Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hot Stove Preview

Now that the awards all have been handed out, the hot stove league is now in full swing.  I am going to give you my thoughts going into the off season.  No predictions, just some names that are available, trends and other factors to consider and think about as players are mentioned throughout the winter.

Major League Baseball is currently doing very well business wise.  Attendance was the sixth best in history with a total of almost 75,000,000.  There are more teams competing and making the playoffs -seven out of top ten teams with highest payrolls didn't make the playoffs last year.  Plus, the new television deal kicks in for the 2014 season, so every team will have more money to throw around this winter.
2013 Topps Heritage
Who is going to get this money?  The biggest name in free agency is Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.  He is asking for a ton of money and will likely get the biggest contract this winter.  Yankees seem destined to resign him.  Speaking of Yankees, they have a lot of holes to fill.  Starters, closer?, outfielder, a catcher, will Jeter be healthy in 2014? and about ARod?  Yankees don't know how much  money is available until his appeal of suspension is determined. If his suspension is upheld, ARod's contract is off the books, but otherwise New York will have to pay the $20+ contract that is owed to him.

Most of the free agents available are veterans who are past or leaving their prime years or coming off injuries.  Teams are hesitant to sign a player who is in early 30s to a long term deal, so you might see shorter deals at higher dollars.
If you watched the baseball playoffs this past month, you probably noticed that pitching dominated and the lack of power hitters.  These are the two areas the general managers are coveting the most this winter.   Home run numbers are down to where they were in the 70s and early 80s. and there isn't a lot in the market.  Outfielders Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson, catchers Brian McCann and A.J. Pierzynski and first baseman Mike Napoli will be mentioned the most.  Leadoff batters Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin Soo Choo will also be highly sought after.

2007 Calbee
As for pitching, there is no real aces available.  The top starters are veterans Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon, Hiroki Kuroda and Bronson Arroyo.  Some solid starters, but none are top of the rotation guys.   The best available starter in free agency could be a Japanese import, Masahiro Tanaka.  The 25 year old righty finished the regular season 24-0 record.  He is not considered as good as fellow Japanese import Yu Darvish, but is thought to be a number 2 or 3 guy in a rotation.  His stuff is comparable to Kuroda and will be seven years younger than Kuroda at the time of their respected MLB rookie seasons.  One thing to watch for here is that MLB and Japan's NPB are negotiating new posting policies for Japanese players who want to join MLB. If no deal can be worked out, Tanaka will have stay in Japan.
Available relievers are lead by Joe Nathan.  Nathan has been very consistent throughout his career. The 38 year old closer is actually the all time leader in converting saves in terms of percentage.  Other closers available are Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour.  We might see some setup men get deals just as good as the closers as all pitching is such a premium now, no matter if it is for beginning, middle or end of games.

Why very little amount of youth available in free agency?  It's because teams are locking up their young stars to long term deals years before they become eligible for free agency or arbitration.  If a team wants to get younger or fill a void during the winter, they would have to do it via trade.  With the lack of headline free agents on the market each year, we might see more blockbuster trades in the future.  The names mentioned the most this winter are starters Max Scherzer of Detroit and David Price of Tampa.  Texas could trade also trade one of their middle infielders Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus or even Jurickson Profar in trying to fill a need.  Teams are willing to trade these stars because either they are looking to lower payroll or get a return in investment instead of getting close to nothing when the players go elsewhere in free agency.

I hope I gave you some things to keep in mind when your favorite team or players are mentioned during the hot stove league.  Good luck to your teams this winter as we all looking forward to Spring Training. 

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