5 Potential Blockbuster Trades That Would Shake Up the League

Slowly but surely, the MLB Free Agents are finally starting to come off the board as George Springer signs with the Blue Jays and Michael Brantley re-signs with the Astros. This market has been one of the slowest ever and it seems teams would rather trade for talent rather than give long term commitments to the free agents available. We have already seen the likes of Francisco Lindor, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish traded with other huge names being thrown around in countless rumors. I believe there are still more trades to be made before the season starts. Here are 5 blockbuster trades I can realistically see happening before the seasons starts that would truly change the outlook of the 2021 season:

The Angels secure Catching and Pitching Depth Improvements

Angels receive: Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks

Cubs receive: Brandon Marsh, Jordyn Adams, and Franklin Barreto

The Cubs have made it clear they are trying to clear cap space, and fast. This trade would offload two somewhat large contracts and help them bring in some young talent to fill their relatively lackluster farm system. Marsh is seen as an all around outfielder who could help get the Cubs win at almost no cost. The Angels are pretty set in the outfield and it would not be the end of the world to lose him since they have Mike Trout, Jo Adell, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton already. The Angels would be getting a new, consistent starting catcher who could help their pitching get better. They’d also be receiving Hendricks who probably would be their opening day starter and would help address what has been their biggest problem for who knows how long. I think this trades helps the Angels win now and also helps the Cubs shed cap while also bolstering their farm system and making their future a tiny bit brighter.

Mets Create Deadliest Left Side of the Diamond

Mets receive: Nolan Arenado

Rockies receive: J.D. Davis, Jeurys Familia, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos/Brett Baty, and Steven Matz

The Mets have already acquired Francisco Lindor, but this move would put their lineup over the top and up there for best in the league. They would be losing J.D. Davis, who has had a couple productive seasons for New York since being traded by Houston, but Areando would immediately upgrade power department and upgrade on fielding more than you could imagine. The Rockies would be bringing in a guy who can play everyday in Davis, while also bringing in a couple very solid prospects to help their team in the future. They would be shedding major cap and would have the opportunity to re-sign Trevor Story with that money. They would have to take on Familia’s one-year contract, presumably, to make this work but they would also get Steven Matz at a very low price, and could try to develop him into the pitcher he was supposed to be. The trade would instantly put the Mets among the World Series favorites and help the Rockies offload money while keeping their lineup whole and helping the Rockies in 2022 and on.

The Blue Jays Upgrade the Infield

Blue Jays receive: Whit Merrifield

Royals receive: Cavan Biggio, Gabriel Moreno, and Patrick Murphy

The Blue Jays were rumored to have signed Michael Brantley but the signing ended up falling through within two hours. They wanted Brantley for his elite hit tool. What better way to replace that hit tool they thought they had than by bringing in one of the only guys in the MLB who has a better hit tool than Brantley. The Blue Jays would receive a versatile fielder who can play any position and, in my opinion, the most underrated and under appreciated hitter in Major League Baseball. Whit absolutely rakes and no one talks about it because of where he plays and the sheer amount of singles he hits. Whit and Springer could get on base for the Jays at a very nice pace to give their big bats opportunities for RBIs. The Royals would be bringing in a young player in Biggio who has huge upside. I don’t think anyone thinks the Royals are remotely close to being a World Series contender and this is the highest Merrfield’s value will ever be at his age. They’d be bolstering the backend of their farm system while also bringing in a guy who can play everyday at Whit’s main position.

The Yankees Become the Best Rotation in the AL East

Yankees receive: German Marquez and Garret Hampson

Rockies receive: Clarke Schmidt, Albert Abreu, and Estevan Florial

German Marquez has had a super impressive past two seasons, not only because of his stats but, because he has been able to do it in Colorado. He is a strikeout machine and when he is on, he is quite un-hittable. The Yankees would add to their extremely questionable rotation, a rather reliable arm that they can count on to go out there and get them to the bullpen comfortably. The Rockies are not in World Series mode as they are rumored to trade almost all of their best players. I think, if you’re Colorado, you trade Marquez because of the worry that he has a bad season in Colorado and absolutely demolishes his value (see: Ubaldo Jimenez post-2011). The Rockies would be bringing in a pretty highly touted pitching prospect in Schmidt, while also getting two other potentially good players. Perhaps the Rockies aren’t getting enough in this trade, but I believe trading Marquez would be in their best interest. The Yankees would secure the best rotation in the AL East while also improving their depth with Hampson in case that injury bug comes back in 2021.

The World Series Champions get richer

Dodgers receive: Sonny Gray

Reds receive: Josiah Gray, Mitch White, and Jacob Amaya

My-oh-my, the Dodgers roster is so nice every year. This would make it even nicer, as they would make their already scary rotation even scarier without losing any MLB talent. No one would want to see the Dodgers in the playoffs, as everyday would be a scary starting pitcher. The Reds seem to be in fire sale mode, while also trying to absolutely rip off the Yankees (they asked for Gleyber Torres in return for Luis Castillo). They’d be able to capitalize on Sonny Gray’s value and bring in a great prospect arm who knows of the Reds’ system already (Josiah Gray was traded from Cincy to LA in the Puig deal in 2018). They would have turned Sonny Gray, who they essentially got for free, into two soon-to-be-ready MLB players that could help the Reds win the title in a year or two. The Padres got a lot better this offseason, and this would be a great response for the Dodgers to say to the Padres “Relax little brother, it’s still our turn”.

These trades have varying levels of potential to occur, but all these players can be on the move in the coming weeks before Spring Training is expected to start. It should be interesting to see which fringe playoff teams attempt to improve via the trade market and which buyers buy more, and which sellers sell off their valuable assets. Only time shall tell.

Benny Biceps: Boston’s Golden Boy Could be on the Move

Andrew Benintendi Honored with AP Play of the Year (In All Sports)

With the Red Sox having a very down year in an abbreviated 60 game season, Jackie Bradley Jr. headed to free agency, and losing Mookie Betts prior to the start of 2020, it looks like the Red Sox are trying to save their team. With younger talent at the big-league level at this time, Alex Verdugo, Tristan Casas, and Rafael Devers, as well as All-Star caliber talent in Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Xander Bogaerts, the Bo-Sox are left in an interesting predicament. It seems that the roster is competitive enough to make the playoffs, but they will need to add not subtract from what they already have. But several teams have called already about Andrew Benintendi, all from the American League, the Rangers, Astros, Athletics, and the Pittsburg Pirates (yeah I’m confused on why). Benintendi doesn’t have much trade value as of now, the only positive is him being only 26 and having two more years of club control left. Teams seem to be betting that he can be a 20HR/20SB guy that he showed back in 2017, but hitting only .103 last season is worrisome. Yes, he had a rib injury, and we don’t really know how much that affected his swing, but personally I do not know why now is the best time to trade him. But below are some packages for each team that could happen for Benintendi.

Texas Rangers:

The Rangers are an interesting team, not making the playoffs last season, trading away Lance Lynn to the White Sox this off-season, as well as looking more and more likely that Corey Kluber will be on the move as well. The addition of White Sox Dane Dunning seems to be the right move, and he could be their ace to start the season. But where does Benintendi fit in here, with the outfield in left having Willie Calhoun and David Dahl already there, it seems that he could be playing in a platoon role, where the team already has five active outfielders on their roster. Here’s the deal that could happen;

            Red Sox Trade: Andrew Benintendi

            Rangers Trade: Elvis Andrus, Ronny Henriquez

I get it, why Elvis Andrus, after a couple of down seasons he hasn’t really been himself. The Rangers have a log jam at second base and I feel like Andrus is the odd man out in this situation. The Red Sox have had a carousel at second base after Dustin Pedroia’s next to career ending knee injury back in 2017. Andrus can provide stability there and Ronny Henriquez has shown really good arm strength in the minors, and the Sox need to replenish the farm a little bit. I feel like the trade is good for both, and the Rangers would bank on Benintendi showing more of his 2017 self, versus 2020, and the same case would be for Elvis Andrus coming to Boston after a very down 2020 season.

Houston Astros:

It looks more and more likely that George Springer will be lost in free-agency, and the Astros will need to find another starting center fielder. The Astros have a lot of young bullpen arms, something that the Red Sox need, after having a bottom third bullpen last season. I think that the Astros would be open to moving a couple of pieces for Benintendi to secure more outfield depth, below is what I think could work.

Red Sox Trade: Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vasquez

Astros Trade: Blake Taylor, Hunter Brown, Nathan Perry, and Jojanse Torres

Yep, Christian Vasquez is part of the deal. At this point, Christian Vasquez value is the highest it’s ever been, he’s always been a great defensive catcher, and his bat has finally come around after belting 23 homeruns in 2019, and 7 in 47 games in 2020. I think that Blake Taylor has the ability to be a great bullpen arm, Nathan Perry reminds me of a younger Vasquez with a quicker ability to learn to hit at the big-league level. Hunter Brown would be another nice addition for the farm system as well as Jojanse Torres, who has an electric fastball. Is it a reach, probably, but the Sox need value, and if Chaim Bloom is taking this “small market mindset”, this could work?

Oakland Athletics:

The Athletics too have a lot of outfield depth already, and I believe the A’s can be a playoff team with a healthy rotation, and hopefully A.J Puk can be part of the pitcher the A’s thought he could be. However, if they lose Marcus Semien to free-agency, the do lack a lot of depth at the middle infield positions. I believe that if the Athletics are the team to trade with, Michael Chavis will be included in the deal.

Red Sox Trade: Andrew Benintendi, Michael Chavis

              A’s Trade: James Kapriellian, J.B. Wendelken, Luis Barreara, and                                         Tyler Baum

With J.B. Wendelken being the centerpiece of this trade, a really good bullpen arm, he can bring stability to a lackluster bullpen last season. James Kapriellian, former first round pick has a lot to prove, I still believe in him, there is more in the tank and I’m not willing to write him off just yet. And Tyler Baum being a solid prospect to get back and bring a little more outfield depth to a dry farm system.

Pittsburg Pirates:

Why are they in the mix… no idea. They have a couple of good starters when on in Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove, a lot of outfield depth, but it seems that Cole Tucker may not be the next coming of who they hoped to replace, Andrew McCutchen. They are still a couple of years away, and it may be time to try to blow it up again, they were brutal to watch last season. So where does Benintendi fit into the mix?

             Red Sox Trade: Andrew Benintendi

            Pirates Trade: Cody Ponce and Braxton Ashcraft

Sure Benintendi going to the Pirates, to me, doesn’t make any sense for a team that should rebuild. But for arguments sake, two years of control left, and I believe could be used to help develop Cole Tucker. Cody Ponce, a 6th starter on the team, but had a decent 2020 season, and Braxton Ashcraft has shown to have really good stuff in the minors, a 6 foot 5 frame, and only weighing in now at 195lbs. I think as he fills out he can be a really good major league starting pitcher.

Well, Red Sox fans, and as one myself, this is tough to hear. I don’t really know where to go with this team. I want to see them compete, I think there’s too much talent to fold on. You do need pieces in the farm system to pan out. I don’t know what the signing of Hunter Renfroe had to do with the success to this season, or what the plan for him is at all. I can be certain of two things however, actually three, we need a second baseman, we need bullpen arms in a market loaded with them, and we need a starting pitcher. Chaim Bloom, the ball is in your court, but for all Red Sox fans, the clock is ticking for us and moves need to be made before other bullpen and starting pitcher arms come off the market.

The “6-year Window” Theory: What it is and How it Works

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a theory about successful baseball teams and how most organizations should try to run. Yes, there will always be exceptions but I have a rule of thumb. I call it: the “6-year window”. 

Now what does this mean exactly? Allow me to explain. We’ve seen that most teams that become successful build from the ground up. For example, the Chicago Cubs. The 2016 World Series Champions traded for a then 23-year-old Anthony Rizzo in 2012 from the Padres, acquired Kyle Hendricks from the Rangers that same winter, and drafted Javier Baez in 2011, Kris Bryant in 2013, and Kyle Schwarber in 2014, hoping that they would pan out. They all developed around the same time, aside from Rizzo, and within the span of 2-3 years, all of these guys were up and contributing at the big league level. Once Kris Bryant, who did have the highest expectations, came up and started positively contributing, that is where their “6-year window” begins. Once a team’s star prospect contributes to their success, the window has now opened and it is up to that team to take the jump into contention. The reason being that that is how many years of team control you have for that player. Once that 6-year window is up, all the young guys start to become free agents. 

You have two choices: rebuild for young star prospects or, if the team is still performing at a high level, sign those large extensions and hope you don’t get burned in the end. The problem with prolonging the window with large extensions, big free agent signing, and big trades for prospects is that if you are not going to be a World Series caliber team you will be stuck. And sometimes that could mean mediocrity and that is not a good place to be. The reason being is because you do not get high draft picks and you can lose draft capital if the free agent you said declined the qualifying offer from their pervious club.

We saw it with the Cubs this offseason, KB is a free agent at the end of 2021. I believe he’ll be traded and the Cubs already traded Darvish to officially begin the “reloading” or “rebuilding” period. They felt that they could not be contenders anymore, and so they decided to take a different approach. I am not saying they got stuck in mediocrity but they were not considered World Series contenders anymore so they decided to re-evaluate and prepare for hopefully another run soon.

Another good example is the Blue Jays. They seem to be going all in on trying to sign DJ Lemahieu or George Springer, and potentially making a trade for Francisco Lindor, and this lines up with my theory. They have the young stars in Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio, who all can become free agents in 2026, and Nate Pearson who showed a lot of promise in 2020, won’t become a free agent until 2027.  With Bichette already an established big leaguer with all star talent, Vlad Guerrero Jr. was the guy that started the Jays “6-year window”. He is supposed to be the superstar and the franchise cornerstone, so it is finally time for the Jays to improve upon their 2020 season and strike while the iron is hot. They are heading into the time where they should sign LeMahieu to a four-year deal or Springer to a five-year deal, or trade for Lindor, who they can hope to sign a seven-year extension with. They need to surround their young core with some formidable All-Star caliber veterans. 

Let me lay it all out for you now: 

  1. Draft Well and Get the Right Core

This is obvious. Now, I am not saying it is six years on and six years off. Sometimes that’s not the case. Teams take years to find the right group of guys to come up and perform, and that is why it’s difficult to be a successful team in major league baseball. But once you draft a few guys with your early draft picks like the Astros did, you hold onto them and you develop them. Same with acquiring young prospects for aging stars. You have to be patient. Some will fail, others will succeed.  When one of those top prospects gets the call and actually starts performing… Congratulations! Your window has begun. Start the timer because six years is on the clock.

  1. Core Begins to Form

Now, having one great 20-something-year-old kid in the lineup is great, but you need more than just one guy. It is up to the GM and baseball operations to trust its player development staff to start to piece this roster together. Ideally, you want to have two or three other top guys that are ready to contribute within the year. This way, they all come up at the same time and all begin their free agent clocks within a season or two of each other. Then, you’ll have three to four young affordable pieces all contributing and learning and growing together. Depending on how those 2-3 young guys are playing, it is now time to piece the roster with veteran presence.

  1. Trades/FA Signings 

What attracts large free agents and having players exclude you from their no-trade clause? It’s talent and excitement, with the real chance of contention. Now, I understand that some teams cannot afford large contracts, and that’s ok. It’s about bringing in useful veteran talent, not just expensive ones. When you have two to four guys, anywhere from ages 20-25 years old contributing, with years on the contract, free agents will want to come over and contribute. We have seen this In teams like the Padres, Cubs, Cardinals, and White Sox in recent years. This is where the spending begins. The Padres have done a good job of this, trading for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. The Dodgers did this with Manny Machado in 2018, despite him only being a rental. The Cubs went out and gave Jason Heyward that big contract in 2016. You need to surround the young core of guys with proven veteran talent, this way they not only contribute on the field, but they help the young guys learn and grow. 

  1. The Realization

This is a tough pill for every team to swallow, but it does happen to everyone in some capacity, even the Yankees who did not make the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The Cubs are doing it right now. They’re realizing that the core is set to go to free agency. Anthony Rizzo is entering the final year on the nine-year contract he signed in 2013, and if you cannot compete for a ring, what is the point of trying to stay relevant every year? In the long run, it does help to take a step back, re-evaluate, and start reloading. Once again, I know some teams can afford to keep the window open longer. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers, no doubt, could go out and spend money to keep the window open. But for teams like the Blue Jays, Padres, Brewers, Reds, and Cleveland it can be harder to do that.

Every team is different, but if you really look at it, the theory does hold some truth, especially for smaller market teams. My final point on the matter is, winning teams seem to have a young core that learns and grows together, and it is ok, regardless of what market you are in, to reload and refresh for the future! 

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Fair Weather Fan Guide: 5 Bandwagons to hop on before the 2021 MLB Season

Every year it seems as though baseball fans will come out of the woodworks once “their” team starts to perform. I would be far from surprised if the Padres suddenly had a massive influx of fans this season, what with all the moves they’ve made this offseason, they are going to be a very fun team to watch in 2021 and beyond. But we want something fun. Something different. Teams that aren’t there yet but have been pulling some of the right strings to make the leap from divisional cellar dweller to powerhouse. Here are your bandwagons to consider:

Toronto Blue Jays

It is hard not to like this team with all the young talent they possess. As a Yankee fan, I can’t say I’m too fond of them, and I’m almost a little jealous. I mean, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the organization is loaded with MLB talent, along with some really good minor league prospects. Make no mistake, the window to become a Jays fan is rapidly closing, as they made the playoffs in 2020 and the aforementioned youth will only continue to develop and get better. Sprinkle in the fact that they seem to be contenders for every big free agent this offseason… your chance to squeeze on to this bandwagon might be gone before you even know it.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners could actually use some fans. The team hasn’t been watchable on a consistent basis for a few years now and they’ve lacked a homegrown superstar since the fall of Felix Hernandez and their continued failure to keep/develop talent. Jerry Dipoto may have this team rolling in no time, though. 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis signals the next generation of Mariners talent. Consensus top 10 prospect Jarred Kelenic, Evan White, 2020 first round pick Emerson Hancock, Julio Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert, and Taylor Trammell. If that list of names doesn’t get you excited for what might be in store for the Mariners… get excited. The window for you to join the bandwagon is still open for the next year, but don’t think about it for too long… the Mariners might just be moving by then.

San Francisco Giants

It feels like this team shouldn’t be included here… they have three World Series titles in the last 10 years, more than any other team. And yet, they really should be here. The Giants roster aged faster than Macaulay Culkin. Seriously, how is he 40 years old? Feels like just yesterday he was the little 10-year-old starring in Home Alone. Right, back to the Giants. The Major League team doesn’t have a ton of exciting talent, but the farm system certainly looks poised to help out the situation. Joey Bart looks about ready to take over Buster Posey’s role as the everyday catcher for the Giants. Toss the team’s top international prospect Marco Luciano into the fold and things can get exciting over the next couple seasons if President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and co. can continue bringing in good young talent to support the preexisting guys.

Detroit Tigers

This might be just as much of a project as the Giants. The Tigers have some names to watch over the next couple seasons. Three top pitching prospects deep, Detroit has reason to be comfortable with the future at the pitching position. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal both made their debuts this year and figure to improve as they get their feet wet. Fellow top pitching prospect Matt Manning is also projected to debut in the next year or so. On the hitting side, Spencer Torkelson, 2020’s #1 overall draft pick, headlines a respectable group of prospects, including MLB.com’s #25 overall prospect, Riley Greene. Motown might have a little more pep in their step once these players start to play some more. If you want a ticket to the show, consider getting it now.

Miami Marlins

Similar to the blue birds, the Marlins are coming off a surprise playoff appearance in 2020, especially considering the navigating of the COVID-19 pandemic they had to endure. There is plenty to be excited about in Miami. Already on the roster you have Sandy Alcántara, Sixto Sánchez, Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Sanchez and Brian Anderson. Miami boasts a fairly strong top prospect list, with top 100 prospects JJ Bleday and Edward Cabrera leading the charge. The Fish just added another top pitching prospect with the #3 overall pick in 2020, drafting Max Meyer. The seasoned vets in Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte give the Marlins reason to believe in some repeated success. When you factor in the promotion of Kim Ng to the team’s General Manager position, you really have a lot to look forward to. The space on the bandwagon… or the fishing boat… is starting to run thin. Grab a fish hook and some bait before it’s too late.

All five of these teams have a lot of young talent that present each team with an opportunity to have success in 2021 and beyond. The question of course will be whether these teams and their players can put it all together and make a run for the World Series. I’ve presented you all five new teams you can root for if you’re struggling to root for your current favorite team or maybe don’t have a team at all. Best of luck to you in your decision.

P.S. Don’t sue me if your decision does not pan out. I cannot be at fault there. Sorry not sorry.

How Agent Rachel Luba and Trevor Bauer are Changing Baseball for the Better

The 2020-2021 free agent class has shown to have a ton of talent but, as it pertains to starting pitching, there is a clear and obvious Goliath: Trevor Bauer. Bauer is coming off of his best season by far, and one of the most impressive 11-start runs in the history of baseball that won him the NL Cy Young. He now enters free agency at the age of 30, and is about to have all of the hard work he has put in to getting better every season pay off. Bauer is not an ordinary player in any sense of the word. He puts his whole world out there for people to see and gives a behind the scenes look at what being in the MLB is like. Free agency is something that all fans wonder about, but have no idea how it actually goes down. Thankfully, for curious fans like myself, Trevor Bauer and his agent, Rachel Luba, have taken to social media to show us what is going on in their lives during this extremely interesting time. They post weekly videos that detail their schedules and what is going on within their team. It shows how Trevor is staying ready for the 2021 season and how Agent Luba is working to get Bauer exactly the deal he is looking for. This is amazing for baseball. It humanizes the player and shows what free agency really looks like from both the player and the agent perspective.

Being a Mets fan, I did not get to watch Bauer much over the past 5 years but, just from watching the content he puts out, it feels like I know more about him and his agent than any Mets player I’ve ever watched. The whole situation reminds me of what LeBron James, Rich Paul, and Maverick Carter are trying to do for NBA players. Klutch Sports Group (Paul) and UNINTERRUPTED (Carter) are becoming an extremely popular destination for NBA players because they are preaching what the athletes want to hear: “More Than an Athlete.” They’ve done amazing things for their players on the court, as well as important issues like social justice, as it has become a norm for athletes to speak their minds, which was not a given in the past. UNINTERRUPTED aims to humanize their players, while Klutch gives them the best representation possible. This seems to be the exact goal of Bauer and Luba. Bauer started his own media company, Momentum, and is sharing his life with the fans and giving his opinion on the baseball world and really anything that is on his mind. He is showing that he is not a robot who goes out and throws a baseball every 5 days, but rather he is a human who has real feelings and emotions and works super hard to make sure he is ready to pitch on that 5th (or sometimes 4th) day. Luba has her baseball version of LeBron as both are attempting to change the sport and the perception of the athletes who play the sport.

Trevor Bauer And His Agent Eviscerate MLB's 'Laughable' Proposal For  Returning To Play – BroBible

Rachel Luba’s client list is not as long as that of Scott Boras yet, but I imagine that will begin to change as other players see what is going on this offseason. Bauer is going to get paid, and paid well, and Luba Sports LLC will have the opportunity to grow. I really think what these two have created, with the help of their entire team, is a movement that is going to change baseball forever, and for the better. As for the critics, I get it. Change is hard, but sometimes change is necessary for something to reach its full potential. Baseball players being vocal and agents having a voice on twitter and calling out fake news articles about their clients should not be something fans see and think “Wow that’s bold”; it should be a norm.

Cubs Fans: It’s Time for the Rebuild

Cubs fans, if you are reading this, I am sorry. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs, led by the Theo Epstien regime, were at the height of baseball stardom. Young budding superstars like MVP Kris Bryant, All-star and fan favorite Anthony Rizzo, and current franchise player/ super star Javy Baez, among others, were winning games and dominating opponents, leading to the team raising the banner and lifting the Curse™️ after winning a World Series title for the first time in 108 years. A lot of people like myself thought this was just the beginning for the Cubs… but unfortunately this looked like the beginning of the end. While they would go on to win 92 in 2017 and 95 games in 2018, the Cubs could not get another title run. They fell to the Dodgers in the NLCS in 2017 and lost in the Wild Card game to the Rockies the following year. Tack on to that an underwhelming 84 win season in 2019, and of course the ever so bizarre 2020 campaign where they again lost in the Wild Card series, this time to Miami. 

This was a frustrating time for the Cubs. Kris Bryant could not stay on the field, and after great years from Arrieta and Lester, they struggled to find the Ace of their rotation. Even after seeing Javy Baez become a top 10 player in the game and a superstar, they could not get it done in the playoffs. 2020 seems to be the last year for the Cubs as KB is getting closer to free agency and a trade seems closer and closer by the day and Anthony Rizzo, while one of the best and most consistent first basemen in the game, is going into his age 32 season and after a rough 2020, you don’t really know what to expect out of him. With Theo Epstein leaving the organization, the new regime seems to want to reload for the future. 

One of the main moves that gave us this idea is the Yu Darvish trade. Darvish, who was lights out for the Cubbies in 2020, coming in 2nd in the NL Cy Young race, old was looking to lead this rotation heading into the 2021 season. But just last week, the Cubs sent Darvish to the Padres along with 27-year-old catcher Victor Caratini for 5 players, including starter Zach Davies. This trade officially confirmed in my mind that the Cubs window has closed. While the prospects they acquired do seem to have some potential, especially Owen Caissie, who was a second round selection for the Padres last season. 

I believe Kris Bryant will be traded. The Cubs do not want to pay the 2016 NL MVP. He is going to ask for a lot of money and the Cubs do not seem like they are interested in writing that check. I do believe teams like the Nationals are interested in him and have a real chance at acquiring him. He is still in the prime of his career and could get a few solid prospects for him. 

Unfortunately for Cubs fans, it could be a while before they get back into serious contention, but if they continue to trade away their veteran players for some impact prospects, they could once again return to the top of NL Central. Top prospects Brailyn Marquez and TWR-Alum Brennen Davis do have some major upside that could make them contributors for the Cubs as early as 2022. Cubs fans, sit tight and do not get discouraged your time will come once again.

5 Potential Landing Spots for Willson Contreras

Today, it was reported by Bob Nightengale that the Cubs are now shopping their 28-year-old catcher Willson Contreras. Contreras has been one of the best and most consistent catchers in the league since 2017 and has major power upside and one of the best arms in the league. I imagine there will be many teams after him as he is still in his prime and has two years of control left. I am not going to pretend like I know how to value him because of how the current market is, but I’d imagine the Cubs would at least get one highly touted prospect in return for Contreras. Here are 5 potential landing spots for Contreras to land:

Contreras heads west and links up with Mike Trout

The Angels were reportedly in on James McCann, but lost the bidding war to the Mets. In 2020, Max Stassi took most of the reps behind the plate for the Halos. Stassi had a solid year, batting .278 with an OPS of .886. There is, however, reason to believe Stassi might have been a one year wonder, as this was his best season by far in the past 4 years. The Angels would be bringing in a catcher with major upside and growing room that they could plug into the lineup behind Trout and Rendon. Contreras could also help the pitchers for the Angels, as he has been very successful with helping the Cubs’ pitchers succeed. The Angels have a couple lower end top 100 prospects that I could see them dealing to try and get to the playoffs, as you lose a year of Mike Trout every year you don’t make it. I could see Brandon Marsh heading to Chicago in a for swap Contreras.

Contreras crosses the border and heads to the North

The Blue Jays have been click-bait central this offseason as they have been linked to any and every free agent and trade candidate. They seem primed to have a big offseason to try and capitalize on the young and extremely talented roster they have. The Blue Jays ranked 23rd in total OPS among catchers in 2020, so it is clearly a position they could use help with. They have been linked to J.T. Realmuto, but perhaps they decide to go with Contreras and sign someone else to a major contract. Contreras would fit in with that young and exciting core and help Toronto stay relevant and head back to the playoffs in 2021. I could see a deal involving one of Toronto’s top pitching prospects in Simeon Woods-Richardson.

Contreras and Gary Sanchez recreate the Bronx Tale

Gary Sanchez was… bad in 2020. There have been rumors of the Yankees potentially moving him or going in on J.T. Realmuto, but I don’t realistically see this happening. I think bringing in Contreras for at least two years would light a fire under Sanchez’s ass and even if Contreras decides to move on in 2022, they will have a newly motivated and much better Gary Sanchez still. Catcher is the only position where a logjam is totally fine and actually very beneficial for a team. The Yankees would be able to mess around with their lineup and let Sánchez or Contreras hit at the DH on some days. Contreras would be a major upgrade as it pertains to fielding and I believe Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, and Deivi Garcia could really benefit from this move, as they can avoid unnecessary runners moving up a base. I could certainly see the Yankees parting ways with Clarke Schmidt to bring in Contreras to make that lineup even scarier than it already is.

Miami gets a new Leader

This could be Kim Ng’s first major move. The Marlins are certainly a lower budget team, but they have a loaded farm system that they can offer up to bring in the new face of the franchise. Contreras still has those two years of control left at a rather low salary, so he could fit the Marlins tiny budget. The Marlins used five different catchers in 2020, but their main guy is Jorge Alfaro who they got from the Phillies in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Alfaro had a very disappointing 2020 campaign and perhaps they can send him to the Cubs in a potential Contreras trade. Contreras would bring in a World Series mentality that the Marlins are currently lacking and for sure help all of the young talent continue to get better. I think Sixto Sanchez would be very happy to throw to Contreras and have some extra run support. I think an Alfaro and lower end prospect trade could work for both sides.

Contreras and Bregman team up in H-Town

The Astros made it pretty far in the 2020 playoffs with a team that was degraded and pretty much all had a down year. They are on the verge of losing two of their best hitters in George Springer and Michael Brantley, but still have enough talent on the roster to make a run in 2021. Their current catcher for 2021 is set to be Martin Maldonado, who I believe is a very solid backup but not good enough to help a team get to the World Series as a starter. The Astros would be bringing in a very solid bat at a cheap price that would make the lineup much deeper than it will be when they lose Springer. I believe Contreras is also the kind of guy who will be able to deal with the constant hate and booing the Astros will get once fans are allowed back into stadiums. The AL West is still rather weak and the Astros can capitalize on this by bringing in Contreras. Adding him would make them a serious threat to the A’s 2021 hopes of winning the AL West. The Astros’ farm system is rather depleted but I can see them packaging between 3 to 5 names to get Contreras.

I believe Contreras will be moved before the season starts, as the Cubs look to be in serious financial trouble and are trying to get any and all money off their books as soon as possible. If I had to guess, I’d predict him to be an Angel before March, but I think he is going to be sought out by many teams as a lot of the contending teams are not solidified at catcher for 2021, and there aren’t many opportunities to get a stud in their prime for a discounted rate.

The Rockstar GM: A.J. Preller

In 2014, the Padres hired A.J. Preller to be their new GM. Today, Preller traded for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to try and put together a rotation to take the NL West crown away from the Dodgers. How did Preller turn the Padres from a horrible franchise that had made the playoffs 5 times in 45 years into a team that the defending World Series Champions are officially worried about? Preller made the right calls and brought in the right names to change the culture in San Diego. The Padres have always been a team that other teams were excited to see on the calendar because they get to spend the week in the beautiful city and likely leave with at least 2 wins if not a sweep. No longer is this the case. Let’s look at how it happened.

The offseason of 2014 when Preller was hired, he immedietly showed that he was a win-now guy when he brought in Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. Matt Kemp called Preller a “Rock Star” in his press conference. Those decisions obviously did not work out, but it showed that Preller was not messing around and wanted to bring a championship to San Diego. From 2014 to 2019, the team went an overall 426-546 with three 5th place finishes, two 4th place finishes, and a single 3rd place finish. I’m sure Padre fans were beginning to lose faith in the team as they continued to fail, even after bringing in huge name free agents like Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. The Padres went all in in 2014 and it failed, and thankfully for them, one trade that happened in 2016 would change the franchise forever.

San Diego Padres: 2020 expectations for Fernando Tatis Jr.

In addition to bringing in Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, Preller brought in one of the biggest name pitchers in the game at the time: Big Game James. James Shields signed with the Padres to try and complete their super free agent team and get the Padres back to the playoffs. Shields was solid in San Diego, positing a 3.91 ERA in his first year, but the team’s success made him a trade target for other contenders in 2016, one year after Shields had signed the contract. Preller could have kept Shields and tried to keep building on the 2015 free agency they had but instead, he listened to offers. I’m sure a bunch of teams offered for Shields, as he was known for being great in huge games but Preller liked one name he saw that the Chicago White Sox offered. Fernando Tatis Jr., the son of former big leaguer Fernando Tatis. How did Preller know he would turn into a stud? That question doesn’t have an exact answer, but Preller clearly saw something worth trading away his top arm for.

Like it or hate it (if you hate it you’re a loser, no offense), Fernando Tatis Jr. is the most exciting player in baseball and is completely changing the game, 100% for the better. In two years, he has turned the Padres from the Failure Friars into Slam Diego. Players want to go to San Diego now, and not for the weather, but rather for the chance to win a World Series. Preller knows this to be the case and is taking advantage of Tatis being young and currently cheap to use his budget to put huge names around him.

A.J. Preller has earned, in my opinion, the title of master talent evaluator and negotiator. Below is the Padres lineup and Rotation in 2016:

Since then the Padres have:

Traded for: Austin Nola, Jake Cronenworth, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jurickson Profar, Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Zach Davies (who’s now gone), Chris Paddack, Mike Clevinger, and now add Blake Snell Yu Darvish to that list.

And they’ve signed: Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, Garret Richards, and now add KBO import Ha-Seong Kim to that list.

Padres to acquire Blake Snell, 2018 AL Cy Young winner, in shocking trade  with Rays: reports | Fox News

The only players left from that 2016 roster are Wil Myers and Drew Pomeranz. Myers had a great 2020 campaign and the Padres have turned Pomeranz into a very serviceable reliever. It is also important to mention that the guys the Padres traded away to get all of those players are not superstars. They haven’t completely depleted the farm system to bring in those huge names, in fact they have the top pitching prospect in MacKenzie Gore, who’s just about ready to debut. A.J. Preller turned a roster of nobodies into a top 5 favorite to win the World Series in 3 years without trading away future superstars. The Padres may not be done with this offseason yet, as Bauer and some other hitters could still be on their radar.

The 2020 Padres ranked 3rd in OPS+ and 8th in ERA+. There is reason to believe they will stay the same or get better at both of those categories in 2021. Bringing in Snell and Darvish has made what was probably their biggest weakness into a huge strength. No one is going to want to play San Diego because of the depth they have. Everyday, a great pitcher is going to be starting. A.J. Preller deserves so much credit for what he has done in San Diego. He truly is the Elvis Pressley of GMs in professional sports.

It’s Called the Hall of Fame. Baseball Writers Association of America, this is for you.

We have seen the Game’s greats go to Cooperstown, New York time and time again, where they belong. Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Ted Williams. More recently, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman, to name a few. Some of the Game’s best names have had their face enshrined in the halls of Cooperstown yet year in and year out there is a debate, is the Hall of Fame really the Hall of Fame. I sit here writing this article after a lengthy discussion with our other writers, Keith Corbliss, Nik Santana, and Matt Wechsler about the Hall of Fame and players who we believe should be in or out. We all have different opinions which made for a great discussion. However, there tended to be an issue that I saw, what qualifies you for the Hall of Fame?

Is it 200 wins for a starting pitcher? How many All-Star games do you have to make? Do you have to hit over .300? What about 500 homeruns? 3,000 hits? How many Cy Young awards? MVP awards? How many times have you been crowned a World Champion? All of this has been a good way to benchmark if players should be in the Hall of Fame. However, The Baseball Writers Association of America has messed this up completely. Over the past couple of years, there has been a very large debate if the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is even the Hall of Fame anymore, or if it has turned into the Hall of Very Good by the BBWAA. I am nowhere near a member of the BBWAA, however, I can tell you that it is not the Hall of Fame anymore. Thanks to the Baseball Writers Association of America.

We have seen time and time again the dilution of players who have entered the Hall of Fame, players like Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, and the always interesting case of Mike Piazza, who has admitted to taking Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) during his ‘Hall of Fame’ career. So, where do we stand now? Well, the media has known for a longtime that MLB’s Hall of Fame has started to become the Hall of Very Good. Brian Kenny, the host of MLB Now on MLB Network, has been the main voice behind this growing issue. The Hall of Fame is for players who are the best of their generational talent, not just someone who fits the criteria for All-Star teams elected to, or if they have 3,000 hits, or 200 wins. By reaching those benchmarks, you put yourself in the conversation to be in the Hall of Fame, not an instant vote in. With the precedent that has been set forth by the BBWAA, they have lost touch with their own voting system of who should be voted in. The Baseball Writers Association of America needs to understand that this monumental ceremony is for the Game’s very best. If there are players on the ballot for a certain year that do not deserve to be in, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO VOTE PLAYERS IN. Some people do only vote one player, while other writers feel the need to use all 10 of their votes. I am here to tell you, BBWAA writers, if there is a time to use all 10, then by all means, use all 10. But, you do not have to do so every single year. The BBWAA has made the Hall of Fame another award, not an honor.

The most recent topic of debate over the past years has included the most intriguing Hall of Fame cases, with names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire. McGwire did not get voted in on his last chance in 2016. However, over the past years we have seen the votes for and Clemens grow and grow ever closer to the minimum 75% needed to get into the Hall of Fame. This past vote, we saw Bonds at 60.7% and Clemens at 61%, leaving them with just two more eligible voting years left on the ballot. Their first years on the ballot they received 36.2% and 37.6% respectively, and popularity has grown every single year. Let us not forget one of the infamous names in all of baseball, Pete Rose, who has been banned from baseball after his gambling on games during his playing career.

Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, he’s one of the best hitters of all time, as he collected over 4,200 hits in his career. I believe that the lifetime ban and permanent ineligibility for him to be a member of the Hall of Fame is a gross overreaction. Yet, the Baseball Writers Association of America seems to think that they sit upon a moral high-horse by not allowing Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame, as well as other players who have used PEDs. What moral high ground do you have? You already let Mike Piazza into the Hall, who admitted to using PEDs, but… you won’t let Pete Rose in? Why not let Mark McGwire in? Why not Barry Bonds? Or Clemens? Baseball Writers Association of America, you already lost all credibility for your votes to the Hall of Fame. You try to act like a moral compass by not allowing others who used PEDs into the hall, but YOU already tainted it. YOU make the players who played their careers pure next to worthless, to put players in who cheated everyone else. YOU do not have the right as an association to act as the moral compass for the Hall of Fame anymore.

So what now? Well, Baseball Writers Association of America, YOU have painted yourself into a corner where your votes are, in no uncertain terms, worthless. If I am a member of the BBWAA, I cannot consciously put Barry Bonds next to Hank Aaron, turning a blind eye to the Mitchell Report. But with Mike Piazza already in, why not? You have already tainted this honor by letting in cheaters, you have diluted this by letting in very good players, not greats. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t that anymore. It was, at a time, for the Game’s greats, but it isn’t that anymore. And who knows? Maybe this will change, but it needs to change fast, and I don’t think it will. Major League Baseball, and Baseball Writers Association of America, hear our plea. As fans of the game, who seem to understand this honor more than you, tread lightly these next years, or may the floodgates open and taint what is supposed to be a shrine of greats.

Looking at Every Team’s Biggest Homerun Ever: AL East

Prologue

Stahead.com has a statistic that can calculate the percent change in World Series Chances based on a single play in a game. I used this data to find the most important homerun in every single team’s history. I am going to make six separate posts for each division going through every single team’s biggest homerun. The data is from 1961 to 2020, though I should say, if a homerun doesn’t have video, I am going to mention it but use the second biggest homerun ever so you guys have something to see. Enjoy!

Toronto Blue Jays

1993 World Series Game 6, Blue Jays lead series 3-2

Joe Carter vs. Mitch Williams

Ranks as the 3rd most important homerun of all time.

This epic video comes from the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter walked it off for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the 9th with one out, down one run. The count was 2-2, and you can just see in his eyes as he stepped into the box that the screams and cheers of 50,000 crazy Canadian fans was not phasing him at all. He was completely focused in. Williams threw him what looked to be a slider riding in and Carter absolutely mashed it deep to left field. The views from that stadium, as the ball is in the air, is amazing as Toronto is one of the coolest places in the MLB during playoff time. Before that at-bat, the Blue Jays had a 69.72% chance to win the World Series. After that at-bat, they obviously had a 100% chance, which is a 30.28% change. That swing will go down as the most important swing in Blue Jays History.

New York Yankees

Note: The Yankees biggest homerun ever is from the 1964 World Series. Tom Tresh did the unthinkable and took the legendary Bob Gibson deep in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, down 2 for a 2 run homerun. It ranks as the sixth biggest homerun of all time but unfortunately there is no film of it so I am going to use the Yankees’ second biggest homerun ever.

2001 World Series Game 5, series tied 2-2

Scott Brosius vs. Byung-Hyun Kim

Ranks as the seventh most important homerun of all time.

The sounds that come out of Yankee stadium from big homeruns is different than every other stadium. You could feel the tension in the stadium as the Yankees were facing going down 3-2 in the series, and the city so desperately wanted to win. Definitely not one of the bigger names on that team, Scott Brosius steps to the plate in the bottom of the 9th down 2 with 2 outs and as the tying run. He took the first pitch for a ball. The next pitch, Kim throws him what looks to be a hanging movement pitch that ends up falling right down the middle of the plate. Brosius turns his hips and pulls a moon shot down the left field line. He knows it is gone as he immediately lifts his arm and watches it as he jogs to first base. The ball lands in about the 5th row of the left field bleachers and you can see the entire stadium start to jump all at once. That swing made it 24.19% more likely that the Yankees would win that World Series. The Yankees ended up losing the World Series that year, but if they won it, I believe that homerun might be as famous as the one hit by Aaron Boone, which ranks as 27th most important homerun ever for any curious Yankees fan.

Boston Red Sox

1975 World Series, Reds lead series 3-2

Bernie Carbo vs. Rawly Eastwick

Ranks as the eighth most important homerun of all time.

At this time, the Red Sox curse was still fully functioning and you can see and hear the Boston fans and how much they wanted the curse to end as this ball was hit. The Reds were leading the game 6-3 in the Bottom of the 8th. They had four more outs to become World Series Champions. Carbo steps up to the plate with two runners on, making him the tying run. He had a favorable righty-lefty matchup, and managed to work the count to 2-2. Eastwick then makes his biggest mistake as he throws a pitch that’s slightly outside, but Carbo uses all of his strength to drive it to deep center field. It may not have looked like a bomb off the bat but the ball just kept going and going until it cleared the Mini Monster in center field to tie the game at 6. Carbo basically sprints around the bases in pure excitement, as maybe even he was surprised at how far he had just hit the ball. That homerun made it 23.76% more likely that the Red Sox would win that World Series. The Red Sox went on to win the game but lose the series, though the Red Sox fans’ pain would finally come to an end in 2004 when David Ortiz hit some rather important homeruns himself.

Tampa Bay Rays

2020 World Series, Dodgers lead series 2-1

Brandon Lowe vs. Pedro Baez

Ranks as the 61st most important homerun of all time.

The Rays made it to their second ever World Series in 2020 hoping for better results than their first appearance. Game 4 was a wild game that became a must-win for the Rays, because beating the Dodgers three times in a row was seemingly impossible. The Dodgers led 4-2 as Lowe stepped into the box. The Dodgers had gotten to their fairly reliable bullpen as Baez was on the mound trying to get the team to the 7th with a 2 run lead. There were men on first and second when Lowe stepped in and worked the at-bat to a 2-2 count. Baez then threw him what really wasn’t a bad pitch, a ball moving away from the plate that Lowe was able to put really solid contact on and drive it the opposite way to left field. The ball kept going and going and going and the homerun became real as Chris Taylor hit the wall and saw the ball float over his head. This homerun feels different than all other homeruns because of the lack of fans, and doesn’t give justice to how important a homerun that was to the Rays chances of winning the 2020 World Series. That homerun raised the Rays chances of winning the World Series by 12.88%. This homerun likely won’t be the play most remembered in the game as this was the game with the wild walk off hit from Brett Phillips.

Baltimore Orioles

Note: The Orioles’ biggest homerun ever came during the 1979 World Series. Rich Dauer took Jim Bibby deep in the Bottom of the 3rd in Game 7, which gave the Orioles the lead and raised their chances of winning the World series by over 10%. For some reason, there is no video of this play and I didn’t want to post the full 3 hour game and have you guys find the homerun so I used their second most important ever.

1983 ALCS, Baltimore leads series 2-1

Tito Landrum vs. Britt Burns

Ranks as the 101st most important homerun of all time.

To set the scene, it was the Top of the 10th as the Orioles and White Sox stormed into extra innings. The White Sox needed to win this game to not go down 3-1 in the series and keep their World Series hopes alive. The White Sox got the 1st out of the 10th before Landrum walked up to the plate. Landrum took the first pitch at the knees for a strike. The announcer then goes on to say “Landrum, not the deep threat” before pitch 2 warning the White Sox not to get to Ripken because he was the power threat. Burns then winds up and tosses a meatball that Landrum absolutely crushes to left field. He knew it was gone immediately as he dropped his bat and watched the ball soar into the second deck. This is the only homerun so far that was on the road, but you can just feel the anger in that stadium as they watched a moon shot ruin their World Series dreams. The announcer realized that he had pretty much jinxed that play into occurrence as he watched Landrum round the bases. That homerun made the Orioles 10.21% more likely to win the World Series in that season.

Thanks for reading part one of this six part series. In the next few days, I’m going to be doing this same thing for the other divisions in the League. Up next, we’ll look at the AL Central teams’ biggest homeruns. Stay tuned!