January 22nd, 2015

Is This A Great Offseason, Or What?

So the greatest baseball offseason in my memory continues with deals, free agent signings and player transactions almost on a daily basis. Is this great for baseball junkies like you and me, or what?

Even though we are enjoying a tremendous baseball winter, we still can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report to Arizona and Florida, right? Spring Training. A new life for every team in baseball. We’ve been “waiting for next year” for several months and next year will finally be here. That’s when we begin to see what all the moving and shaking was all about. That’s when we get to see Yasmany Tomas in a Dbacks uniform. That’s when we begin to sort out which of the Cubs prospects have a chance to break with the club. With their lack of third base depth, does Kris Bryant assume the position right off the bat? Pablo Sandoval plays for the Red Sox. Wrap that around in your mind a bit. It’s only been words up to now. Soon it will be reality. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp will be in the same San Diego Padres outfield. Way cool.

OK-some deals went down this week and I have to weigh in with a couple of my thoughts.

I really like the way John Hart has targeted young pitching for the future of the Atlanta Braves. The pitcher that most intrigues me is Mike Foltynewicz. I remember seeing him pitch in the Astros Spring Training camp and being totally impressed. He’s a very cool customer on the mound with a very good arm. He has good command of a complete repertoire and I think he’ll be a fixture in the Braves rotation at some point-maybe even late this season. Add in Manny Banuelos, Shelby Miller, Max Fried, Tyrell Jenkins, etc. and the Braves are establishing a solid pitching foundation for their ultimate move to a new stadium. That said, I think they will struggle mightily to score runs this year. The lineup has been weakened tremendously, but all eyes are on their future.

I’m not one that thinks the Brewers forfeited too much in their trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers. I think eventually Jimmy Nelson will become a solid big league starter to take the place of Gallardo. It make take Nelson some time, but the upside remains. I do, however, like middle-infielder Luis Sardinas a great deal. It provides the Brew Crew with an outstanding defensive middle infielder and depth at two positions. Keep your eye on the health of Corey Knebel. If his elbow barks, it may be problematic. And the third player in the deal may be the “wild card.” Right-handed pitcher Marcos Diplan is very, very young. He has huge upside and could be the real winner of the deal. Time will tell.

Very quietly Carlos Corporan was designated for assignment and then traded from the Astros to the Rangers. While he may not be a starter is most team’s eyes, he has some pop in his bat. But he’s a guy that needs to hit regularly to stay sharp. If he were ever to get playing time, I think he could really emerge. We’ll see.

The Cubs have a new leadoff hitter after acquiring Dexter Fowler from Houston. I had disagreements on twitter when I said I felt he was a solid outfielder. Maybe not “outstanding” which was my original word, but I have seen him make some super plays roaming the huge outfield in Colorado. His defensive metrics aren’t good. But the Cubs get a guy that can get on base from the top of the order and one that will make the plays for them in center field. The Astros pick up Luis Valbuena to probably platoon at third base and Dan Straily for the rotation. Fowler will be replaced in center by free agent Colby Rasmus. Overall, I don’t see much improvement for the Astros during the off-season. Lots of moves, but are they better? I’m just askin’. I really think they could have used both Foltynewicz and Jarred Cosart who they traded to Miami last year.

IMO Jake Marisnick plays solid defense and should end up in left field most of the time in Houston with Rasmus in center. Marisnick came in the Cosart deal.

Max Scherzer to the Nationals? Who knew? Not me. I should have figured it out. The Nationals and the Boras Group have a very good relationship. Mike Rizzo drafted Scherzer when Rizzo was with the Dbacks. But man-in essence, isn’t Scherzer now equal to an “owner” of the club? I don’t write about money. But that’s some kind of money. And it’ll help James Shields. And next year’s crop of available pitchers like David Price and Johnny Cueto. If I’m the Nationals I keep all their starters. I wouldn’t think of breaking up a fantastic rotation that includes Strasburg, Scherzer, Zimmerman, Fister, Gonzalez and Tanner Roark if needed. On paper, they have a guy that can win every day. How many teams can really say that? Every day a starter touches the mound for Washington, they are a good bet to win that game. No #4 or #5 starter blues and woes. But. But games aren’t won on paper. They’re won between the lines. Injuries could hit. One or more of their pitchers could get a flat tire. But I sure like the makeup of that club.

Where does James Shields land? I still like the Orioles or the Blue Jays, but I have no idea. None whatsoever. I do know that he can lengthen a rotation, eat innings and help any big league club of his choosing. Maybe he’s waiting for that special team to call. Or he wants another year on the deal. Or more money. But it should be over soon. We should soon find out who wins the Shields Sweepstakes.

Remember when Hunter Morris was in the first base picture for the Brewers? It wasn’t too long ago. The job was his in Spring Training, but it didn’t work out. Now, he’s been designated for assignment. The light only shines for so long.

Tyler Clippard offers the Athletics a really fine late inning relief option. If needed, he can close. If not, he can set up. He’s a good fit for a club that may be better than many think. The deal they made with Washington for Yunel Escobar makes sense for both clubs. The Nationals can use more middle infield help. They got it.

And so now we wait. We wait for the words “the equipment truck departed today for Spring Training.” Those are among the sweetest words in the English language. Another great sentence is “Pitchers and catchers reported today to….to begin Spring Training.” Oh, how I love those words. So do you.

But keep your eyes posted here at BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD going forward. And follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff so we can talk some ball. I hope you’re enjoying my “On The Cusp” series on MLBPipeline.com. I write about each team’s prospects that may make the 2015 club at some point in the season. Finally, I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops on iTunes where my baseball partner Derek Van Riper and I talk baseball for at least an hour a week. And I’m still doing a weekly segment at noon eastern on Wednesday at Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports.

As always, thanks for your great support.