Posted on: April 1, 2009 9:43 pm
This entry has been removed by the administrator.
This message has been removed by the administrator.
Posted on: January 20, 2009 1:57 am
It's been a little over a year since I did my last version of winter rankings (the first featured blog on CBS), but now that we are less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it is time to have a look at where each team stands this season. The offseason has been a long, slow, and drawn out process. Several impact players, including Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn have yet to sign with a team. It is because of this reason, that I will be continually editing this blog entry as those players sign.
While the Phillies are the defending champions, they have remained rather complacent on the free agent market which begs to question whether or not the team can repeat last years success. Meanwhile, the Yankees have had the biggest offseason of any team, but will a team full of superstars finally get the job done? Also, the Rays were baseballs surprise team of 2008. Can they repeat the success? Who will be the surprise team in 2009?......These questions and more are answered in my latest rankings.
1. Chicago Cubs
Say all you want about the Cubs playoff misfortunes, but this team is the real deal. Milton Bradley, arguably the games best offensive player last season, joins the Cubs offense that scored the most runs in baseball last year. Couple that with the teams stable pitching staff featuring Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden and this team should easily run away with the National League Central for the second year in a row. I'm predicting a 100 win season.
2. New York Yankees
While the team has lost both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi in free agency, the additions of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira more than make up for it. The Yankees now have a well rounded team. They now have one of the best offenses in the league with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and the top 3 in their rotation should win them plenty of ballgames. If they can get a full season out of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, look out.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Often times one year wonders like the Rays don't return to the postseason because they remain too complacent in the offseason. However, the Rays managed to land Pat Burrell for a bargain price of 8 million a season to replace Cliff Floyd in the lineup and the teams starting rotation will naturally get better with David Price entering the rotation.
4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a relatively quiet offseason with minor deals made. The team is still one of the best in the league, but has many questions to answer for 2009. Was Kevin Youkilis' increase in power for real? Can Jason Bay truly fill Manny's shoes in left? Will Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz be healthy and how much can they contribute? The Sox are still a talented teams, but these factors are going to determine whether or not they win baseball's best division.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks had a dissapointing 2008 season finishing 82-80, two games out of first place in the NL West. Despite losing Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, and Randy Johnson this offseason the D-backs get my vote of confidence as one of the NL's top teams entering 2009. They have a solid three in the rotation with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, I'm counting on the young stars to improve.
6. Cleveland Indians
The Indians lost C.C. Sabathia this season, but it shouldn't affect the team too much as long as Fausto Carmona gets back on track. Cliff Lee's breakout season also helps alleviate that. The team is still without a starting right fielder as Franklin Gutierrez was traded away. Adam Dunn would make more sense than Matt LaPorta as LaPorta has struggled since coming over in the Sabathia deal. The bullpen has gotten a lot better as well with the addition of Kerry Wood and I expect this team to compete.
7. New York Mets
The Mets have been baseball's biggest choke artists over the past two seasons. On paper, they certainly are a much better team than anyone in their division. Whether or not they can finally get the job done, is another question. This team should win 95 games this year, but in order for that to happen, someone on the team will have to step up as a leader. If the team is in contention in August or September, a bullpen of Wagner, Putz, and Roriguez remains the scariest 7-8-9 in the league.
8. Philadelphia Phillies
Not a good offseason for the champs. First, the team overpaid for Raul Ibanez (another lefty) to replace Pat Burrell in the lineup. Second, J.C. Romero has to serve a 50 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Third, No one outside of Cole Hamels scares me in that rotation. And lastly, Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz still have starting jobs in baseball. Uggh....
9. Los Angeles Angels
The gap has certainly closed in on the Angels in the American League West. Without Mark Teixeira, Garrett Anderson, or Francisco Rodriguez, they certainly don't scare teams the way they used to. Brian Fuentes is an adequate replacement for K-Rod, but I can't understand why they didn't just pony up a few extra to keep their star in town. Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera remain questioable replacements and the team will once again rely on Vlad and the starting pitchers to win ballgames.
10. Chicago White Sox
White Sox GM Ken Williams is one GM whose moves I can never understand, but they seem to work out right in the end. The Sox still are without a centerfielder and a second basemen going into next season, and there are questions as to whether Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks can repeat their 2008 success. For now though, I'm giving the Sox the benefit of the doubt. I really like the Bartolo Colon signing, as it has the makings of a low risk, high reward type deal.
11. Detroit Tigers
Don't count out the Tigers. While the Tigers finished last place in the American League Central last season, they were still third in the league in overall offense. Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Nate Robertson all had their worst seasons as pros. The offense should remain just as good as it was and if Verlander can return to form, the team should be able to compete. Edwin Jackson and Gerald Laird were both nice, under the radar acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowksi.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers
With this ranking, I'm assuming Manny Ramirez is going to be a Dodger. If it turns out to be different, I will change the ranking accordingly. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is about to find out what life is likek without Paul DePodesta's players. The losses of Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Jeff Kent will affect this team greatly. Unless the Dodgers give have Jason Schmidt go to some miracle worker, I don't know where this team is going to get a rotation that will compete.
13. Minnesota Twins
The Twins offense is their weakness. Both Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez featured low on base percentages last season which isn't helping the team at all. The teams offense really is only as good as Joe Mauer's knees as Justin Morneau can't do everything on his own. However, if the team can get similar production to 2008 from it's young pitchers in the rotation for 2009, this team will always have a chance to compete.
14. Oakland Athletics
The trades of Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, and Mark Kotsay a year ago have paid off. The A's enter 2009 with one of the best minor league systems in the game and an offense that's ready to close the gap in the American League West. The acquisitions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi give the A's a ton of power in the 3-6 spots and Eric Chavez is supposed to be fully healthy headed into next year giving the teams young pitching a better chance to win.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
While the Brewers lost both C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets this offseason, its not as if they all of a sudden have a bad team. The team didn't have Sabathia for the first half of last year anyway and they've played several seasons with Sheets on the DL multiple times. The offensive remains intact with both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way. If Yovanni Gallardo can remain healthy, I'm sure the Brewers can put together a respectable season.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
I really don't know what to think of the Cardinals. I'm not convinced that their pitching staff can hold up all season long, even if Chris Carpenter is fully healthy. Albert Pujols remains the best first basemen in the National League, but he isn't going to get much help. The Khalil Greene trade won't improve the offense that much and who knows if Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel can keep it up with their bats.
17. Atlanta Braves
What a bad offseason for Braves fans. The farm system is depleted. They missed out on both A.J. Burnett and Rafael Furcal and allowed John Smoltz to sign cheaply with the Red Sox. However, this team still remains a dark horse candidate in the NL East. The starting rotation should be pretty good still with Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vasquez, and Kenshin Kawakami manning the first four spots. If they can stay in contention until August, Tim Hudson will be on his way back.
18. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays finished 2008 with a respectable 86-76 record in the American League. However, the team has lost A.J. Burnett in free agency and hasn't made any major additions. Shaun Marcum is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery and Dustin McGowan is out at least for the first month. If they can make it past the first month of the season okay, they might be considered a dark horse candidate in the tough AL East. However, don't expect much.
19. Texas Rangers
The Rangers haven't made any major additions this offseason and have let Milton Bradley walk. 2009 will be an interesting year for the team. It will most likely be the last time we see Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla in a Rangers uniform and also could feature the debuts of shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland. Also, we'll see Chris Davis mature into a solid power hitter. As always, if this team could pitch, they'd win games, but that's unlikely for 2009.
20. San Francisco Giants
With Noah Lowry coming back from injury and the addition Randy Johnson, the Giants have a pretty deep starting five heading into 2009. However, where will the offense come from? The team does not have a superstar offensive player and the market is drying up quickly. If they can't get their hands on Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu, they might once again be wasting all that good pitching, Such a shame. Giants fans deserve better.
21. Colorado Rockies
I must be crazy, because I might be the only one that thinks the team trading Matt Holliday will help the Rockies. Huston Street replaces Brian Fuentes as the teams closer and Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart now battle for time in the outfield. The rotation is better with Greg Smith in it and I don't think the offense will be affected. Not in that park at least. Ryan Spilborghs might be the best player no one knows about.
22. Florida Marlins
The Marlins might have finished 84-77 last season, but I'm not a believer in them....yet. The team foolishly traded Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals for nothing important. The Mike Jacobs trade will only be a good deal if Dallas McPherson can take his success from AAA last year and bring it with him to the majors. Also, there are questions as to whether this starting pitching can hold up and whether Jorge Cantu can repeat his 2008 performance.
23. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners didn't get much back in return for J.J. Putz and they haven't done anything significant to improve their lousy offense as well. The team will rely on youngsters to break through this season including Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement. Their pitching should keep them in ballgames with Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Brandon Morrow in the rotation, but if they are out of it early, you can expect the team to start shopping Bedard.
24. Cincinatti Reds
The Reds have a bright future ahead of them with young stars such as Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto breaking through last season. Each of these youngsters are expected to continue to develop into solid ballplayers. The question remains as to whether or not this is the year the Reds finally start coming together as a team. They certainly have the foundations, but whether or not they are ready to translate that into a winning ballclub is up in the air.
25. Houston Astros
Ugggh. That's about all I can say about Astros GM Ed Wade. His trade of Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn last season looks worse and worse by the day. While the Astros finished strong last season, it was only because Wade's false sense of hope that they were somehow still in the race last year. Smart GM's would have sold. This team has no farm system and quite frankly, Mike Hampton isn't going to solve their pitching problems.
26. Baltimore Orioles
The bad news? The Orioles aren't going anywhere next season. The good news? Team President Andy MacPhail knows this and is positioning the team to develop for the future. The Felix Pie trade was a great trade for MacPhail and now the Orioles have the best outfield defense in the game. I really look forward to seeing Matt Wieters transition to the big leagues this year as well. The team has no starting pitching to speak of outside of Guthrie, but help is on the way in the minors.
27. San Diego Padres
With Jake Peavy on board, the Padres still have a respectable pitching staff and an offense led by one of the games best first basemen (Adrian Gonzalez). They could compete if things fall right offensively for them, especially considering their division, but that would require Chase Headley to stop swinging blindly and actually develop offensively. The best thing for Padres fans will be to get the sale of the team done as soon as possible.
28. Kansas City Royals
Coco Crisp? Kyle Farnsworth? Willie Bloomquist? Mike Jacobs? The Royals are going nowhere. The team has completely given up on Mark Teahen ever becoming something useful and now fans are growing impatient with both Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Zach Greinke, Joakim Soria, and Gil Meche are the few bright spots on the Royals for 2009, but it will take another two years for their farm system to catch up and replace the mismanagement of the team under former GM Allan Baird.
29. Washington Nationals
The Scott Olsen and Josh WIllingham trade with Florida was a good one for the Nats, but they need a lot of work. Austin Kearns needs to be benched, but won't because of his contract and GM Jim Bowdens obsession with his former Reds players. The team would be better off with an outfield of Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and Willingham, but it probably won't happen. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson needs to be healthy for this team to have any chance.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have done NOTHING this offseason. They enter 2009 without both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, who they had in the first half of last season. They do get a full season of Andy LaRoche at 3rd base, but this team is going absolutely nowhere and is by far the worst team in baseball heading into 2009.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinatti Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Power Rankings, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals
Posted on: April 10, 2008 6:34 pm
The answers to the questions you want to know......
Have a question? Post it below and it will get answered.
Q: Which pitcher has surprised you the most so far?
Edwin Jackson's start to the season has definitely been the biggest surprise to me. So far, through two starts this season, Jackson is 2-0, with a 0.64 era and 10 strikeouts in 14 inningsr. Jackson was a 15 game loser last season that had an era of almost 6. He once was considered the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers organization, but became an afterthought after he struggled with them early on. Jackson is only 24 years old this season and if he reaches the potential that scouts once thought he had, the Rays will have a pretty solid rotation with him, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields.
Q: Of the batters off to hot starts, which one surprises you the most?
So far there have been two players starts that have surprised me so far. The first one is definitely Joe Crede of the White Sox. After 7 games this season, Crede is batting .393 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI. After a slow spring, Crede is making other GM's look foolish for not trading for him and he's also making Kenny Williams look like a genious for keeping him on the big league roster over Josh Fields, who had a solid year with the White Sox last year.
The second player that has completely surprised me is Jason Kendall of the Milwaukee Brewers. Through the first half of last season with the Oakland Athletics, Kendall was struggling just to stay above the .200 mark in batting average. Moving him behind the pitcher to the 9th spot in the order has seemed to work out so far as Kendall has started off the year hitting .526 with 5 RBI, 5 runs scored, and one steal. I knew Kendall would help Milwaukee's pitchers (2.95 team era), but I don't think anyone thought he'd be this effective with the bat. I always thought Kendall was a better National League player, and his performance so far has shown me why I still believe that.
Q: Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago (AL), Florida, and St. Louis have all gotten off to hot starts so far. Of those teams, which one has the greatest chance of reaching the postseason?
This question had me thinking for a very long time. I guess the best way to answer this question is to start off with teams that I can pretty much guarantee won't reach the postseason. Even though the Orioles have gotten off to a hot start, they play in baseball's toughest division this season and don't have much of a chance. There is no way Florida would beat out Atlanta, New York, or Philly in the NL East without Miguel Cabrera, and even though Kansas City has great potential, I think they are going to cool down once Detroit and Cleveland start playing better. So that leaves me with the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals......Even though the NL Central has been the weakest division in baseball the past couple of seasons, I still don't see the Cardinals emerging on top. Their mediocre pitching staff will catch up to them and the offense isn't much outside of Albert Pujols. The White Sox, on the other hand, have the offense to compete with teams in the Central, and they spent big money to revamp the bullpen this offseason. The only question remains is the starting pitching, yet they have a decent ace in Buehrle and potential in the back with Danks, so if I had to choose one of these five to make the postseason, it'd be them.
Q: Should the Giants try to trade for Dan Johnson now that the A's designated him for assignment?
In my opinion, the Giants are the only team where Johnson would make sense. Although Johnson hasn't had great success in the big leagues, the success that he has had is certainly a lot better than both Rich Aurilia and Dan Ortmeier (who the Giants are playing at first base). If Johnson could just raise his batting average, he'd become a much better player. He already has a solid eye, as he walked 72 times last season. Maybe a move to the National League is just what he needs. If the Giants want him, I say they don't risk another team posting a claim on him and go ahead and trade for him. At the very most, it'd cost a player that the Giants don't utilize much like Fred Lewis and at the very least it would cost a low-A ball player.
Q: What do you make of the Dodgers outfield situation? Will Joe Torre finally figure it out?
When the news first broke that Andre Ethier would be starting in place of Juan Pierre, I thought Torre was making the right move. What the reports failed to tell us was that Juan Pierre would be eating up Matt Kemps at bats, which is worse than originally expected. Pierre only has 3 hits all season, zero walks, and has been thrown out trying to steal second. He doesn't deserve to start on the Dodgers and hopefully Joe Torre will eventually realize that. If he doesn't, it's going to start costing the team some wins.
Q: What is wrong with Andruw Jones? Will he ever be the player that he was 2-3 seasons ago for the Braves?
It remains to be seen. I remain optimistic that Jones can turn around his 2007 season, but he hasn't shown anything of the sort so far in 2008. I find it hard to believe that a player that has had as much success in this league as Jones, and is only 30 years old, will continue to decline. So far, Andruw Jones is proving me wrong about him. I hope by the end of the year that the "It's only April" excuse will apply to him because that would be a shame to see someone that good fall so fast.
Q: The Indians just locked up Fausto Carmona to a long term deal. Was this a good or bad move?
Indians GM Mark Shapiro is one of the best when it comes to locking up young talent. He did it with Grady Sizemore a few years back and now he's locking up Carmona to a deal that will buy out his first two seasons of free agency. While most general managers would usually wait another year before making such a deal, I think it was a smart move by Shapiro. If the Indians lose C.C. Sabathia in the offseason, they will be in trouble. At least this guarantees the team a front of the rotation starter for at least the next six seasons.
Q: Based on what we've seen so far, what are the best trades made this past offseason?
So far, I'd say the best trade made was the Diamondbacks acquisition of Dan Haren from the Athletics, simply because it helped both teams involved. So far, Haren has been lights out for the Diamondbacks, while both Dana Eveland and Greg Smith have pitched very well for the Athletics. Meanwhile, Brett Anderson was solid in his first minor league start and Carlos Gonzalez is batting .300 for the River Cats. Another trade that has worked out very well is the Orioles trade of Miguel Tejada to the Astros. Tejada's been hitting the ball well for the Astros, but Luke Scott has been hitting it even better. Scott leads the American League in batting average at .500. Meanwhile, both Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate have yet to give up a run in over 9 innings of relief (combined). Also, as expected, the Mets deal for Johan Santana is working out great.
The worst trade we've seen so far could be Seattle's trade for Erik Bedard. While Bedard has had a solid two starts for the Mariners, the team has lost many games because their bullpen is now extremely weak and the offense is worse than it was a year ago. We'll have to give it more time to play out though.
Q: What is wrong with the Yankees? They have gone from having the best offense in 2007, to having the worst so far in 2008?
The Yankees are typically slow out of the gate, so I wouldn't be worried too much. Since 2004, the Yankees record in April is only 46-51(not counting this season) and they've made the postseason each one of those years. With both Posada and Jeter injured, and Giambi, Damon, and Cano off to slow starts, they should be happy with the 4-5 record. As always, the only people performing in New York right now on offense are A-rod, Matsui, and Abreu. I think Joe Girardi needs to handle his pitchers a little better. Not starting Kennedy because the "threat" of rain is lame to begin with and then bringing him in when the team is down 2 runs in the 7th is even more pointless.
Posted on: February 3, 2008 6:25 am
Edited on: February 28, 2008 6:54 pm
Last week, I introduced my American League Offseason Grades. Today, we move on to the National League.
2007 Performance: 84-78, 3rd Place in the NL East
Offseason Grade: B
Despite losing both Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria this winter, the Braves might be a better team than they were a year ago. While both players were considered major contributors for the club, their absence has made other opportunities available for the club. Despite Jones' poor season of a year ago, the Braves still managed to have the third best offense in the National League, behind only the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies. His loss should be minimal. As far as the Renteria deal goes, it did two things for the team. First, it gave the Braves some salary cap room so they could land Tom Glavine. Second, it netted them a great young right handed pitcher from the Tigers organization by the name of Jair Jurrjens. The combination of Jurrjens and Glavine, coupled with Tim Hudson and John Smoltz should give the Braves a formidable rotation that they haven't had in years.
2007 Performance: 71-91, 5th Place in the NL East
Offseason Grade: D -
It was yet another disappointing offseason for Marlins fans as they saw their two franchise players traded away to the Tigers for a package surrounding OF Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller. While both Maybin and Miller are quality prospects, the Marlins have no chance of competing while Jeffrey Loria remains the owner of the ballclub. As for the signings the team made, the only one worth paying much attention to is the signing of third basemen Dallas McPherson. McPherson was once a quality prospect in the Angels organization, yet after a series of setbacks and injuries, the team was forced to let him go. It was worth taking a gamble on McPherson to see what he can do. As for the teams signing of Luis Gonzalez, all it does is block at bats that should be going to Josh Willingham. Expect nothing more than another last place finish for the Marlins.
New York Mets
2007 Performance: 88-74, 2nd Place in the NL East
Offseason Grade: A -
The Mets acquisition of Johan Santana saved their offseason. After the team lost Tom Glavine to the Braves and traded Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals, it seemed likely that the Mets might once again miss the postseason. However, all that changed when the Mets sent OF Carlos Gomez, P Deolis Guerra, P Kevin Mulvey, and P Phil Humber to the Twins for Santana. Santana gives the Mets the reliable front of the rotation starter that they have been lacking. Now, with Santana, the Mets can easily be considered the favorites to win the National East. If they don't, Willie Randolph's job may be on the line.
2007 Performance: 89-73, 1st Place in the NL East, Lost to Colorado in NLDS
Offseason Grade: B
The Phillies trade of Michael Bourn to the Houston Astros for Brad Lidge was thievery. Not only does it give them a solid closer in the bullpen, but it allows former ace Brett Myers to return to a starting gig. Myers in the rotation once again is better than any free agent starter that the team could have acquired on the market. Meanwhile, the should be applauded for not paying Aaron Rowand the money he was asking for. They should get similar production from Geoff Jenkins at half the price of Rowand and fewer years. The signing of Jenkins also allows Shane Victorino to return to his original position of centerfield. Of the negative signings by GM Pat Gillick, giving Pedro Feliz a two year deal was a mistake. Especially when both Joe Crede and Brandon Inge were available on the open market. In addition, the signing of J.C. Romero to a three year deal could hurt the team in the long run.
2007 Performance: 73-89, 4th Place in the NL East
Offseason Grade: B -
There were no big signings this season by the Nationals despite the opening of their new ballpark, but GM Jim Bowden has done a great job since coming to the team. His acquisition of Lastings Milledge from the Mets, and Elijah Dukes from the Rays were low-risk, high reward type deals. Milledge was once regarded as the best prospect in the game a few years back and has hardly gotten a chance to play while on the Mets. The fact that Bowden had to give up two veteran players that weren't in the teams near future is what makes this deal a great one for the Nats. The signing of Paul Lo Duca was also a great move considering the fact he came cheaper than Brad Scneider, and provided a stopgap for Jesus Flores. If the Nationals pitching staff continues to improve, they could become spoilers in August and September.
The Braves acquisitions of Jair Jurrjens (left) and Tom Glavine (right) should make their rotation much better.
2007 Performance: 85-77, 1st Place in the NL Central, Lost to Arizona in NLDS
Offseason Grade: B
The only major offseason acquisitions by the Cubs this offseason were Kosuke Fukodome and Jon Lieber. Meanwhile, the team saw Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Craig Monroe, Jason Kendall, Mark Prior, and Angel Pagan leave for other teams through either trade or free agency. The quiet offseason from the Cubs was expected after they spent a ton of money on both Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. Despite the inactivity from the team, the Cubs still have the best rotation and bullpen in their division and assuming few injuries take place in 2008, the team should be considered the favorites once again out of the National League Central.
2007 Performance: 72-90, 5th Place in the National League Central
Offseason Grade: C+
The Reds made a splash this offseason by signing Francisco Cordero to close ballgames for them. While Cordero is a reliable and useful closer, it wasn't the wisest investment the team could have made with that 11 million dollars. The team did the right thing by trading away Josh Hamilton after his breakout season a year ago. Not only were they able to acquire a pitcher with decent upside in return (Edinson Volquez), but they opened up the centerfield spot for Jay Bruce. The 2008 version of the Reds are going to have to rely on youngsters like Bruce, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Volquez, and Homer Bailey if they want to compete next year. The core is in place, but how fast they develop is another question.
2007 Performance: 73-89, 4th Place in the National League Central
Offseason Grade: D
Sometimes I wonder if the Astros are taking lessons from the Rangers as they try to rejuvenate this team. Ed Wade has not impressed at all since taking over. While the Tejada signing gives the team another bat to join Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, where is the starting pitching? Aside from Roy Oswalt, the rest of the staff is questionable. Meanwhile, the Matsui signing hurts the team as long as he's batting at the top of the order, and the Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn trade makes little sense. It's going to be a long year for Astros fans as they are going to have a hard time staying out of the bottom of the National League Central.
2007 Performance: 83-79, 2nd Place in the National League Central
Offseason Grade: B -
The Brewers made a couple impact moves that could help them compete for the division in 2008. The signing of Mike Cameron will make the team much better defensively and didn't cost the team too much money. While Francisco Cordero left to the Cincinnati Reds, Eric Gagne should be a decent fill in for a season. Meanwhile, even though Jason Kendall's best days are behind him, he won't be worse than what Johnny Estrada was for the Brewers last season. His in game management of the pitchers will be a plus as well. Meanwhile, the Brewers are going to have both Yovanni Gallardo and Ryan Braun for a full season this time around. Once again, the Brewers should be battling with the Cubs for the division.
2007 Performance: 68-74, 6th Place in the National League Central
Offseason Grade: F
It's sad that it took this long for ownership to fire Dave Littlefield. The Pirates minor league system has failed to produce quality players for too long now and it's going to take a long time for the Pirates to actually field a winning team. Probably the best thing the team can do now is firesale any player on their team that is worth value. If that means sending Jason Bay away for prospects, then so be it. Bay is unlikely to be with the team past 2009, so now is the logical time to trade him. However, aside from a bunch of low impact signings, the Pirates have remain complacent this winter.
St. Louis Cardinals
2007 Performance: 78-84, 3rd Place in the National League Central
Offseason Grade: C
Aside from dealing Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus, the Cardinals really haven't done much this offseason that could suggest a return to the postseason. In fact, they seem to be heading in the opposite direction. The team replaced their already below average shortstop in David Eckstein with Cesar Izturis, who is downright terrible. If Izturis is anywhere near the top of the order for the Cardinals this season, it's bad news. Meanwhile, the pitching staff still has questions. Three starters, Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, and newly acquired Matt Clement, are all coming off of injury plagued seasons. In addition, after dealing Jim Edmonds to the Padres, the Cards are likely to downgrade offensively at the position (in the short term) as both Colby Rasmus and Rule-5 pick Brian Barton will battle for the position.
The Brewers should remain competitive after adding Eric Gagne and Mike Cameron.
2007 Performance: 90-72, 1st Place in the NL West, Lost to Colorado in NLCS
Offseason Grade: A
It's amazing what Josh Byrnes has done with this team in a few short years. After leading the National League in wins in 2007, the Diamondbacks should once again be contenders in 2008. The teams youngsters will only get better and the addition of Dan Haren gives them one of the best rotations in the National League. The team did trade away closer Jose Valverde, but managed to acquired a solid middle reliever (Chad Qualls) and backup second baseman in return (Chris Burke). Meanwhile, the move should allow either Tony Pena or Brandon Lyon to take over the 9th inning role.
2007 Performance: 90-73, 2nd Place in the NL West, Lost to Boston in World Series
Offseason Grade: D +
After making it to World Series for the first time in club history, the Rockies didn't do much this offseason except for losing two key pieces of their middle relief corps and their starting 2nd basemen. The additions the Rockies made to replace these players weren't upgrades either. The fact that the Rockies went two season with Luis Vizcaino rather than resigning LaTroy Hawkins at the same price for one year doesn't make much sense at all. Meanwhile, they have yet to find a replacement for Jeremy Affeldt in the bullpen. The signing of Scott Podsednik will only take at bats away from Corey Sullivan and neither Kip Wells nor Josh Towers are likely to produce for the team in the rotation. The only positive thing that the Rockies did this offseason was sign Troy Tulowitzki to a long term deal.
Los Angels Dodgers
2007 Performance: 82-80, 4th Place in the NL West
Offseason Grade: B+
The Dodgers should be a much better team in 2008 than they were a year ago. The 2007 Dodgers were constantly dealing with clubhouse issues, and GM Ned Colletti made mistakes by signing Jason Schmidt, Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, and Randy Wolf to contracts. Newly hired manager, Joe Torre, seems like the right fit to resolve the clubhouse problems. The Dodgers will enter 2008 knowing that both James Loney and Matt Kemp will get 500 at bats. Meanwhile, Colletti made an excellent move by signing Andruw Jones to a two year contract to play centerfield. In addition, the starting pitching will have plenty of depth with Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, newly acquired Hiroki Kuroda, Esteban Loaiza, Jason Schmidt, and Clayton Kershaw all capable of starting for the Dodgers sometime this season.
San Diego Padres
2007 Performance: 89-74, 3rd Place in the NL West
Offseason Grade: B
The Padres did a decent job in replacing the loss of Mike Cameron and Marcus Giles with Jim Edmonds and Tadahito Iguchi. In addition, Padre fans can be happy that the team locked up Jake Peavy to an extension, and added San Diego native Mark Prior to the rotation for very little cost. The team still has yet to find a replacement for Milton Bradley in left field and lacks a right handed bat in their lineup, but with limited options available on the free agent market, the team would be smart to sign Shawn Green and platoon him with Scott Hairston.
San Francisco Giants
2007 Performance: 71-91, 5th Place in the NL West
Offseason Grade: F
Wow. If there was a vote for the worst GM in the league, mine would certainly go to Giants GM Brian Sabean. If you thought the Giants were bad a year ago with Barry Bonds, imagine just how horrible they will be without him. Ignoring the fact that the Giants have no farm system to speak of, Sabean made a huge mistake last year by signing Barry Zito to a huge contract and giving veterans like Ray Durham and Dave Roberts multi-year deals. However, now that he did, he only had one choice this offseason and he failed to make it. With the Giants excellent starting pitching, all Sabean needed to do this winter was to bring in some sort of marquee player to help the team win ballgames. Instead of going after Alex Rodriguez or Andruw Jones, Sabean settled for Aaron Rowand. While Rowand had a great year last season (playing in a hitters park), he's just had a mediocre career and is not someone a team looks to for offensive production. The Giants pitching staff is going to waste. The years the Giants have Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum under control are going to be wasted because Brian Sabean does not know how to run a ballclub. The Giants will be at the basement of the NL West all season long.
Andruw Jones (left) and Dan Haren (right) help make the NL West the best division in baseball.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, National League, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals