles in the AL Wild Card Game. With such an acrimonious end to his season, and the problems Hamilton has had with coaching already, It would surprise me to see the Rangers hold onto him. If the Brewers are willing to ignore their pitching problems, they could definitely make a play for the Outfielder. The Red Sox might want to avoid the off-the-field problems that Hamilton comes with, but they certainly have the money for him. Both the Dodgers and the Yankees were considered suitors at one time, but with the Dodgers getting Crawford (to go along with Kemp and Ethier) and the Yankees already stretched thin, contract wise, I doubt either team will make a big play, although the Yankees always seem to end up finding some money for the big name players (i.e. A-Rod)

 My Prediction- I think Hamilton will go to Milwaukee, to give Braun more protection in the lineup

Mike Napoli (C)- There are not too many concrete rumors surrounding the slugging Catcher just yet, but Tamp Bay has emerged as an early favorite.Although if the Yankees lose Russell Martin, don't be surprised to see Cashman make a play for Napoli.

 My Prediction- Like I said, nothing has really materialized yet, but Tampa Bay does make sense, seeing as Napoli is a Florida native.

Zack Greinke (SP)- Let's get real, folks. This is a pitching league. GMs have started to notice this and have been signing their top tier pitchers to long term deals (Cole Hamels, Matt Cain), a guy like Greinke quickly rises to the top of the list of available pitchers. The Twins have already stated that they will commit all their off-season spending to Starting Pitching. Whether they have enough money to pay a top Free Agent like Greinke is yet to be determined. The Angels still hope to retain Greinke and have a definite shot at it. The team that will be interested in just about all Starting Pitchers on the market is the Dodgers. Stan Kasten, the one with all the money in the ownership group, has already stated that money is not an option this winter. No one should be surprised if the Dodgers are very involved in Greinke.

 My Prediction- I can't see the Twins winning a bidding war with the Angels or the Dodgers. I see the Angels landing Greinke for a second year, unless the Dodgers lose out on this next player...

James Shields (SP)- Shields is technically not a free agents. The Rays have picked up their contract option on the right-hander for 2013. That being said, the Rays have been very candid about their willingness to trade Shields to free up some money for other needs (See: Mike Napoli). The Dodgers have come out as the main suitor for Shields and have the money for him.

 My Prediction- I would not be shocked to see the Dodgers pull this move off, but it might be too complicated. I expect Shields will stay put in Tampa.

Other Notable Free Agents: BJ Upton (OF), Michael Bourne (OF), Nick Swisher (OF), Edwin Jackson (SP), Hiroki Kuroda (SP), Jake Peavy (SP), Anibal Sanchez (SP), David Ortiz (DH/1B).

October 3, 2012

Game 162

Baseball season started during the first week of April. It is October now and 161 games later, we still have no idea how the playoffs are going to look.

When Bud Selig announced that there would be two wild card teams, he could not have envisioned a better outcome than what we have today. Two divisions are up for grabs today and in the AL West, the two teams are playing each other. The National League wild card was just decided last night and the NL East was just decided two days ago. 

On Friday the two wild card games will take place. We know that the Cardinals will play the Braves in what could be Chipper Jones’ last game but we have no clue who will play in the AL wild card game. Let’s go over the scenarios.

If Oakland wins today against Texas, Texas will host a wild card game Friday against either the Orioles or the Yankees.

If Texas beats Oakland, Oakland will likely travel to the East to play either the Orioles or the Yankees. If the Orioles win tonight, the Yankees win, and Oakland loses, the A’s will play the Orioles at Camden Yards Friday.

If the Yankees lose and the Orioles win, they will play a one-game playoff at Camden Yards to determine the AL East winner. The loser of that game will play either the A’s or the Rangers in the wild card game.
Essentially, there will be a series of one-game playoffs. Today’s game between the Rangers and A’s is a one-game playoff and the loser will go on to play another one-game playoff. If the Yankees lose and the Orioles win, they will play a one-game playoff and the loser of that game will play another one-game playoff.
As a fan of the Orioles, a one-game playoff scares me and I am sure it would scare any fan of any team. For people who love football because there are fewer games therefore every game matters, a one-game playoff is ideal. Every pitch matters and it makes for amazing television. For baseball traditionalist the one-game playoff is terrible. They say your whole season ends up coming down to just one game and that is a bad thing. I understand both arguments.

Now, just a disclaimer, what I think will happen is probably way different than what will actually happen. I think Oakland wins today’s game against Texas which will put the cap on a dream season for A’s fans. A.J. Griffin is just plain better than Ryan Dempster right now. I predict both the Yankees and the Orioles win today which would make the Yankees the Al East Champions. This would cause a one-game playoff between the Orioles and the Rangers. The probable starters for that game would be Yu Darvish and Joe Saunders. 

Whether you are for or against the second wild card team, nobody can deny that this has been one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. I was skeptical about adding a wild card team but now I am grateful because it has helped keep baseball relevant during football season. Usually when football season starts baseball kind of dies out. This season, baseball will be on everybody’s TV Friday and I expect those wild card games to have outrageous ratings.