MLB 2014 Preview, Part 1: Active Versus Inactive Teams

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I will do several posts on team prospects for the upcoming MLB season. Right now, I am working on other endeavors that take time to complete. But here’s what one can surmise, so far:

Teams Active and/or Improved:

New York Yankees have shored up holes in their offense  primarily with Ellsbury, McCann, and Beltran. While still short on pitching, Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka has to be on their wishlist. The loss of Cano was a good thing – spreading the risk around to more ballplayers that can fill roles adequately. Their problem: offense at 2B, 3B, and SS. They have a patchwork plan of Ryan and Roberts and Jeter that seems dependent on a lot going right. Lastly, the bullpen does not have Rivera. That has to concern – but guys like Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, or even, Kevin Gregg still are available.

Twins landed 3 starters: Nolasco, Pelfrey, and Phil Hughes with the new TV money. As they needed pitching badly, this was not the worst thing to do.

Royals decided to keep Shields, add Vargas, and splurge for 2B Omar Infante. What is clear: the AL Central was the most active division top to bottom.

Indians landed OF David Murphy, Closer John Axford, and took a few fliers on old or underperforming pieces on minor league deals. After the success of Kazmir on a make-it deal, the Indians didn’t do bad here. They still need pieces to overtake Detroit.

Detroit made really all the big splashes with trades, and signings, to boot. They reallocated payroll: Prince Fielder gone; Kinsler added, saving substantial long-term dollars. Doug Fister, a quality pitcher with meh velocity, sent to Washington for 2 LHP pitchers to get payroll room for closer Joe Nathan. The bullpen is likely better; the offense more flexible, younger, opened up for prospects to fill in, and a pitching staff headed by 2 top arms in Scherzer and Verlander.

Rangers. While Detroit shed payroll, the Rangers are advantaging that  mega TV deal to its logical end for them, it seems. (Now that Nolan Ryan is no longer in the ownership.) Jon Daniels, a sabermetric brother-in-spending to Boston, has landed Fielder and Choo to build a lefty-friendly lineup for the Ballpark in Arlington, or whatever it is now called. They have a platoon at catcher, subbing in J.P. Arencibia for an A.J., to go with the return of Geovany Soto. But now, they finally got the all-world middle infield of Profar and Andrus. The TOR stud in Darvish. Now: can they get past Cardinals, Giants, Nationals, or Dodgers in October?

Red Sox made small moves if you are looking at payroll. They had extended Pedrioa in-season, so there went a ton of cash. But they kept Jon Lester, added AJ Pierzynski, and Mike Napoli is back too. Closer Edward Mujica is their biggest splash. Coming off the World Series win, they will be very content no matter how the season goes.

The Rays, in essence, stayed pat. They are still looking for someone to overpay on David Price to the tune of 3 top prospects – that can star like Wil Myers did once he came over for James Shields. But can they still do this with everyone knowing its their modus operandi?

Giants resigned or extended Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum for seemingly top dollars. Added Tim Hudson, Mike Morse, and Javier Lopez to pricier deals. With the World Series still fresh in mind, they did spend at least. Do they jump ahead of the Dodgers?

Dodgers added more starting pitching (Dan Haren), a Cuba-born 2B in Guerrero, and closer Brian Wilson and reliever JP Howell. They continue to shop Matt Kemp, if quietly (or not), but no one wants a oft-injured guy. His health is the concern, then age, then production for the dollars he’s at. (Which now might be cheap with the market changing…)

Mariners become another team to crack the $220M plus barrier in signing Robinson Cano. They added some cheaper pieces around him. But for them it boils down to: how much better can they play with likely as good a potential starting staff as anyone in baseball. If they go after Nelso Cruz, or land Tanaka in a sweetheart deal (close ties to Japan), then they can up the franchise value and dump it on an unwitting new owner. As was done to the next team.

Inactive Bloats:

Cubs. They have played with their bullpen, added Welsey Wright and Joe Veras. Counting Ryan Sweeney, they are under $10 million spent for the off-season, thinking their future lies in 2015-16-17, depending on the source of said future. There are no real chances of the Cubs supplanting Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Cincinnati in 2014 or 2015. For these sabermetric/business model-first owners and front office, the key is getting a top draft pick in June 2014 that is MLB ready by start of 2016. To join Baez, Bryant, Almora and Edwards as the builders of a Cubbie Blue Machine. 2015: select again in the top 5. Early WAG on their record: 64-98. (If they can trade Samardzija or Jackson, it will get worse.)

Brewers too are sitting by, looking to make hay in early spring on the leftover free agents, as is their usual plan. They may sign more minor deals or seek to be worse to get better….

Braves. After winning their division, they have sat still. Is it revenues? Or tied up with the politics of their new ballpark in Atlanta?

Orioles. Even with a 50 home run guy in Davis, and a pretty good offense, the Orioles have been fishing with half-million dollar bait, signing Kelvin de la Cruz, Edgmer Escalona, and Francisco Peguero. SP Ryan Webb got a 2 year $4.5M deal. Meanwhile, closer Jim Johnson is gone. They still have designs to trade, one can suppose, but can they come close to beating Boston, New York, or Tampa. Even Toronto maybe able to surpass them.


1) The Yankees will be interesting if they are healthy and land Tanaka. But how interesting?

2) The Dodgers will have a solid rotation of starters…and Yasiel Puig, can he calm down and be the same guy? (He was arrested for speeding…)

3) Do the Mariners move up dramatically with a Tanaka addition? A Nelson Cruz?

4) Is the American League race a matter of who gets the better of the Detroit and Texas trade?

5) Are the Cardinals gonna repeat? Are the Dodgers able to gel? Can San Francisco come back to fight?

6) Are the Cubs just more about purposeful losing and restrictive covenants on spending than actually putting together a team these next two seasons? Will top prospects come up by June? Or is it more about arbitration clocks than fielding any talent?

7) Will Philadelphia do a deal to rebuild anytime soon?

8) Are the Nationals the team to beat in the NL East? And do they get to the World Series?

9) Does David Price stay a Ray? Samardzija a Cub? Is Max Scherzer a trade piece if the Detroit plan is falling apart and he won’t extend for a reasonable price?

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