Ranking the Teams #18-13, My Version: Who Else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Welcome to Article #3 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams in the middle of the pack, and determine whether or not they will contend.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

The Reds began to gear up for contention this off-season by acquiring OF Yasiel Puig and multiple starting pitchers including Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. This team is still headlined by 1B star Joey Votto as well. The NL Central is a really tough division, so that may hold the Reds back this year unless one of last year’s top three in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis takes a step back.  When Cincy last made the playoffs in 2013, there were two other teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, so they may just need a few more pieces and one team to crack in order to contend. However, I can’t see that happening this year.  Expect a sub-.500 season in the meantime.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Reds are definitely closer to contention after making some big moves this off-season.  But I wasn’t so crazy about some of the moves they made.  The Puig trade was a steal, but they could have done a better job fine-tuning the rotation.  Getting rid of Homer Bailey was not smart, as he is a consistent mid-tier starter when healthy.  Sonny Gray, one of the pitchers who replaced Bailey, is far less consistent.  They made some good moves, but it’s not enough for a playoff run.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 4th in NL Central

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

The Twins didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2018. They were expected to chase the Indians for the AL Central for the 2nd straight year. But they ended up a few games below .500, dragged down by the struggles of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  Those two were expected to lead this team when they first made the majors. This off-season, the Twins did add Nelson Cruz, but at his age, I don’t know how much longer he can produce at an elite level. Michael Pineda’s return will also boost them, but I don’t know how much they can improve with Sano and Buxton both remaining question marks. A Jose Berrios breakout could help, but I still can’t see them being a legitimate 2019 playoff contender.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Twins made some nice moves to add to a roster that was already intriguing.  They added Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and others.  But the lingering questions surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano remain, and the bullpen is also a question mark.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may have lost out in the Manny Machado sweepstakes despite adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to intrigue Machado. But their off-season is not a full failure. They added some nice pieces in Jay, Alonso, and SP Ervin Santana while still allowing their young core to receive playing time. Yoan Moncada (once he breaks out), Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez give me optimism about the future in Chicago. As they start to develop, Chicago will jump into the mix in a weak AL Central. But they may have to add a few more pieces and wait till 2020, or maybe even 2021 for legitimate playoff contention. They could have won the division and done it in 2019 with Machado.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: I don’t expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this year, but this next wave of talent may begin to make the White Sox appear capable of contending.  Moncada, Engel, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and others should significantly boost the roster and allow this team to show flashes of greatness in a weak division.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 2nd in AL Central

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

Brodie Van Wagenen made things very interesting in his first off-season with the Mets. After refusing to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard and instead acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle, he made it clear that the Mets were hoping to contend for one more season. He proceeded by continuing to beef up the roster, adding Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, and others. The Mets will at least be competitive this season, but I can’t see them standing out in the league’s best division, the NL East. They will not be able to keep up with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. Maybe it’s time to rebuild if this season is indeed another failure.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Mets added some nice pieces, such as Cano, Diaz, Ramos, and Lowrie.  But they did not address their direct positional needs.  Sure, they added a catcher, and an outfielder.  But until they get the infield situation figured out, this team will have trouble finding an identity and jump-starting back into contention.  Lowrie and Cano are nice pieces, but where do they fit, and will 1B Peter Alonso be on the roster come Opening Day?

Projected Finish: 83-79, 4th in NL East

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

In Bruce Bochy’s last season, I expect the Giants to exceed expectations. Though injuries have held them back the last couple of years, they still have a very strong roster on paper. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija lead a rotation that now contains more depth. So long as Buster Posey can bounce back at the plate in 2019, the lineup should be set as well. Who knows, maybe Evan Longoria could be a bounce back candidate as well. Behind Posey and Longoria, they have new additions Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra, SS Brandon Crawford, 1B Brandon Belt, and others. The Giants have not done very well in these last two seasons. But assuming they are healthy, 2019 contention isn’t too farfetched.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: The Giants will at least be closer to the playoffs this season than most people expect.  It’s injuries that has held them back over the last couple of years.  Neither MadBum nor Posey had been healthy in 2017 and 2018.  With those two feeling alright, the rotation beginning to come together after Dereck Rodriguez’s emergence, and the lineup looking okay despite outfield depth issues, the Giants could come close to the playoffs if they don’t make it.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 3rd in NL West

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have now lost two World Series’ in a row. Expect a hangover this time around. The loss of Brian Dozier to free agency hurts their infield depth significantly, and it was a rough off-season. They traded Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp to the Reds for Homer Bailey, who they ended up releasing. It did clear up crowding in the outfield, and they signed A.J. Pollock to maintain depth out there, but it’s still a waste of a trade. The rotation has plenty of depth, but Clayton Kershaw’s health and Walker Buehler’s ability to replace him remain question marks. Bullpen depth could also be problematic. Expect the Dodgers to try to contend, but fail to make the playoffs in a weak NL West.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Dodgers should finish with a fairly strong win-loss record as usual.  But I think the team will take a step back after a rough off-season, and despite their strong record, they may have a hard time getting into the mix for the Wild Card.  Even in a weak division, the Dodgers will have trouble relying on repeat performances from two older 2018 breakouts, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

 

That’s all for this portion of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next set later today.

Advertisements

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

Related image

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.

Free Agent Market Finally Heating Up: Where Will The Remaining FAs Sign?

With Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez finally signed, the free agent market is heating up. As an MLB fan, it was just painful to see the lack of action that occurred for much of the off-season. From the end of December to the 2nd week of February, the free agent market was nearly silent. But once Spring Training started, it served as a wake-up call to the MLB teams who continued to wait on signing the free agents they were targeting. It’s free agency that keeps me following baseball during the off-season, so I’m glad that it’s finally getting going.

The only MLB news during those quiet weeks was rumors and predictions as to where these free agents would sign. The FA market may be in action, but there are still many high profile free agents out there, and I would be surprised if they are not signed by the start of the regular season.  It’s still crazy that we’re talking about this on the first day of Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

Below I have listed the Top 15 remaining free agents and predicted where they will sign:

1. Image result for jake arrieta Jake Arrieta

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million

Revised Prediction: Washington Nationals, 3 years, $63 million

Now that the Orioles have signed Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner, they do not seem to be in the market for a high profile starter anymore, although they may sign another lower tier pitcher for the #5 spot.  Their rotation looks a little more respectable now between Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Cashner.  Mike Wright, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher among others will compete for the #5 spot unless another starter is signed.

The Brewers appear to be the top suitor for Arrieta, but the Nats, Phillies and Twins have also shown interest.  Although Washington’s rotation is already led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Arrieta would be a good fit as the Nats have struggled to find a 5th starter.  Many of Washington’s stars also share an agent with Arrieta. If Arrieta signs here, then Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark would line up as #4 and #5 starters, while Strasburg, Scherzer, and Arrieta could potentially go on to become one of the best rotation trios in the MLB.  As for the Brewers, I think Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would be a better fit for them.

2. Image result for mike moustakas Mike Moustakas

2017 Team: Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  I honestly think St. Louis is the best fit for Moose, although the Braves, White Sox or Yankees may be more likely to sign him.  Of those four teams, I think the Cardinals and Braves are the most likely to sign a third baseman before Opening Day.  The White Sox have plenty of depth in their infield, they were just considering a veteran third baseman to aid their rebuild.  The Braves are also rebuilding, but they don’t have the same kind of infield depth, and I don’t know if Rio Ruiz or Johan Camargo are viable big league starters yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could use an upgrade, but seem satisfied with Miguel Andujar and Brandon Drury among others for 3B options.  The Cardinals will sign Moose in order to give themselves more options in the infield.  Rather than forcing Jedd Gyorko into the starting third base job, they can let Gyorko share time with Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong in the middle infield.

3. Image result for alex cobbAlex Cobb

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $42 million

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $68 million

I had Cobb going to Chicago as a veteran influence who would let younger starters take more time to develop before jumping into the White Sox starting five.  But with Yu Darvish signed, there are other teams that appear to want him more, such as the Brewers and Twins.  I think he’s more likely to go Milwaukee than a rebuilding team.  The Brewers would pay him more money, and he would be a leader to an improving rotation on a contending team.  I’m sure Alex Cobb wants to sign with a winner if he can.  The Brewers have the tools to contend, but need to add a #1 starter, and I think Cobb is capable of living up to Milwaukee’s expectations.

Now that the Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi before Milwaukee could, the Brewers have two options.  They can try and get Cleveland to give them Danny Salazar in exchange for an outfielder or two (which the Indians could use), or they could sign a free agent pitcher.  I think free agency is the safer option for the Brewers right now.

4. Image result for lance lynn Lance Lynn

2017 Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Original Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million

Revised Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 3 years, $45 million

The Phillies have a decent-looking roster after what I would call a successful rebuild.  But in order to be a contender in coming years, it’s time to sign some veterans.  Some of this can wait till next off-season, when the free agent class is much better than this year’s group, but if they even want to have a chance at landing top free agents next year, they need to start thinking about contention this year, starting by signing a high-tier starter to bolster their rotation.  While they don’t need an ace just yet, Lynn would be a good fit as they could use a better #2 starter behind rising star Aaron Nola.

5. Image result for greg holland Greg Holland

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 4 years, $40 million

Holland won’t be able to get as big of a contract now that he’s waited this long to sign, but I do think he will be the closer somewhere by Opening Day.  Milwaukee’s late inning crew is all set now between Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Boone Logan among others.  But St. Louis could use a late inning reliever to pair with Luke Gregerson, and Holland would be a great fit.  In this case, Holland would be the full time closer with Gregerson shifting into the set up role.

6. Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million

Revised Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 2 years, $22 million

I’m standing by my prediction for where Lucroy signs, but I don’t think he can get a long term deal at this point in the off-season.  In a couple of years, either Martin Maldonado or Carlos Perez will be ready to thrive as a starting catcher.  Lucroy is a high-tier catcher, but it’s hard for any player to get a large contract at this point in the off-season, let alone a catcher.  Lucroy will be a seasoned starter at catcher for the Angels, and he’ll make the lineup even stronger with his big bat.

7. Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Milwaukee Brewers

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 2 years, $23 million

Walker is in a similar situation to Lucroy here.  I still think he’ll end up in the same place that I had originally thought, but his likelihood of a long-term deal decreases as the off-season progresses.  The Brew Crew could use a second base upgrade beyond Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard, especially if they want to contend.  They know Walker after he spent the second half of 2017 in Milwaukee, and he’s still a good fit.

8.Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million

Revised Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 1 year, $7 million

There hasn’t been that much interest in free agent first baseman that aren’t named Eric Hosmer this off-season, which could leave Morrison and Lucas Duda without a team to begin 2018.  But there are a few teams who could still use a first baseman, like the Royals, who lost out on Hosmer, Rockies, who may need another option aside from the young Ryan McMahon, Athletics, and Mariners, who could each use a veteran influence at first to rotate with their young first basemen.  I see Morrison, arguably the best first baseman left, signing in Kansas City to help fill the hole that Hosmer left.  Although the Royals are rebuilding, they don’t have many prospects ready on the right side of the infield.  Most of their young infielders who are ready to start will either play shortstop or third base.

9. Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

Revised Prediction: Texas Rangers, 2 years, $17 million

I don’t think he can still get a $22 million deal, and I don’t think he’s going to Oakland anymore.  Now that the Athletics acquired DH Brandon Moss, they have another veteran in the mix and will not need Jay.  The Rangers will be looking for an upgrade over or platoon mate for CF Delino DeShields, and Jay could play either of those roles. Although Willie Calhoun will be MLB ready soon, the Rangers could use another veteran like Jay as a placeholder.

10. Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million

I reconsidered this prediction because I do not think the A’s necessarily need a first baseman with Matt Olson ready for a full time job, and if they sign one, they will not chase the best first basemen left in Morrison and Duda.  The Mariners may need another option at first base with Ryon Healy injured.  He won’t necessarily be ready for a full time job either, and that’s why I see Seattle giving Duda more money and a 2 year deal.  They could go with their other 1B prospects, but I see Seattle signing Duda and giving other prospects more time to develop before competing with Healy at first.

11. Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

2017 Teams: Atlanta Braves/Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

Revised Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  The Tigers are rebuilding, but they could use a veteran infielder in case Dixon Machado or Jeimer Candelario don’t live up to their expectations in the big leagues.  I don’t think Detroit will sign both Phillips and J.J. Hardy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign one. Phillips is the better fit of the two on this rebuilding Detroit team.  Phillips is capable of being a starter, so if they start him in 2018, Jose Iglesias, Machado and Candelario will work out some sort of rotation at shortstop and third since Nick Castellanos is going to start in the outfield this year.  But I don’t think the Tigers will necessarily start Phillips every day, and they may throw him into that rotation if he is signed.

12. Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 1 year, $9 million

CarGo did not have a strong year in 2017, and I don’t think he can get more than a 1 year contract at this point.  CarGo may still have power hitting abilities, but no team would dare risk more than a 1 year contract on him.  I still see him going to the Mariners.  They don’t know how Dee Gordon will fare as an outfielder, and the rest of their outfielders are inexperienced, failing to prove themselves as everyday starters.  Gonzalez can play right field in Seattle, with Gordon playing center and Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel splitting time in left (and possibly playing in the place of Gordon or CarGo if they struggle).

13. Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

2017 Teams: Chicago White Sox/Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

Revised Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $17 million

The Braves could use a veteran outfielder to fill in until Ronald Acuna is ready, but I think they can manage with Lane Adams and Preston Tucker until he cracks the majors.  You never know, he could win the Opening Day starting job in left field if he has a strong Spring Training.  The Marlins need some veterans in their outfield until guys like Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison are ready for full time jobs.  The Marlins traded away all three of last year’s outfield starters.

They got some outfielders back, but not all of them are ready to start.  Cabrera, along with the recently signed Cameron Maybin will help out until they are ready. Although the Marlins only need veteran outfielders for a year or so, while Cabrera wants two years.  He can play alongside the younger guys in 2019, and he can serve as a veteran mentor.

14.

Yunel Escobar

2017 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million

Revised Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $27 million

The White Sox can probably manage with what they have at third between Yolmer Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and other prospects. But the Braves, another rebuilding team, are finally on the verge of contention. First, they’ll need a new third baseman after Adonis Garcia didn’t work out. Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz will be considered, but I don’t know if they are ready for full time roles, so they may need to add a veteran in the hot corner. Escobar is a good fit. He’s not necessarily an everyday starter, so he can platoon with the Braves’ younger options at third.

15.

Tyler Clippard

2017 Teams: New York Yankees/Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros

Original Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million

Revised Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 2 years, $14 million

Clippard struggled last season with three different teams, so I do not think the Pirates will be willing to commit to a long term contract with Clippard. But I still think this is a good fit. The Pirates need more late inning relievers to support closer Felipe Rivero. Clippard may even be able to compete for the everyday closer job if he rebounds.

That’s all for this article. With some of the best free agents finally signed and Spring Training exhibition games around the corner, I will be posting more baseball articles soon, including my MLB Predictions, which will be out next week (I normally post them after the Super Bowl, but normally the Top free agents on the market are signed by then, so I had to wait until the market got going). I will also be posting my annual Ranking The Teams series, a detailed Red Sox Spring Training Preview, and a preseason Baseball Bits about new Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. I will also be posting more March Madness and NFL off-season articles soon. Stay tuned.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 3: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to the third and final part of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over.  Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best outfielders on the market, and trade ideas.

Free agency is finally kicking into gear, and my predictions have been shaken up after the Giants traded for OF Andrew McCutchen and signed CF Austin Jackson.  I had originally predicted Lorenzo Cain to sign here, but after these two moves, I was reconsidering and began a prediction for Cain to sign in Milwaukee.

Then soon after, it happened, and the market shook up again when the Marlins dealt their last sign of hope to the Brewers in Christian Yelich.  Just hours later, the Brew Crew signed Cain and suddenly had a good problem.  They had five “starting outfielders” on their roster or five outfielders that could use a starting job.  Now, the question is, will they trade Domingo Santana or Keon Broxton?  Will Ryan Braun play first base as he said he is open to?  Find out my thoughts on that and much more below.

If you haven’t seen the first two parts, click the links below:

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 2: Catchers and Infielders

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

OF

Image result for jose bautistaJose Bautista

My Prediction: Texas Rangers, 1 year, $9 million

Bautista doesn’t have many more years left in him.  He looked like he was on the decline last year, and as the Blue Jays are ready to let younger players take over in the outfield, he will not be signing another 1-year deal with them.  However, the Rangers could use one more veteran outfielder to add depth to the outfield and to be a role model for guys like Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields.  He will not sign a long-term deal though as I do not think he has more than one or two good years left.

Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

My Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

The Braves are another team that lacks outfield depth.  Bringing back a power hitting veteran like Cabrera is a smart choice because this young lineup needs some power, and the outfield needs another option in left field beside Preston Tucker or Lane Adams.  After playing here in 2010, this would be Cabrera’s second stint in Atlanta, so he at least vaguely knows the organization.

 

Image result for rajai davis Rajai Davis

My Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 2 years, $17 million

The White Sox lack a definitive group of major league ready outfielders as they enter a rebuild, so signing one more veteran at that position would be helpful.  It doesn’t have to be a big move, just someone who can start for them like Rajai Davis.  They don’t need anyone for more than a couple years either due to the fact that they’ll have more outfielders ready to start in a couple years.

For now, while Davis plays left, Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson can work out some sort of platoon in center.  Then as time passes, guys like top prospect Eloy Jimenez or RF Willy Garcia could take over for Davis, and Engel and Tilson could get more time as starters.

Image result for jarrod dyson Jarrod Dyson

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $24 million

After trading away outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins are in rebuild mode and will have a new look outfield this year.  But they need a couple more ready to start players in case new outfielders Lewis Brinson, Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra cannot handle full-time jobs yet.  Dyson is one of the younger outfielders on the market and would be a good fit in Miami to play this role.

Image result for andre ethier Andre Ethier

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 1 year, $7 million

Although Ethier is injury prone and his bat may not be as powerful as it used to be, he would be a good veteran influence in Miami if he stays healthy.  If he gets hurt, the Marlins will likely have Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra ready to be in a full-time job.  After missing most of 2017 with injuries, the Marlins will have to hope that he’s still a reliable starter and that he doesn’t get hurt, so there are some risks to this signing.

However, I think it will happen as the Marlins need a veteran influence for these young outfielders.  Part of me does not understand why the Marlins are rebuilding so early, but it might be because they want to deal their stars away before they lose value and the Marlins become an old, mediocre team with nowhere to go.

An early rebuild gives them the opportunity to acquire a lot of young talent in exchange for some of their current starters, but they still need some veteran influences to start until the young guys are ready.  Don’t expect the Marlins to be anything more than a 70-win team though, with or without veterans.  The Marlins missed the window to contend with their last era of players, can they contend with this new squad?

Right now, if they sign Ethier and Jarrod Dyson, I could see Lewis Brinson and Dyson in full-time jobs, while Ethier and Magneuris Sierra platoon.

Image result for carlos gomez Carlos Gomez

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $23 million

Baltimore would be a good fit for Gomez, who will bring some power to the lineup of whatever team he signs with.  The O’s have a powerful lineup, but after losing Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy’s bats over the last two off-seasons, they could use one more power hitter to top the lineup off.  They never really found a powerful replacement in the lineup for Wieters, and this will also fill their hole in the outfield.

Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

My Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Even after acquiring Dee Gordon to play outfield, I don’t trust the Mariners outfield to come through right now.  Maybe they could consider trading away 2B Robinson Cano to open up second for Gordon before spring training.  But they will only do that if they can get a starting outfielder in return.  Either way, signing Gonzalez is a good move for them.  He will be a veteran influence on the young guns as he is a strong player in the field and at the plate.  Although he has declined, I could see a bounce-back year in the works.  If he doesn’t bounce back, they have platoon mates ready for him such as Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia or Mitch Haniger.

Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

My Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

In an effort to finally break through this season, the A’s could use another veteran in their outfield.  Even with Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell among others ready to start, there are no locks for Oakland’s third starting outfielder.  Jay is a good fit for them, as although he is not necessarily an everyday starter, the A’s can let the younger guys rotate with Jay and fellow starter Stephen Piscotty, while star left fielder Khris Davis starts daily.

Give him a two or three-year deal to come to Oakland, and when his contract expires, the younger players will be ready for a full-time role.  For now, they can have Jay start some games in center, where they desperately need another option.

 

Image result for jd martinez J.D. Martinez

My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 5 years, $75 million

There have been so many rumors that this deal will happen, that I’d almost consider it inevitable.  The Red Sox are probably just waiting because there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Martinez or much of a rush to sign him.  Martinez will probably play a mix of DH and outfield during his time in Boston, but either way, he will bring the some of the power the Red Sox need to make up for the loss of David Ortiz’s presence in the lineup.  But none of the home run hitters on the market can make up for what the Sox lost when Big Papi retired.

Image result for jayson werth Jayson Werth

My Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 2 years, $19 million

I know that the Giants have already spent a lot on their outfield this off-season between Cutch and Austin Jackson.  But I think Jackson could use a veteran platoon-mate.  Werth still should have a couple good years left in him, and he may not be an everyday starter anymore, but I see him as a great fit in San Francisco.  They could have younger players like Jarrett Parker or Gorkys Hernandez rotate with A-Jax, but I think the Giants had three major priorities this off-season: fix the outfield, get a new third baseman to replace the washed-up Pablo Sandoval, and add a couple more starters.

They have already acquired Evan Longoria to play third and A-Jax and Cutch in the outfield.  So if they sign one more outfielder and add a little depth to the starting five, they could be legitimate contenders, even in one of the tightest divisions in the MLB.

 

Other Predictions:

Peter Bourjos (PHI, 2 years, $16 million)

Alejandro De Aza (CIN, 1 year, $4.5 million)

Matt Holliday (HOU, 1 year, $6 million)

Cameron Maybin (LAD, 2 years, $17 million)

Colby Rasmus (PHI, 2 years, $14 million)

Ben Revere (DET, 1 year, $3.5 million)

Michael Saunders (CLE, 2 years, $12 million)

 

Trade Ideas: These trades would work on both sides, but it’s doubtful that most of them actually go through

Boston Red Sox trade DH Hanley Ramirez & SP prospect Williams Jerez to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for SP Kyle Gibson (In this case, the Sox would sign 1B Eric Hosmer or OF/DH J.D. Martinez)

If they can find a destination for Hanley Ramirez, it would give the Red Sox some flexibility in the free agent market.  They’ll be able to sign a free agent DH or first baseman and get him into a full-time role.  It would’ve given them even more flexibility to just forget about resigning Mitch Moreland because then Hanley could play whatever position they cannot fill in free agency, either DH or first base.  But it’s too late for that.

It will be tough for them to dish away Hanley’s contract though.  Who would want to take that on?  The only team that I think might be up for it is the Twins, who could be looking for an upgrade at DH over Kennys Vargas.  However, it would be nice, especially if we can get a decent starter in return like Gibson.  It would be nice just to have another option in the rotation in case Price or E-Rod struggles.  In the meantime, we could sign either Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez to fill our need for a power hitter, and they would have a full-time role for whichever one they sign.

In this case, signing Hosmer would mean Hosmer plays first and Moreland plays DH, and signing Martinez would mean that Moreland stays at first and Martinez replaces Hanley at DH.

New York Yankees trade OF Brett Gardner, INF prospect Gleyber Torres, and OF prospect Jake Cave to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 2B Robinson Cano 

I was suggesting that the Mariners consider trading Cano to open up second base for the newcomer Dee Gordon, but it would be crazy if this happened.  This would just give the Yankees another home run hitter when they already got Giancarlo Stanton this off-season.  I even have them re-signing 3B Todd Frazier.

But it would be a good trade on both sides as the Yankees fill the hole that Starlin Castro left, and the Yankees already have enough outfielders with Hicks, Judge, Ellsbury, and Stanton out there.  Cano knows the offensive scheme in New York too, and that always helps.  They do need a DH, but they have guys like Tyler Austin and Miguel Andujar that could become a full-time DH.  This is also good on Seattle’s end, as they open up second base for Gordon and get a much needed full-time outfielder in return.  It’s a nice thought, but it would be absurd if this actually went through.

Tampa Bay Rays trade OF Kevin Kiermaier to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 2B Devon Travis

I don’t think the Jays are done dealing.  Even with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk on the roster, I think the Jays could use one more outfielder.  Kiermaier is a great fielder who can fill that need.  The Jays don’t really need Travis anymore since they traded for 2B Yangervis Solarte.  On Tampa’s side of things, they already have a surplus of starters in the outfield, and first base is their biggest offensive hole.  Acquiring a second baseman like Travis will allow Brad Miller to spend some time playing first while Travis shares time with Micah Johnson and/or Joey Wendle at second.

Texas Rangers trade 3B Adrian Beltre to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for SP Julio Teheran and RP Mauricio Cabrera

This might be the craziest trade I’ve predicted yet.  I highly doubt this will happen, but if it did, it would work for both teams.  The Braves will be able to give their younger pitchers more time in the starting five, and they will fill their gaping hole at third that was left by Adonis Garcia when he left to play in Korea.

Meanwhile, in Texas, they would acquire a flame-throwing reliever looking to bounce-back from an injury-riddled season (Cabrera) and a top-tier starter to grab the second spot in the rotation behind Cole Hamels (Teheran).  With Beltre out of Texas, 3B Joey Gallo will finally have a full-time job as well.  I doubt this will happen, but it is an intriguing trade that would shake up the rosters of both of these teams.

Milwaukee Brewers trade OF Domingo Santana and SP prospect Freddy Peralta to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for SP Danny Salazar

This would balance out the rosters of both the Indians and Brewers.  Of all the trades I’m predicting, this is the most likely to happen.  It is practically a perfect fit on both sides.  The Indians have already been open to trading Salazar, as, since the end of 2017, they have had six valid starters.  Without Salazar, they will still have a solid rotation as seen below:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Josh Tomlin
  5. Mike Clevinger

Meanwhile, with the addition of Salazar, the Brewers rotation will begin to look more intriguing, and they will look more like a playoff team as seen below:

  1. Danny Salazar
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Zach Davies
  4. Chase Anderson
  5. Jhoulys Chacin (He will start until Jimmy Nelson returns)

Despite a defined ace, they will have multiple pitchers with ace potential.  Meanwhile, the Brewers will be able to cut down their outfield to three everyday starters in Cain, Yelich, and Braun.  Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips can back them up.  The Indians outfield will finally have the right-handed everyday starter they need in Santana.

He will start alongside Michael Brantley, and either Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or someone else.  The Indians have Melvin Upton Jr. signed to a minor league deal as well, and I could see him returning to the majors.  The point is, the Indians will at least have two defined starters after this trade, and both teams will fill a crucial need and give up a player at a position they have plenty of depth at.

 

That’s all for my 2017-18 MLB Free Agency Predictions.  Feel free to comment on any of these articles with your thoughts.  In addition, if you haven’t seen my APEX go-kart experience article yet, click the link below:

Race to the APEX For Non-Stop Entertainment

While I was there, my dad and I faced off in NFL Blitz, and we simulated the Super Bowl LII match-up.  Playing as the Pats, my dad beat me (as the Eagles), 31-3.  I was unhappy that I lost, but also happy that the Pats won our simulation.  As for the real Super Bowl, I will have an in-depth look at it throughout this week, so stay tuned.

Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

Image result for edwin encarnacion indians

The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

Image result for michael brantley

The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

Image result for chris sale red sox

 

Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for pablo sandoval red sox

Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL East

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

Image result for dexter fowler cardinals

Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

Image result for adam eaton nationals

Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL West

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.