MLB Trade Deadline Recap

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In all honesty, I actually forgot that yesterday was the trade deadline. I had some work-related things to take care of. BUT, as soon as I was done with that, it hit me and I scoured the internet for everything that happened during the Trade Deadline. Now to be clear, teams can still trade after this, however a trade can only occur after a player clears waivers. But this was the end of straight-up trades. So let’s take a look at 10 trades and what they mean for everyone involved.

10. Detroit Tigers trade CF Leonys Martin to the Cleveland Indians for prospects

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

This trade was a little funny to me because I literally JUST saw Martin play centerfield for the Tigers AGAINST the Indians on Saturday. I had luxury box seating for that game, which the Tigers won 2-1 (the picture above is actually from that game). Martin didn’t really do anything in that game, just thought it was funny to me. Centerfield has been a black hole for Cleveland this season and while Martin doesn’t necessarily fill that hole, he does represent an improvement over what the Tribe had been sending out there all season.

9. Minnesota Twins trade SP Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees for 1B Tyler Austin

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

Aside from Luis Severino (who has been ice cold of late), the Yankees have had mediocre starting pitching this season. They already added JA Happ from Toronto and now they add Lance Lynn from Minnesota. However, Lynn is in the midst of the worst season of his career, as he currently carries an ERA of 5.10. Prior to this year, he had yet to record an ERA over 3.97 for an entire season so the talent is certainly there. They send Tyler Austin to Minnesota, who is most notable for getting his ass kicked by Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Probably good for Austin’s safety getting him out of Kelly’s division. Gotta’ love it when teams have a player’s best interests in mind.

8. Toronto Blue Jays trade CP Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles and prospects 

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

This is basically a swap of problematic closers for both teams, both of whom for VERY different reasons. For the Astros, Ken Giles has struggled so much that he actually got demoted last week. Osuna is working his way back from an 80-game suspension as a result of a domestic violence incident from back in early May. However, up until then, Osuna had been one of the game’s best closers, posting 2.93 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 9 saves in 15 games. So we’ll see how they deal that in the coming weeks.

7. Baltimore Orioles trade SP Kevin Gausman and RP Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for prospects and $2.5M in international signing bonus money

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Gausman has flashed the talent to be an ace but hasn’t been able to put it all together for an extended period of time. Darren O’Day is a submarine pitcher with vicious offspeed stuff that can make him a real asset to a team on a playoff run like the Braves. The Braves didn’t give up a ton to acquire them, though it was smart of the Orioles to get international signing bonus money in return, as they had very little to speak of and would struggle to sign international prospects in the future without the added boost. A good rebuilding move by Baltimore.

6. Baltimore Orioles trade 2B Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Jonathan Villar and prospects

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Jonathan Schoop has struggled mightily this season but over the last couple years, he has been one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the game. The Brewers hope that by giving him a change in venue he will return to the 2017 form that saw him hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. If he can do that, the Brewers will be right back at the top of the NL Central, where they had spent most of the season prior to being eclipsed by the Chicago Cubs recently.

5. Anaheim Angels trade 2B Ian Kinsler to the Boston Red Sox for prospects

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

As I’ve said before, second base has been a black hole for the Red Sox and acquiring a 4-time All Star like Ian Kinsler won’t fix all of those issues, but he will certainly be an upgrade over the incumbent Eduardo Nunez. The 36 year-old Kinsler is hitting .239  with 13 home runs but is far superior defensively to Nunez. Aside from Mitch Moreland at first base, the Red Sox have really struggled defensively on the infield so a glove like Kinsler’s will be very welcomed even if he’s not the same guy who would average 20-20 seasons in Texas.

4. Tampa Bay Rays trade C Wilson Ramos to the Philadelphia Phillies for a PTBNL and cash

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins

I’m surprised how little it cost the Phillies to acquire Ramos from the Rays, especially considering he was supposed to start this year’s All Star game for the American League. I mean, I guess the fact that he’s currently injured would diminish his value, but a guy who can hit like he can and man the backstop the way he does should theoretically command more than a PTNBL and cash. But Michael Brantley was the PTBNL when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Indians for some prospects and the PTBNL so maybe that one becomes a gem (David Ortiz was a PTNBL before his MLB debut with the Twins in 1996).

3. St. Louis Cardinals trade CF Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays for prospects

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

I don’t understand this move from Tampa’s perspective. They appear to be a team that is selling despite their decent record (53-53 before the start of play on July 31) yet the acquire a talented outfielder like Tommy Pham from St. Louis. They traded Ramos and another player I’m going to get into soon, suggesting that they were blowing the team up, yet they add a Major League talent in Pham. Pham hasn’t been nearly as good this year as he was last year, but he still possesses the talent both offensively and defensively to be a major contributor.

2. Minnesota Twins trade 2B Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe and prospects

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

Brian Dozier is struggling mightily this season but he is still one of the deadliest second basemen if you aren’t careful. Dozier has hit 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, including 42 in 2016. Now he joins the Dodgers, who need help at second base, which has been a consistent revolving door for the last couple seasons. But look at this infield the Dodgers are now boasting, provided everyone performs to their abilities:

1B-Max Muncy/Cody Bellinger

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Manny Machado

Yeah. Just what the Dodgers needed. More talent.

1. Tampa Bay Rays trade SP Chris Archer to the Pirates for SP Tyler Glasnow and CF Austin Meadows

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays

This was a surprising move despite the fact that there had been rumblings about it for the last few days or so. Chris Archer had been rumored to be on the move for years now but the Rays had been hesitant to do so since Archer is not only one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s also had a big impact on the community. But with the haul the Pirates sent for Archer’s services, how do you say no? Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows are two of the best prospects in baseball. Glasnow has struggled in his brief stints in the Majors while Meadows is hitting .292 in his 49-game stint in the Majors. Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak likely prompted management to rethink their playoff odds as they’re now only a few games behind in the Wild Card hunt and 7.5 games out of the NL Central lead. But this is a BIG risk the Pirates are taking here because they are essentially mortgaging their future on one playoff run where they aren’t even in the driver’s seat. Luckily for them, though, Archer is under contract through 2021 so even if they miss out this year, they’ll have him for a couple more potential runs.

So another Trade Deadline has come and gone. Did you like the moves your team made or didn’t make? Or is your GM destroying your team from the inside? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Toronto Blue Jays

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving needs surgery on his knee and it looks like he’s going to undergo a procedure on it. It’s unknown how long he’ll be shelved for but with the playoffs right around the corner, as a Celtics fan I’m very nervous. Granted the Celtics are capable of winning without him, as they’ve shown in the past couple weeks, but if they’re going to topple the Cavaliers and Raptors, they need Kyrie at his best. So to take my mind off things, let’s get to our final American League edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the team up north, the Toronto Blue Jays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 76-86, 17 games behind Boston Red Sox, 9 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jaime Garcia, OF Randall Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, 3B Yangervis Solarte, RP Tyler Clippard, RP Seung Hwan Oh, SS Aledmys Diaz, RP Craig Breslow, RP Al Albuquerque, RP John Axford

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Jose Bautista, 2B Darwin Barney, LF Michael Saunders, 2B Ryan Goins, SP Brett Anderson, SP Tom Koehler, C Miguel Montero

Best Offensive Player: 3B Josh Donaldson

Best Pitcher: Marcus Stroman

Depth Chart:

C-Russell Martin, Luke Maile

1B-Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales (DH)

2B-Devin Travis

3B-Josh Donaldson, Yangervis Solarte

SS-Troy Tulowitzki, Aledmys Diaz

LF-Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce

CF-Kevin Pillar

RF-Randall Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez

SP-Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, JA Happ, Jaime Garcia

Bullpen-Roberto Osuna (CP), Seung Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Loup, Craig Breslow, Ryan Tepera, John Axford, Al Albuquerque

Coaching Staff:

Manager-John Gibbons (6th season in this stint with Blue Jays, 10th overall)

Hitting Coach-Brook Jacoby

Pitching Coach-Pete Walker

1st Base Coach-Tim Leiper

3rd Base Coach-Luis Rivera

Bench Coach-DeMarlo Hale

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The Blue Jays are in a tough spot right now, especially when you take into consideration the offseasons the Red Sox and Yankees had. There’s virtually no shot at them winning the division despite having a pretty talented roster in the grand scheme of things. Here’s how I expect them to line up in 2018.

1. Kevin Pillar-CF

2. Josh Donaldson-3B

3. Justin Smoak-1B

4. Kendrys Morales-DH

5. Troy Tulowitzki-SS

6. Russell Martin-C

7. Randall Grichuk-RF

8. Curtis Granderson/Steve Pearce-LF

9. Devon Travis-2B

When you take into consideration the hitter-friendly conditions at the Rogers Centre, this has the look of a lineup that could score a lot of runs. But last season they didn’t. They finished 26th in the Majors in runs scored last season and while they have gotten rid of dead weight like Jose Bautista, they didn’t make enough changes to really get excited over their prospects for the 2018 season. The one guy we can count on being really good at the plate is Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP, Donaldson was great again in 2017 despite battling injuries, hitting .270 with 33 home runs, walking 15% of the time, and being worth 5.0 WAR despite playing only 113 games. He also almost killed me last season. I went to a Blue Jays-Cubs game at Wrigley Field right before I was to head back to Indiana when I sat down with my burger and fries that my mom and I had gotten from the concessions. The Blue Jays were taking BP and Donaldson smoked one down the left field line where our seats were. I heard the people in front of me scream a little bit as the ball just missed my head and hit an empty seat just a few seats down and roll past my feet into another aisle. If I wasn’t awake before, I was after that. Justin Smoak had a breakout year for the Blue Jays, hitting .270 with 38 home runs, 90 RBI, and a 3.4 WAR. After those two, though, the Jays did not hit up to their capabilities. Hell, the fifth best WAR by a position player on the team belonged to career minor leaguer Teoscar Hernandez, who only played 26 games in Toronto and had a 0.7 WAR. Troy Tulowitzki continues to trend downwards as he only played 66 games and hit 7 home runs and hit .249 for a 0.0 WAR. It seems like so long ago that he was unanimously considered to be the best shortstop in the game with the Rockies. Despite playing great defense, Kevin Pillar was lackluster at the plate, only reaching base at a .300 clip. And don’t even get me started on Jose Bautista’s 2017 season, as he had the lowest batting average in the Majors at .203 and was worth -0.5 WAR. Just underachievement everywhere you look with this Blue Jays roster. However this team is also capable of scoring a ton of runs if you aren’t careful with them. Just because they underperformed in 2017 doesn’t mean 2018 is going to be a repeat of those failures. They’re only a couple years removed from back-to-back postseason appearances.

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Pitching was quietly a pretty solid element of the 2017 Blue Jays. They had a team ERA of 4.42, which was 14th best in the Majors, and they’re spearheaded by one of the most promising young right-handers in Marcus Stroman. After winning World Baseball Classic MVP with his masterful performance in the USA’s championship win over Puerto Rico, Stroman was able to carry that success over to the Blue Jays by throwing 201 innings, posting a 3.04 ERA and was worth 3.4 WAR. His K/9 rate of 7.34 was a little low for my tastes but despite playing in a hitter-friendly park in Toronto he did a good job of keeping the ball in the yard, as his 0.94 HR/9 was 4th best in the American League. JA Happ was also solid for Toronto as he had a 3.53 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. However after that there were a lot of struggles. After stellar 2016 seasons, both Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez underwhelmed in 2017, Estrada being due to overall performance and Sanchez being due to injury. Estrada carried a 4.98 ERA after 4 straight seasons of being under 4 while Sanchez only made 8 starts after posting the American League’s best ERA in 2016. Sanchez is a guy I’d be confident in returning to his old form, as he’s a sinkerballer who can throw it 95 mph and with that kind of movement at that speed, expect a lot of splintered bats. Estrada concerns me a little more because he doesn’t throw hard like Sanchez does and he relies a bit more on his control, which has been failing him as his BB/9 has risen in each of the last 4 years.

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Toronto’s bullpen, particularly closer Roberto Osuna, got off to a rough start in 2017. Osuna’s ERA was around 10 for much of April but he was able to drop it significantly by season’s end and finished with the 3rd best WAR amongst relievers, trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. Osuna also saved 39 games and struck out nearly a dozen batters per 9 innings. However there was a lot of turnover in this ‘pen in the offseason as after Osuna, Aaron Loup is the only guy of note that’s returning. Guys like John Axford, Al Albuquerque, and Craig Breslow have had success in the past, however their records of late haven’t been very promising and this bullpen could be one of the shakier units in baseball.

Overall, Toronto has one of the more talented rosters on paper but everybody seems to be trending in the wrong direction with the exception of Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, and Marcus Stroman. If they struggle in the first half like they did all of last season, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the phones ringing around the trade deadline. There are a lot of assets on this team that could help contending clubs and I think the Blue Jays would be wise to look to acquire some top prospects in order to build towards the future.

Projected Record: 78-84, 4th in AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me for the final time in this segment as I preview the Washington Nationals, who are in their last chance to try and win their first World Series title as Bryce Harper will likely be leaving after the season. Let me know what you think of the Blue Jays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

I’m sad to see that Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer has returned once again. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now but if he can win 4 straight AFC championships, beating cancer again will be a breeze. On to happier news, we enter Day 11 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 38 games behind Cleveland Indians, 21 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Francisco Liriano, RP Travis Wood, CF Leonys Martin, IF Alexi Amarista, SP Mike Fiers

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Alex Presley, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, IF Andrew Romine

Best Offensive Player: 1B Miguel Cabrera

Best Pitcher: Michael Fulmer

Depth Chart:

C-James McCann, John Hicks

1B-Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez (DH)

2B-Dixon Machado

3B-Jeimer Candelario

SS-Jose Iglesias, Alexi Amarista

LF-Mikie Mahtook

CF-Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones

RF-Nicholas Castellanos, Victor Reyes

SP-Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Francisco Liriano

Bullpen-Shane Greene (CP), Travis Wood, Alex Wilson, Zac Reininger, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Ron Gardenhire (1st season with Tigers)

Hitting Coach-Lloyd McClendon

Pitching Coach-Chris Bosio

1st Base Coach-Ramon Santiago

3rd Base Coach-Dave Clark

Bench Coach-Steve Liddle

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If ever there were a team in baseball that was in a rebuild, it’s the Tigers. They’ve practically gutted the team that started Opening Day for them. Gone are Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and pretty much anybody else who made the Tigers one of the potentially more dangerous teams in baseball. However they were going nowhere fast so they decided now was as good a time as ever to commence with the rebuild, which got off to a pretty good start as far as rebuilds go as they managed to finish tied for the worst record in baseball at 64-98 and won the tie breaker over the Giants for the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.  It’s a pretty thin Major League roster for the 2018 season, as you can see from their projected lineup.

1. Leonys Martin-CF

2. Nicholas Castellanos-RF

3. Miguel Cabrera-1B

4. Victor Martinez-DH

5. Jeimer Candelario-3B

6. Mikie Mahtook-LF

7. James McCann-C

8. Dixon Machado-2B

9. Jose Iglesias-SS

The only guys really of note in this lineup are Cabrera and Martinez and they appear to be nearing the end of the line. Cabrera had his worst season in 2017, as he hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI and was worth -0.2 WAR. Granted, it may not have entirely been his fault, as according to a “study” I did, Cabrera was the unluckiest hitter in the game last season. So perhaps 2017 was a fluke for the future Hall of Famer. Victor Martinez also struggled last season as he battled injuries, as he hit .255 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 107 games for a -1.1 WAR. In fact it was the second time in 3 seasons the 39 year-old was worth a negative WAR. However they’re also the only two hitters in this lineup that can be deemed as dangerous even if they’re practically shells of their former selves at this point. Nicholas Castellanos is a guy that could be a positive for this lineup, as he had a breakout season in 2017. He hit .272 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He was only worth 1.8 WAR, however that could be due in fact to his poor defense in right field, which could be excusable given the fact he’s still learning the position. He came up as a third baseman and played there for the first couple years of his career. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in this Tigers lineup. It could also be a rough time at the plate for the foreseeable future as the Tigers don’t have a single hitter in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects.

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The Tigers REALLY struggled on the mound in 2017, finishing with the worst team ERA in the Majors (5.36). The only real bright spot amongst pitchers who finished the season with the team was Michael Fulmer, who is basically the default ace right now. Last season, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR in 25 starts. His strikeout rate was pretty poor, as his 6.23 K/9 was 7th worst in baseball, however he showed good control, as his walk rate of 2.19 BB/9 was 11th best in baseball. He was also excellent about keeping balls in the yard, as his HR/9 rate of 0.71 was 2nd best in all of baseball (Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was best at 0.67). So despite the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of bats, Fulmer does a good job of not giving hitters great pitches to hit. After him, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Jordan Zimmermann has been a disaster since signing with the Tigers after a successful career in Washington, last season being particularly bad as he had an ERA of 6.08. Had he thrown 2 more innings to qualify for the Major League minimum, that would’ve given him the worst ERA in baseball by half a run (Matt Moore’s 5.52 was the worst among qualifying pitchers). New additions from the Astros Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano could provide some value in the rotation, but Liriano barely appeared for Houston late in the season while Fiers got bumped out of the rotation by younger pitchers.

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The Tigers’ bullpen is pretty rough. The only guy who had a solid season last year was Shane Greene, who will be inheriting the closer’s role. He had an ERA of 2.66 last year however his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that his defense was helping out his overall numbers. He did manage to strike out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings and he was able to strand 84% of inherited runners. However he lacks experience in the closer’s role as he only has 11 career saves, though looking at the rest of Detroit’s options in the bullpen, he’s really the only legitimate candidate they have right now. Their only other quality relief pitchers, Travis Wood and Alex Wilson, have a combined 8 saves between them in their careers and neither was particularly good last season. Wilson had an ERA of 4.50 while Wood’s was a whopping 6.80. It’s not even a guarantee Wood makes the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. After that, it’s going to be a bunch of experimental guys. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see some of Detroit’s top pitching prospects such as Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows appear in the Motor City at some point in 2018.

Overall, the Tigers are going to suck, but that’s kind of the point. The only exciting players on this team, Cabrera and Martinez, are 34 and 39 years old, respectively, and they may be past the points in their careers where they can be of serious value to the team. There are far too many question marks on the mound and I’ll be very surprised if the Tigers don’t end up in the cellar of the AL Central this season, perhaps even for all of Major League Baseball. However I do believe there is one team that will have a worse season than the Tigers, but they’re not due for another few days in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series.

Projected Record: 64-98, Last in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I transition from the worst team in the American League to the very best. We’ve got the defending champion Houston Astros on tap tomorrow as they look to try and defend their first ever World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Tigers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

Arizona head coach Sean Miller being wiretapped by the FBI revealing that Arizona was offering $100K to recruit center DeAndre Ayton is easily the biggest news happening right now but the news I’m most concerned with is that Indiana might be involved with these same agents. Miller’s brother, Archie, is the head coach at IU and it was revealed that Indiana may have been a part of a bidding war for current South Carolina stud Brian Bowen. It doesn’t appear that Indiana has too much against it, but considering that they’re just 10 years removed from the Kelvin Sampson debacle, another discovery of violations could be really damaging. But on to more positive news, we’re talking baseball again as Day 6 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days features the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a look at Joe Maddon’s club’s outlook for the season.

at Dodger Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

2017 Results:

Record: 92-70, Won NL Central by 6 games over Milwaukee Brewers, defeated Washington Nationals in NLDS, lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Yu Darvish, RP Brandon Morrow, OF Peter Bourjos, RP Steve Cishek, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Drew Smyly, C Chris Gimenez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Jake Arrieta, SP John Lackey, C Alex Avila, CP Wade Davis, RP Hector Rondon, C Rene Rivera, OF Leonys Martin, RP Koji Uehara, OF Jon Jay

Best Offensive Player: 3B Kris Bryant

Best Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks

Depth Chart:

C-Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella

SS-Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr

RF-Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos

SP-Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood

Bullpen-Brandon Morrow (CP), Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr, Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Justin Grimm, Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Joe Maddon (4th season with Cubs)

Hitting Coach-Chili Davis

Pitching Coach-Jim Hickey

1st Base Coach-Will Venable

3rd Base Coach-Brian Butterfield

Bench Coach-Brandon Hyde

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Chicago Cubs are shooting for another World Series title this season and one can’t argue against their chances in 2018. Offensively they boast arguably the brightest young core in all of baseball, as each of Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Happ, and Almora are all under the age of 30. In fact, when they won the 2016 World Series, their entire infield of Rizzo-Baez-Russell-Bryant was under the age of 26. So expect the Cubs to be very good for a long time. Here’s how the Cubs expect to line up in 2018.

1. Ian Happ/Albert Almora Jr-CF

2. Kris Bryant-3B

3. Anthony Rizzo-1B

4. Willson Contreras-C

5. Kyle Schwarber-LF

6. Javy Baez-2B

7. Jason Heyward-RF

8. Addison Russell-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

My one issue with this lineup is that it lacks a true leadoff hitter. I more put Happ and Almora in that spot because I think they have the potential to take over that role rather than whether they truly deserve it or not. But Joe Maddon is known to tinker with his lineup to a degree that would make Ruxin from The League proud. Hell there was a time where he experimented with Rizzo in the leadoff spot, which actually worked to relative success, I might add. But no matter where you put a guy like Kris Bryant in the lineup, he’s going to do some damage. Last season, Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs, 73 RBI, 111 runs scored, and was worth 6.7 WAR, which was 2nd best among all third basemen (Anthony Rendon’s 6.9 was tops). The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and 2016 NL MVP will look to add to his mantle in 2018. His partner in crime, Rizzo, was also excellent in 2017. He hit .273 with 32 home runs, 109 RBI, 99 runs scored, and was worth 4.0 WAR. Rizzo’s been a model of consistency ever since 2014 and nowhere is that more apparent than in his home run totals. Since 2014, his home run totals have been 32-31-32-32. If that’s not consistent I don’t know what is but you can pretty much pencil in Rizzo for 32 home runs in 2018. Kyle Schwarber’s a guy they hope can really come into his own in 2018 as he’s got a ton of pop but hasn’t quite put it all together. However if you look at him in Spring Training right now, it is VERY clear that he’s in incredible shape so I expect a big year out of him. But the biggest factor for the Cubs offense in my opinion was the breakout of young catcher Willson Contreras. In his first full season as the Cubs’ everyday catcher, Contreras hit .276 with 21 home runs, 74 RBI, and was worth 3.2 WAR. His emergence was a big reason the Cubs continued to be the class of the NL Central despite the slow start out of Bryant and the others. Expect the Cubs to have one of the best offenses in baseball in 2018.

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Cubs struggled on the mound last season. Jon Lester’s ERA rose nearly 2 whole runs from 2016-17, Jake Arrieta’s ERA rose to the mid-3’s, John Lackey’s ERA skyrocketed to 4.59, and their most consistent starter, Kyle Hendricks, missed much of the season due to injury. Arrieta and Lackey will not be returning in 2018 as both remain unsigned as of this writing and the Cubs have filled out their rotation with the signing of Yu Darvish, which I covered a few weeks ago. If Lester can return to half the form he was in 2016 when he was a finalist for NL Cy Young and if Hendricks can stay healthy, the Cubs could have another dominant rotation. Jose Quintana, whom the Cubs acquired at the Trade Deadline from the White Sox last season, was pretty inconsistent in 2017 but after his trade to the Cubs, he seemed to settle down a bit and had a 3.74 ERA in the second half. So if all their guys can pitch to their ability, the Cubs will have four aces on their staff.

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The Cubs’ bullpen saw a bit of an overhaul in the 2017-18 offseason. Gone are former closers Wade Davis and Hector Rondon but they added Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to replace them. The closer role is unclear but according to MLB.com’s depth chart for the Cubs, Morrow is slated to be the closer for the Cubs, a role he’s never really held before. The most saves he’s had in a season was 10 in 2008 with the Mariners but that was also a season where Seattle was trying to figure out what to do with him, as he also made 5 starts that year. However Morrow was excellent as the 8th inning guy for the Dodgers in 2017, as he had an ERA of 2.06 and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. In fact, manager Dave Roberts liked him so much that he became the second pitcher ever to appear in all 7 World Series games. New acquisition Steve Cishek has been a closer for the Marlins in the past so he is certainly an option to close out games if Morrow can’t go. Breakout youngster Carl Edwards Jr could also be an option. Edwards had a career year in 2017 as he pitched to a 2.98 ERA and struck out 12.75 batters per 9 innings. Plus he was the guy who was going to close out Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, getting the first two outs before letting up a run and being relieved for Mike Montgomery. If Edwards can continue his ascent, he could also find himself closing games by the end of the year.

Overall, the Cubs are looking really good for 2018. They boast a powerful young lineup with a plethora of talented pitching options. The key for them is going to be avoiding the slow start that plagued them for much of 2017. For much of the season, they found themselves playing catchup to Milwaukee in the NL Central before pulling away late in the second half. Milwaukee reloaded in the offseason, adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich so they mean business in the division. If the Cubs are going to stave them off, they’re going to need to be sharp for all 162 games, which they’re more than capable of. Joe Maddon is arguably the best manager in baseball and when you give him talent like he has in Chicago, it’s pretty easy to see why the Cubs have reached the NLCS in all 3 years of his tenure there.

Projected Record: 94-68, Win NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, join me tomorrow where I go cross-town to the Chicago White Sox, whose bright young prospects are lurking around, waiting to pounce on the rest of the Major Leagues. Let me know what you think of the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Top 10 NFL Players By Position for 2017

Yesterday was my NFL Awards for 2017, now we move on to the next segment of my postseason NFL series: Top 10 players by position. Now I’ve got to put a disclaimer on this: this isn’t necessarily who I think is the best at each position, I’m going by who had the best seasons. So guys who missed significant time due to injury will be at a serious disadvantage. For example, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt did not make the lists and will not appear on my Top 100 that I’m posting tomorrow, which follows the same rules. I’m trying to not take past success into consideration, buuuuut I’m only human and certain guys may have gotten some preferential treatment due to what they’ve done in the past. It’s my list, if you think it sucks, make your own. Better yet, leave a comment and tell me how bad my list is. So with that, let’s go position by position to see who the best in the NFL were.

Quarterback

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

1. Tom Brady-New England Patriots

2. Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks

4. Alex Smith-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jared Goff-Los Angeles Rams

6. Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints

7. Philip Rivers-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons

9. Kirk Cousins-Washington Redskins

10. Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh Steelers

If you read my awards blog, you would know that Tom Brady was my runner-up for MVP, an award he has somehow only won twice. Then again, Babe Ruth only won 1 MVP in baseball (granted, he played at a time when the MVP award was the Chalmers Award and the trophy was a car so you were only allowed to win it once. What a strange thing classic baseball was). But Brady, at 40 years old, is still the best quarterback in the game and it doesn’t matter who is on the field or is injured or whatever, Brady’s going to do big things. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were revelations this season as they seem to be jumpstarting the next wave of superstar quarterbacks in the NFL. Philip Rivers quietly finished second in the NFL in passing yards and was instrumental in helping the Chargers out of a 0-4 hole and nearly became the second team ever to make the playoffs after starting so poorly.

Runningback

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1. Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams

2. Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs

4. Mark Ingram-New Orleans Saints

5. Alvin Kamara-New Orleans Saints

6. LeSean McCoy-Buffalo Bills

7. Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

8. Ezekiel Elliott-Dallas Cowboys

9. Leonard Fournette-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Dion Lewis-New England Patriots

Naturally, my league MVP is going to finish at the top of my positional rankings. Todd Gurley had over 2000 yards from scrimmage so naturally, being the most complete back in the NFL today, he’s going to win out. Le’Veon Bell was also terrific, but his yards per carry was below 4.0 for much of the season, which is probably the thing that hurt him the most in my rankings. The fact that I had to say that and he’s still #2 on my list goes to show what I think of the guy. Ezekiel Elliott likely would’ve been much, much higher had he not had to serve the suspension because he actually was pretty quietly his same old self on the field. Dion Lewis makes the list purely for how well he finished the season, as he was torching opposing defenses to the point where it didn’t matter if Brady wasn’t at his best.

Wide Receiver

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1. Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Julio Jones-Atlanta Falcons

3. DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans

4. Keenan Allen-Los Angeles Chargers

5. Michael Thomas-New Orleans Saints

6. Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

8. AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals

9. Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

10. Golden Tate-Detroit Lions

After the top 2, this list got pretty tough. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are clearly the two best receivers in the game. After that things get pretty tight. I went with Hopkins at 3 because he was the league leader in receiving touchdowns. Keenan Allen was nearly my comeback player of the year, perhaps should’ve been because he was terrific. Adam Thielen carried my fantasy team to another third-place finish. Deciding who was 10th was probably the hardest choice, as there were a lot of different guys that could’ve been there and no matter who I chose, somebody deserving would be left out. I went with Golden Tate, though his teammate Marvin Jones could have also been the choice. Tate is one of the more dynamic receivers in the league and is basically a poor man’s Antonio Brown.

Tight End

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1. Rob Gronkowski-New England Patriots

2. Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

3. Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Delanie Walker-Tennessee Titans

5. Evan Engram-New York Giants

6. Jack Doyle-Indianapolis Colts

7. Hunter Henry-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jason Witten-Dallas Cowboys

9. Charles Clay-Buffalo Bills

10. Cameron Brate-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk could be the greatest tight end of all time when all is said and done, his career has been that tremendous and he’s not even 30 yet. He led all tight ends in receiving yards despite missing a game due to suspension and having no catches in the season finale, hence my conspiracy theory that he finished with exactly 69 catches for the season on purpose. Evan Engram was probably the lone bright spot for the Giants this season, as they appear to have a really talented player at the tight end position. I hate making this comparison because of the things that happened off the field, but Engram kind of reminds me of Aaron Hernandez with his athleticism and ability to play all over the field.

Offensive Tackle

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1. Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys

2. Trent Williams-Washington Redskins

3. Alejandro Villanueva-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Andrew Whitworth-Los Angeles Rams

5. Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

6. Lane Johnson-Philadelphia Eagles

7. Terron Armstead-New Orleans Saints

8. David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

9. Cordy Glenn-Buffalo Bills

10. Jack Conklin-Tennessee Titans

The main thing that put Tyron Smith at the top of this list is what happened to the Cowboys while he was injured. His replacement, Chaz Green, let up 6 sacks against Adrian Clayborn of all people and the Cowboys offense couldn’t even score on a hooker for the couple weeks Smith was out. But once he was back, it was like they were their old selves again even without Ezekiel Elliott. That’s MVP stuff right there out of the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva is not only a really good football player, but he’s a Hell of a man as well, particularly as a veteran of the Armed Forces. Go read up on the guy, you’ll see some pretty cool stuff.

Offensive Guard

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1. Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys

2. Brandon Brooks-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kelechi Osemele-Oakland Raiders

5. Joel Bitonio-Cleveland Browns

6. David DeCastro-Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Xavier Su’a Filo-Houston Texans

8. Brandon Scherff-Washington Redskins

9. Kevin Zeitler-Cleveland Browns

10. Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

The Cowboys front office continue to reap the rewards of telling Jerry Jones “no” when Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin. This is what happens when you don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Martin is about as well-rounded an offensive lineman as you’ll ever find. Despite their poor season, the Browns had some pretty solid pieces on the offensive line in Bitonio and Zeitler. They would’ve had Joe Thomas too if not for injury.

Center

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1. Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons

2. Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

3. Jason Kelce-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Rodney Hudson-Oakland Raiders

5. Maurkice Pouncey-Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Max Unger-New Orleans Saints

7. Brandon Linder-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Mitch Morse-Kansas City Chiefs

9. Ryan Kalil-Carolina Panthers

10. Corey Linsley-Green Bay Packers

I don’t know if I respect any player in the NFL more than I do Alex Mack, who played the Super Bowl on a broken leg, and played well I might add. I don’t think people understand just how much of a factor your legs play in blocking, given how large the upper bodies of these offensive linemen are. Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs tight end Travis, is quietly his brother’s equivalent on the offensive line, as he was arguably the most important part of keeping Carson Wentz, and then Nick Foles, upright.

Defensive Line

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1. Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars

2. Aaron Donald-Los Angeles Rams

3. Cameron Heyward-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

5. Malik Jackson-Jacksonville Jaguars

6. Kawann Short-Carolina Panthers

7. David Irving-Dallas Cowboys

8. Gerald McCoy-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9. Jurrell Casey-Tennessee Titans

10. Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles

This was kind of a tough one because while it’s hard to leave JJ Watt off any list, I really had no choice but to do it. He didn’t play enough. It became tough again putting Campbell over Donald because while I do think Donald is the best at his position, I think Campbell had a better season. Plus Donald held out the first game of the season, losing some ground on surpassing the Jaguars stud. David Irving was quietly among the best pass rushing interior linemen in the NFL. After having previously been best known as being the guy who got his nipple ring ripped out during practice, Irving went on to record 8.5 sacks at a position of constant double teams. Maybe that dumb thing was holding him back, who knows?

Edge Defender

at the Hard Rock Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

1. Von Miller-Denver Broncos

2. DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys

3. Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

4. Khalil Mack-Oakland Raiders

5. Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

6. Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Cameron Jordan-New Orleans Saints

8. Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

9. Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. JaDeveon Clowney-Houston Texans

Von Miller might not have had as many sacks as the guys behind him on the list, but he impacted games the way no other edge defender could. You have to double team him on the edge to really stop him and even then it might not work. When running the ball, you have to run to the opposite side of the field and he’s still fast enough to catch you. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks and as a Patriots fan, letting him go for just a second round pick that was used on Cyrus Jones continues to haunt me, especially when we had to go to a 39 year-old James Harrison to get some competence opposite Trey Flowers. JaDeveon Clowney continues to get better with each year as his pass rushing skills are starting to catch up to his dominance against the run.

Linebacker

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1. Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks

2. Luke Kuechly-Carolina Panthers

3. DeMario Davis-New York Jets

4. CJ Mosley-Baltimore Ravens

5. Deion Jones-Atlanta Falcons

6. Telvin Smith-Jacksonville Jaguars

7. LaVonte David-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Vince Williams-Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Joe Schobert-Cleveland Browns

10. Alec Ogletree-Los Angeles Rams

I feel like people don’t give Bobby Wagner enough credit for what he does for this Seahawks defense. Everyone likes to point to the Legion of Boom, but Wagner may be even more critical than the tandem of Earl Thomas-Richard Sherman-Kam Chancellor. Telvin Smith played a similar role with the Jaguars, as their secondary got a lot of the praise, but he was the main cog that made things go. Joe Schobert may be a surprising entry on this list but he actually led all NFL linebackers in run stops.

Cornerback

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1. Patrick Peterson-Arizona Cardinals

2. AJ Bouye-Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Xavier Rhodes-Minnesota Vikings

4. Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Darius Slay-Detroit Lions

6. Marshon Lattimore-New Orleans Saints

7. Casey Hayward-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

9. Jimmy Smith-Baltimore Ravens

10. Tre’Davious White-Buffalo Bills

This one’s kind of tough because it’s hard to measure a cornerback’s success. On the one hand, you can go with interceptions, but that’s often the result of being in the right place at the right time or could be an indicator that quarterbacks think they can challenge you. Really you have to go with advanced metrics, which I can’t provide without a Pro Football Focus subscription, which I’d be able to get if PEOPLE CONTRIBUTED TO MY FUCKING PATREON! *Exhales* I’m calm, I’m calm. But Patrick Peterson is not only an excellent corner, he’s also dynamite in the return game, which kind of puts him over the top for me. Darius Slay tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions this season, which when watching him play seemed to be more of a skill thing than a luck thing. Richard Sherman was left off this list mainly due to the fact he was battling injuries, which hurt his production some before he had to get shut down for the season.

Safety

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1. Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks

2. Harrison Smith-Minnesota Vikings

3. Eric Weddle-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kam Chancellor-Seattle Seahawks

5. Landon Collins-New York Giants

6. Kevin Byard-Tennessee Titans

7. Tashaun Gipson-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Jamal Adams-New York Jets

9. Glover Quin-Detroit Lions

10. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix-Green Bay Packers

It was a hard choice between Earl Thomas and Harrison Smith for top safety in the NFL this season, as both guys were terrific and leaders of top defenses. I went with Thomas simply because he’s been doing it for longer, though they’re basically 1A and 1B. Kevin Byard tied with Slay for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, which I actually think means more for safeties than it does for corners because playing safety is more about reading the field and deciphering what the quarterback is thinking rather than just straight up covering a guy like a corner. Jamal Adams was one of my favorite prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft and he and fellow rookie Marcus Maye were big parts in the Jets being somewhat relevant in 2017.

Those are my rankings by position for the 2017 NFL season. Check back in tomorrow for my Top 100 players, followed by my first Mock Draft. Let me know what you thought of these rankings in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.