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.

Chi-Sox Deal For Padres’ Shields

According to SB Nations Chris Cotillo and CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes, the Chicago White Sox have acquired pitcher James Shields via a trade with the San Diego Padres.

Thus far, the Chi-Sox pitching staff has been anchored solely by Chris Sale (9-2/2.58 ERA/78 SO) and Jose Quintana (5-5/2.13ERA/67 SO).

Meanwhile, sophomore starter Carlos Rodon (2-5/4.41 ERA/59 SO), and veteran Mat Latos (6-1/4.02 ERA/31 SO) have struggled of late.

So, the trade for Shields (2-7/4.28 ERA/57 SO) is most likely to bring stability to the rotation.

If nothing else, he’ll eat a ton of innings.

Despite his own recent struggles, Shields has pitched 200-plus innings while earning double-digit wins for nine consecutive seasons (from 2007-2015, with an average ERA of 3.70).

Meaning Shields is durable, and capable of winning his share of games for Chicago.

Considering how close the race for first place in the American League Central has become, Chicago will take any win they can get.

Currently, the White Sox (29-27) are two games behind the Kansas City Royals (30-24), with the Cleveland Indians (29-24) wedged in-between.

(Photo Credit: San Diego Union Tribune/AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

 

It’s also important to note that Chicago will be getting Shields at cost.

Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells, the Padres will pay $29 million of the $56 million left of Shields’ four year deal, which dates back to February of 2015.

As for what San Diego received from the deal, per the San Diego Union Tribune’s Dennis Lin, the Padres got minor leaguers Fernando Tatis Jr. and Erik Johnson.

Before this Saturday swap, the 33-year-old veteran was scheduled to start opposite Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray this Sunday.

The White Sox have next Monday off, and Shields could potentially replace Sox pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (scheduled to start Wednesday June 8th), to make his first appearance with Chicago, during the teams interleague series against the Washington Nationals which begins the following Tuesday (June 7th).

Final Thoughts:

All in all, this deal should pan out for the White Sox.

Chicago isn’t investing too much contract wise with Shields, and merely gave up a pair of unproven prospects.

Best case scenario, Shields bounces back to his old form with a new team. Worst case scenario, he fails to reach nine wins this season, and only pitches 175-plus innings of work.

Either way, Shields could be the difference between the Chi-Sox winning their first division crown since 2008, or making the post-season via one of the two AL Wild Card spots.

Mets and Royals Set for World Series Rematch on Opening Night

This Sunday night, the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals will play in Kansas City to open up the 2016 MLB season. The game will be the last of four games being played on Sunday as part of Opening Day 2016. Both teams are very familiar with each other, as they faced off last October in the 2015 World Series.

The Royals will raise their World Series Championship Banner on Sunday night. It was just five months ago that they defeated the Mets in five games to capture their second championship in franchise history. As good as the Mets were, they could not handle the relentlessness of the Royals’ hitters. Kansas City’s shortstop Alcides Escobar especially hurt the Mets at the top of the lineup with his first-pitch aggressiveness. New York clearly had the better pitching in the World Series, but the Royals’  explosive offense overcame them.

Tensions will certainly be high on Sunday. For the Mets, the memory of the Royals celebrating after winning Game 5 at Citi Field is still fresh in their minds. The Royals are apparently seeking revenge as well, but for a much different reason. Game 3 of the World Series last year opened up with Noah Syndergaard throwing a pitch high and inside to Alcides Escobar. Clearly, this was meant to intimidate Escobar and to make sure he didn’t swing at the first pitch. The Royals didn’t take too kindly to this. They obviously didn’t retaliate right away, but reports came out this week that they’re planning on getting revenge. It’s unclear whether or not they will, but it’s definitely something worth watching for.   

It’ll be interesting to see if either team can get back to the World Series this year. The Mets boast one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball with Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo ColonZack Wheeler will join this stellar rotation later in the year, as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Additionally, the team had a decent offseason, as they re-signed slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The also signed shortstop Asdrúbal Cabrera and traded for power-hitting second baseman Neil Walker. With this team, the Mets have a good chance to get back to the World Series.

The Royals are in a similar situation. Their team is not that much different than the one that won it all in October. The only thing that has really changed at all is the starting rotation. Johnny Cueto left Kansas City this offseason and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Cueto basically became the team’s ace after he was traded to them from the Cincinnati Reds back in July. He had a stellar start in Game 2 of the World Series, helping the Royals jump out to a 2-0 series lead. To replace Cueto, the Royals signed Ian Kennedy. Their starting pitching really isn’t their strength anyway. Probably their biggest strength is their fantastic bullpen, which includes Kelvin HerreraLuke Hochevar, and Wade Davis. These three pitchers make up a very dangerous 7-8-9 combo. All three were vital during the Royals’ playoff run last season. Their offense will also be a major factor again this year. In addition to Escobar, guys like Alex GordonLorenzo CainSalvador PerezMike MoustakasEric Hosmer, and Kendrys Morales are all poised to have good years. This Royals team is just as dangerous as they were last season. It would be a surprise to no one if they reached the World Series for the third consecutive year.

When both teams take the field on Sunday night, there will certainly be a lot of excitement in the air. Opening Night of the baseball season is always a great night in the sports world. Matt Harvey will start for the Mets, while Edinson Volquez will go for the Royals. The 2016 MLB season is finally ready to commence. It’s time to get it started.

LaRoche Opts For Early Retirement

Many people were surprised when it was announced on Tuesday that first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche had informed the Chicago White Sox that he was stepping away from baseball. His early retirement was not something the team was expecting.

LaRoche, 36, is reportedly stepping away from the game due to a personal problem. Colleen Kane of The Chicago Tribune first reported the news. LaRoche spoke to his teammates and coaches on Tuesday and told them his decision. No one was expecting this. The announcement really came out of nowhere.

Part of the reason that LaRoche’s retirement is so shocking is that he’s walking away from a lot of money. He would have made $13 million in 2016. The White Sox had signed him to a two-year, $25 million contract back in November of 2014. The fact that he’s turning away $13 million means that LaRoche must really feel that it’s time to leave the game.

Although he was being paid a lot of money last season, he didn’t have a very good year. In fact, 2015 was statistically the worst year of his carer, as LaRoche batted just .207 and hit 12 home runs while collecting only 44 RBIs. He certainly didn’t live up to his contract.

This subpar season could have factored into his decision to retire. However, it seems as though the main reason for his retirement is something that team president Ken Williams said to him. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Wednesday afternoon that Williams had told LaRoche that he had to cut down on the amount of time that his 14-year-old son Drake was spending with the team. LaRoche obviously didn’t take too kindly to this. It’s unfortunate that this situation ended in him retiring.

LaRoche was definitely a major power threat in his prime. Over the course of his 12-year career, he hit 25 or more home runs in season six times. His best season came in 2012 with the Washington Nationals when he belted 33 homers and had 100 RBIs. Both were career-highs. That year, he also won the Gold Glove Award for first base, as well as the Silver Slugger Award. Additionally, LaRoche finished sixth in the NL MVP Award voting in 2012.

Last year, the White Sox turned LaRoche into a designated hitter. He stilled played a little first base, but the majority of the games he played in 2015 were as the team’s DH. His offensive numbers declined rapidly, especially compared to what they were in Washington. However, he’d still probably be playing right now had it not been for the argument with Williams. After all, he was set to make $13 million in 2016.

This story surrounding Adam LaRoche’s retirement is extremely bizarre. He had a decent career, and hopefully he’ll enjoy retirement. Clearly, family come first for him.

Upton Deal Proves That the Tigers Are All-In

At the beginning of this offseason, it appeared as if the Detroit Tigers were going to be spending the 2016 season in rebuild mode. They traded away two of their best players at the trade deadline (Yoenis Cespedes and David Price), and this resulted in them finishing 74-87 , which was good for dead last in the Al Central. But then they started making a flurry of moves which jolted them right back into win-now mode, and this may not be for the best.

The Tigers started their offseason off by addressing their biggest need. On November 18th, the Tigers dealt two minor leaguers to the Milwaukee Brewers for five-time all-star closer Francisco Rodriguez.  This deal helps the Tigers immensely, as the past couple years they were a good bullpen away from being world champs.

rodriguez_francisco-1040x572

(AP Photo)

The next move that the Tigers did helped shore up their starting pitching, but it was not as smart of a deal as the one that netted them K-Rod. On November 30th, the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmerman to a 5-year $100 million contract.   Now getting good starting pitching was a priority for the Tigers this offseason, but the Tigers may have overpaid on Zimmerman just a little bit.

Now, to the Upton signing. The Tigers signed Upton to a six-year, $132.75 million contract, which – as Bob Nightengale of USA Today points out – makes him the third highest paid position payer to sign this offseason, behind Jason Heyward and Chris Davis. And I do not think that was an investment that will help the Tigers.

The Tigers already have a potent offense, lead by Miguel Cabrera, who (when healthy) is one of the best hitters on the planet. They also have Victor Martinez, who is one year removed from finishing second in MVP voting, and J.D Martinez who is turning into one of the games breakout stars. Offense has never been a problem for the Tigers, and the signing of the young, patient, powerful Upton makes their offense even more potent. But they also still have a Lions share of problems.

Everyone of those hitters mentioned has had problems with injuries, and that is one of the main reasons that the Tigers blew up their 2015 campaign. And after Zimmerman, the Tigers rotation is full of question marks. Verlander is clearly on a decline, Anibal Sanchez has had injury problems, Daniel Norris is young and unproven, and Mike Pelfrey is a 3rd bottom of the rotation starter at best. This is not a starting rotation that will win a world series.

The Tigers may not be done dealing this year. Mike Illitch, the Tigers owner, has made it clear that money will not be a factor on his team’s quest for a championship. “I’ve been in baseball for a lot of years. I didn’t care about spending money. They get the players, and I spend, and I don’t worry about it because they have good judgment,” Illitch said after signing Jordan Zimmerman.”I don’t care about the money, I want the best players.”

Illitch may not care about the money, but spending wildly is not going to get his team a ring, no matter how much he wants it to.

http://SportsRants.com

David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, And Why Pitchers Are Getting Overpaid

$217 million. That is how much the Boston Red Sox signed David Price for this past week . That makes him the seventh highest paid player in baseball right now, and the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. Price is not the first pitcher to get paid recently, as eight of the top 20 contracts in baseball right now belong to pitchers, with Clayton Kershaw holding the previous top spot with his $215 million contract from the Dodgers.

Now $217 million is an egregious amount of money to spend on any player, regardless of if they are a pitcher or not. But signing a pitcher to that type of money leads even more into a type of risk/reward payoff. It seems like the Red Sox are giving Price $200 million dollars to go out and throw a baseball as hard as he can every fifth day for seven years and crossing their fingers and praying for the best. The same could be said for the Detroit Tigers and Jorden Zimmermann. The Tigers inked Zimmerman to a five year-$110 million dollar contract – which next to Prices’ contract looks like peanuts – but is still a nice chunk of change for the veteran pitcher.

Now do not get me wrong, Price is a great pitcher. Despite the fact that he disappeared during last postseason, he is still one of the top tier pitchers in the MLB.  But will Price be a top tier pitcher in seven years? Probably not. Do the Red Sox care about that? Probably not.

Long-term contracts are just the norm in baseball. The baseball free agent landscape changed when Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins for 10 years-$325 million (which is too much money to pay anyone, but I digress.) Now everyone wants a contract where they know that they will have a place to play over the next half-decade, even if they do not deserve it, or it does not make any logistical sense for the team signing them.

Now the Red Sox should not expect Price to produce the way he does now in the later years of his contract. The Red Sox should probably expect a decline much like the Tigers Justin Verlander has been experiencing.

Prior to the 2013 season, Verlander signed a seven year-$180 million contract with the Detroit Tigers (Verlander was 30 when he signed his contract, the same age David Price is now) and Verlander  has slowly begun to decline since. He has had an E.R.A over three every year since 2013, and it ballooned to 4.54 in 2014, and he has also had a very pedestrian 33-32 record since 2013. That is not the type of production that you pay $180 million for.

Now David Price is pitching better than he ever has in his entire life currently. He very well have an amazing year next year, and his addition immediately makes the Red Sox a favorite for the AL pendent, but the Red Sox should legitimately be concerned that they may have paid $217 million for one or two years of dominance, and seven years of mediocrity.

http://SportsRants.com

The 2015 World Series: What We’ve Seen So Far

The World Series shifts to New York tonight for a critical Game 3. The Kansas City Royals are off to a great start in the series, as they were able to take both of the two games in Kansas City. The New York Mets have a tremendous amount of pressure on them heading into the game tonight. The series hasn’t exactly gone how they’d hope it would, but it isn’t over yet.

The Royals have done a good job of throwing the Mets off their game. The Mets have relied on their good young starting pitchers all season long. These pitchers have been their biggest strength. This series has been an exception however. Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom were both surprisingly avererage for New York in Games 1 and 2 respectively. In Game 1, Harvey allowed three earned runs on five hits over six innings. He departed with the game tied at three. In Game 2, deGrom allowed four earned runs on six hits, while lasting only five innings. Neither were as dominant as usual.

The Royals have shown us that they can hit the fastball, no matter the speed. That’s something they’ve been able to do all season. Even against the very hard-throwing Mets pitchers, they’ve had no problem putting the ball in play. Harvey and deGrom each recorded only two strikeouts in their respective starts. In their 14 inning win in Game 1, the Royals only struck out seven times. The team only struck out three times in Game 2. They’ve used a combination of timely hitting and speed to score runs. The home run hasn’t been a big part of Kansas City’s offense game in the series so far, or in the entire postseason. The lone long ball they’ve hit in the series came in a huge spot though, when Alex Gordon took Jeurys Familia deep in the ninth inning of Game 1 to tie the game.

In contrast, the Mets have been largely reliant on the home run ball in the postseason. However, they’ve only hit one home run in the World Series thus far. Curtis Granderson has the only home run for the team in the series. The Royals pitchers have prevented the Mets from playing their style of offense.

The Royals pitching has been very good in the World Series. Their bullpen has been their biggest strength all year, but in this series the starting pitching has also been very good. Edinson Volquez went six innings in Game 1 while allowing three runs on six hits. Volquez was still able to pitch well despite receiving the news that his father had passed just hours before the game started. The Royals bullpen did not allow an earned run the rest of the game, and the team went on to win 5-4 in 14 innings. Johnny Cueto was fantastic for Kansas City in Game 2. He threw a complete game, while only allowing one run on  two hits. The Royals didn’t even need to use the bullpen in Game 2, as the team cruised to a 7-1 victory.

The Mets need to win tonight to get back into the series. We’ll see if they can make the necessary adjustments to figure out the Royals. They’ll have the crowd on their side tonight, unlike Games 1 and 2. Citi Field will be very loud, as tonight will mark the first World Series game in the park’s seven-year history.

If the Mets fall behind early tonight, they’re most likely doomed. The Royals have a very dominant 7-8-9 combination in their bullpen with Kelvin HerreraRyan Madson, and Wade Davis. The Mets don’t want to have to face those guys late in the game, especially if they’re behind. Their best hope is to rattle the Royals starter Yordano Ventura early and score some runs off him. The Mets need a big-time perfomance from their starter Noah Syndergaard if they hope to win. He needs to figure out how to strike out the Royals. That will require throwing his off-speed pitches effectively, as the Royals hit the fastball very well. If the Mets do have the lead in the ninth, Jeurys Familia needs to shut the door this time. That’s something he failed to do in Game 1.

The Royals have a chance to put the series out of reach tonight with a win. This will most likely be a very short series if they do. All the pressure’s on the Mets. Let’s see what happens.

 

Kansas City Royals Slow Roast Blue Jays To A 3-1 ALCS Lead

The Kansas City Royals bounced back from their 11-8 game three loss to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 12-2 in game four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.  The matchup on Tuesday pitted knuckleballer R.A. Dickey against 88 MPH fastballer Chris Young of the Royals.  

Young’s last playoff appearance came in game one of the ALDS against Houston when starter Yordano Ventura got himself into trouble, causing Young to come in for relief; “CY” Young tossed four innings of relief and allowed just one run on three hits.

Young came in to pitch in to Tornto’s home run hitting offense in a ballpark that features 328 feet corners, a hitter’s dream.  R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball tossed in game four of the ALDS against Texas; he pitched 4.2 innings and allowed just one run on five hits.  Today was a much different story for Dickey as Young continued to shine.  

The first inning showed no promises for Dickey as he allowed a leadoff bunt single to Alcides Escobar that was followed by a two-run bomb into the right field seats from second baseman Ben Zobrist. A passed ball by Dickey allowed a run to score to increase the lead further to 3-0. Mike Moustakas tacked on one more run on a sac fly to finish out the Royals’ scoring in the first inning.

Chris Young (who struck out seven in his four inning outing against Houston) allowed Josh Donaldson to reach base on a walk in the first inning, but proceeded to strike out the side.  Former Blue Jay Alex Rios landed one in the left-center field seats in the top of the second to increase the Royals lead to 5-0 and ran Dickey out of the game allowing him to toss only 1.2 innings.  

With the hopes of tying the series slowly fading for Blue Jay fans, the Blue Birds were able to cut the deficit to 5-2 in the bottom of the third courtesy of a Josh Donaldson RBI double and a Jose Bautista RBI groundout. What cannot go unsaid is the performance by Liam Hendriks, who took over for Dickey in the second and hurled 4.2 scoreless one-hit innings, keeping the deficit at a reasonable 5-2 for the Jays.  

Chris Young continued to deal despite the short ballpark and his “slow heat;” he was replaced by Luke Hochevar in the bottom of the fifth inning. Young completed his outing with 2 earned runs on 3 hits in 4.2 innings, also striking out 4.

Hochevar pitched the end of the fifth and the entire sixth inning only allowing one hit.  Latroy Hawkins relieved Hendriks for the 7th inning and immediately loaded the bases without recording an out.  Hawkins was replaced by Ryan Tepera in an attempt to keep the Birds in the game.  

Alcides Escobar drove in a run with a sac fly while a seventh run was allowed to score on a wild pitch by Tepera.

 A single by Lorenzo Cain and a sac fly by Eric Hosmer increased the Royals lead to 9-2.  Royals reliever Ryan Madson took over for Hochevar and tossed a one-hit shutout seventh inning.  Apparently, Kansas City was not satisfied with a 9-2 lead as they tacked on 3 in the eighth to take a 12-2 lead over the #2 seeded team in the American League.

 After allowing two baserunners to reach in the top of the ninth, Blue Jay shortstop/second baseman Cliff Pennington emerged from the bullpen to pitch for the Birds; he allowed two hits and two runs to cross the plate, 14-2 Royals.  Franklin Morales tossed a one-hit ninth inning to close things out and secure the Royals a 3-1 series lead.

The Toronto Blue Jays got a taste of their own medicine on Tuesday as the Royals hammered two home runs and scored 14 runs on 15 hits; on Monday, the Blue Jays scored 11 runs on 11 hits to cut the KC series lead to 2-1.  

The Royals game two win last Saturday ensured that Toronto would have to win at least one game at Kauffman Stadium in Missouri, but Tuesday’s win ensures that Toronto will need to win on Wednesday at home as well as two times in Kanasas City in order to win the series.

 Chris Young also continued to be clutch for the Royals ball club, giving quality innings (even though he didn’t pitch 5 innings today) in his last two postseason appearances.  KC’s bullpen proved solid once again as the 4 relievers allowed just 3 hits.

The Blue Jays used 4 relievers and one everyday player to combat the Royals hot bats; combined, their bullpen allowed 9 runs on 11 hits. The Royals offense proved worthy of the “best offense in the AL” title and also breaking a franchise record with the most runs scored in a playoff game with 12 runs scored (previous record was 11 in 1985).  

3 Stars of the Game:

#3- (KC) 2B Ben Zobrist- 2-4, 2 RBI, HR, BB, 2 runs

#2- (KC) CF Lorenzo Cain- 2-3, 3 RBI, 2 BB, run

#1- (KC) SS Alcides Escobar- 2-3, 4 RBI, run

As they take a 3-1 series lead after their 14-2 blowout win on Tuesday, Kansas City can win their second straight American League pennant in game five on Wednesday.  If the Jays pull out a win in game five, the series will return to Kansas City for game six and the “if necessary” game seven.  Right hander Edinson Volquez (game one winner) takes the mound for the Royals against Marco Estrada (game one losing pitcher).

First pitch of game five at 4:07 PM ET, 1:07 PT on Wednesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  

Follow @dylanmiles97  on Twitter for MLB updates, news, analysis and commentary. 

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5 Cost-Effective Moves The Detroit Tigers Should Make This Offseason

The 2016 title-hunt begins now for the Detroit Tigers. After nosediving from first to worst in the American League Central, the Tigers now must build a squad that can leapfrog four teams and re-establish themselves as the cream of the division.

Trimming dead wood from the current roster is one part of the process. Purchasing expensive free agents will be another.

However, while the above transactions may elicit the bold typefaces, the more subtle and cost-effective deals could be just as important.

These micro-moves include whether or not Detroit tenders deals to its arbitration-eligible players. The performances of J.D. Martinez and Jose iglesias more than justify them a pay hike. The futures of Al Alburquerque, Neftali Feliz and Andrew Romine will come under much greater scrutiny.

Then there’s the free agents. A handful of those will bid adieu to the Motor City, including—in all likelihood—general manager Al Avila’s son Alex Avila. Outfielder Rajai Davis probably has the best chance of re-signing.

Even with owner Mike Ilitch’s deep pockets, expenditure will be an issue for Detroit. As noted by Chris Iott of MLive , the franchise already has $130M invested in its players before they acquire any new blood. That gives them roughly another $59M to spend before stepping into luxury-tax territory.

GM Avila has already expressed his desire to bolster the pitching ranks. Spearing a big fish on the free-agent market, such as Jordan Zimmerman, will be his goal. Prudent spending on the smaller pieces will be key.

Ready to go bargain shopping?

 

Sign Rajai Davis To A Cut-Price Deal

Rajai Davis penned a two-year $10M deal with Detroit prior to the 2014 season. Brought in chiefly to provide a running threat, Davis was a constant menace to opponents last year stealing 36 bases (3rd in AL ).

But, injury niggles and the emergence of Anthony Gose halved his tally to 18 in 2015.  Davis turns 35 this month, and he may have only another year or so left before Father Time really catches up with his legs.

On the other hand, Davis’ hitting seems to be getting better with age. A .440 slugging percentage in 2015 was the highest mark of his career.

There is an heir apparent to Davis in the Tiger’s ranks. Wynton Bernard stole 43 bases at Double-A Erie this year and slashed a highly respectable .301/.352/.408 in 135 games. However, Bernard most likely needs another year of seasoning in the minors before earning his ticket to the big leagues.

This means that there is still an opening in the outfield for the Tigers next season. Davis recently intimated his desire to stick around per Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press: “If it was up to me, it would be very, very nice to stay…It could happen. Anything is possible,” he said.

A one-year deal for around $3-4M would be a very respectable offer by Detroit. The number of years, however, could be a sticking point for Davis.

 

Tender J.D. Martinez

Yep, this one’s a no-brainer.

Martinez enters his second year of arbitration eligibility as one of the premier sluggers in the AL. The right-fielder’s 38 home runs (8th ), .535 slugging percentage (8th ), and .879 OPS (9th ) all ranked in the league’s top 10 this season.

With impressive back-to-back campaigns under his belt, Detroit can no longer keep Martinez without significant expense. The website mlbtraderumors.com recently projected that his salary would climb to $7.8M in 2016.

For that, Martinez is a bargain.

 

Non-Tender Al Alburquerque

Alburquerque is eligible for arbitration for the third time this offseason. In previous years, he and Detroit have been able to reach an improved one-year deal. The club may not be so eager this time.

The righty reliever had a poor season in 2015 . Command issues led to Alburquerque issuing too many free passes and consequently a high WHIP (1.55) and ERA (4.21).

Mlbtraderumors.com anticipates Alburquerque’s salary will rise to $2.1M in 2016. This is too much for a pitcher whose manager typically only uses him for mop-up duty.

 

Sign Free-Agent Catcher Brayan Pena

The likely departure of Alex Avila leaves a vacancy at back-up to catcher James McCann. Ex-Tiger Pena would be a snug fit.

The 33-year-old veteran is not a prolific hitter : .273/.334/.324 in 2015. But his 34-29 K-BB ratio in 333 at-bats with Cincinnati shows that he consistently puts the ball in play. His contact rate would be a stark contrast to Avila who struck out 30.1 percent of the time this year. His ability to switch-hit is also attractive to Detroit whose line-up remains righty-heavy.

Pena was a fan favourite in his one season with The Tigers in 2013. His Cheshire-Cat grin would bring a welcome sprinkle of positivity to the clubhouse.

A deal similar to the two-year $2.275M deal he signed with the Reds in 2013 may be enough to lure him back. Cheap and cheerful, indeed.

 

Non-Tender Neftali Feliz

Feliz was given an opportunity by the Tigers this season after being jettisoned mid-year by the Rangers. His time in Motown was a sobering one : 7.62 ERA in 28.1 innings.

Feliz is eligible for arbitration for the final time this offseason before becoming a free agent. As noted by Patrick OKennedy of blessyouboys.com, if the Tigers wish to tender him a deal it must be at least of 80 percent of his previous contract ($4.13M). That equates to Detroit offering him about $3.2M for 2016.

Uh, not likely.

OKennedy suggests an incentivised contract which rewards Feliz for performing. Something unguaranteed that dangles the carrot in front of the veteran right-hander would certainly be in Detroit’s best interests.

 

Stats in this article are courtesy of mlb.com and baseballreference.com

5 Most Meaningful Moments in the Detroit Tigers’ 2015 season

The Detroit Tigers 2015 season has come to its end. With the MLB playoffs now in full swing, it is unusual not to see Detroit among the contenders. Finishing last in the American League Central Division was a steep tumble for the Tigers after four straight years at the division’s summit.

Few, if any, expected this dismal fate. Entering the season, the Tigers maintained a strong nucleus of players including former AL MVP’s Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, as well as last year’s runner up, Victor Martinez. Detroit had been in win-now mode for a while, and intended on resuming normal service.

Things began on a positive note, too. A couple of weeks into the season they stood in familiar territory atop their division with an 11-2 record. Another run at the postseason was seemingly a foregone conclusion. But, things didn’t pan out that way—far from it.

Crushing defeats, big names like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes being traded away, and players being absent due to long-term injuries were among the major happenings that led to the team’s demise this year. These will feature prominently in the list below.

There are, however, silver linings in the dark Detroit skies. The July trades yielded some bright talent who promise to be strong contributors in the years to come. Verlander’s return to dominance during the season’s second half was another positive, as was the blockbuster season for slugger J.D. Martinez. So not everything was bleak.

It’s now time to go back and take a back at those monumental moments which made Detroit’s season. Tiger’s fans will need to take a deep breath or two before stepping into the time machine.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Ready now?

*Note that the moments are chronological and not in order of significance.

 

Justin Verlander Begins The Season On the Disabled List

The first DL stint of Verlander’s career was a lengthy one. Two-and-a-half months of the season had already passed before the veteran made it back to the bump.

Verlander’s absence was deeply felt. In the nine seasons preceding this one, nobody in the majors had as many wins as Verlander’s 152 —an average of 16.8 per season. His time on the DL, in addition to a patchy form upon his return, meant Verlander eked out just five wins in 2015. Yep, five.

A dozen more wins would have produced an average season for Detroit’s former No. 1 pick. With 12 more victories in the bank, the Tigers would definitely not have finished last in the Central. They may have also extended their season for the fifth year in a row.

 

J.D. Martinez hits three home runs at Yankee Stadium

Told you it wasn’t all doom and gloom. This was a career day for Martinez in what was a career season for the Tigers outfielder.

Martinez homered thrice against New York—one each to left, center and right field on June 21 (Father’s Day) in a 12-4 Tigers victory.

“It was just one of those days where you take swings and you’re actually hitting the ball how you want to hit it…There’s not too many of those days, so you’ve just got to take advantage of them,” said Martinez per ESPN.com .

This was the beginning of a long-ball binge for Martinez who swotted 11 big flies in 13 days. That hot stretch led to him being rewarded with his first All-Star Game selection.

It was also a crucial win at the time for Detroit. It put the team back above .500 (35-34) after a dreadful run of 14 defeats in their previous 20 games.

Martinez ended the season with excellent numbers : .282, 38 HR, 102 RBI. Right field looks solid in the Motor City for a good few years to come.

 

Brian Dozier Hits A Walk-Off Homer Against Detroit on July 10

Detroit’s defeat to Minnesota just before the All-Star Break was not just another loss.

Leading 6-0 in the 8th inning and with Justin Verlander in control of the game, the Tigers seemed on the verge of penciling in another W. But the Twins had other ideas. A seven-run ninth inning capped by Dozier’s shot off Joakim Soria sent the Metrodome crowd into delirium, and the Tigers home stunned.

This was the second game of a four-game set preceding the Midsummer Classic. The Tigers came into it on a mini run of five wins in their previous seven. This heartbreaking defeat was then compounded by two more to close out the series. Just when Detroit seemed to be catching fire, Minnesota extinguished their flames with one huge splash.

When reflecting on the Tiger’s season in September, Manager Brad Ausmus told Anthony Fenech  of the Detroit Free Press: “It’s definitely the one loss that stands out in my mind.”

That single defeat felt more like 10.

 

David Price Is Traded to Toronto

The day that Detroit traded their ace Price (July 30), they officially waved the white flag.

Any chance of a Tigers resurrection after a 49-52 start disappeared with this deal, which brought Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt in return.

It had to be done, though. The Tigers were underachieving even with Price and they needed to re-stock a bare prospect cupboard. Boyd and Norris showed enough in the final two months to demonstrate they may offer the club plenty in the future. Free-agent Price was a goner at the end of the season, anyway.

With all their season’s hopes now dissolved, the Tigers then exchanged Cespedes and Soria the following day for a few more prospects. It stung a bit at the time, but the future should vindicate the decisions of since departed Tiger’s president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.

 

Verlander One-Hits the Los Angeles Angels

By late August, the Tigers were already looking ahead to 2016. They got a major positive moving forward on August 26 when Verlander came just three outs shy of twirling the third no-hitter of his career.

This outing was part of a major resurgence for Verlander during the second half of the season. In his final 14 starts he was 5-5 with a 2.27 ERA and an impressive 91-20 K-BB ratio.

Another telling number was his velocity. In his final start of the season, one of his pitches whistled into the catcher’s mitt at 99 miles per hour.

“Things are coming back to me. I’m feeling a lot like my old self,” Verlander told Fenech late in the year.

It had not been pretty upon his initial return from the DL. In his first six starts, Verlander was winless and posted a 6.62 ERA.

The return of a nearly vintage Verlander—beard, tight pants and all—bodes well for the Tigers in 2016.

 

Stats in this article are courtesy of mlb.com and fangraphs.com

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