NBA Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

gs warriors champs

Welcome to the final part of my 6 part series of NBA Offseason Grades! If you’ve been keeping up with series, I thank you for lending me your time and patience. If you’re just joining us now, well, better late than never!

For the newbies:

I’ve taken it upon myself to evaluate each team’s offseason transactions. I’ve given each team a letter grade based on whether or not I thought they made good moves considering their respective situations. This includes the draft, resigning period, free agency, trades, firings/hirings, and anything else I deem important. Most importantly, I answer the one pivotal question: Are they better?

I’ve unintentionally saved the most entertaining division for last, as today we discuss the Pacific Division. This division has given us so much in regards to entertainment value since June. We’ve seen a team make NBA history, free agency masquerading as a romantic comedy, the fall of an empire, and Vivek Ranadivé doing Vivek Ranadivé things!

This was awesome!

If you missed it:

Atlantic Division Grades

Southeast Division Grades

Central Division Grades

Northwest Division Grades

Southwest Division Grades

Key: 

  • (R): Rookie
  • (DnS): Draft-n-Stash – players drafted, but playing overseas next year
  • (D): Draft-n-Stash player joining the team
  • Bolded Names: Particularly notable players

And we start with our reigning Pacific Division/NBA Champions:

Golden State Warriors: A+

Re-signed: Leondro Barbosa, Draymond Green

Lost: Justin Holiday, Ognjen Kuzmic, David Lee

Acquired: Chris Babb, Jason Thompson, Gerald Wallace

Drafted: Kevon Looney

Other notable moves: N/A

What did they even do?

Exactly.

The disease of more* runs rampant through championship teams across all sports; and the presence of a salary cap keeps this concept a reality. Winning a championship was great, but the iron is hot. And once the team actually climbs the mountain, self goals often take over for team goals. Players want more money, more playing time, more recognition, a bigger role, etc. And so we see key cogs end up taking huge contracts from other teams and then they disappear, with their new money, into irrelevance; all while their former team struggles to defend their title.

*NOTE: “The disease of more” was coined by Don Pat Riley in his book “Showtime.”

Golden State’s team management were able to avoid the disease of more; at least during this offseason.

Of the 5 team free agents that Golden State needed to make a decision on, only 2 were regular rotation guys. Draymond Green may have gotten a huge raise (5-years/$82 million), but his value to the Warriors is actually fairly represented by his max contract; therefore, is exempt from this rule. And Leandro Barbosa (1-year/$2.5 million) is coming back on a very team-friendly deal.

The David Lee salary dump was a way for Golden State management to save money on the luxury tax. Lee is a solid player, but he really didn’t fit in Steve Kerr’s system anyway. He only played 904 minutes in 49 regular season games in 2014-15 (both career lows), and really only had a cup of coffee in the NBA Finals. Lee may be a good guy to have in your foxhole, but the Warriors certainly don’t need him to defend their title.

(Image from USA Today) Yup, the Warriors are bringing back everyone [who matters].

The drafting of Kevon Looney with the 30th pick sparked a little debate due to the prospect’s health issues (he had offseason hip surgery). This doesn’t worry the Warriors, though. They’re super deep and Looney is likely to ride the pine his rookie season anyway. However, he was expected to be a lottery pick before the report of his surgery surfaced the day of the draft. This makes Looney one of those low-risk/high-reward draft picks. And considering the personnel that the Warriors are boasting next season, they’ll have time to wait on Looney.

So management did their part in avoiding the disease of more. The Warriors will be bringing back just about everyone who mattered on an NBA championship team that boasted one of the 4 best regular seasons of all time. Golden State was right not to tinker with the roster. In this case, less is more. And now we’ll wait and see if Steve Kerr can keep the disease of more at bay during the regular season.

The Warriors may not have gotten better from a personnel standpoint; but they’re still a super deep team with championship experience and arguably the hardest home court for opponents to play on. The Spurs may have won the offseason, but the Warriors are still the champions. And like the Nature Boy Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

Are they better?: No (But dammit they’re still good).

Los Angeles Clippers:  F-   A

Re-signed: DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers

Lost: Matt Barnes, Glenn Davis, Jordan Hamilton, Spencer Hawes, Lester Hudson, Dahntay Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Ekpe Udoh

Acquired: Cole Aldrich, Branden Dawson (R), Chuck Hayes, Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, Pablo Prigioni, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson

Drafted: N/A

Other notable moves: N/A

DeAndre Jordan was rumored to want a larger role than one he was receiving with the Clippers. Perhaps to finally have an offense built around him. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz reported that DJ also grew tiresome of his relationship with Chris Paul , saying:

He [DJ] was tired of Paul’s constant barking and petty gestures, like distributing high-fives to the three other guys on the floor following a timeout but somehow freezing out Jordan.

And so on July 3rd, DJ agreed (in principle) to sign a 4-year/$80 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks.

A few days later in an interview with Bleacher Report Radio , JJ Redick gave the Los Angeles Clippers his own grade on how they handled their offseason to that point. Keep in mind JJ Redick is still under contract with the Clippers for 2 more years…

Is there an F-minus?

Listen, we had one priority this summer and that was to re-sign DJ and we missed out on that, so barring some miracle, [the] makeup of our team is completely different now. He’s such an integral part of what we did, not just defensively but offensively with his screening, his rolling, his offensive rebounds. His presence down low essentially made teams either commit to the three-point line when Blake [Griffin] or Chris [Paul] penetrated or commit to him, and that either opened up lobs for him or threes for guys like me and Jamal [Crawford] and Matt [Barnes].

So he was a huge part of what we did and missing out and having him leave for Dallas gives us a failing grade.

Yes JJ, I make up the rules for this article, so there is such thing as an ‘F-.’

But on the last day of the free agent moratorium, team owner Steve Balmer, Head Coach Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, and Paul Pierce organized a special ops mission to bring DJ back to the Clippers on a long-term deal. They literally infiltrated his house in Houston, Texas, with the intent of locking DJ inside his house until he agreed to sign a contract. They hashed out their differences, and then they played cards until midnight when DJ was able to officially sign a 4-year/$87 million deal to stay in Los Angeles.

It was an emojional day…

with a few laughs…

and some hurt feelings.

It was the most entertaining offseason day in NBA history.

Getting DJ back puts the Clips in good standing grade-wise. I roasted the Mavericks for even trying to sign DJ; so why would I applaud the Clips for going to such lengths to woo their center back?

It’s simple, the Clippers needed DJ to stay.

DJ is actually a perfect fit with the Clippers, his overpaid price tag be damned. He’s the third best player on a contender (ideal role), CP3 and Blake Griffin are running the offense and are very good passers, DJ is the best pick-and-roll finisher in the NBA, and he anchors the defense.

Obviously I was alluding to the fact that I don’t think he’s worth the $21 million+ per year, but it’s not like the Clippers could parlay that money into other players. The Clippers were already over the salary cap before the DJ contract, and the only reason they could pay him big money in the first place was because they owned his Bird Rights. If they lost DJ, they’re not getting anyone else who can replicate what he does for this team; at least not in free agency.

Last post-season the Clippers beat the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs in a 7-game first round series, and were 1 win away from making it to the WCF. Their starting point guard/league’s best point guard turned 30 in May and is entering year 11 of his career (history suggests he will begin to drop off this year or next), and Blake Griffin is just entering his prime. It’s simple, the Clippers are in win-now mode, and the way they went after DJ during the moratorium confirms that notion. DJ walks, and the Clippers are wasting next season.

The Clippers’ Achilles heal in the playoffs last year was their lack of depth. As I mentioned earlier they didn’t have much in the way of cap room, either. General Manager Doc Rivers turned chicken crap into a half-way decent chicken salad by acquiring depth through means of trades, trade exceptions, and minimum contracts.

They traded Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets for the notorious headache that is Lance Stephenson. Stephenson was a triple-double machine 2 years ago in Indiana, but played his way out of the starting line-up in Charlotte via his 38-17-63 shooting splits and just all around bad attitude. I don’t love the risk of bringing in Lance just because of his tendency to rub people the wrong way; but he’s coming into a situation where there’s strong leadership in both the locker room and organization, and he stands a better chance of being kept in check. I can justify the risk given these circumstances. Good move.

The Clippers will miss Matt Barnes’ toughness, his ability to defend multiple positions, and his ability to hit the 3; but the Clips were able to replace Barnes when they signed Paul Pierce to a 3-year/$10 million deal via the tax-payer’s mid-level exception. Pierce brings the same package to the table as Barnes did, plus a proven leadership presence. Pierce is also a native of Los Angeles and won a championship with Coach Rivers in Boston in 2008, so there’s also a little bit of a full circle narrative in relation to this signing. But hey, Pierce is a guy you want in your foxhole.

Doc also managed to pry Josh Smith away from a Western Conference rival despite only being able to offer a minimum contract. Smith is an 11 year veteran who showed a lot of value coming off the bench for the Rockets in the second half of last season; which instantly makes him an upgrade over the 87 year old Hedo Turkoglu. And I imagine the 14 4th quarter points that Smith threw down against the Clips in game 6 to save the Rockets’ season had a little something to do with this signing, as well. But that’s none of my business.

And the Clips also managed to bring in Cole Aldrich, Chuck Hayes, Wesley Johnson, and Pablo Prigioni to beef up the end of their bench. Solid role players at good prices.

Seems like Doc is getting better at this Coach/GM thing.

Are they better?: Yes.

Phoenix Suns: C-

Re-signed: Brandon Knight 

Lost: Earl Barron, Reggie Bullock, Gerald Green, Andrew Harrison (R), Jerel McNeal, Marcus Morris, Marcus Thornton, Brandan Wright

Acquired: Tyson Chandler, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic, Sonny Weems

Drafted: Devin Booker

Other notable moves: N/A

I haven’t had a good grip on the Phoenix Suns’ game plan ever since they traded for Isaiah Thomas in 2014 when they already boasted a Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe back court; then essentially traded Dragic, Thomas, the Lakers’ top-5 (now top-3) protected first round pick + spare parts for Brandon Knight.

I can’t base this summer’s Suns grade on what happened in past years, but its worth noting I have no idea what’s going on in Phoenix.

Anyway…

The Suns kicked off free agency by signing Brandon Knight to a 5-year/$70 million deal. I personally like Brandon Knight as an all around player, and I think he gets unfairly lambasted based solely on the amount of times he’s landed on the wrong side of a YouTube clip . But he’s a versatile combo guard who does a lot of things well. For some reason his stats dropped after the trade to Phoenix. Granted the sample size was small (11 games in Phoenix compared to 52 in Milwaukee), so it is possible he may have struggled adjusting to a new system on the fly.

(Image from USA Today) With Phoenix committing to Brandon Knight long-term, could Eric Bledsoe be the next Sun to go?

That being said, the Suns went about this all wrong.

Knight was a restricted free agent and the Suns came in with a massive deal in hand without letting the market decide his value. That’s a big no-no when it comes to restricted free agency, unless the player’s name is Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis of course.

They would have been better off letting him find a deal in free agency and just matching it. Sure, they may have ended up overpaying him to stick around anyway, but it beats overpaying the guy when the only team you’re competing against is yourself.

The Suns also brought in Tyson Chandler on a 4-year/$52 million contract. He’s obviously being brought in to anchor the defense and serve as a positive veteran leader with championship pedigree; which is good. I imagine Dallas would bring him back if they had a mulligan on free agency. The drawback is that Chandler turns 33 in October, has 14 seasons under his belt, and has had trouble staying healthy his whole career. It’s an alright pick-up at a fairly steep price. I can’t imagine that contract ages well, either.

The Suns also traded Marcus Morris (the lesser twin), and let Brandan Wright and Gerald Green walk in free agency. Mirza Teletovic is a nice pick-up as a floor spacer on the cheap; but other than him, the Suns brought in a cast of role players to fill in the blanks.

I liked the decision to draft Devin Booker at number 13. Booker was arguably the best shooter in his draft class, and should develop nicely in Phoenix’s pace-and-space system.

It’s obvious LaMarcus Aldridge was the apple of Phoenix’s eye this offseason. But LMA chose the San Antonio Spurs, and it appears the Suns didn’t have a contingency plan in case that scenario occurred. So now they find themselves in a situation with no star player and no real direction to go in next season.

The Suns went 39-43 last season (10-17 post trade deadline). Given whom they let walk and whom they brought in, I can’t say that the Suns are better than where they were April 15th. Jeff Hornacek is an under-rated coach who’s been really good at bringing out the best in his players; but even he has his work cut out for him this year in the loaded Western Conference.

I don’t really know where the Suns go from here; but it’s certainly not up.

Are they better?: No.

Sacramento Kings: F

Re-signed:  Omri Casspi

Lost: Reggie Evans, Ryan Hollins, Carl Landry, Ray McCallum, Andre Miller, Eric Moreland, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams

Acquired: Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan (R), Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo

Drafted: Willie Cauley-Stein

Other notable moves: N/A

Congratulations, Sacramento Kings! You just took the Most Dysfunctional Organization in the NBA title belt away from the New York Knicks!

Where do I even start?

How about allowing your 3rd head coach in 1 calendar year the opportunity to alienate your franchise center? Then let said head coach keep his job after he publicly looked to trade said franchise center? Yes, DeMarcus Cousins has 3 years left on one of the best bargain contracts in the league; but there’s no chance in Hell he’s sticking around Sac-Town after the 2018 season.

Or how about paying the Philadelphia 76ers a package of Nik Stauskas (2014 – Round 1, Pick 8), a future 1st round pick, and the right to swap picks in 2 future drafts just to take on Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and their combined $26 million+ salaries over the next 2-3 seasons?

Yes, this trade actually happened.

Forget the fact that they could have used the stretch provision to buy out Carl Landry. Why wouldn’t they just offer this trade to Denver for the right to Ty Lawson? After all, Denver basically ended giving away Lawson to the Houston Rockets following his 2nd DUI of the past year. This would have ultimately been a win-win for both the Kings and the Nuggets had it come to fruition. Instead, Denver dumped Lawson for spare parts and a late first round pick, the Rockets solidified their spot as a contender, the 76ers (briefly) looked like the smartest team in the room, and the Kings ended up tossing their future draft picks away and overpaying for a point guard who’s best years were left behind in 2013.

Speaking of which…

Go ahead and add a 1-year/$10 million contract for Rajon Rondo to Sacramento’s dumpster fire. In case you missed it, last season the Mavericks bet the farm on a Rondo resurgence in the hopes that he would be the missing link to a championship team. Instead, Rondo butt heads with Head Coach Rick Carlisle and played his way out of the rotation in the playoffs. Rondo threw away any leverage he had in a big money contract in free agency, and then the Kings gave him a $10 million deal when no one else even wanted him.

Yes, Boogie Cousins and Rondo will play for a team coached by George Karl. This instantly makes the Kings a must-watch NBA League Pass team. Not for the games themselves; rather for the comedy. Boogie, Rondo, and Karl could end up choking each other out on any given night! No seriously, its going to be Survivor: Sacramento Kings in 2015-16.

A couple other moves I’m not a huge fan of:
1.) Kosta Koufos – 4-years/$33 million. Bleh.
2.) Drafting Willie Cauley-Stein with the 6th overall pick; passing on Emmanuel Mudiay (7), Stanley Johnson (8), and Justise Winslow (10). I love WCS as a prospect; but the last thing the Kings needed was another center. There were better options at number 6, even if they planned on trading Boogie.

I’ll close with this. Pardon me while I borrow/touch-up a quote from Billy Madison that I think correctly reflects the Sacramento Kings’ offseason:

[Sacramento Kings], what you’ve just [done this offseason] is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever [seen]. At no point in your [embarrassing], [franchise debilitating moves] were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational [plan]. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having [witnessed] it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Original Version!

Are they better?: No.

Los Angeles Lakers: D

Re-signed: N/A

Lost: Vander Blue, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Price

Acquired: Brandon Bass, Michael Frazier (R), Jonathan Holmes (R), Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams

Drafted: D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Anthony Brown,

Other notable moves: N/A

This summer we witnessed the end of an era. Sure, the Lakers haven’t won a championship since 2010, and they last made the playoffs in 2013. But I’m not talking about wins and losses. Down years happen to just about every franchise, and the presence of a salary cap has made it especially difficult to maintain dominance over consecutive years.

Instead, I’m referencing the aura and the mystique that once upon a time surrounded the Lakers franchise. 16 championships, a big market, an LA lifestyle, establishing a legacy; what star player wouldn’t be drawn to these elements? Especially if the money was equal.

After all, good things would just happen to the Lakers throughout NBA history. Stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal would just fall onto their laps.

But not this time. There was no LaMarcus Aldridge; nor Greg Monroe. Instead their was Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert.

It’s not just failing to get a star, it’s why they didn’t get a star. Aldridge sat down with the Lakers twice, where they pitched branding, young pieces, and the opportunity to play with Kobe Bryant; but LMA was turned off by LA’s old-fashioned style of play. And he had no interest in being the Pau Gasol to his Kobe Bryant.

Meanwhile Greg Monroe turned down both the Lakers and the Knicks to play for the small-market Milwaukee Bucks because he believed they had the best chance of winning.

It was a bigger loss for the Lakers than it was for the Knicks. The Knicks have sucked for the better part of the last 15 years, and have swung-and-missed on a number of premier free agents. The Lakers aren’t used to this. This uncharted waters.

This summer was one of the last chances for the Lakers to extend Kobe’s career by adding another star, and yet it ended horribly.

I mean, the sum of the parts gained is actually fairly better than the parts lost. Brandon Bass cancels out the loss of Ed Davis, but Roy Hibbert finally gives the Lakers a rim protector. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams is a good pick-up assuming the Lakers keep him in that role and not try to shoe-horn him into the starting line-up with Kobe.

I also LOVE D’Angelo Russell as a prospect. But even D’Angelo drew the ire of Lakers Nation when he had the cajones to call Tracy McGrady the GOAT when one Kobe Bryant is on his team. Take a lap, young fella.

The Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves (temporarirly) stripped of their competitive advantages. Now they are forced to rebuild the old fashioned way like the rest of the teams in NBA: through draft picks and smart business decisions. Truth be told, it’s not the worst way to rebuild in this league. But this was not the gameplan GM Mitch Kupchak drew up. So this is going to cost them.

Are they better?: Yes.


 

 

6 divisions and 30 NBA teams later, and we’ve have completed the NBA Offseason Grades series! I’ll revisit these grades somewhere around the all-star break just to see where each team stands and see how accurate each representation was. Only 7 more weeks until opening night!

Thank you very much to basketball-reference.com , espn.go.com/nba , and hoopshype.com for the stats and information used in this article.

http://SportsRants.com

The Price Isn’t Right In Boston Right Now

The Boston Red Sox needed to get an ace this past offseason, so they signed lefty David Price. He didn’t come cheap. Price inked a seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston. So far however, he hasn’t lived up to his big contract.

One of the main reasons that the Red Sox signed Price was because of how mediocre their pitching staff was in 2015. The team lacked a true ace. Clay Buchholz was really Boston’s best pitcher last season. He went 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA, but only made 18 starts due to injuries. Buchholz has always been a decent pitcher, but he’s never consistently put up ace-like numbers. Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski knew that his team needed a true ace going into the 2016 season. Price was supposed to be that guy.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, he has not been the pitcher they expected him to be. Overall, he has a record of 8-5. However, this isn’t a good indicator of how Price has actually pitched. His ERA is up to 4.74. He’s allowed 109 hits and 57 earned runs in 102 innings pitched. Price just hasn’t looked like the dominant pitcher he’s always been.

His season got off to a rough start when he posted a 5.76 ERA in April, a month that included a start in which he allowed eight earned runs against  his former team, the Tampa Bay Ray. May wasn’t much better, as Price had a 4.62 ERA in the six starts he had in the month. He pitched somewhat better in June, as his ERA was only 4.08 for the month. He pitched better earlier in June, but he’s struggled over his last few starts. Last Friday against the Texas Rangers, Price only lasted 2.1 innings and let up six earned earned runs on 12 hits and had just one strikeout. His start on Wednesday on the road against the Rays was somewhat better, as he gave up four runs over 6.1 innings while collecting ten strikeouts. However, Price took the loss in the game.      

Given that we’re now into July, the MLB season is basically halfway over. Price’s stats at the halfway point aren’t all that flattering. He still has time to pick it up, but so far his adjustment to Boston hasn’t gone smoothly. Part of the problem could be pitching at Fenway Park. It’s never exactly been known as a pitcher’s ballpark. Given the short dimensions in left field, it’s hard for a lefty to have success pitching at Fenway. Still however, Price has always been a strikeout pitcher. In 2012 when he won the AL Cy Young Award while with the Rays, he struck out 205 batters. Two seasons later, he had a league-leading 271 strikeouts combined with the Rays and Detroit Tigers. In the 16 starts he’s made so far in 2016, he’s struck out 120 batter. His stats in this department have decline. The problem is that he’s allowing more hits and home runs. Price has already surrendered 15 homers this year. The most he’s ever given up in a single season is 25. That might change the way things are going.

David Price needs to turn things around quickly. He still has half the season to go, but he has yet to show any signs of turning the corner. Boston needs him to be the ace he’s been throughout his career. Right now, David’s definitely not worth the price that the Red Sox paid for him.

http://SportsRants.com

Yankees Need To Move Players Now

The Yankees seem to be running out of options as the all-star break approaches. They have been doing all they can to try and generate wins, but they have fallen short.

Their pitching has cost them games because they cannot play from behind. Starting pitchers have given up homeruns and that has been devastating for the Yankees because when their defense gets shaken up it has an effect on the offense as well.

The Yankees have been showing flashes of being able to be a good team, but they have not been showing that consistently and that shows in their record. They have another half of the season to right their wrongs, and depending on their attitude coming out of the all-star break that will determine if they can salvage their season.

There are difficult decisions that the Yankees have to make with only a month till the trade deadline. This season may be slipping away, but the future could look great if the Yankees trade for the right players.

They should be looking to get the most for the players they have to offer. They have plenty of talent on their roster that they could spread around and reel in younger players that are already established in the league.

They could also get younger player that could be groomed into better players in a few years. The rebuilding process can take a few years, but with the right moves that could speed up the process.

The Yankees being at .500 at this point of the season is not bad, but the way they have been playing is an indicator that the rest of the season could take a turn for the worst. The team can be on fire for a series and get swept the next series.

Breaking even in the American League does not guarantee a playoff spot for the Yankees because it is a tough division. It is important for the Yankees to make the right moves before the trade deadline not only for a better future, but also a better second half of the season.

Adjustments from game to game have not helped the Yankees in a big way, but it has kept them where they are. Switching the batting order has not produced runs and that means there has to been a new addition in the batting order.

The Yankees have to bring in a player that can drive in runs on a regular basis. They need someone who can come up with a big hit with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have seen plenty of young players that can do just that and they need a couple of them.

There have been reports from ESPN and Bleacher Report stating that the Chicago Cubs were looking to trade left fielder Kyle Schwarber for Yankees 8th inning setup man Andrew Miller. There are a few reasons this trade could favor both teams.

The Cubs are first place in the National League and having a pitcher like Miller in the bullpen for late innings or even becoming the closer can be great in the playoffs. Although Schwarber is out for the season with a knee injury he can be great next season for the team.

He is a young player with pop in his bat and he can be a great run producer for the Yankees. The Yankees would be potentially calling it quits on this season by making this move, but it would be great for their future.

http://SportsRants.com

2016 All-Star Preview

In the coming weeks baseballs brightest stars will descend upon Petco Park in San Diego for this year’s All-Star Week.

So, here’s an update of the top All-Star Game vote leaders and possible Home Run Derby candidates.

(All voting information is accurate per MLB.com as of June,27th,2016.)

American League All-Star Ballot Leaders by Position:

Catcher

  1. Salvador Perez (KC): 3,754,594
  2. Matt Wieters (BAL): 1,033,217
  3. Russell Martin (TOR) 981,618
  4. Brian McCann (NYY) 578,013
  5. Robinson Chirinos (TEX) 511,308

First Base

  1. Eric Hosmer (KC): 2,638,022
  2. Miguel Cabrera (DET): 2,088,920
  3. Chris Davis (BAL): 952,053
  4. Justin Smoak (TOR): 772,948
  5. Hanley Ramirez (BOS): 769,385

Second Base

  1. Jose Altuve (HOU): 2,186,949
  2. Robinson Cano (SEA): 1,276,010
  3. Dustin Pedroia (BOS): 1,081,667
  4. Omar Infante (KC): 949,308
  5. Ryan Goins (TOR): 757,923

Third Base

  1. Manny Machado (BAL): 2,196,732
  2. Josh Donaldson (TOR): 1,590,183
  3. Mike Moustakas (KC): 1,135,431
  4. Adrian Beltre (TEX): 1,099,086
  5. Nick Castellanos (DET): 789,144

Short Stop

  1. Xander Bogaerts (BOS): 2,825,025
  2. Alcides Escobar (KC): 1,478.645
  3. Troy Tulowitzki (TOR): 1,136,479
  4. Elvis Andrus (TEX): 917,112
  5. Carlos Correa (HOU): 694,103

Outfield

  1. Mike Trout (LAA): 2,972,582
  2. Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS): 2,184,884
  3. Mookie Betts (BOS): 1,915,637
  4. Lorenzo Cain (KC): 1,821,746
  5. Mark Trumbo (BAL): 1,801,969
  6. Jose Bautista (TOR): 1,707,134
  7. Alex Gordon (KC): 1,165,980
  8. Ian Desmond (TEX): 1,133,422
  9. Paulo Orlando (KC): 1,065,647
  10. Carlos Beltran (NYY): 964,473
  11. Kevin Pillar (TOR): 934,982
  12. Michael Saunders (TOR): 903,050
  13. Adam Jones (BAL): 726,916
  14. Melky Cabrera (CWS): 518,476
  15. J.D. Martinez (DET): 497,102

Designated Hitter

  1. David Ortiz (BOS): 3,400,200
  2. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR): 1,131,827
  3. Kendrys Morales (KC): 1,102,349
  4. Victor Martinez (DET): 865,194
  5. Nelson Cruz (SEA): 799,967

As you can see above, certain AL starting positons like catcher (Perez), second (Altuve), and designated hitter (Ortiz) appear to be locked in. But, first base and the last outfield spot could see tight finishes when the final votes are tallied this Thursday.

Betts currently has a slight edge over Cain and Trumbo, meanwhile Cabrera could see his current (tied for the majors longest active streak with Bautista) six game All-Star selection come to end should Hosmer hold his lead.

(Starting pitching, bullpen, and backups will be chosen by AL All-Star manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals)

 

(Photo Courtesy of SportsLogos.net)

(Photo Courtesy of SportsLogos.net)

 

National League All-Star Ballot Leaders by Position:

Catcher

  1. Yadier Molina (STL): 1,568,930
  2. Buster Posey (SF): 1,563,800
  3. Wilson Ramos (WSH): 1,282,287
  4. Miguel Montero (CHC): 854,629
  5. Jonathan Lucroy (MIL): 846,380

First Base

  1. Anthony Rizzo (CHC): 2,630,049
  2. Brandon Belt (SF): 1,233,499
  3. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI): 977,889
  4. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD): 734,448
  5. Brandon Moss (STL): 522,808

Second Base

  1. Ben Zobrist (CHC): 2,474,852
  2. Daniel Murphy (WSH): 2,167,918
  3. Joe Panik (SF): 768,312
  4. Neil Walker (NYM): 500,384
  5. Chase Utley (LAD): 488,170

Third Base

  1. Kris Bryant (CHC): 2,459,852
  2. Nolan Arenado (COL): 2,108,503
  3. Matt Carpenter (STL): 882,135
  4. Matt Duffy (SF): 665,802
  5. Martin Prado (MIA): 396,859

Short Stop

  1. Addison Russell (CHC): 1,741,182
  2. Trevor Story (COL): 1,423,547
  3. Corey Seager (LAD): 1,082,434
  4. Brandon Crawford (SF): 1,002,201
  5. Zack Cozart (CIN): 528,785

Outfield

  1. 1. Dexter Fowler (CHC): 2,230,877
  2. Bryce Harper (WSH): 2,253,083
  3. Yoenis Cespedes (NYM): 2,249,489
  4. Jason Heyward (CHC): 1,485,679
  5. Ryan Braun (MIL): 1,327,209
  6. Carlos Gonzalez (COL): 1,155,982
  7. Jorge Soler (CHC): 992,174
  8. Starling Marte (PIT): 893,952
  9. Andrew McCutchen (PIT): 816,079
  10. Stephen Piscotty (STL): 793,912
  11. Hunter Pence (SF): 764,004
  12. Matt Holiday (STL): 680,416
  13. Charlie Blackmon (COL): 644,191
  14. Marcell Ozuna (MIA): 578,015
  15. Angel Pagan (SF): 561,677

 

(Starting pitching, bullpen, and backups will be chosen by NL All-Star manager Terry Collins of the New York Mets)

 

You might have noticed a slew of Cubs players are currently projected to be All-Star starters this year. Granted at a few of those positions the vote separation margin is thin. As it stands today, though, fans could see Chicago accounting for more than half of NL-All-Stars starters (which would include the ENTIRE infield).

Fans will also want to keep an eye on who is chosen at catcher as it’s neck and neck between Molina and Posey. Meanwhile, those aforementioned cubbies infielders, Rizzo aside, could all be replaced (see Murphy, Arenado, Story/Seager) by the time it’s all said and done.

 

Home Run Derby Contestants (based on current HR leaders in the majors)

The derby has no doubt seen its share of rules and total contestant numbers change since 2013. Nevertheless, the 2016 Home Run Derby should feature eight players competing in a bracketed format with the NL and AL winner squaring off for the championship crown.

Rounds are likely to be timed rather than allotting players “x” number of outs as in years past. For a further history on the derby, and to see past winners, you can check out this link .

Below is a list of likely candidates for this year’s contest:

Mark Trumbo (BAL)-22HR**

Nolan Arendado (COL)-21HR**

Kris Bryant (CHC)-21HR**

Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)-21HR**

Adam Duvall (CIN)-21HR**

Todd Frazier (CWS)-21HR**

Robinson Cano (SEA)-19-HR**

Carlos Beltran (NYY)-19-HR

Nelson Cruz (SEA)-19HR

Trevor Story (COL)-19HR**

Chris Carter (MIL)-19HR

David Ortiz (BOS)-18HR**

Manny Machado (BAL)-18HR

Yoenis Cespedes (NYM)-18HR

Anthony Rizzo (CHC)-18HR**

Evan Longoria (TB)-18HR

Khris Davis (OAK)-18HR

Chris Davis (BAL)-18HR

Carlos Gonzalez (COL)-17HR

Mike Trout (LAA)-17HR

Josh Donaldson (TOR)-17HR

(** indicates a player I believe will likely be selected as a HR Derby participant)

 

Final Thoughts:

In the event you missed it above at any point, All-Star voting will conclude at midnight this Thursday June 30th. Fans can vote at MLB.com or anyone of the 30 MLB team websites and can do so up to 35 times.

This year’s All-Star game could be one of the more memorable ones, it’s Ortiz’s 10th and final outing, Story or Seager might be making a first time appearance, and getting to see Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale pitch on the same night is about as good as it gets.

Also, and this is an understatement, the Home Run Derby (July 11th) will be nothing short of a fireworks show, but with baseballs instead of roman candles.

The All-Star game will be played on July 12 at 8:00pm (EST).

Lack Of Timely Hitting Dooms Cubs

The Cubs lost their series opener in Miami against the Marlins. The Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth after Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and David Ross had managed to get on with one out. After Ross, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist came up to the plate.

Coghlan struck out swinging and Zobrist popped up to end the inning. The loss marked the first four game losing streak for the Cubs this season. Had Coghlan or Zobrist gotten on base with a single, the Cubs could have scored one or even two runners. The Cubs would have to fend off the Marlins again in that inning to win the anyway, but it is possible the Cubs could have won in they could have gotten a few more hits in the ninth.

Prior to losing to the Marlins, the Cubs had been swept by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. This cut the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central by three games. The Cubs still have a large lead on the second place Cardinals, but had a 12.5 game lead prior to being swept.

The Cubs lost their games against the Marlins and the Cardinals for a number of reasons, but mainly it has been their hitting, or lack thereof holding them back. In the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs averaged 2.33 runs per game. In their opener versus the Marlins, the Cubs only scored two runs. Nine runs over four games is abnormal for one of the MLB’s best offenses.

In addition to the Cubs struggling offense, several young prospects have taken the place of established stars in recent games. Albert Almora took the place a Dexter Fowler, and Willson Contreras took the place of Anthony Rizzo. There will be growing pains as Joe Maddon tries to get his prospects some playing time, but hopefully they will pass as the Cubs starters return to play.

Those prospects will become valuable in the near future, however, as they are considered for potential trades. For the past several weeks, multiple sources have said that the Cubs are looking to make a trade in order to bring in a big time reliever. Whether Albert Almora or Willson Contreras will be moved is speculation at this point but nothing should be ruled out at this point as the Cubs try to take improve their team for a long postseason run and try to take home some hardware.

Moving Forward

The Cubs have three more games to play the against the Marlins after losing the series opener and will round out the month of June against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. The Cubs will then finish their current road trip in New York against the Mets and then come home to play the Reds again in July.

The Cubs will look to get back on track going forward with two series against a last place NL Central rival. The Cincinnati Reds are 28-45 as of June 23rd, have a 17-20 home record, and are 20 games back of the 1st place Cubs. While it is still early in the season, the Cubs need to end their losing streak.

Why the Mets Must Consider a Reunion With José Reyes

It’s been a long time since José Reyes has played for the New York Mets. The once beloved shortstop used to be a fan favorite in Queens. Now, it appears as though he wants a reunion with his old team.

Reyes was designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday. Yesterday, the team requested waivers on him. If he clears waivers, he’ll be a free agent tomorrow. The 33-year old did not play in a game this year for Colorado. This was due to the fact that he was involved in a domestic violence incident during the offseason while on vacation with his wife. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided that Reyes would be placed on administrative leave to start the season. He was officially suspended on May 13. The Rockies eventually decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble, and released him.

The Rockies and Mets are two teams in very different situations. Colorado is under .500 and in third place in the NL West. They’re not expected to do too much this season. Keeping Reyes just didn’t make much sense.  The Mets are in second place in the NL East and are in a pennant race. However, they’ve been hampered by injuries all season long. Currently, Juan Lagares, Lucas Duda, and David Wright are all on the disabled list. Wright just underwent neck surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. It’s very likely that he’ll be out for the year. Because of all these injuries, the Mets should really consider bringing Wright’s old friend José Reyes back to Flushing.

Reyes could really help the team right now. His bat could be a boost in the Mets mediocre lineup. A player who is very familiar with playing in New York, he’d have no problem adjusting. In fact, his best years came while with the Mets. During his nine seasons with the team, Reyes batted .292. He led the National League in triples four times. Also, he stole 60 or more bases three consecutive years, from 2005-2007. His last year with the Mets was in 2011, a year in which he won the NL Batting Title. He left after that season and signed a six-year, $106 million dollar contract with the Miami Marlins. After just one season, the Marlins traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Reyes was with the Blue Jays until last July when he was again traded. That was the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto.

A Reyes reunion with the Mets makes sense for both parties. This week, Reyes reportedly spoke to a baseball official and discussed how he desperately wants to come back to Queens. Apparently, he hasn’t been truly happy since he left in 2011. This isn’t all that surprising, especially considering the success that he had with the Mets. He’s ready to come back, so the Mets must decide if they really want him or not.

Reyes will most likely clear waivers tomorrow, making him a free agent. This gives the Mets a very good opportunity to get him at  a low price. It’s a low-risk, high-reward situation. If they were to sign him, they would probably play him at third base, a position he’s never played before. Asdrubal Cabrera is having a very good season at shortstop for the Mets, and they don’t really want to move him. Reyes certainly isn’t the same player that he was when he left New York in 2011. His offensive numbers have slowly declined. That being said, he still has some speed and a little bit of power. Additionally, his presence alone would be enough to boost the team’s morale. Reyes has always been known for being a good clubhouse guy. The only real reason that the Mets might be hesitant to bring him back is the domestic violence issue. Although he was never convicted in court due to the fact that his wife refused to cooperate as a witness, the whole situation doesn’t look so good. He did not have a history of domestic violence before this incident. It’s definitely something that Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson will need to think about when he decides whether or not to seriously pursue Reyes.

The timing seems right for the Mets to bring back José Reyes. They could really use him right now on the left side of the infield. It seems as though he’d jump at the chance to come back to the Big Apple. We’ll see if the Mets decide to make a move on him this weekend.

Why You Should Root Against The Chicago Cubs

When the Chicago Cubs visited Miller Park earlier this year, I engaged in some discussions with their fans about the state of their franchise versus the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s obvious the “Lovable Losers” are in a far better position right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the continued struggles to win (or even reach) the World Series.

Yes, they look like an unstoppable force right now, owning the best record in MLB at 47-22 entering play Wednesday. With a relentless offense ranked 2nd in scoring (5.35 runs/game) and a pitching staff on pace to break the single-season team ERA record (2.70), Chicago has outscored its opponents by 169 runs to potentially threaten the all-time record for run differential set by the 1937 New York Yankees (+411 runs).

With all these positive numbers coming out of Wrigley Field, it would be easy to crown the Cubs the champs now and stew about as Brewers fans – or fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Still, baseball is a funny game, so I would implore you to keep root, root, root against the Cubbies and feel no guilt about it.

Great team or not, there are reasons to sit back and soak in the Cubs’ past pain…for now:

 

Baseball Curses Are Fun To Believe In

While the logical side of my brain knows there isn’t an actual curse held over the Northsiders (or any team), it’s fun to find supernatural reasons a team can’t win it all. When the Boston Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, it knocked off some of the mystique.

The Cubs, however, still have Steve Bartman with his infamous headphones, turtleneck and deflection away from Moises Alou‘s urine-soaked hands. They have the black cat that ran around Ron Santo, kick-starting the Cubs’ collapse, ultimately blowing a an 8.5-game lead in mid-August.

And of course, the actual curse supposedly has to do with a goat. A tavern owner and his goat were kicked out of Wrigley Field during the Cubs’ last World Series appearance in 1945. He cursed the team by saying “they’d win no more.” They haven’t even made it back to the World Series since.

In 2015, Chicago owned a paltry 97-65 mark, but still came short of their ultimate goal. They were swept by the 90-72 New York Mets in the NLCS to end the year with a thud. Adding more intrigue to the curse last season was the incredible performance of the Mets’ Daniel Murphy in the NLCS. He had a HR in all 3 games, adding a .417 average and 1.628 OPS.

In reality, the name Murphy might be the actual curse.

When the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, the owner’s name was Charles Murphy. He was not a well-liked man and was left off the guest list for the celebration dinner, something he was quite upset about.

The famous goat in ’45? Well, his name was Murphy, too. In 1969 (the year of the black cat), the Cubs blew that big lead to the Mets whose GM was Johnny Murphy and broadcaster was Bob Murphy. Then in the 1984 NLCS, Chicago had a 2-0 series lead (best of 5), only to lose all three games at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.

Hey, does anyone know what Steve Bartman’s middle name is?

Meanwhile, Game 5 of that ’84 series included a brutal error by first baseman Leon Durham, helping the Padres erase a 7th-inning deficit and go on to the Fall Classic. Durham was the first baseman because Bill Buckner was traded from Chicago to the Red Sox at the beginning of the season.

Buckner, of course, has the most famous between-the-legs error. When he committed that gaffe in the 1986 World Series, he was actually wearing a Cubs batting glove. Apparently curses have some crossover effect. Like I said…curses are fun! Why not keep the count going in the Windy City and make it 109 years – just for kicks and giggles.

 

From 2006-2014, The Brewers Had More Success

Since I was arguing on the side of Milwaukee against Cubs’ fans who would simply say the Brewers were awful, I made sure the have actual facts to shoot them down. Sure, the Cubs took an enormous step forward in 2015, but where were they the previous 9 seasons? From 2006-2014, the Brewers had 5 winnings seasons and went 740-718 for a .508 winning percentage.

In the same time, Chicago had only 3 winnings campaigns and went 677-779 (.465). Not to mention, Milwaukee also won more playoff series than the Cubs in that time frame.

In fact, Chicago never won a playoff game in that 9-year stretch, getting swept in both series they played. Milwaukee earned 6 playoff victories, and came just 2 wins shy of the World Series in 2011. The Brewers have no argument now, but how quickly Cubs’ backers forget.

 

Chicago Cubs Fans Are The Worst!

As a disclaimer, every fan base has their fair share of idiots and drunkards who can make games less enjoyable for everyone around them. With that said – Cubs fans are the worst. Well, technically the 2nd-worst behind Cardinals’ supporters (aka “Best Fans in Baseball” ).

Anyway, ask any Brewers’ fan how those Cubs’ backers act when they infiltrate Miller Park. Don’t get me wrong, a quality fan base will always travel well to opposing ballparks; however, I’ve never seen a group – as a whole – behave so ridiculously obnoxious that even I wondered if I’d ever go to a Cubs-Brewers game again.

For one, they barely know anyone on the team or actually understand what’s going on. During the hey-day of Sammy Sosa mania, they would jump out of their seats in exuberant joy anytime the ball went skyward. Never mind it was foul by 500 feet or that he catcher was camped under the ball.

Somehow it became cool to call yourself a Cubs fan, regardless of knowledge, loyalty or competence. There’s a strange arrogance and elitist attitude from the lot of them – odd since they haven’t won a title since 1908, and until last year, had won only one playoff series since 1990.

Of course, I heard from many “Cubs fans” in May tell me they “haven’t paid much attention to them in the last 5 or 6 years, but they’ve been glued to the guys the last couple of seasons!”

For being the 3rd-largest market in the US, they seem to have an inordinate amount of fans who are of the fair-weather variety.

 

The Cubs Are Going To Be Scary Good For Years To Come

Here’s the reality, and why you should embrace every Cubs’ failure as much as you can. Take pleasure in the Cubs’ pain right now, because they look primed to be one of the best teams for a decade or more. They already have stud, young hitters up and down the lineup, and a couple of good-to-great veteran hurlers.

With Chicago’s wallet size, you better believe GM Theo Epstein will be able to snag another pitcher or two that he thinks is worth the money. It might even happen this year or in the offseason.

They are also so stocked with young talent, giving Chicago multiple avenues to collect impact pitchers and hitters as needed via trade. The 97 wins last season – and NLCS appearance – were slightly ahead of schedule, so now there is little reason to believe the Cubs aren’t going full steam ahead. Considering how they look in the middle of June, it’s a bit frightening.

The Brewers are a number of years away from truly competing, so unless you really think the Pirates or Cardinals can catch the Cubs for the NL Central title this year (doubtful), we can only hope that either A) The randomness of the playoffs works against the Cubs’ talent or B) The Cubs truly are cursed and the “baseball gods” will intervene whenever they see fit.

Both are unlikely – so enjoy this as possibly the last moment the Lovable Losers moniker will make any sense.

Cleveland Indians Winning Big

The Cleveland Indians have been on a tear lately and they are slowly gaining momentum in the AL Central and they are becoming contenders. Being in the same division as the defending champions the Kansas City Royals is a challenge, but the Indians are looking like the team to beat right now. Cleveland has great run support for their pitching staff which is a key to any team’s success.

If they can keep up this great pace and continue to put multiple runs on the board they will be able to extend their lead in their division. They are only up by half a game, but they can continue to climb and gain a healthy lead before the all-star break.

In their last six wins only two of those games were decided by 1 run. Their hitting has been great that is why the other four games of those six wins were not in question.

Their division rivals the Royals have been battling with them all season. In their 2 most recent series Cleveland swept the Royals in 4 games, but the Royals would return the favor with a 3 game series sweep of their own. Both of these teams will give problems to each other throughout the remainder of the season, and it will be a battle to the end.

Cleveland swept a series against the Chicago White Sox and they showed that they are a great offensive team in a couple of different ways. In game 1 they held on to the lead till the 9th inning and then won on a walk off hit. In game 2 they outscored the White Sox by 11 runs, and in game 3 another walk off win.

There is one player that has been coming up big for the Indians and that is Mike Napoli. He had 4 RBI’s in those 3 games. He has been producing in his role as DH this season. Napoli is hitting .229 and he seems to be in a great rhythm as his team continues to win.

Stating pitching for Cleveland has been another key to their success. In their last 3 games all starting pitchers have worked through 6 innings. That efficiency can preserve the bullpen and keep everyone healthy which is important especially with the second half of the season coming up.

I think this team has the potential to be one of the best teams in baseball, but they need to continue win more of the series they play. Each series is different and Cleveland has made adjustments to keep winning, but Terry Francona and his coaching staff need to find a way to not get swept as often.

Cleveland is 8 games over .500 and they are trying to pull away from the rest of the pack in the AL Central. They are playing like a team with a purpose and they do have playoff aspirations.

Now that the Cleveland curse has been broken due to the recent NBA Finals victory, the Indians want to bring a pennant back to their fans. If they keep winning they will put themselves in a better spot to become World Series champions.

Cuban INF Yulieski Gourriel Available For Hire

According to MLB.com, Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel has been cleared to become a free agent and could sign with a team as early as this season. The 32-year-old has primarily played third base over his career (13 in the CNS and two in the JPL). He has also played at second base and short stop.

Gourriel has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave Cuba with permission of the Cuban government. He and his younger brother Lourdes (22-years-old) left Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following its Caribbean Series back in February of this year in search of MLB contracts (per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com).

Gourriel is regarded as the best baseball player in Cuba and it’s easy to see why when you look at his numbers.

Last year with the Industriales, Gourriel slashed a ridiculous .500/.589/.874 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in just 49 games. Throughout his professional career Gourriel has a slash line of .335/.417/.580 with 1,585 hits, 250 HR, 1,018 RBI, and 611 BB.

Given that Gourriel is considered by many to be Major League-ready right now, I thought I would provide a look at one team from each division who could potentially sign him.

 

National League East: New York Mets

According to ESPN, the Mets may pursue Gourriel aggressively (and understandably so).

With perennial third baseman David Wright likely sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a herniated disk, the Mets could use someone with Gourriel’s experience who’s ready to make an impact.

Gourriel would also have a clubhouse friend in countryman Yoenis Cespedes, so this would seem like a match made in heaven on paper for both sides.

 

National League Central: Pittsburgh Pirates

Sitting at third place in the NL Central and two-and-a-half games back for one of the two NL Wild Card spots, the Bucs could use a potential offensive boost and change of pace in their infield.

Currently Pittsburgh is comfortable at third base with David Freese and Jung Ho Kang. They also seem comfortable at second base with Josh Harrison, but Gourriel could possibly platoon at short stop with Jordy Mercer.

If nothing else, Gourriel would be welcomed infield depth and could add some needed pop into the Pirates’ lineup.

 

National League West: San Francisco Giants

I’ll admit, the Gigantes are a bit of a stretch here when you consider their more than serviceable starting infield comprised of Matt Duffy (3B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Joe Panik (2B), and Brandon Belt (1B).

However, it wouldn’t hurt to have Gourriel behind any of those guys or allowing them to rest come the dog days of August.

With Hunter Pence possibly out of the everyday lineup until after the All-Star break with a torn hamstring, San-Fran could use a batter of Gourriel’s caliber.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

 

 

American League East: Baltimore Orioles

The O’s aren’t exactly in dire need for an infielder either (see Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Jonathon Schoop, and JJ Hardy).

Nevertheless, with JJ Hardy still out and rehabbing a fractured left foot and the flexibility of the DH position, Baltimore could use Gourriel as infield depth in a platoon with Alvarez. The O’s could also put him at the hot corner over current starter Ryan Flaherty (while Machado covers at SS in Hardy’s absence).

As you can see, Baltimore would have options by signing Gourriel. And when you are trying to stay atop the AL East, having options is quite the luxury.

 

American League Central: Cleveland Indians

The Tribe, in my opinion, is the AL team who would benefit most by signing Gourriel now. Cleveland currently has a solid middle-infield with short stop sensation Francisco Lindor and veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis. However, the corners of their infield are getting a bit old (Mike Napoli, 34) and worn out (Juan Uribe, 37).

At 32 with 15 seasons under his belt, Gourriel isn’t young either but would seem more serviceable than Uribe at third. Though the Indians do have another promising young talent in Jose Ramirez (currently starting in left field but a third baseman by trade), the addition of Gourriel would give the Tribe more flexibility.

Cleveland is on top of the AL Central by a thin margin and Gourriel could offer assistance in helping distance that lead (you’re probably sensing an AL pattern by now).

 

American League West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have been red hot lately and have a seven-and-a-half game first place lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners. A large part of that success stems from one of the more crowded infields in the majors (see Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar).

However, they could make room for Gourriel at first base by rotating with Mitch Moreland.

At the very least, Gourriel could share DH responsibilities with Prince Fielder while also acting as infield insurance.

 

Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees

 

Final Thoughts:

While I feel the Mets or Indians will make the most aggressive run at Gourriel, you never know who might throw their hat in the ring.

This development will be one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. It would be surprising not to see Gourriel on a Major League roster by the All-Star break.

Can Ike Davis Really Help the Yankees?

The New York Yankees have not had much luck with their first basemen so far this year. They’ve been plagued by injuries at the position throughout the 2016 season. To try and deal with this problem, the team signed former New York Met Ike Davis on Sunday.

Davis, 29, started the 2016 season with the Texas Rangers organization. He was assigned to Triple-A to start the year and was never called up. On Sunday, Davis opted out of his minor league contract with the Rangers so he could pursue a major league contract. He knew that the Yankees were interested in him. The contract they signed him to is for one year and is worth $1.5 million.

It’s obvious why the Yankees decided to go after Davis. They’ve had so many injuries at the first base position. Before the season even started, their young power-hitting first baseman Greg Bird needed to have shoulder surgery and was ruled out for the entirety of 2016. Mark Teixeira was placed on the disabled list back in early June due to torn articular cartilage in his right knee. Teixeira has battled injury problems with his knee for years now. Utility infielder Dustin Ackley suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder in late May, requiring surgery. He’ll most likely miss the rest of the season.

With their options limited, the Yankees turned to Davis. Although he’s not the ideal candidate for first base, the team could do worse. In Triple-A with the Round Rock Express, he was hitting .268 with four home runs and 25 RBIs. As far as his Major League numbers go, Davis is a lifetime .239 hitter. A left-handed hitter with a decent amount of power, he once hit 32 home runs in a season. This came in 2012 while he was still with the Mets. The Mets traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in April of 2014. He was traded again during the 2014 offseason, this time to the Oakland Athletics. Davis only batted .229 with three homers and 20 RBIs during his lone season in Oakland.

Although Davis hasn’t put up great offensive numbers in his career, he could potentially hit a decent  amount of home runs in Yankee Stadium due to the short porch in right field. Additionally, he fields his position very well. He was known for making great defensive plays while he was with the Mets. The Yankees are planning on having him platoon first base with Rob Refsnyder, who bats right-handed. Davis also has a family connection with the Yankees. His father, Ron Davis, pitched for the Yankees from 1978-1981. Playing for his father’s old team could potentially motivate Ike.

The Yankees signed Ike Davis out of desperation. They basically ran out of options at first base. However, they have a chance to catch lighting in a bottle with him. After all, former Mets have had success with the Yankees in the past. The most recent examples of this are Chris Young and Carlos Beltran. He might actually be able to really help the team in this time of need.