The 26th man debate

The new collective bargaining agreement that took effect in December did not touch the idea that the agreement would increase the roster size from 25 to 26 that many thought would be in the deal. League sources said that discussions were underway but the union objected because of service-time implications for September call-ups, but no agreement came about as both sides ran out of time.

The trade-off, still makes sense. Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal has argued that the league and union need to revisit this idea partly because an extra man would provide extra depth in an era where player health is a major issue. The roster limit would end baseball’s practice of having a completely different playing field when the postseason chase heats up. The goal is to prevent teams from using all 40 players on a roster in September.

One of the biggest issues with the 26th man is that most teams would fill that spot with a relief pitcher, which would extend games even longer. Any changes would likely come only in conjunction of pace-of-play rules. Service time issues would need to be resolved too.

Under the current system, a player can not be optioned after the minor league season has concluded. Some want a 28 man limit in September and league sources estimate that would give teams almost three weeks to option players, but potential manipulation made the union think again.

Rosenthal concludes by saying that this issue is not easy but not impossible and is worthy of further discussion after the end of the season.

In November, Sports Illustrated columnist Tom Verducci wrote than teams should not be allowed to expand their rosters without limitations on pitcher usage, “it will be the worst thing to happen to the sport since Astroturf and threaten to end the game’s period of record growth.”

Asked if a roster expansion needs a governor on pitching a GM said last fall, “No doubt. It seems like they want to address the lack of offense and they want to address pace of game.” The GM went on to say that a 26 man roster with no restrictions would be counterproductive and that people are too wise to solve September issues at the detriment of the last few weeks of the season.

He cites some interesting stats regarding the use of many pitchers in games. In 2016, teams used 742 pitchers, which was double the number that was needed in 1977. This equates to an average of nearly 25 pitchers per team, that number was 16 in 1986.

It is going to be extremely difficult for the league and union to come to an agreement that expands the rosters from April-August to 26 without any pitching restrictions. Furthermore, I don’t see any solution that has been offered that can work, especially when some starting pitchers don’t make it to the sixth inning or even earlier.

The 40 man roster rule that takes affect in September is too much. The limit should be in the range of a 33- 35 man roster because if it’s reduced too much, the downfall is jeopardizing September call-ups to get experience to see what it is like playing in the major leagues. The best solution to conquer games that go four hours with both teams sending six pitchers to the mound is to enforce the pace-of-play initiatives more rigorously. The league and union can implement some of the pace-of-play initiatives that are in effect in the Arizona Fall League, such as only three-time out” conferences per game. This is what the MLB and union should focus more on in the offseason.

 

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Three “Rental” Players the Astros Should Consider at the Deadline

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The Houston Astros are currently leading the AL West by 13 games and are not only surpassing expectations but also looking like the best team in the AL and possibly all of MLB. There is no doubt that a weak division has worked in their favor this season having lost only 8 games against AL West opponents, but when they get to the playoffs it’ll be a whole new ballgame. The fact that they will almost certainly face somebody out of a stacked AL East along with the possibility of whoever sneaks in from the AL Central (my guess is Cleveland, who did make it all the way to the World Series last season) creates a bit of a concern about their current roster. Although the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does hold some weight on team chemistry, the bottom line is the Astros will be facing teams that are on a completely different level than anyone in the AL West. The Astros don’t need to add a marquee player at the deadline with a large contract to take over a position from an everyday player, but rather just need to tweak the roster by adding some depth with the addition of some “rental” players that will only be with the team thru the end of the 2017 season. The fact that Houston still has a stacked farm system (6 players in the MLB top 100) with a current young core already at the pro level makes certain prospects expendable in order to obtain a World Series Championship this season. The following potential trades are for three “rental” players that the Astros should add to their roster to help achieve that goal without mortgaging the future or adding an unwanted long-term contract.

Astros Acquire from Athletics
YONDER ALONSO (1B/DH)

Yonder

A’s Acquire from Astros
YORDAN ALVAREZ (1B/DH)

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DAZ CAMERON (OF)

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Alonso is having an amazing season for Oakland, who currently has the 2nd worst record in the AL and is already looking ahead to next season. Batting .314 with 16 homeruns thru 54 games, his left handed bat would be a very welcomed addition to the Houston lineup and his versatility to split time between 1B and DH would give some random days off the 40 year old Carlos Beltran who currently batting .222 in the month of June and has seen dwindling numbers as the season has progressed. Having Marwin Gonzalez at 1B, Alonso at DH and the threat of Beltran as a PH could create some huge headaches for opponents in the postseason when facing the Astros, and would put their lineup completely over the top as possibly the best in the AL (if it isn’t already).

This move works for the A’s because it involves Oakland getting 2 young prospects under team control for years to come while giving up arguably their best hitter who will be signing some please else in the offseason. Yonder Alonso was signed by the Dodgers out of Cuba last season but was traded straight up for Josh Fields at the deadline in 2016. He has a high ceiling as a hitter but not very spectacular when it comes to his defense, which will likely make him an everyday DH with the occasional game at 1B. Daz Cameron is the son of former MLB All-Star Mike Cameron and was a top prospect coming out of high school in 2015. He fell to the 2nd round where the Astros were able to nab him at the 37th pick of the draft, but hasn’t progressed as fast as Houston has hopped. A place like Oakland would be a great place for both these players to develop and eventually become everyday fixtures in the near future for the A’s.

Astros Acquire from Pittsburgh
TONY WATSON (LHP)

Watson

Pirates Acquire from Astros
FRANKLIN PEREZ (RHP)

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COLIN MORAN (3B)

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One thing that the Astros are lacking is left-handed relief pitching, and Watson would be an outstanding addition to their staff. Houston already has a closer in Ken Giles, but Tony Sipp is really the only LHP they have in the bullpen and that’s where Whitley fits in with the Astros. Although Watson has been the Pittsburgh closer for 2 seasons, his was far more effective and had much better number before he took on that role for the pirates. Adding Watson does give you an additional option at closer if Giles were to get injured or have a streak of poor outings, but his true value would be that of a proven left-handed arm out of the bullpen.

Tony Watson is certainly going to gage interest from many contenders until the deadline passes so it is the responsibility of Pittsburgh to get as much in return as possible for the left-hander. Franklin Perez is only 19 years old, but has stuff in the mid 90’s and is considered at this point to be either a mid-rotation starting pitcher or possibly a future closer. Perez is the #95 overall MLB prospect and sits as the #9 prospect in the Astros system which also gives team an idea of how bright the future could be for this RHP. Colin Moran is a 6’4 3B who is batting .273 with 11 HR thru 48 games in the minors this season and would be a welcomed addition to the Pirates farm system while currently listed as the #7 prospect in the Houston system. Pittsburgh will have some tough decisions to make over the next few seasons as it seems that the window of opportunity with their current core is closing fast and in order to remain competitive in the NL Central they’ll need to stock their farm system and build from within.

Astros Acquire from Kansas City
JASON VARGAS (LHP)

Vargas

Royals Acquire from Astros
DEREK FISHER (OF)

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FOREST WHITLEY (RHP)

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The Royals will be in sell mode this summer and will also be likely losing quite a few players this offseason if they aren’t moved at the deadline or resigned this upcoming winter. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar are all everyday players who might all be gone from KC at season’s end, but starting left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas could be the most sought-after former Royal with offseason. Vargas is having the best year of MLB career and posting a 2.18 ERA along with 59 K’s in 12 starts this season and is in full “contract-season” mode. At age 34, he will get signed some place this offseason but his age could make some teams cautious about how many years he gets. If he were to get traded to Houston and win a World Series this season, it’ll certainly have a huge impact on both his resume and his paycheck in 2018. If Houston made this move it would give them the best 1-2 punch of left-handed pitching currently in the AL along with Dallas Keuchel, and sandwiched at #2 with Lance McCullers Jr. behind him makes for a very good 1-2-3 in the Astros rotation. KC currently sits 6.5 games back in the AL Central and 4.5 back in the wildcard race, so they still have a chance to compete this season but are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are 27-34 in a bad division which doesn’t look too promising for the Royals. The Royals have a few trade chips besides Vargas to help bolster their farm system, but with the season he is having thus far, Vargas is a top starter available via trade and it’ll cost any team that wants to land him.

The Royals would will get a great return for Vargas from someone, and it’ll cost Houston some top young talent to attain his services for the remainder of the season. Derek Fisher and Forrest Whitley are currently the #72 and #73 overall prospects in MLB as well as being the #3 and #5 prospects in the Astros system. Whitley is a 6’7 RHP who has stuff in the high 90s and was the Astros 1st round (#17 overall) pick in the 2016 draft. He is the #2 pitcher in the Astros farm system and would instantly become the top pitching prospect in the KC system. Derek Fisher is a former 2nd round pick that can play either CF or LF with descent offensive numbers but has great speed and a left-handed bat. He does have a high strikeout rate but at age 23 there is plenty of time left for him to develop and improve his numbers. If Fisher was added to the KC system, he would also immediately become their top OF prospect since Hunter Dozier (MLB #10 overall prospect) will almost certainly be the Royal third baseman of the future. This would be a huge haul for KC if this deal materialized and if not the Astros, some team will trade top talent to add Jason Vargas to their rotation for the rest of 2017.

San Francisco’s Season is a GIANT Dumpster Fire and it’s Time to Start Selling

giantslogodumpster-fire-600x315The San Francisco Giants currently sit 10 games back in the NL West, as well as the wild card race. After backing into the wildcard spot last season only to be embarrassed by the Cubs in the NLDS, the Giants appear as though their window of success with this current core might be closing. There are some pieces that they can keep and build upon on the current roster, but the reality is that big-name free agent signings over the past few years have left them with a depleted farm system that only boasts 2 current prospects in the MLB top 100 (RHP Tyler Beed #77 and INF Christian Arroyo #78) and nothing else significant in the pipeline. They need to SELL right now and get as much youth as possible in return but because of a few questionable contracts and no-trade clauses, the Giants are stuck between a rock and a hard place in regard to moving players. Here is a breakdown of who they should build upon, who they might be stuck with and who they should try and move ASAP…..

STICKING AROUND

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-Buster Posey, C, 31 years old
Posey is the face of the franchise along with being signed until 2022 and is having an outstanding season thus far. Obviously, he would command a king’s ransom if dealt but that won’t be happening since he’s arguably the best catcher in MLB along with having a full no-trade clause. Posey will be a Giant until his career ends.

-Joe Panik, 2B, 26 years old
Joe Panik won’t be a free agent until 2021 and is still too young with too high of a ceiling to be traded at this point of his career. His numbers this season aren’t as good as expected, but he’s only 26 and with exception of 2 players on the Giants, the offense as a whole is terrible this season. Panik is making $600K until 2021 which while surely keep him in Giants orange for a very long time.

-Brandon Crawford, SS, 30 years old
Similar to Posey, Crawford has been another face of this franchise and is signed until 2022 for big money. He’s a top shortstop in the league and along with Panik, gives San Francisco a great middle infield that would be hard to replace if you were to trade him away. Also, like Panik, his numbers aren’t ideal this season but improved hitting is certainly a strong possibility with Crawford and I suspect this will happen eventually.

-Madison Bumgarner, SP, 27 years old
When healthy, Bumgarner is a top 5 MLB pitcher and your ace for the future to build a staff around. In fact, a big part of moving players for youth this season is to secure enough money to resign Bumgarner when his contract is up in 2020. He isn’t going anywhere now or in 2020 when he becomes an UFA.

YOU MIGHT BE STUCK WITH THESE GUYS

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-Brandon Belt, 1B, 29 years old
Although Belt has been part of the 2 of the 3 recent Giants World Series Championships rosters, I don’t feel that he ever actually lived up to the hype he had coming into MLB as a rookie. Yes, he does have 2 rings, but he also had only 2 seasons where he hit above .280 and the reality is he is very replaceable. Sure, based on his resume and being only 29 years old he would seem to fetch a lot of attention in the trade market, however, the Giants made the questionable decision to give him a contract that doesn’t make him a free agent until 2022 when he’ll be 34 years old and also includes a modified no trade clause. His high contract and mediocre play will keep him in San Francisco unless they are willing to pay part of his salary for him to go away.

-Hunter Pence, OF, 34 years old
Hunter Pence is far past his prime, has terrible numbers this season, and isn’t a free agent until 2019. Once again, the Giants are handicapped by a full no trade clause and moving him this season will be difficult, to say the least. There is a chance a team might trade for him if their outfield is struck by injury and they have limited options, but $18.5 million a season for the next 2 years, that’s highly unlikely unless Giants are willing to pay part of his salary to leave San Francisco.

-Jeff Samardzija, SP, 32 years old
I didn’t understand why the Giants signed Samardzija for much as they did a few years ago, and due to his modified no trade clause and $19.8 million a season until 2021 he will remain in San Francisco for a while. He’s a good #3 or #4 pitcher in a rotation, but is highly overpaid and hasn’t been a #1 his entire career and that doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon. If they were able to move him, I think they wouldn’t get anything too good in return other than the relief that his $19.8 million a season would be some other team’s problem.

-Mark Melancon, RP, 32 years old
This past season’s big addition for the Giants was not a bad signing for San Francisco since they did need a closer (a new bullpen altogether in all honesty), but what’s the use of having a closer that costs you $42 million until 2021 if he rarely gets into a game to make a save? His deal is back-loaded at $14 million a season in 2019 and 2020 which will complicate trying to trade him, plus, a full no trade clause. He might be the most tradeable player for all listed in this section, but he’s only appeared in 17 games so far with 2 blown saves, however he is still a solid closer and a team with issues at that position might take a long look at Melancon at the deadline but the no trade clause leaves the decision up to Melancon.

TRADE ME RIGHT NOW

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-Johnny Cueto, SP, 31 years old
You’ll never get more for Johnny Cueto than you’ll get right now which is why San Francisco MUST trade Cueto ASAP and get a great return for him. Although he is over 30 years old, he is under contract until 2021 for $17 Million a season with a club option of $22 million in 2022. Cueto is as good of a #2 SP in a rotation that you’ll find in MLB and since the Giants (somehow?!?) were able to sign him without a no trade clause, he could become one of the top SP available via trade at the deadline. I think every team that is in contention right now would certainly take a long look at Cueto and what it would cost them. There is no doubt that the Giants would get offered a top prospect in return from more than one team for Cueto. He would be a great fit for the Cubs since Arrietta will be gone after this season and Cueto’s $17 million a season is a fair price. Until then if the Cubs did make a trade for him, a Lester, Cueto, Arrietta, Hendricks, Lackey rotation would be a force to be reckoned with if all are healthy and on top of their game and could certainly make the Cubs chances of repeat champions a reality.

-Matt Cain, SP, 32 years old
After spending his entire career with the Giants, I think this will be his last season in Giants uniform regardless if they trade him this season or decline his $21 million club option after this season. He is a great “rental” player that would likely get you a legit prospect in return from a team that has a loaded farm system. I could see him heading to the Cubs or Astros at the deadline with either team giving up a solid farm system player that won’t affect the future of either team. He would be a good #4 or a great #5 for a contender that need back of the rotation help.

-Matt Moore, SP, 27 years old
After a few outstanding seasons in Tampa, Moore’s tenure in San Francisco has not really gone as well as planned. He is currently 2-6 with a 5.22 ERA and is currently in the midst of his worst season since entering MLB. His age is a huge selling point since he is only 27 and has two low club options of $9.5 million in 2018 and $10 Million in 2019. Similar to Cain, he would be a good #4 or a great #5 and his contract that doesn’t include a no trade clause makes him very attractive at the deadline. San Francisco might consider hanging onto him for those same reasons, but if a contender offered you one or two valuable farm system players, I think you have to take that call and move Moore immediately.

-Eduardo Nunez, INF, 29 years old
Nunez is in a contract year where he becomes an UFA at this season’s end and I am willing to state with 100% certainty that he will be traded by the deadline. He is having the best season of his career and is able to play both infield and outfield which makes him one of the best utility players available via trade. Nunez should fetch a good prospect in return, and would be great fit on a team looking to add depth like the Angels, Cardinals, Brewers or Red Sox.

-Denard Span, OF, 33 years old
Span is under contract until 2018, with a mutual option of $12 million in 2019 which isn’t too bad for a team looking to add short-term outfield depth at the deadline. Age is working against him since he is 33 and having the worst year of his career, but teams could certainly do far worse than Denard Span. He can still get on base and steal you bases while adding veteran leadership, but isn’t an everyday outfielder anymore at this point in his career. Not sure how much you would get in return for Span, but if anything the Giants would like to get the $10.33 million that is still remaining on his contract off the books since he is not part of the long-term plan in San Francisco. He would be a good addition to the team like the Angels, Astros, Brewers or Cardinals.

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The Giants can either let the dumpster fire that is the 2017 season continue to burn or try and make the most out of a lost season at the deadline. San Francisco is a great organization that knows how to develop players and also attract free agents, the ladder of which could cost them more 1st round picks in the future. They need to fix their depleted farm system immediately to remain relevant in an NL West division that currently looks to be one of, if not the best in MLB with no signs of things changing in the future. Even the last place Padres have an extremely bright future with a stacked minor league system what will be emerging in the next few seasons to compete with the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks, all of whom are playing great baseball right now backed by some serious talent in the minors. I expect that that Giants might be the most active team at the deadline come July, with their sights set on rebuilding for the immediate future.

Championship season hangover?

As the MLB season is quarter of the way over, some are wondering whether the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs are dealing with a championship season hangover. No world series champion has repeated since the 2000 New York Yankees and Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated notes that, in the first 20 games the next season, champions have an average winning percentage of .569. However, when you look at the overall season, that number goes down to .535. In other words, the reigning world series champions winning percentage falls off by 43 points. What could be worrisome for some Cubs fans is that from 2000-2015, 7 of the 16 world series champions have made the playoffs the next season.

However, I am not worried about the Cubs not making the playoffs this year, but there are some concerns that the team will have to address in order to make another long playoff run. Two of their starters, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta both have an ERA of almost 5, and while their team ERA is 3.99, the team ERA was almost a run lower in 2016 (3.15)

Part of this is that Cub pitchers accumulated so many innings in 2016 that they may be going through a ‘dead arm period.’ Arrieta pitched 197.1 innings in 2016, Lackey 188.1, Kyle Hendricks 190 and Jon Lester surpassed 200. Another reason why the Cubs are not where they were last year at this time is that their offseason was cut short. Some of the players did not get much rest over the offseason, all the sudden Christmas comes along and it’s time to work out, plus spring training is only a month and a half away.

The defense is a cause for concern as in 2016, the team’s defensive efficiency rating was at .728. The defensive efficiency rate is the rate in which they turned batted balls into outs, was the highest since the 1991 Chicago White Sox. This year has been a different story as that number has dropped to .680, which is in the bottom 5 in the NL.

The Cubs should feel fortunate because other teams that made the playoffs in 2016 have seen their winning percentage drop. Take the San Francisco Giants, who had a .549 winning percentage in 2016, their winning percentage is well below .500, while the Cubs are slightly above .500.

If you look at recent history of teams that have won 100 games in the regular season, most of them lose in either the division or championship series. Yes winning 103 games like the Cubs did in 2016 looked good, but there are perils. Yes the Cubs made it look easy at times in the regular season last year, but they used a considerable amount of energy to get to the century mark.

Remember back in 2006, that team won 83 games, won the division and yes went on to win it all. There is something to be said to playing pre-playoff games in September and the Cardinals did not clinch a playoff spot until game #161 on October 1. Compare that to the Cubs world series championship, they won the division on September 15. As contradictory as this sounds, I would have preferred the Cubs to go through a stretch where they lost 5 of 6 because it can give the team the sense that despite what we have done, we are not unbeatable in a short series.

If the Cubs are to repeat this season, I would argue that going for 100 plus wins will not work. Furthermore, winning between 92-96 games is where I expect the team to finish and playing meaningful games deep into September is what can help accomplish the goal of winning another world series championship. The Cubs are not going through a hangover, but I am not surprised that they haven’t kept up with the 2016 record and I do not expect them to win 100 games, which may play to their advantage in October.

NL WEST BATTLE FOR 1st PLACE-DODGERS vs ROCKIES PREVIEW

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The battle for NL West Supremacy starts tonight as the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers travel to Denver to battle the first place Colorado Rockies.  Both these teams are coming off huge series wins after the Rockies took advantage of an underachieving Cubs team and the Dodgers swept a Pirates team that looks more like potential sellers at the deadline with each disappointing loss.  The Dodgers and Rockies lineups are both having great offensive seasons, but this series really comes down to some outstanding pitching match-ups over the next four days.

Although the Dodgers were thrilled with their recent sweep of the Pirates, it unfortunately did come at a steep price.  Outfielder Andrew Toles tore his ACL while attempting to catch a fly ball that would have preserved the current ho-hitter starting pitcher Julio Urias was in the midst of.  Toles will miss the remainder of the season, but the silver lining is current rookie of the year favorite Cody Bellinger is likely to stay with the club for the remainder of the year since he is currently the best hitting outfielder on the LA roster and injuries are starting to pile of for the Dodgers.  Speaking of no-hitters, the Colorado Rockies pitcher German Marquez had a no-hitter going against the Cubs in the series finale yesterday until Kris Bryant was able to end it with a double in the 7th inning.  Both the Dodgers and Rockies had success against two different underwhelming NL Central teams this week, but tonight starts a four game series which will either keep Colorado atop the NL West, or see a power shift with the Dodgers taking over first place in the division.

The Match-ups and likely starters look like this for the series:

THURSDAY

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LA (LHP, 1-4, 4.04 ERA) vs Tyler Anderson, COL (LHP, 2-3, 6.69 ERA)

Thursday’s game might be the most important of the series since it could set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  Ryu last pitched for LA on 4/30 when he struck-out nine Philadelphia batters and recorded the win before heading to the DL.  Anderson is looking for his second win in a row after a tough start to the season that saw his ERA shoot up to 8.59 at one point, but his last outing saw him strikeout 10 Diamondbacks batters on 5/6.  Each team will be looking to get the W in tonight’s contest and likely are pleased it’s two “question mark” pitchers that’ll face off in the series opener.

FRIDAY

Clayton Kershaw, LA (LHP, 5-2, 2.40 ERA) vs Tyler Chatwood, COL (RHP, 3-4, 4.74 ERA)

Clayton Kershaw is 1-1 vs Colorado this season with a combined 16 strikeouts, while giving up 13 hits between the two contests.  Chatwood has seen his numbers get better this season after 7 starts and has yet to face LA this season but only has 1 actual win against a team over .500 this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does against a Dodgers lineup that is currently putting up more runs than any team in MLB.  If Kershaw can dominate and get run support from the LA lineup, the odds heavily favor the Dodgers in game 2.

SATURDAY

Alex Wood, LA (LHP, 3-0, 2.73 ERA) vs Kyle Freeland, COL (LHP, 3-2, 2.93 ERA)

Alex Wood vs Kyle Freeland could be the highlight match-up of this series since both players are off to fantastic starts this season.  Wood looks like he finally reaching his potential and meeting expectations after battling injuries the past two seasons and was outstanding against Pittsburgh when he struck out eleven batters while only giving up two hits and extended his winning streak to three games.  Freeland had a bad outing against the Cubs on Tuesday but has pitched very well against LA twice this season with a combined 9 strikeouts while giving up 8 hits.  This game starts a two game stretch of very interesting pitching match-ups to closeout this series featuring promising young talent.

SUNDAY

Julio Urias, LA (LHP, 0-0, 1.06 ERA) vs Antonio Senzatela, COL (RHP, 5-1, 2.86 ERA)

This is a great match-up to wrap up the series on Sunday since it’ll be the best young pitchers on each team facing off in the finale.  Urias flirted with a no hitter earlier this week, although Manager Dave Roberts insists that LA is standing firm on limiting Urias’ pitch count and he likely wouldn’t have been kept in once he reached his max pitch count.  Senzatela is coming off a solid performance against the Cubs and has won 5 of his 6 starts this season to help lead the Rockies to 1st place in the NL West.  Neither of these pitchers have faced the opponents this season and this pairing could be a preview of a pitchers’ duel we may see for years to come in the NL West.

This is should be a fun series for MLB fans over the next four days featuring two dynamic offenses and stellar pitching staffs.  Coors Field has always been know at a hitter’s park, but some of the best pitching in MLB resides on both rosters and will be showcased over the next four days.  No doubt, with 10 more games between the two teams left to be played this season, things are just starting to get interesting in the NL West with a battle for 1st place this weekend which quite possibly an early playoff preview.

The Rangers Need to Trade Yu Darvish, Here are Some Ideas…

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The Texas Rangers are in big trouble right now, and it doesn’t look like things will get easier any time soon.  They just escaped getting swept by the 1st place Houston Astros last night and now head to Seattle to play three games in the Pacific Northwest against a Mariners team that plays far better at home opposed to the road.  The possibility of the Rangers getting swept this weekend is very real, meaning Texas could fall to at least 10 games behind the AL West leading Astros and panic will ensue…if it hasn’t already.  They currently sit 7 games back in the AL West, and it appears that the Astros will run away with this division if they continue their strong play and stay healthy.  The AL East already looks like a lock for the one game Wildcard Playoff (some combo of NY, BOS and BAL), so the Rangers have to clean house immediately and trade current players in order to help rebuild a farm system that only boasts 2 players in the MLB Top 100 Prospect list (#49 OF Leody Taveras and #50 LHP Yohander Mendez) or risk falling into obscurity for the foreseeable future.  That brings us to their next problem being that they have very few veteran players that are the least bit appealing on the trade market and ones that would be enticing are currently on the DL.  To make matters even worse for Texas, it was learned yesterday that ace Cole Hammels will miss at least the next 8 weeks due to injury, so let the Yu Darvish sweepstakes begin!!! Here are a few ideas as to where Darvish could be headed, and how the Rangers can help re-build in the process.  Yu Darvish not only the best trade asset Texas has, but could also be the best available pitcher in MLB via trade and teams will be lining up to add him to their rotations before the deadline.

CHICAGO CUBS

CUBS GET

Yu Darvish – SP (UFA in 2018)

Darvish

RANGERS GET

Javier Baez – IF (Under team Control with Arbitration until 2021)

Baez

Jeimer Candelario – 3B (Hitting .333 in Iowa right now)

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WHY THIS WORKS FOR BOTH TEAMS-

The Cubs offense is fine and in no way, shape or form does the absence of Javier Baez from the Cubs lineup hurt them offensively. The Chicago lineup is currently stacked, and let’s be honest here folks, Ian Happ WILL be your starting 2B for the next 8+ years once he arrives (which will be soon) and Baez will be the odd man out.  As For Candelario, he is having a great season in Iowa but the reality is that Bryant and Rizzo aren’t going anywhere any time soon.  No matter if it’s Texas or some Place else, he will be traded or be a reserve at best.  Baez and Candelario would give Texas 2 young players to add to the mix with Baez possibly taking Odor’s spot at second base and Candelario either moving to 1B or DH in the near future.  The only questionable position for the Cubs right now is pitching.  There is a really good chance that Darvish will leave Texas as an UFA so Rangers need to get what they can and this move gives the Cubs a Solid SP which is an instant upgrade from John Lackey and Brett Anderson.  If Darvish had numerous years remaining on his deal there is no doubt that Texas could get much more, but getting a king’s ransom for a “rental” player will likely scare away many suiters from over-paying.  Cubs have the luxury of being the reigning Champions and certainly have more than enough to win right now, but no sense in not making your team better if given the opportunity.  Since you never know when injuries will strike, there is no such thing as too much good pitching, and this move would be a win-win for both teams.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

DODGERS GET

Yu Darvish – SP (UFA in 2018)

Darvish

RANGERS GET

Will Smith – C (2016 1st Round Pick)

Will Smith

Mitchell White – RHP (2016 2nd Round Pick)

White

Gavin Lux – SS (2016 1st Round Pick)

Lux

WHY THIS WORKS FOR BOTH TEAMS –

As a Die-hard Dodgers fan, I am in NO WAY sold on the LA starting pitching right now.  Dodgers have a #1 followed by question marks, inconsistent performances and injuries.  Adding Darvish to the LA rotation would be an immediate upgrade from anyone they have who isn’t named Clayton Kershaw.  “If” healthy (and I stress the “If”), a rotation of Kershaw, Darvish, McCarthy, Wood and Urias could certainly be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason.  Yes, as you made have noticed, I am being extremely optimistic about the LA health and outlook when I include McCarthy and Wood in a potential post season rotation for the Dodgers – but it’s Friday, I ain’t got no job, and I believe in the power of positivity (it’s a new day, yes it is!)  As for the Rangers, they would get to take advantage of LA in this deal by getting both of the Dodgers first round picks from 2016 along with a second round pick that surely has potential.  Will Smith has a few years to go, but he will become an MLB everyday starting Catcher down the road, and the same can be said about the young Gavin Lux.  With the emergence of Seager as the top young SS in MLB and top 2B prospect Willie Calhoun awaiting his call the MLB level, Lux will be the odd man out in LA, so his loss wouldn’t be as hard of a pill to swallow as would be the loss of Will Smith, BUT……if it gets the Dodgers a World Series Championship by adding Yu Darvish it’ll all be worth it.  Mitchell White would be a great addition for Texas as he certainly has a high ceiling and recently converted from a RP to SP.  This move would give the Rangers players that will need a few years to develop but that is a great way to bring along your farm system when your able to trade an UFA and get two first round picks along with a second round pick in return.

BOSTON RED SOX

BOSTON GETS

Yu Darvish – SP (UFA in 2018)

Darvish

Adrian Beltre – 3B (UFA in 2019)

Beltre

A.J. Griffen – RHP (UFA in 2019)

AJ

TEXAS GETS

Pablo Sandoval – 3B (UFA in 2021)*Boston pays 100% of Sandoval’s contract

Pablo

Jay Groome – LHP (2016 1st Round Pick, #1 LHP in MLB Top Prospects list)

Groome

Michael Chavis – 3B (2014 1st Round Pick)

Chavis

WHY THIS WORKS FOR BOTH TEAMS –

This trade “technically” involves six players, but really only five since Texas would only take on the roster spot and not the contract of Pablo Sandoval.  This deal would actually be perfect for both team because of the two pitchers involved.  Boston would add Darvish to a rotation that could possibly look like Sale, Price, Darvish and Rodriguez as your one through four, with Porcello, Pomeranz and Griffin all competing for the five spot entering the postseason.  Boston would be adding Darvish, Griffin and also Adrian Beltre to a roster that is built to win and compete right now.  Beltre is an UFA in 2019 and it doesn’t appear as though he will get that chance to win a ring by remaining in Texas, and this move would allow him to move to a contender and play at 3B for at least the remainder of the season when he returns from injury and he would certainly be an upgrade from Sandoval.  I am totally aware that Jay Groom is the #1 LHP prospect in all of MLB, but Boston is in the most competitive division in baseball and by giving up their top pitching prospect, they would receive what could be the best SP that will be available by trade this season along with an outstanding player to cover 3B or be a DH in Beltre.  Texas, in return, would get a top pitching prospect to build around along with a young 3B in Michael Chavis that will give them flexibility at the corners along with the DH spot for the future.  Taking on Sandoval isn’t ideal, but if Boston was willing to cover his cost, it’s worth it to be able to develop young players during that time along with “tanking” for a few season in order to get those high draft picks.   If Boston was able to add another ring their recent collection, I don’t think they would have any issue giving up Groome and eating Sandoval’s contract to achieve that goal.

I think it’s pretty obvious that Yu Darvish will be traded this season due to the poor play of the Texas Rangers along with the recent loss of Cole Hammels to the starting rotation.  I truly believe that a large market team (like the Cubs, Red Sox, or Dodgers) will be willing to part with some key future assets and possibly current everyday players to add what might be the best player available at the deadline to their respective rotations.  It’s only the first week of May and things are already getting interesting in the MLB trade market, it’s already looking to be an interesting summer.

Cubs biggest threat

The 2017 season is not even a month old, but people are asking who are potential threats to the Cubs going repeating as World Series champions. It has been nearly 20 years since a team has repeated as World Series champions and I argue the competition will be stiffer.

Some of the potential teams that could pose a threat include the Los Angeles Dodgers as people may remember they were leading the Cubs 2-1 in the championship series before the Cubs took off. “They’re developing a powerhouse out there,” said team president Theo Epstein. “They’ve got a ton of resources. Andrew and his whole team are really bright and we see them as a team we have to go through year to year.”

The Dodgers have a ton of money and talent including Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, pitcher Julio Urias along with stud Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig. The best part of this from the Dodgers stand point is that all of these players are still in their prime years. However, the Dodgers are off to a sluggish start, starting under .500 almost one month into the season. The Dodgers surprised me the most out of any team last season, considering they lost Zach Greinke and the names in the starting rotation besides Kershaw did not really stand out.

The next potential team that could overtake the Cubs in 2017 are the Cleveland Indians. One of their key guys the tribe missed all of 2016 and could have made the difference was Michael Brantley, left-fielder. Add to that, the Indians got Edwin Encarnacion from the Blue Jays and will add to a line-up that should score runs on a consistent basis. The Indians have some unfinished business to do and look for that sense of urgency to be there, assuming they make it to October.

One team that has so much to prove in 2017 are the Washington Nationals, the expectations have been sky-high for a few years, but while they have been in the playoffs, they have not been able to advance past the division series. If the Nationals win their division and I think they should, considering the competition in that division is not real impressive, look out for the Nationals because if they make the playoffs, there will be a sense of urgency to win this year.

I am not going to predict anything in April, but I would not be surprised to see a Cubs-Red Sox World Series in 2017. The Sox got Chris Sale from the White Sox and he has not disappointed. In 37.2 innings pitched, his ERA is not even 1.25, which is better than his career ERA of 2.94. He is an intimidating at-bat and the Red Sox are going to ride on #41 to go as far as he can help take them. Even with David Ortiz retiring, the Red Sox offense will make pitchers throw pitches, as many Sox games end up being 4 hours or more.

One of the most difficult accomplishments in any sport is to repeat as champions, the league knows the Cubs and the game is all about adjustments. What will largely determine whether the Cubs repeat in 2017 or not is who will make the adjustments and whoever does that the best I argue will either dethrone the Cubs or the Cubs will raise a second straight World Series pennant.