Hot Stove Roundup

Two players from my Top 10 Free Agent Rankings came off the market among several other moves that were made on Friday. Seems that the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels really did open up the floodgates. So let’s take a look at who’s headed where.

Carlos Santana signs with the Phillies

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This was the big surprise move for me, though I can’t say I’m too shocked to see the Phillies actively searching for some talent now that all those albatross contracts are finally off the books. Though I am surprised that Santana chose the Phillies in this situation. Santana signed a 3-year $60 million deal with a $17.5 million club option for a fourth year with the Phillies, who are coming off a last place finish in the NL East and had the second worst record in the National League. Santana was a part of a winning organization in the Indians prior to this, where he was a big part of their lineup that had the best record in 2017 and nearly won a World Series in 2016. Santana has been one of those guys that, along with some good power, has had a keen eye for the plate. He is coming off a season that featured a 13.2% walk rate, which was the lowest of his career but still ranked 18th in all of baseball. He’s got good power if he does get his pitch as well, as he’s hit 57 home runs over the last two seasons while being a well-above average defender at first base, which is where he will likely slot in with the Phillies. Santana will likely supplant the incumbent Tommy Joseph at first, who underwhelmed in the starting role, as he only hit .240 with a .289 OBP though he showed some good pop with 22 home runs. In addition to the signing of Santana, the Phillies are trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres for a minor league prospect, opening the door for top prospect JP Crawford to take over as the full-time shortstop. Here’s what a potential Phillies lineup would look like with Santana.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. JP Crawford-SS

3. Rhys Hoskins-LF

4. Carlos Santana-1B

5. Aaron Altherr-RF

6. Maikel Franco-3B

7. Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp-C

8. Cesar Hernandez-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Still not an imposing lineup by any stretch, but one that definitely looks a lot better than last year with the addition of Santana and the emergence of Hoskins. Santana’s ability to draw walks gives new manager Gabe Kapler a lot of different lineup combinations to play with, as he often batted leadoff for Terry Francona in Cleveland because of his great eye. With how bad most of the NL East is outside of Washington, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies quietly emerge as the second best team in the division. Though it is equally likely that they could finish last again. Such is the NL East. As for the Tribe, there’s a bit of a hole at first base, though I think part of last year’s Edwin Encarnacion signing was in preparation for this. If they want to have Encarnacion return to first base, that gives Francona a bunch of options at DH, such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or Hell, even Jason Kipnis if you want to go with Jose Ramirez at 2B and Giovanny Urshela at 3B (which is the better defensive rotation). Lots of options for Tito to work with despite losing a big bat.

Zack Cozart signs with the Angels

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Anaheim strikes again. This time, they sign Zack Cozart away from the Cincinnati Reds and will move him from shortstop to third base because of obvious Andrelton Simmons-related reasons. Cozart was a guy I highlighted in my Free Agent rankings and I mentioned that he’s had some really good seasons at the plate the last couple of years that have each been cut short due to injury. But when healthy, Cozart is a pretty underrated hitter who was finally getting some recognition, as he was voted to the All Star Game in 2017. In 122 games, Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and was worth 5 WAR. Had a bigger-name player put up those numbers, they’d be receiving a $100 million contract but because it’s Cozart and he’s not nearly as big a household name, his deal is for 3 years and $38 million. However age might be a concern in the near future, as he is finally truly breaking out at the age of 32, which may explain the lighter contract a little better.I feel like I do this Angels lineup a lot, but here is what the Angels look like with Cozart in the mix.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

If you were to tell me back in 2011 that Albert Pujols would be the weakest link in his starting lineup headed into 2018, I’d say that’s about as likely as the Houston Astros winning a World Series. Well well we live in a VERY different world today than we did in 2011 as we can plainly see and this Angels team on paper should compete with anybody in baseball. That being said, the pitching staff NEEDS to stay healthy, that’s the real key here. The Halos will score runs, I have no doubt about that. But preventing runs is going to be a struggle if something isn’t done about their pitching, in the starting staff and the bullpen.

Matt Moore traded to the Rangers

XXX at Chase Field on September 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The San Francisco Giants traded Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for some prospects in what was likely a salary dump. Moore is set to make $19 million over the next two years and that’s a lot of money to pay the guy who had the worst ERA amongst qualifiers, which is a shame too because this is a guy who showed a lot of promise in Tampa. He was supposed to become their ace, as he started a playoff game so early in his career that he seemed destined for great things. But then injuries became a factor, as Moore underwent Tommy John surgery not long after making that playoff start after only 9 career innings in the Major Leagues. Upon returning, he had a solid season in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. But injuries struck again as he was only able to make 2 starts in 2014 due to injury. Things just never took off. Eventually, he was traded to the Giants for Matt Duffy. Moore struggled in a Giants uniform, though he managed to stay healthy in his year and a half by the bay. Hopefully this newfound health can help him discover a rhythm and he can find some consistency. If he can, then the Rangers will have a steal on their hands because this guy is as talented as they come.

Yankees are discussing a Gerrit Cole Trade with the Pirates

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Hey, Yankees. Could you fuck off? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees already acquired Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of peanuts, they’re being linked to the likes of Manny Machado and now Gerrit Cole. Cole has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a righty in the Majors. His fastball consistently hits around 96 while his breaking pitches are absolutely ferocious. Cole had a down year in 2017, as he pitched to a 4.26 ERA but that was due in large part to the fact he let up a lot of home runs, as his 1.37 home runs per 9 innings was 15th in the Majors. PNC Park is relatively hitter-friendly in general but if you were to put him in Yankee Stadium, that could spell disaster for the righty. However, in order to hit a home run, you still gotta hit the baseball. Cole is more than capable of 200 strikeout seasons, which he achieved in his excellent 2015 season and nearly achieved in 2017 (196). He missed a large portion of 2016 due to injury. The package being rumored to be involved in a potential Cole trade includes Clint Frazier, who is one of the brighter youngsters the Yankees have in their system. He’s kind of in a logjam in the outfield at the moment, as Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Stanton are all likely going to have priority over him. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s outfield has underachieved and the Pirates appear to be shopping basically everybody, so there could be an opening for Frazier. Cole was initially drafted out of high school by the Yankees with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but he elected to go to college at UCLA and was the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, so the Yankees do have some familiarity with the righty. I would just hate to have to face him several times a year.

Also Fernando Rodney has a job again, as the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal for $4.5 million with incentives that could push it to $6 million with an option for 2019. This seems to happen every year, as Rodney will have an awful year, hit free agency, get picked up immediately, then have an otherworldly year, then sign with a new team and repeat the process. I’m not even going to try and guess how many times this guy has changed uniforms in the last 5 years. That wraps up another edition of the Hot Stove. Let me know who you think might be next to get off the market in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

The Hot Stove is Heating Up

To kick off, yes, I did say that I’m going to post the college football bowl picks. I’m a little over halfway done with them at the moment and I guarantee that they will be up by Friday. I originally planned to go a day without a blog posted to work more on the picks blog but too many moves in Major League Baseball happened on Wednesday night-Thursday morning that I can’t ignore. So I’m cranking this one out at 1:30 in the morning. I spoil you guys.

Marlins Trade Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals

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This is obviously the big one here. The Cardinals had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he exercised his no-trade clause and nixed the deal. However, they were able to land another star outfielder in Ozuna. It’s unclear whether or not the package headed to Miami was the one pitched for Stanton, but regardless I thought the Marlins got a decent haul, certainly a better one than the one they got for Stanton. In the trade, the Marlins received prospects Magneuris Sierra, Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano. Sierra and Alcantara are the main focus of this package for the Marlins, as they ranked highly in the Cardinals’ system. So how does this trade affect the Cardinals? Let’s take a look at their potential lineup:

1. Dexter Fowler-CF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-LF

4. Marcell Ozuna-RF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There was a bit of a logjam in the outfield for the Cardinals, as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are both viable options for them, however shortly after announcing the Ozuna trade, the Cardinals traded Piscotty to the Athletics for an unknown package that may include some relief help. There’s kind of a nice element to this, as Piscotty’s trade to Oakland allows him to be closer to his mother, who is currently battling ALS. Piscotty had a really strong 2016 season but struggled in 2017 after signing a 6-year extension. If he can return to form, Piscotty can be a huge asset for Oakland. As for Ozuna, he was fantastic in 2017, earning his second straight All Star nod as he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense in left field. He is currently owed about $20 million over the next couple of years before he’s eligible for free agency, which is pretty team-friendly considering the numbers he’s put up the last couple of years. If Ozuna can repeat this performance, he will likely become the face of the St. Louis Cardinals and put them right back in the thick of the playoff race.

Tigers trade Ian Kinsler to the Angels

<> at Comerica Park on September 23, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kinsler had perhaps his worst year as a pro in 2017, as he only hit a career-low .236, though that could be due to shit luck, as he only hit .244 on balls in play. However he still is a valuable player and can really benefit this suddenly dangerous Angels lineup. As you may remember from my article on Shohei Ohtani, second base was the weakest link for the Angels heading into this season. Well they’ve sure shored that up nicely. Here’s how the potential lineup looks now.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Albert Pujols-1B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Luis Valbuena-3B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Suddenly this lineup becomes not only deadly at the plate, but also very competent defensively and I’m pretty excited to see what a double play combo of Simmons and Kinsler might look like. The Tigers received prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery, who weren’t ranked very highly in the Angels’ system, suggesting that this was more of a salary dump (the Angels will take on all of the $11 million still owed to Kinsler). The Tigers are in full rebuild mode so this trade doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Michael Pineda signs with the Twins

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Pineda has to be one of the most frustrating pitchers to come up in recent memory. Looking like the next big thing when he came up with Seattle, Pineda was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in a swap of top prospects, neither of which really panning out for either side. Pineda was simply never healthy. After a strong rookie performance in 2011, Pineda didn’t make a start for the Yankees until 2014 due to injuries and multiple Tommy John surgeries. His 13 starts in pinstripes that year were excellent, as he pitched to a 1.89 ERA. However after that his ERA never dipped below 4.30. He pitched one full season in 2016, but his ERA was pushing nearly 5. Then there was that whole pine tar incident, where he was caught with the stuff on his neck and using it to doctor the baseballs, which cost him a start due to suspension. A change of scenery is really what this guy needs and if he is able to bounce back, then the Twins will finally have that lockdown ace they’ve been looking for since Johan Santana. Pineda is coming off another Tommy John surgery, which he had in July, so he will most certainly miss the first half of the season at least. It’s low risk, high reward, though, as Pineda signed a 2-year deal worth only $10 million. If he can show improvement on that early promise, the Twins could wind up with the steal of the offseason.

There are talks that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade ace pitcher Zack Greinke in order to free up some money to re-sign JD Martinez

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This was one of the more surprising things I read today, as Greinke bounced back in a big way for the DBacks this year and returned to the form that earned him the $200 million contract he signed to prior to the 2016 season. I know that the Phillies and Yankees have called asking about Greinke and there will likely be many more. I don’t envision him being traded to the Phillies because they simply don’t have the ammunition. However the Yankees are a very real possibility. They still have all their top prospects after they were able to keep them following the Stanton trade (collusion!) so they are definitely a team the DBacks should have open ears to. Of course if they do take on Greinke’s contract, that will be a LOT of money on the payroll, even for the Yankees. Sure they dumped Chase Headley’s contract on the Padres, who are looking to try and flip him, but there are still a lot of massive contracts on the payroll. Another team that could be a candidate to land him is his old team, the Dodgers, especially if they don’t end up re-signing Yu Darvish. Greinke had some of his best seasons in Dodger Blue and the Dodgers have the prospects to offer. Whether the DBacks elect to trade within the division is another story entirely.

Orioles are reportedly shopping Manny Machado

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Well this is one I didn’t expect to see. While Machado is due to hit free agency after the 2018 season, where he will command a MASSIVE contract, I still find it a bit surprising he’s being shopped. He did have a down year for the O’s in 2017, but he was heating up by the end of it. The O’s went where he did and struggled as well in 2017, but there are still plenty of pieces in the lineup to compete in 2018. However, based on moves other teams have made, namely the Yankees in the division and the Angels as potential Wild Card foes, perhaps the Orioles don’t like their chances in 2018 and are hitting the rebuild button sooner rather than later. Which makes sense and could be a very wise move. It’s rumored that the White Sox are the most aggressive suitors, which makes sense given their plethora of prospects. But it’s also rumored the White Sox could flip him, potentially to the Yankees, who have also called about Machado. Don’t even get me started there. I don’t want to think about that. Because I guarantee you the last thing the Orioles would want to do is trade Machado within the division. If the White Sox acquire Machado then flip him to the Yankees, they not only give the middle finger to the Orioles, but to the rest of Major League Baseball. I mean, look at this potential lineup were the Yankees to acquire Machado:

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Manny Machado-3B

3. Aaron Judge-RF

4. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

5. Gary Sanchez-C

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Greg Bird-1B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

Please don’t do this to me.

So that wraps up a busy day with the MLB Hot Stove. On my honor as a Tully, on my honor as a Stark, my college football picks blog will be up tomorrow. What do you think of these moves? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

Giancarlo Stanton traded to the Yankees

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What in the actual fuck. This is perhaps the worst way I could’ve woken up this morning, not just for the news. So last night, I was flipping through channels on my TV and found a Star Wars marathon on TNT. It was the end of the Phantom Menace when I got there so naturally I had to watch for that kickass Darth Maul fight (because that’s really the movie’s only saving grace). Attack of the Clones was up next so naturally I figured I’d need some liquor to enjoy it. I decided to do a fun little drinking game where I take a shot of the Kraken rum (94 proof) every time a lightsaber was ignited. I’m paying for it right now. Then I open my blinds and see some snow on the ground. Child me would be absolutely beaming right now but adult me is pissed off because I hate snow. Luckily I have nowhere to be so the roads aren’t a real concern. Then I get a cryptic text from a friend saying “this sucks so much” and somehow I knew what had happened. So I wake up hungover, there’s snow on the ground, and Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees for basically a washing machine.

So I did a Stanton trade speculation blog a little while ago, which you can read here, and in that blog I did outline the Yankees as potential suitors. But Jesus I didn’t think it would actually happen! I was so convinced it would be the Dodgers because it just seemed too obvious. They had so many prospects to offer. The Yankees have some good ones too, but reports are they’re not even included in the deal! That’s right, it appears that neither Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, or Estevan Florial are involved in this deal. Hey Miami, why the fuck would you accept a trade package for the reigning NL MVP that didn’t include the best prospects the other team has to offer?! It’s unknown what the exact package Miami is receiving in this deal, but reports are that Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is among those headed to Miami. Okay, fine, he’s a good player and is coming off a good stint in pinstripes. But wasn’t the goal to cut your payroll? Castro is set to make $22.8 million over the remaining 2 years on his contract, averaging out to about $11 million a year. This essentially halves what would have come off the books had the Stanton trade just been for prospects. But the Yankees aren’t even taking on the whole salary either! Sure, they’re taking on the vast majority of it, but over the life of the deal the Marlins will be taking on around $30 million of it (about $3 million a year). Why in the Hell would you trade the guy voted as the best player in the league and still pay him $3 million a year to play for another team? While for an MLB team that’s not much in the grand scheme of things, it’s still baffling how little the Marlins are really receiving for this guy. It’s not like he’s a locker room cancer that they had to get out of there, though to be fair I don’t really know anything about Stanton’s personality but he doesn’t strike me as a toxic dude. The only explanation I can think of is because it’s Derek Jeter in the owner’s box. That’s just the salty Red Sox fan in me speaking, but you can’t deny it looks fishy (see what I did there? Marlins? Fishy? God I don’t know how I’m still single).

I’ve done all this bitching and haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s going to be Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting back-to-back with Gary Sanchez lurking behind them. Just look at this potential fucking lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Didi Gregorius-SS

6. Greg Bird-1B

7. Chase Headley-3B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

How the Hell do you pitch to that?! The Yankees scored the second most runs in the Majors last season and they just added the guy who hit the most home runs! The Yankees now have the AL home run king in Judge and the NL home run king in Stanton hitting back-to-back with the best power hitting catcher in Gary Sanchez right behind them. Now yes, both guys do strike out a lot and the Red Sox have the best strikeout artist in the majors in Chris Sale. But that is an imposing duo to have to pitch to. Judge is about 6’7 and 280 pounds while Stanton is 6’6 and 245, both all muscle. Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium has one of the shortest fences in baseball and we may be seeing some records get shattered. The foul poles in both left and right field are 314 feet from home, which Stanton could reach if he were holding the bat with his feet. That’s about 30 feet shorter than the poles at Marlins Park. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the difference between a flyout and a run on the board. Stanton hit 59 home runs this season while doing much of his damage in a relatively pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to do it with the walls 30 feet closer? If he doesn’t achieve his goal of passing Roger Maris (who he has stated is the real single season home run king, not Bonds, McGwire, or Sosa), I will be shocked.

Fuck I’m so mad. I’m so mad I dropped more f-bombs in this blog than I had in all my other blogs combined (I try and keep it relatively SFW here). I’m so mad, I’m not even going to bother asking you to leave a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 or even contribute to my damn Patreon. I’m just so steaming right now. This is not going to be a fun season for anybody outside of the Bronx. Sure it will be fun seeing how far these guys can hit it, but they’ll be doing it in the wrong uniforms. FUCK!

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Why I Stuck to the Outfield

So since nothing happened with the Giancarlo Stanton trade, I’m going to deliver on my promise and tell a story from my sophomore year of high school in JV Baseball. So at my high school, we had a random long weekend and our catcher was going home to Colorado for break. The problem was we still had a game that weekend but his flight plans were pretty final. I was getting bored playing left field every day and wanted to switch things up, so I volunteered to take his place behind the dish. That was a bad decision on my part.

So before we get into this story, I need to mention the kind of physical state I was/am in. I have AWFUL knees. I inherited them from my mom. My dad, of course, has incredible knees. In fact, he once went for a 6-mile run before learning he had a torn ACL from an accident when he was practicing Brazilian Jujitsu. But I get blessed with my mom’s awful knees. My brother also has the same issues, as it is insanely uncomfortable for us to crouch or stand up from a crouched position. He went to a doctor to get them checked out once, and the doctor told him he had the knees of a 60 year-old (my dad got a similar check-up and was told he had the knees of an 18 year-old. He was in his mid-40’s at the time). So I’m assuming my knee situation is similar to my brother’s.

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Now as I’m sure you can guess, playing catcher can take a HEAVY toll on your knees. That’s why so many catchers often move to first base or DH later in their careers (i.e. Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli). Knee savers do help immensely, it almost feels like you’re sitting on a chair, but I didn’t have my own catchers gear, I had to use the bare minimum that the school had to offer. They did not have knee savers. I sucked it up, though, I hadn’t played catcher since fifth grade, when I was the primary catcher on my little league team and I was excited for an opportunity to return behind the dish. This was a bad move. Now, during warmups for practice, things were going pretty smoothly. I had a much stronger throwing arm than our normal catcher, but that was due in large part to the fact he had a bum throwing shoulder, but he was the best we had behind the dish. I sent a ball sailing over our short second baseman’s head on one throw and the coach said it was fine, the second baseman was late getting his glove up there because he wasn’t used to the ball getting there so soon. Now that I’m done tooting my own horn, it’s time to get to the good stuff: the problems I had.

So finally we did a simulated game. I’m behind the dish and throw down the one finger for our pitcher. He gives the heat and the kid at bat hit a foul ball that caught me in the arm, which of course is unpadded. I got a huge bruise and I felt my throwing arm go numb for a moment. But I was able to walk it off and got back down in the crouch. I threw down the number 1 again. The pitcher nodded and the ball was delivered low and down the middle. The batter foul tipped it, right into my athletic cup. The pointed part of my cup split between my nads and I was down for the count. I tried getting up to walk it off as my teammates laughed their asses off at what happened. I had to go down on one knee and eventually, once the pain started to subside, I had a little chuckle about it, too (you thought the painful part was going to have something to do with my knees, didn’t you? Lesson number 1, expect the unexpected).

The game itself was fine. I only let up one passed ball and didn’t have any issues with foul tips going where they shouldn’t. Thanks to my bad knees, though, I had a hard time throwing out potential base stealers despite having a solid arm. Trying to pop up from the crouch was a disaster and I could almost feel my knees cave in beneath me. It was a weird sight for me because I was the team’s leadoff hitter despite my season batting average of .121 (I had an OBP of .380, I drew a shit ton of walks, at one point walking 7 times in 8 plate appearances). You never see catchers bat leadoff so that kind of screwed with my OCD some. I think I ended up drawing another walk that game and had one of the few times I hit the ball the other way, I was pretty shitty about being a pull hitter. It wasn’t on purpose, just how it worked out for me. It was a flyout right to the right fielder, prompting my coach to say “well that’s going to screw up the spray chart.”

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That wasn’t the last time that I tried a new position and it backfired. Towards the very end of that same season, I was having a rough day. I remember it was May 10, 2012, which was my youngest brother’s birthday (that’s how I remember the exact date so easily). My roommate and best friend had gotten kicked out for poor grades and my own grades were not where I wanted them to be with finals approaching. I wanted to try out a new position to try and take my mind off things. I hopped in to play third base during practice. It wasn’t totally unchartered waters for me, I had been a third baseman for much of my little league career and knew all the responsibilities I would need to take on. I fielded a few ground balls and was feeling pretty good about my abilities at the hot corner. We then started an intra-squad scrimmage that was always the highlight of any practice. One of our players hit an easy ground ball in my direction. That is, it was an easy grounder until it hit the lip of the infield grass. The ball hit the lip, bounced up, and clocked me right in the mouth, ricocheting off my face into the third base coach’s box. That was one of the rare times I heard the head coach swear, as he shouted “oh shit!” as he rushed to my aid. I was bleeding out my mouth and my upper lip had doubled in size. That was the kind of day I was having. After that, I never again complained about being stuck in left field all the time. It was for the best.

Well that ends a painful chapter of my athletic career. Let me know what you thought in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Hall of Fame Ballot Released

Yes, I know, they don’t announce the MLB Hall of Fame class of 2018 until January, but the finalists were announced and I couldn’t help myself. Plus, I wanted material to write about. Here is the list of candidates:

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Vladimir Guerrero

Trevor Hoffman

Jeff Kent

Edgar Martinez

Fred McGriff

Mike Mussina

Manny Ramirez

Curt Schilling

Gary Sheffield

Sammy Sosa

Billy Wagner

Larry Walker

Chris Carpenter

Johnny Damon

Livan Hernandez

Oliver Hudson

Aubrey Huff

Jason Isringhausen

Andruw Jones

Chipper Jones

Carlos Lee

Brad Lidge

Hideki Matsui

Kevin Millwood

Jamie Moyer

Scott Rolen

Johan Santana

Jim Thome

Omar Vizquel

Kerry Wood

Carlos Zambrano

I’m going to discuss which guys I think should get in. I’m really hesitant to pick guys who were linked to PED’s. I know that Ivan Rodriguez was named in the Mitchell Report and still got in last year, so it’s only a matter of time before guys like Bonds and Clemens get in. But I really don’t want to vote for one. I get the argument in favor of putting known PED users in, I really do, but I’m still uncomfortable with voting for one. If they get in, fine, the rest of baseball feels differently than I do (which could probably be an entire blog on its own. Maybe around election time), but I won’t vote them in. So sorry Barry and Roger, but you don’t have my vote. Here’s a tissue.

My other rules for who gets in are pretty simple: be one of the greats. I don’t care which ballot you’re on, if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer in my book. There are some voters who are of the belief of “well Joe DiMaggio only got in on the third ballot, this guy can’t be first ballot because DiMaggio wasn’t.” That’s a load of shit. First of all, Joltin’ Joe should’ve been first ballot. Secondly, as I mentioned just seconds ago, if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer. Plain as that. Nobody usually remembers which ballot you got in on anyway, just that you got in. So with that, let’s look at who I would vote for, with holdovers going first and newcomers going second.

Vladimir Guerrero

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Postion: Right Field

Teams: Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles

Accomplishments: 2004 AL MVP, 9-time All Star, 449 Home Runs, Career .318 hitter, Career WAR: 59.3

Vladdy was one of the greatest pure hitters of his generation. It’s a shame he never won a World Series, though he at least got to play in one in 2010 with the Texas Rangers. Guerrero was unique in that it didn’t matter where the pitch was, he could get a hit off of it. The song “Head-Shoulders-Knees-And-Toes” is perfectly applicable to Vlad’s personal strike zone. Most guys who swung the way Guerrero did would be out of the Majors faster than they could blink, but he hit .318 for 16 years. In fact, he never hit below .290 at any point in his career (and that was his final season). His 2002 season, despite not winning the MVP, was one of the greatest seasons of the Steroid Era and he didn’t need PED’s to do it. He hit 39 home runs, stole 40 bases, hit .336, drove in 111 runs, collected 206 hits, and played in 161 games. Yet somehow he only finished fourth for MVP that year. Maybe it was because he played for the Expos. His son, Vlad Jr, is one of the top prospects in all of baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

Trevor Hoffman

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photo credit: The Mighty 1090

Position: Closing Pitcher

Teams: Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers

Accomplishments: 601 Saves (was the all-time leader when he retired, has since been passed by Mariano Rivera), career 2.87 ERA, 7-time All Star, Career WAR: 28.0

Trevor Hoffman is amongst the greatest closers of all time, as evidenced by being the first man to ever reach 600 saves. A big reason why Rivera got a lot of the fame and Hoffman didn’t was Hoffman spent nearly all of his career with the lowly Padres while Rivera was dominating with the Yankees. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoffman doesn’t get in on this ballot, as a lot of voters are hesitant to vote in a guy whose job was to pitch one inning every other game or so. But Hoffman was the best to ever do it in the National League and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Edgar Martinez

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photo credit: Seattle Times

Position: Designated Hitter

Team: Seattle Mariners

Accomplishments: Career .312 hitter, 309 home runs, 1261 RBI, 7-time All Star, drove in 145 RBI during the 2000 season at the age of 37, made the DH position what it is today, Career WAR: 68.3

This is one of the most controversial members of the ballot because Martinez was a career DH, he never played the field. I think Martinez should get in based simply on the fact that he was a revolutionary. He made the DH position what it is today. There is no David Ortiz, no Victor Martinez, no Nelson Cruz without the contributions of Edgar Martinez. Also look at that career WAR. Martinez’s career was only two years longer than Guerrero’s and he was worth almost 10 wins more than the stud outfielder and that’s for a guy who never had any defense contribute to that. That’s how good a hitter he was.

Mike Mussina

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photo credit: Baltimore Sun

Position: Starting Pitcher

Teams: Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees

Accomplishments: 270 wins (that stat is outdated today, but it means a little bit more during his era), 3.68 ERA (worth mentioning that for the bulk of his career, he had to face guys who were juiced on steroids, which likely inflated his ERA some), 2813 strikeouts, 5-time All Star, Career WAR: 82.7

The knock against Mike Mussina was that he was never truly dominant. He was just consistently good for 18 years. Mussina never won a title either, but damn was he close. He joined the Yankees in 2001, the year they lost to Arizona and just after their three-peat, and retired after 2008, the year before they beat the Phillies. Just shit luck for Moose. But consistency is a big part of what makes a great pitcher and you always knew what you were going to get with Mussina and he had a knack for staying healthy and pitching deep into games, as he had 11 seasons where he pitched 200 innings, including 9 in a row from 1995-2003. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Mussina doesn’t get in this year because of the fact that he never dominated, which is the baseline for a lot of voters (myself included, but I like to reward being able to trust guys. That’s why I’m leaning towards voting for Mark Buehrle when he becomes eligible)

Curt Schilling

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photo credit: The Daily Beast

Position: Starting Pitcher

Teams: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox

Accomplishments: 216 wins (see Mussina about my thoughts on pitching wins), 3116 strikeouts, 3-time World Series Champion, 2001 World Series Co-MVP with Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Career ERA of 3.46, Career Playoff ERA of 2.23, 6-time All Star, Career WAR: 80.7

Quite frankly, with a resume like that, the only reason Curt Schilling isn’t in the Hall of Fame is because of his political beliefs. He is extremely right-winged and is very open about it and some of what he says can come off as hate speech (for example, his views on transgendered bathrooms and Islam got him fired from ESPN). But to keep him out of the Hall of Fame for that? That’s bullshit. You can’t keep a guy out of the Hall of Fame for what kind of person they are, no matter what your beliefs are. Ty Cobb was one of the biggest racists in the game and he was the first man ever inducted, so don’t give me that shit about his beliefs keeping him out. He was lights out in the playoffs and was one of the toughest pitchers on the planet. I will forever respect the Hell out of him for his performance in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, also known as the Bloody Sock game. If you don’t know what that is, shame on you. Schill gets my vote every time.

Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones

photo credit: Kansas.com

Position: Third Base

Team: Atlanta Braves

Accomplishments: 1999 NL MVP, 1995 World Series champion, 8-time All Star, 468 Home Runs, 1623 RBI, Career .303 hitter, 2008 batting champ by hitting .364 in 2008 at the age of 36, Career WAR: 85.0

Out of all the newcomers, Jones is my one lock to get in. The guy was the face of the Atlanta Braves for 18 years and was the key catalyst behind the Braves teams that won a division championship 13 years in a row. An average WAR in the Majors is 2.0. Chipper’s WAR never at any point in his career dipped below 2.3. In my opinion, he’s one of the ten best third basemen of all time.

Jim Thome

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photo credit: NPR

Position: First Baseman/Designated Hitter

Teams: Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles

Accomplishments: 612 home runs, 1699 RBI, 5-time All Star, career .276 hitter, Career WAR: 72.9

Jim Thome was one of my favorites growing up. Now granted, it was mainly because we had the same first name and I pronounced his last name as how it’s spelled, not “toe-mee,” which is how it’s actually pronounced, but I still really liked the guy. It helped that he was also considered one of the nicest guys in the game (now yes, the Schilling argument works both ways, it shouldn’t matter what type of dude you are to be in the Hall of Fame unless you were a serial killer, but it’s part of his reputation). Being one of the greatest power hitters of your generation also helps. 612 home runs ranks 8th all time, though his 2548 strikeouts is the second most all time. What does bode well for him in that aspect is the man in first place is in the Hall of Fame (Reggie Jackson).

Just Missed: Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner

Honorable Mention: Pete Rose

The fact that Pete Rose still can’t get in as a player is just idiotic. All records show that he bet on his team to win, which I have no problem with because you’re not out there to sabotage your own team. Had he bet against his guys, I’d be totally cool with keeping him out. But you can’t have the all-time hits king not in the Hall when a guy who was named in the Mitchell Report got in. Those are my picks for the Hall of Fame, though I think only Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones will get in this year. I think Bonds and Clemens will eventually get in, but like I said before, I wouldn’t vote for them. Do you like my picks? Do you disagree with my stance on steroids? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

A Tale from my Baseball Career

So I literally have no idea what to write about for today’s blog, so I decided to try out a new segment where I recount some stories from my athletic career, some good, some bad. How well this blog does will determine whether or not I do more of these. I’ve always liked hearing peoples’ crazy stories from when they were athletes, no matter the level or sport, whether it be someone scoring a goal in soccer on the wrong field or when they got lit up by a future pro. So I hope you enjoy this one from my mediocre athletic career.

I was fourteen years old and playing in a Babe Ruth baseball game. If you follow my blog, you know I’m very passionate about baseball and I carried an even greater passion on the field when I actually played. I was in a lower level of Babe Ruth because, let’s face it, I wasn’t a great athlete, but I was good for that level. There have been several instances where I probably should have gotten ejected due to my on-field intensity. I’ve trucked the catcher in a league where that’s supposed to be an ejection, I’ve gotten in a war of words with an umpire over balls and strikes, and then this particular moment that I’m about to tell. Had the umpire known my intentions for this particular at bat in question, I most certainly would have been tossed and possibly even suspended, but since this was seven years ago, I’m sure the statute of limitations has passed for my suspension from Babe Ruth baseball, so I have no problem publishing it on the web.

My team from Sterling, Massachusetts was taking on a team from a nearby town called Fitchburg. Fitchburg was a much poorer town than Sterling was and tended to produce some nasty kids. I don’t remember how this game ended, or if we even won or not. I just remember that I was pitching and this one kid on the Fitchburg bench was taunting us pretty loudly and his teammates were hollering at what he was saying. I paid him no mind initially because earlier that season we had another kid get in our heads from taunting to the point where his antics literally cost us a run. This kid was probably the biggest dude in our league, he kind of looked like a 14 year-old version of Kane from WWE. I remember he was batting sixth for his team and came up to face me in the second inning. Well when he came up to bat, he tried to get another rise out of his teammates. He stood in the batter’s box, made the biggest grin as he bit down on his lower lip, widened his eyes like a mad man and started flailing the bat all over the place as his batting stance. His teammates were laughing their heads off from the dugout and, being the joyless shit that I was on a baseball diamond, I got furious. I didn’t show it on my face, but I was keeping down a lot of anger from this kid not taking the game as seriously as I did. Definitely an overreaction considering this wasn’t exactly the Major Leagues, or even AAU for that matter. But I made up my mind that I was going to throw at his head.

Now to get a sense of how physically imposing I was on the mound, here’s a picture of me from that season:

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Regular Roger Clemens on the hill, I know. I definitely struck fear in the heart of this kid that looked like he was pushing 200 pounds as a 14 year-old. And in truth, I didn’t even throw that hard, the hardest my fastball had ever been clocked at was 70 mph, which is slower than most Major Leaguers’ curveballs. But I felt like I owed it to myself to drill this kid in his stupid fucking face.

First pitch I hit the inside corner for a strike. I silently cursed myself for completely missing this behemoth of a kid and throwing a strike, though in my concussion-laden memory, that pitch looked like it was off the plate. I think the umpire may have expanded the zone for me to spite this kid at the dish. The next pitch, I missed again. And I missed so bad, I threw another strike! So now I was ahead of this kid 0-2 and I thought to myself: “shit! I’ve got him 0-2, I can’t drill him now!” As much as it pained me to do it, I decided to actually pitch to this kid. The next pitch missed on the outside part of the plate for a ball putting the count to 1-2. But now I saw that the kid wasn’t doing his stupid stance anymore, so I didn’t feel as bad about the next pitch. I gave him the high cheese and he bit and swung and missed on a pitch that was around neck-level and over the heart of the plate. He had struck out and nobody was laughing or cheering now and he kind of walked back looking dejected. So I go into an at bat intending to drill the batter, but my aim is so bad I accidentally strike him out. I like to think the baseball gods knew what I was trying to do and interfered, because let’s face it, throwing at a guy’s head is a dick move, which is where I was aiming. It’s one thing to drill him in the back, but I had every intention of head-hunting. But the baseball gods found a middle ground and I struck him out, which admittedly probably was more satisfying a victory for me than drilling him would’ve been. I learned something interesting about this dude when I told the story to a friend a couple weeks later. My friend knew the batter in question and apparently this kid had some violent tendencies. So perhaps I had dodged an ass-whooping by striking him out! Baseball gods came through for me again.

So that’s a tale from my athletic career. Do you want me to do this more often? Or did you not give a shit about my stupid unimportant days as a mediocre athlete? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.