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.

Chase Utley Gets the Last Laugh Against the Mets…. For Now

Perhaps no player in all of baseball is hated more by the fan base of a team than Chase Utley is loathed by the New York Mets fans. On Saturday night, the hatred was out in full force when the Los Angeles Dodgers were at Citi Field taking on the Mets.

Utley has been a thorn in the Mets side for years. Ever since his days with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 37-year old second baseman has always put up good numbers against them. In his career, Utley has hit 38 home runs against the Mets, the most he’s hit against any team. Especially when he was in Philadelphia, he had a knack for getting big hits when he played the Mets. However, this is only part of the reason that their fans dislike him so much.

In mid-August of last season, the Phillies traded Utley to the Dodgers in exchange for Darnell Sweeney and John Richy. This marked the end of his 13-year career in Philadelphia, but it certainly didn’t mean that his rivalry with the Mets was over. Sure enough, the Dodgers and Mets both won their respective divisions and ended up playing each other in the 2015 NLDS. Utley only had three at-bats in the entire series, which included one hit. His most memorable moment in the series came during the seventh inning of Game 2, following that hit. In an attempt to break up what possibly could have been an inning-ending double play, Utley slid into Mets shortstop Rubén Tejada. Not only was he ruled safe at second base after a video review, but Tejada had to leave the game due to a fractured right fibula. The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the game at that point, but they rallied and went on to win 5-2. Utley was originally suspended two games by Major League Baseball for the slide, but because he appealed the suspension, he was allowed to play the remainder of the NLDS.  The  Mets were able to win the series in five games, but Tejada did not return. He missed the remainder of the postseason, and the Mets eventually lost in the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.

It was assumed that the Mets were going to try and get revenge on Utley sometime during the 2016 season. Major League Baseball officially dropped his suspension on March 6, meaning there would be no punishment at all for the slide. Unsurprisingly, Mets fans were not happy. Although Tejada was released by the team on March 16, fans still expected the Mets to try and do something to send a message to Utley when they played the Dodgers. The two teams played a four-game series at Dodger Stadium in early May, but nothing happened. Last weekend, the Dodgers came to Citi Field for three games. This time, plenty happened.

As expected, Utley was booed vigorously by the Mets fans every time he came to bat. He was not thrown at on Friday night. Instead, he had a huge hit in the top of the ninth inning. Facing Mets closer Jeurys Familia with the bases loaded and two outs and his team trailing 5-2, Utley hit a game-tying three-run double. The Mets went on to win the game in the bottom of the inning after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off home run.

When Utley’s name was announced during Saturday night’s game, he was booed even louder than the night before. With Mets ace Noah Syndergaard on the mound, he struck out looking during his first at-bat. He next came to bat in the top of the third inning. With one out and nobody on base, Syndergaard threw a fastball behind Utley. It didn’t him, but Syndergaard was ejected by home plate umpire Adam Hamari. This led to Mets manager Terry Collins getting thrown out of the game as well. Collins was clearly upset because no warnings were issued before the game. Clearly, Hamari knew Utley’s history with the Mets. He was not hesitant at all to eject Syndergaard for trying to send a message to Utley.

The Mets fans were more outraged than ever. Not only did Utley not even get hit by the pitch, but Syndergaard had been tossed from the game for trying to send a message to him. To make matters even worse for them, Utley hit a solo home run off of Logan Verrett in the top of the sixth inning. But he wasn’t finished yet. Just when you thought he couldn’t become any more villainous to Mets fans, Utley hit a grand slam off of Hansel Robles the next inning. This put the Dodgers ahead 6-0. They went on to win the game 9-1.  

For Utley, it was a very successful weekend in Flushing. The Mets failed to adequately get revenge on him for the slide into Tejada. He hit two big home runs to help the Dodgers crush the Mets. It seems as though Utley has gotten the last laugh against the Mets and their fans. The two teams do not play each other for the remainder of the season. However, there’s always the chance that they meet in the postseason again. If that happens, the series will definitely be must-watch television. The Mets would then have one last chance to get the last laugh against Chase Utley.

Maeda’s Early Dominance A Good Sign for the Dodgers

Some players have trouble adjusting to the MLB when they come over from Japan. So far, this hasn’t been the case for Kenta Maeda.

The 28-year old Japanese-born pitcher is having early success with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maeda pitched for the Hiroshima Toy Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball for eight seasons before being posted back in December. This made him available to Major League Baseball teams. The Dodgers signed him to a eight-year, $25 million contract in January. The team lost Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks in December, so it was assumed that Maeda was basically going to replace Greinke in the Dodgers rotation. Obviously, no one expected him to come in right away and pitch as well as Greinke did. However, Maeda has been able to do just that.

It’s a very small sample size, but Maeda has been simply dominant thus far. Over the course of his three starts, he’s 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA. In 19 innings pitched, he’s only allowed one earned run. That run was given up in his most recent start vs the San Francisco Giants on Sunday night when Joe Panik took him deep in the top of third inning. Maeda went seven innings in that start and struck out seven while allowing only four hits. The Dodgers won the game 3-1.

His first start came back on April 6 on the road against the San Diego Padres. He didn’t allow a run, and only gave up five hits while striking out four. Maeda was take out after six innings, with his pitch count only at 84. Clearly, the Dodgers were being careful with him. They wanted to ease him into the MLB. Not only did Maeda pitch well in his first career start, he also impressed with the bat. In the top of the fourth inning, he hit a solo home run off Andrew Cashner extend the Dodgers lead to 5-0. It was only his second career at-bat. LA would go on to win 7-0. Dodger fans really couldn’t have asked for anything more out of Maeda.

His second start was equally as impressive, a game that was also the Dodgers home opener. Maeda looked very confident in his first Dodger Stadium start. He went six inning against the Diamondbacks, allowing no runs on five hits while recording four strikeouts. The Diamondbacks scored four runs off the Dodgers bullpen however, and Arizona won the game 4-2.

Maeda will have a tough test up next. On Saturday night, he’ll face the Colorado Rockies on the road. This is a team that has scored a lot of runs so far this season. Led by young shortstop Trevor Story, their offense has been very dangerous. Additionally, Coors Field is considered one of the best hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball. Maeda is going to need to have his best stuff on Saturday.

It’s still very early, but Kenta Maeda has shown us that he’s a very good pitcher. If he can keep it up, Zack Greinke might just become a distant memory in Los Angeles.

Zack Greinke’s Early Struggles With the Diamondbacks

The transition from Los Angeles to Arizona hasn’t been so smooth for Zack Greinke.

The Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher has had two rough outings to start the year. Considered the team’s crown jewel of the offseason, Greinke was expected to do big things in Arizona this season. Last year while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he had the best year of his career. In 32 starts, Greinke went 19-3 and posted an ERA of 1.66, the lowest in all of baseball. He finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting behind Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs. This past offseason, he left LA and signed a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks. So far however, things haven’t worked out so well for Greinke.

Greinke started for the Diamondbacks last Monday on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies. He looked good during the first two innings, but the Rockies were able to get to him in the top of the third. They scored six runs off of him in that inning, which included home runs by Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez. Story took Greinke deep again in the next inning, extending Colorado’s lead to 7-1. The fourth inning would be Greinke’s last, as manager Chip Hale decided it was time to go to the bullpen. In total, he allowed seven earned runs on nine hits, while recording only two strikeouts. The Rockies went on to win the game 10-5.  Needless to say, it was a start that Greinke would love to forget.

Unfortunately, he could not put that awful first start behind him. On Saturday night, he pitched against the Cubs. It was another home game, but that didn’t really help Greinke. He didn’t pitch nearly as badly as he did against the Rockies. However, he still allowed four earned runs on seven hits over six innings. On the bright side, he did have eight strikeouts in the game. The Cubs were able to rattle Greinke early, as they scored three of their four runs in the top of the first inning. They added one more in the fourth inning on a Ben Zobrist RBI double. Chicago won the game 4-2, dropping Greinke’s record to 0-2.

This past week, the Diamondbacks played a three-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Greinke did not pitch in any of the games against his former team. Tuesday afternoon was actually the Dodgers’ home opener. Dodger fans did not boo Greinke, as he was not introduced considering he wasn’t part of the starting lineup that day. Because the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are in the same division, he’ll definitely get plenty of chances to face his old team this season.

Greinke will try and earn his first win of the season tonight when he faces the Padres in San Diego. The Padres are 3-7 and have gotten off to a very rough start offensively. Even though it’s a road start, this might be just what Greinke needs. He’ll be facing a struggling offense. We’ll see if he can bounce back tonight. If not, there could be a cause for concern.

Can Arizona Make The Playoffs?

The only thing that might get hotter than the Mojave desert this summer in Arizona, is the Diamondbacks. There’s no denying the D-Backs sent a shockwave through the National League West when they signed free agent starting pitcher Zack Greinke, formerly with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After inking the veteran to a multi-year mega deal, the Diamondbacks didn’t stop there. Arizona went on to trade for ex Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller, as well as former all-star and Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. Combine those moves with their recent signing of relief pitcher Tyler Clippard (formerly with the New York Mets) and you get a revamped roster that’s ready to compete in 2016.

So, as the title of this post asks, are the D-Backs in a position to make a push for the post-season?

Before I address that question, I’ll recap where Arizona was last year, and what lies ahead in 2016. Like the saying goes, “You can’t know where your going, until you know where you’ve been.”

 

 

(Picture Courtesy of FOX Sports)

(Picture Courtesy of FOX Sports)

 

Recoiling to Strike Back

 

Arizona ended last season at third place in the NL west, failing to reach the .500 mark with a record of 79-83.  Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers, helped in part by Greinke’s 19-3 pitching record, won the division with a record of 92-70.

Despite finishing 2015 behind both the Dodgers  and the San Francisco Giants (who did some fine off-season work themselves), the Diamondbacks managed to finish in the top 10 or higher in nearly every team batting statistic (aside from ranking 14th in the majors for home runs).

Pitching ultimately kept Arizona from placing higher in the standings, as they ranked towards the middle to bottom half of the MLB in each category.

Hence the desire to grab Greinke, trade for Miller, and solidify the bullpen with Clippard. Given the probable rotation of Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa, and Robbie Ray, Arizona should likely see those pitching numbers improve this season.

Meanwhile, the addition of SS Jean Segura (25 steals in 2015) should add to last years success of stolen bases by Arizona. The D-backs finished 2015 second only to the Cincinnati Reds (134) in total team steals with 132. Outfielder A.J. Pollock (who recently avoided arbitration with Arizona) led the team in 2015 with 39 steals.

I believe with an improved pitching staff, new role players, and perhaps some luck, the Diamondbacks can make the playoffs this year. However, Arizona’s path to the post-season will not be an easy one. Lets examine what could keep them from playing further into October.

 

(Photo Credit to Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo Credit to Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

 

Potential Road Blocks

 

When searching for reasons why Arizona would not make the playoffs this year, look no further than last years NL West champs. The Dodgers, in my opinion, will be one of the key reasons the Diamondbacks do or don’t make the playoffs.

For those wondering if I’ve forgotten how the Giants will affect Arizona’s chances, I have San Francisco reclaiming the NL West title this year (as I feel they can win 95-97 games).

Meaning one playoff spot will already be taken if the Giants do in-fact win the division. So, presumably that leaves second place in the West and one of two wild card spots up for grabs between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. So, unless Arizona can capitalize on their divisional games against LA this season, their chances of being in the playoff hunt come September will be slim.

Another wall that could stand in Arizona’s way, is the number of playoff teams from last year appearing on this years schedule. Of the 10 teams that made the post-season in 2015, eight of them are on the D-Backs regular season schedule.

(Picture Courtesy of MLB.com)

(Picture Courtesy of MLB.com)

With multiple series against the Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and interleague play with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays before the All-Star break in July, Arizona could struggle to be above .500 early in the year. This leads to one last, and probably the biggest, speed bump.

To sneak into the playoffs, these desert snakes will need to win between 92-94 games this season (a 12-15 win improvement from last year). Why 92-94 wins? The 2015 MLB Playoffs featured three National League Central teams that won 97 or more games (Cubs-97, Pirates-98, Cardinals-100), with the Dodgers (92) and the Mets (90) rounding out the rest of the playoff field.

Considering most of those teams from the 2015 playoffs look primed to put up similar 2016 win-loss records, Arizona will have to get 92-94 wins in order to be in the playoff picture for 2016.

Final Thought:

If Paul Goldschmidt and the offense has another top ten overall finish, Greinke & Co. can total 60 wins from combined pitching records, plus say 25-30 saves from the bullpen, a 92+ win season doesn’t seem impossible for the Diamondbacks in 2016.

Dodgers Trying to Revamp Rotation After Greinke Departure

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the MLB offseason so far has been Zack Greinke’s decision to leave the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 32 year old right-hander signed a six- year, $206.5 million contract with Arizona. Now, the Dodgers are making a few moves to help improve their rotation and replace Greinke.

Greinke’s departure came in early December. Since then, the Dodgers have been busy adding new arms to their starting rotation. Last Wednesday, the team signed lefty Scott Kazmir to a three-year, $48 million contract. The deal includes an opt-out after the first year. Kazmir, 31, has spent 11 years in the big leagues and is a three-time All-Star. He’s had stints with the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, and Houston Astros. He has a career record of 98-90 and a career ERA of 3.96. Kazmir’s best season actually came this past year when he went a combined 7-11 with an ERA of 3.10 with Oakland and Houston. He was traded to the Astros from the Athletics in late July. Although he’s never really been a true ace, Kazmir has always been a solid pitcher. He’s a talented lefty who can serve as the No. 2 starter in the Dodgers’ rotation behind fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw.

Earlier this week, the Dodgers signed another starting pitcher. The team officially agreed to an eight-year, $25 million contract with Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda on Thursday. The deal includes $10-12 million in incentives per year. Maeda, 27, has pitched for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Central League for the past eight seasons. He has twice won the Sawamura Award, which is basically Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award. He won the Award last year after going 15-8 and posting an ERA of 2.09. The Carp decided to post him back in December, and the Dodgers were the team that ultimately chose to pay up.

It’s hard to predict how Maeda will do in the MLB. We’ve seen a few recent pitchers come over from Japan and have success. Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka have both pitched well with the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees respectively. However, every pitcher is different. Considering how he pitched in Japan, Maeda will certainly will have a lot of hype around him when he takes the hill for the Dodgers next season.         

Signing these two pitchers is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, it’s still going to be very difficult for them to really replace Zack Greinke and what he meant to the Dodgers. Greinke is coming off the best year of his career, a season in which he won 19 games and had a 1.66 ERA. Having him and Kershaw at the top of the rotation gave the Dodgers the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Between the two of them, they have eight All-Star appearances and four Cy Young Awards. It would be foolish to say that the Dodgers won’t miss Greinke.

That being said, the good news is that the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw. Arguably the best pitcher in baseball, he has won the NL Cy Young Award three times in the last five years. He didn’t win the Award last year, but finished with a record of 16-7 and had a 2.13 ERA. With Kershaw as their ace, the Dodgers rotation will still be relatively solid. The rest of the rotation depends on a few things. Hyun-jin Ryu is returning after missing most of last year due to having shoulder surgery. If he comes back healthy, he can be a solid No. 4 starter in the rotation. Kazmir will most likely be the No. 2 starter, while Maeda will probably be the No. 3. If Maeda can pitch like he did in Japan, the Dodgers will be in very good shape. That would mean the rest of the rotation would have less pressure on them. Kazmir will also be key to the team’s success, especially if he can have the same kind of year that he did last year. In alll likelihood, Brett Anderson will be the fifth starter in this rotation.

Replacing Zack Greinke isn’t easy, but Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi has done his best. His team really relied on their pitching in 2015 to get them to the postseason, and Greinke was a big part of that. New manager Dave Roberts certainly won’t have an easy task in 2016. We’ll see what he does with these new-look Dodgers.

 

Diamondbacks Solidify Rotation With Acquisition of Shelby Miller

 

A week ago, no one was talking about them. Now, the Arizona Diamondbacks suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in the MLB.

The Diamondbacks acquired pitcher Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. This trade came four days after the team shocked everyone by signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract. Clearly, general manager Dave Stewart felt that he needed to improve his team’s starting rotation this offseason.

Miller didn’t exactly come without a high cost. The Diamondbacks had to give up their top prospect, shortstop Dansby Swanson. Arizona drafted Swanson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft. The team also sent outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair to Atlanta in the deal.

The Braves had just recently parted ways with two-time Gold Glove Award winning shortstop Andrelton Simmons. They traded him to the Los Angeles Angels back on November 12. The 21-year-old  Swanson gives them a very talented young shortstop. Atlanta is a team that is in the process of rebuilding, so giving up Miller for a top prospect was a smart move by them.

For the Diamondbacks, acquiring Miller demonstrates that they’re ready to go for it now. They now have Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller at the top of their rotation. It’s no secret that Greinke was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball last season. The three-time All-Star went 19-3 with an ERA of 1.66 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. Miller posted a 6-17 record for the Braves last year, but his record didn’t reflect how he actually pitched. His ERA was 3.02 and he threw two complete-game shutouts. He was also named an All-Star for the first time in his career. A lack of run support explains why his record was so bad. The Diamondbacks clearly feel as though Miller is a top pitcher. They wouldn’t have given up the players that they had they not thought so.

Part of the reason the Diamondbacks were willing to give up a good hitting prospect in Swanson for Miller was because they actually had a pretty good offense last year. Led by slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, they were third in the National League in batting average and on-base percentage. The problem for them was pitching. Arizona pitchers had a team ERA of 4.04 in 2015. The starting rotation alone had a 4.37 ERA, which was fifth-worst in the NL. By signing Greinke and acquiring Miller, they’ve significantly improved their rotation. Now there will be less pressure on young southpaw Patrick Corbin. He missed all of the 2014 season due to recovery from Tommy John surgery. Corbin came back in the middle of last year and should be ready to pitch a full season in 2016. Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray will most likely be the fourth and fifth starters in this solid rotation.

After dramatically improving their pitching rotation, the Diamondbacks should compete for a division title in 2016. They have a good offense and now have a pretty solid starting rotation. They’ll now be able to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West. It’ll be a very interesting division next year.

The Wild Wild West: The NL West is Having One Crazy Offseason

The MLB winter meetings kicked off monday in Nashville, and the teams in the NL west did not waste any time wheeling and dealing, with tons of newsworthy deal made by these teams, and they probably were not the last.

It all started with Zack Greinke. Greinke had a career year in 2015, finishing with a 1.66 ERA and a 19-3 record. Greinke knew that he was going to have a good payday this offseason, and for all intents and purposes it seemed like he was going to go back to the Dodgers. Dodgers Minority owner Magic Johnson said that re-signing Greinke was the Dodgers “number one priority.”  But the Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world with their eleventh hour push and signed Greinke for a six year-$206 million dollar megadeal . The Diamondbacks were considered the longest of long shots by many, as it was reported that the Diamondbacks offered Johnny Cueto a six year-$160 million deal that he turned down.

The Dodgers have responded with some moves of their own this offseason. They started off by penning Dave Roberts as their new manager, and they also made some key personal decisions. They resigned second baseman Chase Utley and catcher A.J Ellis to respective one year deals, and pitcher Brett Anderson accepted his $15.8 million qualifying offer . They also went out and got some pitching talent, as they signed free agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, and then thought that they had Aroldis Chapman.

And for all intents and purposes, the Dodgers did have Chapman. Apparently both the Dodgers and Reds had worked out a deal for Chapman, but then the trade was held up once word of a domestic violence incident involving Chapman got out. Chapman allegedly fired eight shots in his Miami-area home during an argument with his girlfriend, and then choked her. This obviously is a problem that is bigger than Baseball, and the Commissioner office needs to take a good hard look at the situation, and see if these accusations against Chapman are true, and if they are, they need to punish him accordingly.

(John Minchillo, AP Photo)

(John Minchillo, AP Photo)

Iwakuma was not the only pitcher who was brought onto an NL West team. The Giants shored up their pitching rotation by signing Jeff Samardzija to a five year-$90 deal . Samardzija had a down year last year, finishing with an 11-13 record and a 1.96 E.R.A. But the Giants are betting on the fact that he will replicate his 2014 campaign, where he finished with a 7-9 record but a stellar 2.99 E.R.A. The Giants also resigned Brandon Crawford to a six year-$75 million deal to compliment their young core of Crawford, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Joe Panik.

(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY)

(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY)

The Padres are having a relatively quiet offseason this year, compared to the absolute fire sale that they had last season. They dealt Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for a package of four prospects that could prove to a win-win trade for both teams. They also sent reliever Marc Rzepczynski and 1B Yonder Alonso to Oakland. They could also end up dealing Matt Kemp by the time that the offseason is said and done.

The Rockies have had a quiet offseason as well, but are “open minded” to dealing away outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon.

Now the Diamondbacks have really made their push for the NL West crown. The Diamondbacks already have baseballs most underrated star in Paul Goldschmidt, and  compliment him with a very good core of A.J Pollock, Aaron Hill, and Chris Owings.

Last year the Diamondbacks were an ace away from contending for the NL West crown. They have killed two birds with one stone this offseason, as they added one of the best pitchers in baseball,and took him away from the Dodgers. It’s going to be another interesting ride on the West Coast this year, and the baseball world can not wait.

 

Dodgers Tap Dave Roberts as Next Manager

After searching for about a month, the Los Angeles Dodgers have finally found a new manager.

On Monday, the team officially announced the hiring of former player Dave Roberts as their next manager. Roberts, 43, will be the first minority manager in Dodgers’ history.

A former outfielder, Roberts played ten seasons in the big leagues. He had stints with the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants. Perhaps his most famous moment as a player was “the steal” in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. Pinch-running for Kevin Millar in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Red Sox trailing 4-3, Roberts stole second base  and would eventually score the tying run on a Bill Mueller RBI single. Roberts retired from baseball in April of 2009.

Following his retirement, Roberts became a coach with the San Diego Padres. After spending three years as the team’s first base coach, he was promoted to bench coach. He held this position for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. When the Padres fired manager Bud Black back in June, Roberts served as the manager for one game. A day later, the team promoted Pat Murphy as interim manager. After the Dodgers and Don Mattingly parted ways on October 22, the team immediately started searching for a new manager. They eventually narrowed their search down to three candidates, and Roberts was one of them. The other two were the team’s Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler and Bud Black.

Roberts beat out Kapler and his old boss for the job. The Dodgers announced on Monday that he would be their next manager and will be officially introduced at a news conference at Dodgers Stadium on December 1. According to USA Today, his contract will be three years with an option for a fourth year. The hiring seems to be popular among Dodgers players. Third baseman Justin Turner and outfielder Yasiel Puig have both expressed excitement on Twitter over Roberts’ hire. Slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has also said that he’s very happy about the hiring. Gonzalez knows Roberts very well, as the two played together in San Diego from 2005-2006. It’s a good sign that he already seemingly has the support of many of his players.

Dave Roberts certainly won’t have an easy task this upcoming season. His team is loaded with talent, but they’ve underachieved in the playoffs the last few years. This past October, the Dodgers were beaten by the New York Mets in five games in the NLDS. They were beaten by the Cardinals in the 2014 NLDS and the 2013 NLCS. The team has the highest payroll in all of baseball, but hasn’t gotten that far in the playoffs recently. Maybe Roberts is the manager that will help the Dodgers finally get back to the World Series.

 

NLDS Preview: Mets vs. Dodgers

Tonight at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets will begin their best-of-five NLDS. Whichever team wins the series will face either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. The road to the World Series begins tonight at Chavez Ravine.

Both teams are going into the series with pressure on them. The Mets haven’t been to the postseason since 2006. That year, they swept the Dodgers in the NLDS but were beaten by the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Met fans are expecting a strong showing from their team, especially considering how long they’ve waited for this moment. This is the third straight year that the Dodgers have made the playoffs. They failed to get to the World Series in 2013 and 2014, despite the fact that they have the highest payroll in all of baseball. If the Dodgers are unable to beat the Mets in this upcoming series, manager Don Mattingly’s days in LA might be numbered. Mets manager Terry Collins doesn’t have that same pressure on him, but his team is still expected to do big things this postseason.

The key to this series is going to be pitching. Both teams have very good pitching staffs. One could argue that the Mets have the best staff out of all the playoff teams. They have an extremely talented group of young pitchers that the Dodgers will have to deal with. Jacob deGromNoah SyndergaardMatt Harvey, and Steven Matz are sure to give the Dodger hitters fits. They might not have any postseason experience between the four of them, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be ready for the challenge. The Mets have relied on their good young pitchers all year. The playoffs won’t be an exception. If they want to beat the Dodgers, they’ll need their pitchers to quell the Dodgers’ offense.

The Dodgers have some pretty good starting pitching themselves. Anyone who follows baseball knows the names Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are NL Cy Young Award candidates this year. Kershaw finished the year with a league-leading 301 strikeouts. Greinke posted an ERA of 1.66 this season, which was the lowest ERA out of any starting pitcher in all of baseball. Scoring off these two dominant pitchers will be extremely difficult. The Met hitters have a tough road ahead of them. Brett Anderson will start Game 3 of the series for the Dodgers. That game will be back in New York at Citi Field, with Matt Harvey starting for the Mets. Anderson is a good pitcher but isn’t on the same level as Kershaw and Greinke.

If the Mets can win one of the first two games in LA, they’ll be in decent shape for the rest of the series. The key will be being able to beat either Kershaw or Greinke at Dodger Stadium. If they take at least one game in LA, they’ll head back to New York in a good position, especially given the fact that Harvey will be on the hill in Game 3. They could take control of the series in Game 3 if all goes well. For the Dodgers, they’d be able to put themselves in a great position if they won both of the first two games of the series. That way, they’d be heading to New York with little pressure. All they’d have to do is win either Game 3 or Game 4 to avoid having to play a critical Game 5. If then series did go to a Game 5 however, it would be back at Dodger Stadium. In all likelihood, Kershaw will start Game 4 if necessary, while Matz will start for the Mets. Greinke would start Game 5 if it went that far, and deGrom would start for the Mets.

Because both teams have such good starting pitching, runs will probably be scarce in this series. We’ll be seeing a lot of close, low-scoring games. That means the big hitters on both teams will have even more pressure on them than usual to get big hits. For the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes will need to continue hitting like he has since being traded to the team on July 31. In the 57 games he played for the Mets this year, Cespedes batted .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs. He’s been the Mets’ offensive catalyst for the last two months. Veteran third baseman and team captain David Wright will also be key to the team’s offensive success in the series. He’s the only player left on the team that was on that 2006 Mets team that went to the NLCS. He brings valuable experience to the table and can also act as a mentor to the younger players who’ve never been to the playoffs before. Other important hitters for the Mets will be catcher Travis d’Arnaud, veteran outfielder and leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson, and second baseman Daniel Murphy.

The Dodgers have some decent hitters in their lineup as well. Perhaps the best one is slugging first baseman Adrián González. González batted .275 this season with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs. He’s the Dodgers biggest power threat and is a nightmare for right-handed pitchers. Speedy leadoff hitter  and veteran outfielder Carl Crawford will also be an important part of the Dodgers offense. He can set the table for the whole offense. It’s imperative that the Mets keep him off base. Power-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, third baseman Justin Turner, and outfielder Andre Ethier are other players that will need to get big hits if the Dodgers hope to win the series.

Considering the talent of both teams’ starting rotations, neither bullpen should be overtaxed in the series. The backend of each bullpen will probably be the only part used consistently. The Mets have a pretty solid backend of the bullpen with Tyler Clippard as the setup man and Jeurys Familia as the closer. Clippard has done a nice job for the team ever since being traded from Oakland in late July, while Familia converted on 43 of his 48 save opportunities this season. Addison Reed can pitch the seventh inning if a starter doesn’t make it that far. Chris Hatcher has established himself as the setup man for the Dodgers. Kenley Jansen has had a nice season as the team’s closer, saving 36 games in 38 attempts. With both bullpens solidified in the backend, whichever team has the lead late will be in a good position.

Get ready for a very exciting series. The Mets and Dodgers are two very good teams with great pitching and decent offenses. Both teams are hungry for postseason success. Only one will move on to the NLCS. We’ll see which team wants it more.

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