Free Agent Breakdown: Michael Brantley

Player Breakdown

Michael Brantley started his career as a seventh round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was traded to the Indians as a Player to be Named Later as part of the CC Sabathia deal. I’m sure Milwaukee still regrets sending him over to this day. Brantley’s first and second year with Cleveland were very average but, after that, he became the definition of consistency for that ball club. From 2011 through 2018, he had a slash line of .298/.355/.440 and had over 1000 hits in 951 games. He has always been a player who could really do it all and someone who you would love in your lineup when you need a hit. In 2019, he signed with the Houston Astros and has helped that lineup tremendously as they made the World Series in 2019 and snuck into the playoffs again in 2020. Brantley really only plays left field but can certainly be put in right field if needed. He is 33, and is heading into his second run on the free agent market, and I’m sure his agent will be fielding a lot of calls, as adding him to the middle of a lineup can turn an average roster into a much more dangerous one.

The Case to Bring him Back

The Astros are on the verge of losing George Springer, as almost all reports are saying that he is done in Houston. I think their full attention should be on Brantley now, because if they lose both of those guys, their lineup is going to take a major hit. Bringing back Brantley would at lest help the team cope with losing a top 5 center fielder. Brantley is really important to that team when it comes to getting their big bats more RBI opportunities. Bregman and Altuve are great, but you need guys like Brantley to get on base, hit in clutch situations, and start rallies that most average players are not capable of doing. There are obviously other options the Astros can look at, but I don’t know why they would let Brantley get away, as he seemingly fits the team perfectly. If they let him go, I think they will regret it and see how important he actually was to their lineup and to their overall success the past 2 seasons.

The Perfect Fits

Phillies

Last season, the Phillies had an OPS of .668 in left field and a batting average of .224, as they used many different names including Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce. It was one of the team’s major holes, and a big reason, aside from their bullpen, that they failed to push into the playoffs. Michael Brantley would be the perfect fit for the Phillies because he’d instantly give them an everyday player in left field who could consistently give Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins more RBI opportunities. The Phillies should be building their team around those 2 players, as they will be the main sources of their run production for the next 5+ years. Putting Brantley next to those guys makes that lineup a lot deeper and, even if they lose Realmuto, they can replace his production with Brantley’s. If they bring Brantley in, they can also move McCutchen to center field full time, Kingery to shortstop, and perhaps get some pretty good value in return for Jean Segura to help the bullpen out. Brantley would be a great way for the team to get major production on a not too outrageous price and plug one of the glaring holes they had in the 2020 season.

Braves

Another NL East team in the perfect fits. The Braves currently don’t have a left fielder on the roster. They are going to need to replace Marcell Ozuna’s crazy production when they inevitably lose him in free agency. I don’t know about you, but I can almost see Michael Brantley in a Braves uniform already. Last season, Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna manned left field in Atlanta for the most part, but it seems both may be on their way out. What a great opportunity they have to replace that talent and pay significantly less. Brantley seems to fit perfectly hitting next to Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Ronald Acuña Jr. That team loves their high OPS and Brantley would help them keep that stat up. Credit to the Braves GM, Alex Anthopolous, because he is very good at finding great value in the free agent market, as we saw with Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel in 2019, and Marcell Ozuna in 2020. Bringing in Brantley on a 1-3 year contract seems very on brand for the Braves, and I would not be shocked at all to see him go there.

The Good Fits

Cubs

In 2020, the Cubs really didn’t have a guy they could run out to left field everyday. They used a mixture of Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Kris Bryant, and a few others. They already non-tendered Schwarber this offseason, and Bryant may be on his way out as well, via trade. Chicago needs a guy they can call on everyday to play the position. I think Brantley fits the team because although they might lose one or two of their stars, they are still going to be in major contention to win the NL Central in 2021, as it seems almost every team in that division may regress this offseason. This Cubs team seems to have a lot of holes, but it felt like their team (outside of Ian Happ) went through a major cold streak this entire season. Perhaps bringing in a guy like Brantley, who can really stay hot the entire season, would help the other guys in that lineup get back to hitting the ball with consistency. He could make pitchers have to think twice about how they pitch to Javy Baez if Brantley can be on second base while Javy is hitting, instead of having Javy striking out with no one on base 4 times a game. Brantley would help the team raise its overall OPS while also taking a lot of stress off of David Ross’ shoulders when he is submitting the lineup card everyday.

Cardinals

The Cardinals have been very quiet this offseason, outside of their pursuit of Yadier Molina. They’re in a weird position, as they really aren’t set at any position outside of 1B. They had an OPS under .800 at every position except first base. Their team OPS for left field was .676, as they had five different guys play the position over the season’s 60 games. None of the names they played were household names, and they could really use someone who can play there everyday and give them another bat in the lineup to turn to outside of Paul Goldschmidt. I think he would be a good fit for the “Cardinal Way” because he is a winner and would add a great veteran presence next to Goldy in that locker room. The Cardinals have a lot of work to do if they want to be successful in 2021 and they should have at least some money to spend, so bringing in Brantley would make a lot of sense for that team.

The Weird Fits

Twins

I think Brantley to the Twins is a really good fit, but I am putting it as a weird one because I don’t think they have the money to pull it off. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was quoted the other day saying he wants them to re-sign Nelson Cruz. If they are able to do this, I do not see them bringing in Brantley, at all. However, I see Nelson Cruz getting big money somewhere else, which would leave some spending room for the Twins. Last season, Eddie Rosario was their main left fielder, but they already non-tendered him this offseason. I think Brantley would slot in perfectly in that position, as he would give the power bats in that lineup a lot more opportunities to drive in runs and would also be able to hit some dingers himself. Brantley would fit that team very well statistically and could really help them replace and maybe even outdo some of the production they are losing this offseason. Brantley could also help them finally get over the hump in the playoffs and win a game, as he has a lot of playoff experience and could help that young team and young manager have better success in the playoffs.

Red Sox

Boston’s Left Field OPS in 2020 was a paltry .683, as they trotted out nine different players at the position. The Red Sox have already brought in Hunter Renfroe to take over right field, but left field is still a question mark. I think that Brantley would be a good fit for them to sign because then they can let Jackie Bradley Jr. walk and move Alex Verdugo to center field full time. The Red Sox’s biggest problem in 2020 was certainly not their hitting, their pitching was just atrocious, but bringing in Brantley would just make them a better team in general. It is a weird fit though, because you’d expect a team that is more ready to win to snag Brantley, but I think Chaim Bloom has a plan in place that can have Boston back to their winning ways by 2023 at the latest. Maybe Brantley is a good way to bridge the gap for the Red Sox from the 2020 season back to the form of the 2018 Red Sox. Brantley would certainly make the team more competitive and could even help young third baseman Rafael Devers continue to grow his game. Even though Boston might not make the most sense for Brantley, I think him going there could end up benefitting both parties.

Final Predication

I am under the assumption that Brantley will end up with an NL team that is going to be competitive in 2021 as most of the competitive AL teams are pretty much set at left field (outside of the Astros, of course). I think he will have a lot of offers on the table but I am not sure as to the length of these offers given his age and the current state of the market.

Prediction: Brantley signs with the Braves on a two-year, $28 million dollar deal.

As a Mets fan, I really hope I am wrong on this prediction but, Brantley in a Braves uniform just looks too real at the moment for me to predict him going anywhere else. Thank you for reading, and if your team signs Brantley, be excited because the guy is a winner and a pure hitter.

A Drive Down I-65: Why the White Sox Should Add Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray has had his name in trade rumors before, back in 2017 when he was dealt from the A’s to the Yankees, and again in 2019 when he was traded from the Yankees to his current home as a front-line starter for the Cincinnati Reds. Now, as the Reds seem to have missed their window with Trevor Bauer searching for a new home in free-agency, the trade rumors have begun to swirl around the eight-year starter and two time All-Star. Where will he end up? It seems that there are a few common teams in the mix for the right-hander. The Reds have expressed interest in shopping him around for the right deal, while they could also be interested in keeping him. We have heard the Padres being a frontrunner for Gray, after losing their trade deadline acquisition Mike Clevinger for the 2021 season due to Tommy John Surgery. Yes, Gray has had a ton of success in the National League, however, with rumors of a universal DH still up in the air with MLB dragging their feet, this could leave out ‘automatic’ options for Gray. So where does he go? Well, there is a team about 4 hours north of Cincinnati that could use a starter like Gray, and that is the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox need a starting pitcher. Sure, you have Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation, and recently added Lance Lynn who seems to be sliding into the three spot in the rotation. However, Lynn has been okay throughout his career, and is coming off of a career year with the Rangers last season, pitching to a 3.32 ERA. Looking into the White Sox bullpen, there aren’t any flashy names in there but they are effective. There’s 2020 first round pick Garrett Crochet, Aaron Bummer, and Jimmy Cordero to name a few. But why Gray? In a rotation that is already loaded with right-handed pitchers (if you believe in that R,L,R stuff), why do the White Sox need him?

Well, let’s look into the statistics. Dating back to 2016, Gray has only pitched in four games at Guaranteed Rate Field. The majority of these games came during his tenure with the Yankees, where Gray seemed to lose himself and, to what he has said, the staff told him to throw his slider in the zone for strikes, in which the numbers spoke for themselves, it wasn’t pretty. The starts weren’t “bad,” per se. In 2016, Gray had one start with the A’s at Guaranteed Rate Field, tossing seven innings, allowing one run and punching out five. In 2017 with the Yankees, he had two more starts, one being a clunker early, tossing 7 innings, giving up five earned runs and again punching out 5. In the other start in 2017, he showed to be much better and it felt much more like a Sonny Gray start, with six innings pitched, two earned runs, and again punching out five. Finally, his last appearance at Guaranteed Rate Field came in 2018, Gray’s last season with the Yankees. However, it wasn’t in a start, it was in relief. Gray came in on August 7th and tossed three shutout innings, allowing only one hit, and striking out four.

“Well the White Sox just added Lance Lynn to bolster the rotation, why would they try to add Sonny Gray?” Sonny Gray doesn’t want to be a reliever, we’ve known that. And he is a very viable option for the White Sox. Dallas Keuchel very solid in 2020, his first year in Chicago. The question is; what Dallas Keuchel are you getting on a year-to-year basis? Why not move Keuchel to the bullpen? That would allow him to go a couple of innings of middle relief in order to bridge the gap from starter to late inning guys. Sonny can slot in right behind Lynn in the three spot, and the move would not only shore up the rotation, but the bullpen as well. Adding another reliable starter is a move Chicago should consider if they want to improve on their successful 2020 season.

The Secret to Winning Baseball Games

Free agency is the time for 29 of the 30 teams in the league to look at their rosters and try to figure out why they either didn’t make the playoffs or, if they did, why they didn’t win the World Series. It gives teams a chance to regroup and add or remove players from their roster to attempt to win more games next year. From a fan’s perspective, this job seems very easy. Some fans may scream “Just sign George Springer, the guy can really play!” at the top of their lungs and not be satisfied with the team’s offseason unless they do. Sometimes, however this may not be the answer. There’s a reason teams like the Rays and the A’s can be successful without bringing in the highly touted free agents. I wanted to look into a little bit of what makes teams win historically and how to bring in players to help achieve that goal.

The Data

Every piece of Data I used was provided by Stathead.com. No free ads but this is, in my experience, by far the best baseball statistics website and even though it is not free to use, every time I use it, I leave a satisfied customer. I pulled the win-loss records as well as total team stats from 2005 through the 2019 season. Since I was using team totals, I did not include 2020 as it would have been an enormous outlier because there were only 60 games played. The data came out to 450 individual seasons (30 teams in 15 seasons) and I ran a correlation table across all of the different statistics for hitters as well as pitchers. Essentially, this correlation test shows how relevant one variable is to another variable and if it is positively affected or negatively affected. For example, your on base percentage (OBP) is heavily correlated to the number of hits you have, but not as correlated to the amount of home runs you have. Furthermore, the more hits you have, the higher your OBP will be (a positive relationship), and the more home runs you have, the higher your OBP will be as well, but at a much slower rate. If you want to raise your OBP, you try to get more hits, you do not try to hit more home runs because trying to hit more home runs leads to more outs, which will lower your OBP. It should be noted, all correlations fall between -1 and 1, if they are 0 or close to 0, this signifies little to no correlation. In other words, one variable does not really affect the other variable.

What Correlates to Wins at the Plate

 CategoryCorrelation
Wins1
R0.559357
H0.327586
2B0.244184
3B-0.07957
HR0.37424
RBI0.555661
SB0.058241
CS-0.09229
BB0.438747
SO-0.13325
BA0.351654
OBP0.518143
SLG0.477784
OPS0.526986
TB0.45505
GDP0.044793
HBP0.180748
SH-0.05501
SF0.279139
IBB0.276242
LOB0.246685
OPS+0.609742

The biggest question I wanted to answer: what correlates the most to wins for hitting as well as pitching? I found that the biggest correlation to wins for hitting was runs. You score more runs, you win more games. Guys.. I think I’ve done it. I am the next Bill James. I will soon be working for the Rays analytics department. All jokes aside, this is the answer. You have to dig deeper into that answer, however, to find any real meaning or else you’re stuck in the same spot as before. What correlates to more runs? The highest positive correlation to runs was OPS. The higher the team’s OPS, the more runs they scored. This is natural, as OPS rewards extra base hits and the more extra base hits you get, the more opportunities your team will have to score runs. Something I found interesting is that strikeouts negatively affected runs scored, but only at a very small rate. Teams that scored a lot of runs struck out a lot, and teams that didn’t score a lot of runs also struck out a lot. It made me think of teams like the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. I constantly mocked these 2 teams because they felt like all or nothing teams. Almost every player in each of their respective lineups would hit a tank shot or strikeout every time I watched them. I didn’t think this gave their teams the best chance to win, as some days the team will strike out the entire day and not be able to hit the long ball. The data I have provided actually proves my assumption wrong. The most important things a team can do to score runs is to get on base and to hit for extra bases. Batting average was by far the least important of the three hitting statistics. Who cares if your batting average is low when you can draw walks and can hit the ball far? It really makes you think about free agency. Carlos Santana just signed with the Royals. He seems to fit the model of getting on base and extra base hits extremely well. Santana is a savant at drawing walks and has extreme power, as he’s able to turn on a ball and hit it 600 feet. He hits near .200, but the fact that he can get on base and get extra base hits makes him very valuable, and he was able to get a two-year, $17 million contract at a relatively old age and coming off of a season that even the average baseball fans would be disgusted at when they looked at his stats. I think teams are on to the fact that batting average doesn’t matter anymore. I know Alex Bregman is a big proponent of this theory. Get on base and hit doubles/home runs, that’s how you score runs and the more runs you score, the more games you win.

Another note I found really interesting was that stolen bases don’t mean much for wins. The correlation between stolen bases and wins was close to 0. Some teams that won stole bases, some teams that lost stole bases, there wasn’t much of a difference. A lot of old heads in the sport will say small ball is the way to go. Hit singles, bunt guys over, steal bases, sacrifice plays, hit and run plays, etc. The data, though, does not support this idea at all. Unless your team has nine Billy Hamiltons and they all can steal at a 98% rate, it’s not worth stealing the base. More stolen bases correlates to more caught stealings. Taking runners off the bases leads to less runs, and thus less wins. When you think about it statistically, it makes sense. The best players hit around .300 at the plate. Meaning three out of 10 times they get a hit. You want as many runners on as possible during those three appearances. Why risk stealing a base, then having the player get a hit and have it mean nothing because the runner got caught stealing? I know I sound like a non-baseball savant millennial when I say “just hit home runs, no one cares about singles or stolen bases,” but this is how the data is reading, and how it’s been trending for a while. Stealing bases does not correlate to wins, it really doesn’t effect a teams record at all.

What Correlates to Wins on the Mound

 CategoryCorrelation
Wins1
ERA-0.67045
CG0.202946
SHO0.226677
SV0.640342
H-0.56606
R-0.67417
ER-0.65976
HR-0.31837
BB-0.45742
IBB-0.21774
SO0.336577
HBP-0.12402
BK-0.20381
WP-0.1886
BF-0.52766
WHIP-0.66484
H9-0.59881
HR9-0.33344
BB9-0.48332
SO90.307941
SO/W0.50749
ERA+0.77414

As for the Pitching Correlation, again the answer looks obvious and I look like a moron. The thing that correlates the most to wins is lowering your ERA, no duh, right? Again, however, it is important to look at how to lower the ERA as much as possible to achieve as many wins as possible, as lower ERA = more wins. What correlates the most with ERA, just like scoring runs, is keeping runners off the base paths. Strikeouts are not necessarily important, but not giving up walks and giving up hit after hit is important. With that being said, striking out hitters is extremely correlated with not giving up hits. This may sound obvious, but the more strikeouts a pitcher can get, for the most part, the less hits they will give up. This may be extremely skewed because the best pitchers in baseball (deGrom, Scherzer, Cole, etc.) are able to strike out 15 and give up three hits while there are pitchers like Robbie Ray or Lance Lynn who can rack up strikeouts while giving up 10 hits in the process. Either way, the data shows that striking out players will increase your chances of giving up less hits. That’s because the less frequently balls are put in play, the less hits a team can get. What this means is the best pitchers that teams can look for are strikeout pitchers, because if they can keep the strikeout numbers up and limit the hits, the team has a better chance of winning their starts. For this reason, a pitcher like Kyle Hendricks becomes way less valuable based on the data. Hendricks is able to get outs when hitters put the ball in play at an unbelievable pace but, if you look at his stat lines, you’ll see he is extremely inconsistent. Some days he will throw a complete game shutout, and others he will get absolutely shelled in two innings of work. The inconsistency makes him a huge question mark compared to some other pitching options.

In conclusion, the best way to win games, from the pitching perspective, is to give up as little earned runs as possible. To do this, you must keep runners off the base paths. Keeping runners off the base paths is best done by pitchers who can rack up a lot of strikeouts, because that leads to as little balls being put in play as possible.

2020 Evaluation

8/9/15: Pirates ride nine-run 7th to sweep of Dodgers - YouTube

The Dodgers were by far the best team in baseball in 2020. Why is that? They had a mix of an extremely high OPS and an extremely low ERA. They were able to consistently put runners on base and the hitters on that team were able to consistently drive those runners in. They set up a perfect lineup in which five of their nine everyday starters had OPSs higher than .850 and seven of their nine everyday starters had an OBP over .310. What this means is they were able to get on base at an extremely high rate and when those players were on, they had five players who could regularly bring them home at rates way above the MLB average. As far as pitching comes, all five of their starters had K/9 over 7. They were able to keep their ERAs down by racking up strikeouts to keep all five of their WHIP’s under 1.15. The Dodgers were perfectly set up because they were good at getting runners on and driving them in as well as keeping runners off the bases and not allowing big rallies by striking out batters at an extremely high rate.

Now we can look at, by far, the worst team in the MLB, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates had one player on their entire roster, Ke’Bryan Hayes, who had an OPS over .800, he only played 24 games by the way, and had four of their everyday starters have OBPs over .300. They were really bad at getting runners on base, and in the rare cases when they did, they had almost no players on the team who could consistently bring them home. This led to them scoring very few runs which, in turn, led to them having the least wins in baseball. What the Pirates need to do is bring in players who can put the ball in play more often. Raising their OBP should be the first step, and then you can raise your OPS with time as players get more at-bats and more opportunities to hit with runners on. Trying only to hit solo home runs because no one can get on base did not seem to work for the Pirates this year. As far as pitching, they were actually quite efficient with strikeouts having all five of their starter have K/9s over 8. This is what I was referring to before with the skewing of data, however, as the Pirates didn’t have deGrom and Cole pitching for them so the strikeouts their pitchers were racking up did not lead to less hits. The Pirates’ rotation needs to keep their strikeout numbers up and work on keeping the ball in the ball park as their starting 5 gave up 36 home runs in 52 starts… that is abysmal. Even if they did pitch well, the hitting likely would have not given them enough run support to even win the games. Hopefully, the Pirates come into 2021 with hitters who can get on base at much higher rates and pitchers who can work on getting outs when hitters put the ball in play and not looking down because they know where the ball’s going to land.

Free Agents That Can Help Teams Win in 2021

Jose Quintana *Almost* Made the Rotation Conversation Very Easy, Didn't He?  | Bleacher Nation

JT Realmuto and Trevor Bauer for sure will help teams win games but there are plenty of other, cheaper options teams can look at to help increase the statistics that are the most important. First is Justin Turner. Turner is amazing at getting on base, and has a very high OPS because he is able to hit for extra bases with consistency. Adding him to any lineup would instantly give that team more opportunities to hit with runners on base and would help the hitters around him because you do not want to pitch to him with runners on. At Turner’s age, he should be relatively cheap and still can play in the field fairly well. He’s a no brainer signing for teams trying to win more games in 2021 than they did in 2020. Jackie Bradley Jr. is another free agent who can make a big impact for teams in 2021. Without even mentioning his outstanding fielding, Jackie is able to keep his OBP high by drawing a lot of walks and putting balls into play. His great speed makes infield singles a regularity, and in the past two years, his power looks to have increased as he is hitting more home runs and more extra base hits in general. The guy can help a team give their other hitters more opportunities to drive in runs while also giving the team the occasional timely huge hit. As far as pitchers go, I think Jose Quintana is a great, cheap option. Quintana is coming off an injury but when he does pitch, he can really add up the strike outs. If he is put in front of a really good defense and has worked on his control to assist him at keeping runners off base, he can be a very good pitcher and help a team win games. Gio Gonzales is another name who, if he can get better at limiting walks and unnecessary hits, can be very helpful to a team in 2021, especially one that needs pitching depth badly.

Epilogue

20 Reasons Baseball Is the Worst | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos  and Highlights

Thank you for reading all of this. I am genuinely sorry if everything I said is extremely obvious, sometimes I get lost in the data. I do think some of what I said is somewhat obvious, score more runs and give up less runs, but I think the way to go about how to do those two things is really interesting to look at. I really like the approach the Twins and Yankees are taking hitting wise and the approach the Indians and Reds (were) are taking pitching wise. Not all teams can be the Dodgers and dominate both sides of baseball, but hopefully every team can at least improve from what they had last year. I think being upset that your team didn’t sign the biggest free agent is very naïve as there are many names out there that can help teams improve their stats and increase their win totals.

What to Do if You Don’t Keep LeMahieu

2020’s COVID-19 impacted season has taken a toll on the budget of nearly the entire league. The Yankees included? The Evil Empire has been notorious for being the big spender of the league. Look no further than 2017, when they traded for Giancarlo’s massive $325 million contract, and in December of 2019 when they brought home Brian Cashman’s “white whale”, Gerrit Cole, to the tune of 9-years, $324 million. But it seems they are being rather frugal this winter. Reports have stated that the Yankees and D.J. LeMahieu stand about $25 million apart in contract negotiations. That doesn’t feel like all that much given the aforementioned contracts the Yankees are dealing with, but in the season where fans weren’t able to attend games, and thus were unable to give the Yankees money, they seem to be trying to finesse their budget in order to make things work in 2021. In the event that D.J. LeMahieu does not re-sign with the Yankees, who do they pivot their focus towards? Let’s look at some of their options moving forward.

Francisco Lindor

This would be a very “Evil Empire” move… and it’s not totally out of the question. If the Yankees were to lose DJ to free agency, they could move Gleyber Torres back to second base, where he played much of his first season in pinstripes, and acquire Mr. Smiles to be their everyday shortstop of the future. The task of re-signing Lindor once he becomes eligible for free agency is less daunting when you figure there’s a chance fans can return to games at some point during the 2021 season. Parting with certain players may be the reason this doesn’t pan out, though. Cleveland is in the market for a corner outfielder, and the Yankees have one that is familiar with the organization, Clint Frazier. But after the promising season Red Thunder just had in 2020, do they want to move him? That would wind up being one of the more pressing questions if the Yankees become a more serious suitor in the Lindor sweepstakes.

Didi Gregorius

From one recognizable smile to another. Gregorius was a fan favorite in his 5 seasons in the Bronx, where he hit .269 and averaged just shy of 20 home runs and 72 RBI a season. His tenure ended on a particularly sour note, as he didn’t perform all that well in 2019, hitting .238 with 16 home runs in 82 games after recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery in 2018. However, the Dutch shortstop saw an encouraging bounce back in 2020 with Philadelphia, hitting .284 with 10 home runs and appearing in all 60 games for the Phils. He could be a welcome return for the Bronx Bombers as they seek consistency both at the plate and in the field at shortstop, should they lose LeMahieu.

Kolten Wong

There haven’t been any rumors surrounding Wong, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees wouldn’t be interested in the Hawaii native if things go south with D.J. Wong is a career .261 hitter in his eight years with the red birds. Not only does he provide a respectable level of consistency at the plate, but he is also widely regarded as one of the best defensive second basemen in the league. Pair that with his lefty bat, and he could have a good time in Pinstripes. He’s not a power threat, averaging about six home runs per season, but he’d likely run into a few extra thanks to the Short Porch™️. Entering his age-30 season in 2021, Wong doesn’t figure to regress so much so that he’d be a bad option to consider.

All in all, the Yankees and their fans would love to keep D.J. LeMahieu in Pinstripes for the remainder of his career. He has been rock steady for them, both at the plate and all around the diamond. However, we’ve seen it happen before where the Yankees won’t budge on a free agent and that player winds up leaving to a team that is willing to pay him. But this isn’t Robinson Cano, and the 2021 Yankees are in a much better place with D.J. on their roster than without. If he does leave, these are certainly three options Brian Cashman should strongly consider as replacements.

Prospects Set to Make an Impact in 2021

Over the course of the 2020 season we saw a lot of top prospects make their MLB debuts, some we saw coming and others not so much. Sixto Sanchez, Ian Anderson, Luis Robert and Kyle Lewis were just some of the top guys to come up through the system and help their clubs in 2020. With plenty of guys that, despite being on the training camp roster, did not make their debuts. In this article I am going to discuss the top three prospects to make the biggest impact for their club in 2021! Let’s take a look!

  1. Mackenzie Gore: SP San Diego Padres (#3 prospect according to MLB.com)

This pick might not be very surprising and, honestly, it really isn’t. A lot of people, myself included, expected the left-hander to make his debut at some point in the 2020 season with the Padres. Especially after a season in which fellow top Padres pitching prospect Luis Patino broke through. But that did not happen. My guess is because they did not want to use a year of service time on his contract in a shortened season. In 2019, he rose through the ranks of the minor leagues and prospect rankings. He pitched to a 1.69 ERA in 20 minor leagues starts between High A and Double A. He has a 4-pitch mix, which you don’t see very often in 21-year-old starting pitchers. In addition to that, he can use all four pitches at a high level and can throw strikes. My best prediction is that if he has a really strong spring in 2021, he will start the year in Triple A and get called up to the big leagues only a few weeks into the regular season. He is projected to be a frontline starter and, at only 22 years old, the sky is the limit for the third overall pick in 2017.

While there are plenty of good arms in the San Diego Padres pitching rotation, he is projected to be one of the best. It will be very interesting to see what San Diego chooses to do with him in 2021, but I think he will have a huge impact on this club heading forward.

2. Jarred Kelenic: OF Seattle Mariners (#9 prospect according to MLB.com)

Jarred Kelenic will be a name that Mets fans will remember for a long time. He was famously the key piece in the Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz trade. Safe to say it is looking each and every day that the Mariners are going to win this trade. Kelenic was the 6th overall pick back in 2018 and, wow, can he hit. He is a career .290 hitter and is profiled as one of the best OF fielding prospects in the game. In 2019, his first full year in professional baseball, he went through 3 levels at the minor leagues and finished the season in Double A at only age 20. He represented the Mariners in the Futures game in 2019 and had finished off the campaign with a 20-20 season.

His bat and speed combo make him a type of guy that scouts go crazy for. Joining Kyle Lewis in Seattle will happen very soon, barring a setback. I am very excited to see what this guy becomes because he has all the ability in the world to become Seattle’s Mariners next franchise player. I expect him to make his debut midway into the 2021 campaign and, if all goes right, he’ll be hitting at the top of that Seattle Mariners order by the end of it. Mariners fans need to be excited about this kid, he can really help change things around for a struggling franchise.

3. JJ Bleday: OF Miami Marlins (#24 according to MLB.com)

Another OF gets the nod for the third prospect that I think will make a large impact for their team in 2021. Bleday was the 4th overall pick back in 2019 out of Vanderbilt and he signed for a Marlins record $6.67 million and already promoted him to advanced A-ball to start his shortened 2019 campaign. In 38 games, he hit .257 with 3 HR and 19 RBI, but with him most likely starting out the season in Double A, a real jump could be made for him coming into the 2021 campaign. He is a polished hitter at the plate and has real power potential after hitting 27 homers in his last year in college. Miami needs a bat in that lineup that is going produce in all facets of the game and I believe he is that franchise hitter that they need behind Sixto Sanchez and that exciting and young Miami rotation.

If Bleday can quickly prove he can hit, and stay hot for the first 60-80 games, I could see Miami giving him a real shot to produce for them in 2021. He projects as a top of the lineup hitter and given that 2020 was missed, I think he deserves a quick callup to the bigs in 2021 if he can prove it.

While 2020 was the year for prospects to make that jump to the big leagues earlier than expected, I think that these three guys will be key producers on their MLB rosters heading into 2021. Another notable mention is top prospect Wander Franco, while he is likely another year away, he is a super talented kid that could make the push for a call-up.

Free Agent Breakdown: Corey Kluber

Player Breakdown

Corey Kluber is coming off a season in which he made one, yes one, start for the Texas Rangers. In 20 years, naming all of the teams Corey Kluber played for is going to be an extremely hard trivia question as everyone is going to forget about his tenure in Texas. Last season, the Rangers traded for him thinking he could put them over the top and help them get to the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they gave up players and got 1 inning in return. Now, Kluber heads into free agency as one of the most interesting free agent pitchers out there because he is a low-risk. high-reward player currently. Heading into 2019, Corey Kluber was arguably on pace to one day head to the Hall of Fame as he won two Cy Youngs and was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball for 5+ straight season. He was pure dominance while in Cleveland and carried that rotation that featured Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and by the end of Kluber’s tenure, Shane Bieber. I’m sure Corey is super disappointed in what became of his 2020 season, but now he can get on a one year, “prove it” deal and play anywhere he wants. He could also go for the longer contract and accept a lower AAV than he probably deserves as a result of his time in Cleveland. There’s two things in common with most teams this offseason, a lot of them need starting pitching badly, and a lot of teams are being extremely cheap. Corey Kluber may fit both of those bills and should be on quite a few teams’ radars.

The Case to Bring Him Back

The Rangers recently traded their best pitcher, Lance Lynn, to the White Sox. 2020 was not a good year for the Rangers, but Lynn was certainly the bright spot of the team. Trading the team’s best player does not give off great signals about the 2021 Rangers. The Rangers’ number one motivation to bring Kluber back would probably be so they didn’t give away players and prospects for nothing. You want to at least get some return for what they gave up. They could bring him back on a one year deal and let him lead the rotation while also teaching the young guys in the organization how to have a winning mentality. He still has the potential to be a really dominant pitcher in 2021, so maybe they sign him to a one year deal, see what he can do, and try to trade him at the trade deadline and get some capital back into the organization. If he leaves, they are going to be a super young team and probably be projected as one of the bottom teams for next season. If I’m the Rangers, I’d at least entertain a reunion. They obviously saw something in him when they traded for him so maybe what they saw will motivate them to keep him and try to get some of the production they thought was possible.

The Perfect Fits

Angels

If there’s a team that loves buying low on starting pitching and trying to get them back to relevance, it’s the Angels. For a team that has Mike Trout, they sure do invest a lot of their huge payroll into other hitters instead of putting it into what seems to have been their main problem forever now: starting pitching. Many Angels fans are tweeting #BauertoAnaheim as they hope to bring home the big fish. Even if they did this though, they are still going to need more help as I think we can all agree they are not one Bauer away from the World Series. Kluber would be able to join a really exciting team that could get him a lot of run support, bolster his stats, and help him get an even bigger contract in 2022. That stadium is also a very solid stadium to pitch in, so that would definitely benefit Kluber. I think this is a great fit for both sides as the Angels would begin to plug up their biggest hole and Kluber would be able to try to get back to his dominant ways while also (hopefully) being in the playoff discussion all season.

Braves

Atlanta has been quite successful in the past few years at giving out one-year, “prove it” deals and having the players they sign absolutely prove it. This could be one reason Kluber would want to go to Atlanta, to try to rebuild his reputation. Like the Angels, the Braves will also put runs on the board every single night as their lineup is stacked with studs. Kluber could come to Atlanta, absolutely shove, and no one would even bat an eye because it’s Corey Kluber and it’s the Atlanta Braves, we’d all expect as much. The Braves biggest problem for 2020 was their starting pitching, so adding Kluber to that extremely young rotation could look really nice. It would remind me of when they brought Keuchal in. Dallas was able to come in and pitch well enough to get him a bigger contract with the White Sox. Perhaps this is exactly what Kluber wants to do to. Not to mention, Atlanta putting Fried, Soroka, and Anderson next to Kluber and letting them observe how he works would be huge for the franchise’s growth and for those pitchers to continue on the trajectories they are on. Last tidbit, Kluber’s from Alabama, so he’d be pretty close to home.

The Good Fits

Yankees

The Yankees are reportedly far off in contract talks with DJ LeMahieu. He still remains their number one priority, but it seems they are going to have to make more room in the budget than they perhaps wanted or planned to. What does this mean for them? They probably aren’t going to have a ton of money, after they sign DJ, to bring back the starting pitching help they need. With Tanaka and Paxton being free agents, they are in a bit of a crunch at starting pitcher. I think Kluber could fit that rotation very well and would be a relatively cheap option for the Yankees. It may come down to choosing to spend on Tanaka or Kluber, but I think there would be a chance that the Yankees choose Kluber over Tanaka as they believe their analytics and coaching could get him back to his 2017 self. I think the Yankees would be extremely scared choosing him over other free agents because of his injury history (we all know the Yankees have not done so well with injuries the past few years) but I think if they can look past that and be confident in his rehabilitation, they might be willing to give him a contract to help them take the AL East Crown back from the Rays. This would be a great place for Kluber to go because he’d be able to work with Gerrit Cole and pitch for a team with real World Series hopes. Kluber seems to strive under pressure so maybe playing in the hardest place in baseball to perform would work well for Kluber.

Padres

The Padres seem to be all the way in on bringing in Bauer. I personally don’t think they have the money to pull it off unless he really takes a 1 year deal like he has said he wants to. If they do miss out on him, Kluber would certainly be a great option for the Friars. With the news that Clevinger is out for the season, they certainly will need help in the rotation if they want to be as good as they were in 2020. Kluber seems to fit the bill as a great 2 or 3 starter that would be perfect for San Diego. He would enter a rotation with Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and Zach Davies that could really use his help. The Padres are one of the most exciting teams in baseball and Kluber would help them completely change their culture from lovable losers to a team the Dodgers and Giants actually have to worry about. I think Kluber could go there for one year and eventually finish his career there as I think he fits the team very well and is a much cheaper option for San Diego compared to Bauer. Kluber would have the chance to team up with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado and try to help them bring the 2021 World Series Trophy to a city and fanbase who have been through so much and are really deserving of it. Kluber to the Friars could make a lot of sense for both sides.

Weird Fits

Cleveland Indians (or Spiders, or Buckeyes)

Perhaps Corey wants a homecoming? Cleveland should have some extra money to work with after they trade Lindor, maybe they want to bring Kluber back? It is a weird fit because starting pitching is not their biggest hole by any means, in fact it may be their only strength. However, the pitching is what got them to the playoffs and bringing Kluber back would help them stay relevant and get back to the playoffs. Kluber was part of many winning Indians teams and a lot of the younger pitchers give him credit for teaching them how to be winners and how to work hard to ensure they achieve their goals. I’m sure the younger players he played with that are still there would be ecstatic to have him back. I feel like him being back in Cleveland would be great for him and his career and it would give him a great chance to work with the coaches who helped him get to where he is today. I don’t know if there is any bad blood between the two but nothing of the sorts has been reported and perhaps Kluber would like a clean slate and an opportunity to get Cleveland the World Series they left on the table in 2016.

Mets

The Mets are in a similar position to the Padres, as the plan for the offseason will not be fully known until Bauer is off the table. If Bauer does not end up in New York, the Mets will likely look to bring in at least one veteran pitcher to help bolster and add depth to their rotation. They seemed to be interested in bringing in Jake Odorizzi, but a lot of teams are in on him and he may be off the table sooner rather than later. Another name the Mets had talked to was Charlie Morton, but now he is with the Braves. What that shows, though,is that the Mets would be willing to take a slightly older veteran even if they had injury problems. Kluber would slot in next to the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard at some point, and then a bunch of different options. Bringing Kluber in would be great for this new Mets mentality as he is a winner and a competitor and would no doubt help the team win games. It’s only a weird fit because of the amount of options the Mets have. With David Peterson, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, as well as the dozens of other free agent or trade options, them bringing Kluber in could be a backup plan for them but one that could make sense for both sides.

Final Prediction

I genuinely think Kluber could end up with upwards of 10 teams offering him, and I imagine his agent’s phone has been blowing up ever since free agency started, so I would not be shocked at all if my prediction is wrong or if someone is willing to give him a larger and longer contract based on his resume.

Prediciton: Kluber signs with the Padres for 1 year $15 million with a team option for year 2.

Thank you for reading along and hopefully your favorite team signs Kluber, because I have a feeling he’s still got one or two more elite seasons in the gas tank.

Free Agent Breakdown: Kyle Schwarber

Player Breakdown

The Cubs recently decided not to bring back Kyle Schwaber in a somewhat surprising move. Schwarber was able to DH for the Cubs during the 2020 season and had his worst season yet by far. He was coming off a rather impressive 2019 campaign where he hit .250 with 38 homeruns and had an OPS+ of 122. This year, however, he hit under .200 with 11 homeruns. It was an extremely underwhelming season and the Cubs were clearly dissapointed in his work, as they decided to not bring him back, despite having a relatively cheap price tag. Schwarber was originally a top 5 pick as a catcher in 2014, and came up with a fury. He was crushing baseballs and helped the Cubs get their World Series Ring in 2016. His two biggest problems have always been his ineptitude as a left fielder and his inability to hit for average. The news of no DH in the NL (still pending) will probably make the list of teams interested in him a lot smaller, but I think a lot of teams will be willing to take the risk of bringing him in because of his crazy upside. If he doesn’t have to field and can focus more on hitting for average while also keeping his power, he could be an unbelievable buy-low opportunity for many AL teams.

The Case to Bring Him Back

As I stated before, the no universal DH rule really puts a damper on this option. I think it will still be on the table though, because Schwarber is such a perfect Chicago Cub. He is the kind of hitter that could hit two homeruns then go to the bar after the game with some fans and eat some sausages and have a beer or two. He’s a fan favorite as many Cubs fans scream “SCHWARBOOOO” every time he mashes a moonshot. I could see now that Theo’s gone, the Cubs might want to completely move on and restart with some new players, but it’s going to be weird to see Schwarber not in the Cubs blue and red. He could still help them if he can fix some of his flaws. He could be a very good cleanup hitter for the Cubs to get back to their winning ways, but my guess is, they’ve already closed the book on that chapter.

The Perfect Fits

Twins

Is there a team that loves to smash dingers and maybe cares a little less about batting average and fielding? Oh…there is? The Minnesota Twins are a well oiled homerun hitting machine. Schwarber would fit the culture there perfectly, hitting 500-foot homeruns like it’s nothing. Nelson Cruz enters free agency and who knows what he’s going to get, considering the 2020 season he just had. If he leaves, the Twins need a replacement and I think Schwarber could be that fit. Schwarber would be inserted into that lineup and immediately get opportunities to hit homeruns and drive in runs. It seems like a perfect win-win situation to me, as the Twins will get Schwarber at a much cheaper cost than Cruz, and Schwarber will be put into a lineup that might actually cherish the way he plays baseball. The Twins could also use him in the outfield (sometimes, although I’d advise against it) to become a more versatile team.

Rays

I’m a big Schwarber fan, so I wish there was a team that takes highly touted prospects who struggled to begin their careers and help them reach their full potential. Oh wait, the Rays already do this. I can see in my head, it’s mid-August and Kyle Schwarber hits his 30th homerun and is the clear favorite for comeback player of the year, and some are even saying he will be in the MVP race. This signing makes a lot of sense if you ignore that the Rays don’t really need him. It would be a great landing spot for Schwarber however, as he would be able to use their high level analytics to begin to figure out why he has struggled so much in the past and begin to try to fix those errors. I think Tampa would be a great place for Schwarber to land and continue to grow his game.

The Good Fits

Indians

The Indians are hellbent on trading Mr. Fransico Lindor. They also just lost Carlos Santana to the Royals. This means the team will need players to fill the lineup. They are also still really good team with playoff aspirations. They could bring Schwarber in to help the lineup that is going to take a huge hit this offseason. They are a team known for not being a big fan of long term contracts or spending much, so they would be getting a guy with a high ceiling for very cheap. It seems like a very Cleveland signing to buy low on a player that another team has given up on. I, in no way, see him finishing his career in Cleveland, but I think it could be a very interesting one year pit stop for Mr. Schwarber on his way to securing a long term contract, something similar to what Mike Moustakas has done.

A’s

The A’s are a team that are, like the Rays, always looking for production without spending the big bucks. Schwarber seems to fit this bill. I could see the A’s wanting to bring him in to insert him in the middle of their lineup and try to get his batting average up. The coaching and development the A’s have would be great for Schwarber and he’d also have the DH spot open to him here, although Kris Davis may have something to say bout it. I could see Schwarber going to Oakland because it is a winning organization and could be a great place for him to re-up his value. I could definitely see the fan base getting behind Schwarber too, as he is such an electric player and personality.

The Weird Fits

Yankees

I’ll start by saying this: The Yankees really do not need Schwarber. However, can you imagine him playing in that stadium? He could bunt the ball over the fence with the amount of raw power he has. I could see the Yankees wanting to add some more depth to their team to fight against the injury bug that seems to hit the Bronx every May or June. If Schwarber is okay not being an everyday player, this could be the perfect location for him to go, boost his stats, and maybe get a long-term contract the next free agency. The Yankees would be bringing in a guy who could potentially hit 50 homeruns on a cheap deal as insurance if any of their big names get hurt. Win-Win.

Mariners

The Mariners are on the up and up as we were all able to see what they were bundling in 2020. Led by young star Kyle Lewis, the Mariners have a lot working in the farm system to make them competitive soon. The Mariners really didn’t have a steady DH option in 2020 and Schwarber could fill that role very well. We have seen Nelson Cruz dominate in that stadium as a DH, so it is without a doubt that Schwarber could do the same thing. I could see the Mariners being a long-term option for Schwarber, as they would get a young player with a lot of potential and Schwarber would get some financial security. This would be a very interesting duo to see come together, and personally I’d be tuning in every night to see it.

Final Prediction

I think there is one team that makes too much sense to not bring Schwarber in and for Schwarber not to be ecstatic about going to.

Prediction: Schwarber signs with the Tampa Bay Rays for 1 year $7.5 Million.

Thank you for reading, and if you’re like me, you are hoping for a big bounce back year from the big guy Kyle Schwarber.

Side note: if the NL decides to use the DH, disregard almost all of this as his market would completely change.

Billions Lost: How the COVID-19 Affected 2020 MLB Season Might Impact the Future of the Sport.

In what has been a very backwards year for everyone, baseball person or not, the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic can wreak havoc on the sport of baseball for the next few years… at least. With effectively every team reporting major losses after the absence of fans for the entirety of the season, there has been an overt effort to right the financial ship by cutting ties with bigger contracts, whether by trade, release, or non-tender. It’s also, unsurprisingly, made its mark on the free agent pool for this offseason. The market for some players has been slow developing, as teams have been reluctant to offer up too much money, too soon. Other players accepted their qualifying offers, which has hardly ever been the case. With the uncertainty of the market, players like Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman wanted to play the safety card and take the money that was readily available for them. Let’s breakdown some of the areas that are most affected by the pandemic.

Trade Market:

Arguably the only boon of this entire situation is that the trade market is booming, with smaller market teams trying to trade their star players before they reach free agency, there is potential for real action and movement this winter. Even the Cubs might be sellers, as there have been indications that they want to shed some money, with Kyle Schwarber already being non-tendered. Kris Bryant could be on the move, as his name has been heavily involved in trade circles, with the Nationals being a potential player. Lest we forget the likes of Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, and potentially even Trevor Story.

Tony Dejak / Associated Press

The trade market has the potential to be just as, if not more, exciting as the free agent market, with teams reluctant to shell out the big dollars as of now. Speaking of which…

Free Agency 2020

You know things have gotten bad when even the Yankees are hesitant to spend money. For what it’s worth, the Yankees played hard to get with their last marquee free agent second baseman, which resulted in them losing him. But the early signs have not been encouraging for the players looking for money. Make no mistake of it, Trevor Bauer, JT Realmuto, George Springer, and DJ LeMahieu (eventually) will get paid handsomely, regardless of how long it takes.

(Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

It’s the “in between” free agents, so to speak, that will feel the most heat. If teams feel like the level of production on the free agent market doesn’t outweigh that of what is in their respective systems, it can turn out to be a dry winter. To this point, the Royals have shockingly been the most active player in free agency, nabbing southpaw Mike Minor and the switch hitting veteran Carlos Santana. In brighter news for players, however, as of the writing of this article, James McCann is closing in on what is expected to be a four-year deal with the Mets. This can potentially set the pace for the rest of the free agent hitters out there.

2021 and Beyond

With the prospect of fans being in stadiums at full capacity in the near future looking shaky at best, we could very easily be in this same position again come the offseason of 2021. According to healthcare experts, the earliest we might return to a relative normal, this including the return of fans to ballparks, is July of 2021. Even still, that may depend on what restrictions are placed at the state level. So, if teams can’t have fans back in the stadium for much, if any, of next season, are we going to run into the same issue again next winter? The answer, which can be said with no level of certainty, is hopefully no. Another important development is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and the Player’s Association expires in December of next year. I cannot provide much more than speculation, but how much of an impact do the 2020 and 2021 seasons have on what gets changed in the CBA? These are things to considering when evaluating the near future of this league.

All in all, it would be an understatement to say the coronavirus pandemic impacted our lives in a way that we cannot put into real words. Everything we know and love got put into an abrupt halt back in March. And although some of those things, including sports, have come back in some way, the repercussions of these past 9 months and the next 12 months to come are certainly going to shift a lot in the game of baseball. Only time will tell.

Free Agent Breakdown: Marcell Ozuna

Player Breakdown

Marcel Ozuna is in a very interesting place going into this free agency as the MLB continues to fail at running a league properly. They announced yesterday that teams shouldnoperate as if the universal DH will not be in play for the 2021 season. They’re not saying it is a guarantee that there will not be a DH, but they want NL teams to plan for it. I mean… what the heck are they doing? Whatever it is, that’s for a different article. This makes Ozuna’s decision on where he will play next interesting because he is far from a premier outfielder. Once upon a time, he won a gold glove in left field for the Marlins, but Ozuna is much stronger and less agile than he was in his younger days. NL teams may want to give him a multi year deal, let him play the outfield this year, then move him to DH after this season. Regardless of where he goes, my guess is that he is going to get PAID. Ozuna got hot this year and never cooled down. It was ridiculous to watch. He ended up playing in all 60 games, slashing .338/.431/.636 with 18 homeruns (which led the NL), 56 RBI’s (also led the NL), and a 175 OPS+. I mean my goodness he dominated this year. The Braves yet again get extreme production out of a low-risk, one year contract. Now, however, Ozuna has set himself up to secure the bag.

The Case to Bring Him Back

After reading those stats, you may think, of course the Braves want to bring him back, he has to be their best player. The Braves, however, are spoiled with riches as Ozuna wasn’t even the best hitter on the team, as his teammate Freddie Freeman won the NL MVP. Not to mention, they have potentially the most promising player in baseball in Ronald Acuna Jr, as well as budding superstar Ozzie Albies. Freeman is set to be a free agent in 2022 and Albies and Acuna are on team friendly deals, so the Braves most likely do have the cap to pull off the re-signing. I think if they want a secure number 4 hitter in their lineup for the next 3-5 years, he would be a great signing. The problem with signing him is that they need pitching help, both in the bullpen and in the rotation, so they’d be using money they could put towards their bigger holes to make their already strong lineup even better. I think they will definitely consider bringing him back as he had such an impact on their success this year.

The Perfect Fits

Blue Jays

The Blue Jays seem to be in the market for every single free agent available. It looks like they are trying to capatalize on a stacked free agent class and put great players around their already great core. I think Ozuna would be great, not just because he’s a fantastic player but also because he could be a great mentor to the young guys they have. Ozuna works hard and consistently produces on the field, so I think he could truly help the Blue Jays on and off the field. Other than that however, the Blue Jays need some help in the lineup. I’m not sure we can expect the same production out of Teoscar Hernandez, especially after his injury. Having another big bat in the lineup would be extremely helpful to the Jays in taking down the Rays and the Yankees. I think Ozuna to the Blue Jays is a match made in heaven.

Astros

The Astros are going to be an extremely interesting team to watch in the next few offseasons. I am not sure if players will want to play there because of what has happened the past year there with their cheating scandal. With that being said, I am assuming if they offer more money than other teams, there won’t be too much bias on the player’s side. I think Ozuna fits the Astros extremely well. They are likely losing George Springer and Michael Brantley, so they certainly need any help they can get in the outfield and in the lineup. Ozuna isn’t amazing in the field but he is for sure serviceable, so the Astros would be able to use him there as well as DH when needed. I think that stadium would help Ozuna absolutely MASH as well. Ozuna’s raw power and the cheap left field wall would be a must watch every night event.

The Good Fits

Rockies

The Rockies are in an interesting place as both Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado are on the trading block. I imagine they will trade at least one of them. What’s a great way to replace that super expensive talent? Replace it with slightly less expensive talent! All jokes aside, Marcell Ozuna may look like Barry Bonds in Coors Stadium. I cannot even imagine his stat line if he played a full 162 in that stadium. The Rockies actually were in the playoff conversation for a lot of the Covid season, so I could see them trying to offload upcoming free agents while also trying to produce on the field. Ozuna seems to be a good fit for the Rockies as he would be able to hit 100 homeruns and potentially drive in 300 runs while playing there.

Marlins

This would be an unbelievable first move for Kim Ng’s front office. Bringing the Bear back to Miami would put asses into the seats (bunt most likely not) in Miami. The Marlins shocked the world last year as they stormed into the playoffs and even won a series against the Cubs with their extremely young roster. I think Ozuna could hop right back into that lineup and mash again like he did in the past. I don’t know what the Marlins budget is, but man they could really use a power bat like Ozuna who could also hit for average. Like the Blue Jays, he would be great at helping their young talent develop into stars and help the Marlins go from the biggest laughing stock in sports into a really competitive team with a great culture. Will the Marlins even consider bringing him back? I don’t know but I sure would love to see the reunion happen.

The Weird Fits

Red Sox

Man the Red Sox STUNK last year. With that being said, they are still the Big bad Red Sox, as much as Yankee fans don’t want to admit it. Chaim Bloom still has a large budget to bring this team back to the promised land. I think Ozuna would be a great start at forgetting about what happened to the 2020 Red Sox. Like with Minute Maid Park in Houston, I think Ozuna and the Green Monster would be best friends. Ozuna could simply pop the ball up the left field line and watch it go every single night. I think he’d be a great talent to bring into Boston, who can use anything they can get to be perfectly honest. JD and Ozuna would likely have to figure out a system of who would DH and who would play the outfield, which is what makes it a weird fit. But can you imagine those two hitting next to each other in a lineup? Tater Tot City.

Mets

The Mets were reported to be interested in Ozuna. I’d imagine the news about the DH probably changed that interest a lot, but if they could sign him for multiple years and have him DH after this upcoming season, it could still work out. The Mets lineup certainly was not their problem last year, but one huge problem they had was clutch hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position. What would help that problem enormously? A one Mr. Marcell Ozuna. Adding him to that lineup would make them dangerous, as they would have a mix of contact hitters and homerun sluggers come together to try and scrape one or maybe two runs across the board to get Degrom a win. I think the Ozuna signing would be extremely weird for the Mets, but you can’t look me in the face and tell me adding him does not make the team better. They would also free up a lot of room to make trades for player they don’t necessarily need anymore if they brought Marcell in. It would be strange but hey, maybe Steve Cohen knows something we don’t.

Final Prediction

My final prediction comes from one of the perfect fits, as I don’t see how this team could miss the opportunity to bring Ozuna in.

Prediction: Ozuna heads up north and signs with the Blue Jays for 4 years $100 million.

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me to break down the ever-so-interesting Marcell Ozuna. Where he plays, great stat lines shall follow.

Can Gary Sanchez perform in what seems to be his “last chance” with the Yankees?

THE BRONX, NY– Yankee fans like myself have been between a metaphorical rock and a hard place when it comes to slugger Gary Sanchez over the past few years, with much of the fanbase ready to move on from the now 28-year-old former all-star. But I have asked myself, “is it too soon?” Is there still a glimmer of hope he can revive his career as one of the best hitting catcher in the MLB? Let’s take a look!

All the way back in 2016, when I heard that our young top catching prospect was finally ready to take on the starting role, I was excited. And boy did he start off to be everything we were looking for and more, as the Yankees were in a reloading stage, looking for young talent. He played in only 53 games, but he had a ridiculous .299 average with 20 homers and slugged .657, placing himself second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and giving Yankee fans hope that we found our next franchise star. Soon after, Aaron Judge, and the rest of the young budding Yankees made it through the ranks of the minor leagues and it seemed like this core group of young sluggers were the real deal. Gary and Judge went on to have a monster 2017 season, with Judge placing 2nd in the MVP and Gary hitting .278 with 33 homers in just 122 games.

(John Munson | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Things were looking great, but one of the knocks on Gary from the start was his fielding. Every Yankee fan looked at Gary and said “ok we will take the sub-par fielding if he can hit the way he does”. As a Yankee fan, I was ok with Gary staying behind the plate because of the rocket arm he has, and I thought that if he can just provide some average fielding and he hits .270 with 30 homers, then so be it. But here is the catch…. this just hasn’t happened, and the fielding has not improved all that much. Over the past 3 years, albeit filled with injuries, he has hit a combined .188, with 2020 being his worst statistical season by far, hitting to a .147 clip with 64 strikeouts in 49 games.

He struggled so much this past season that management and the front office sat him down and benched him for Kyle Higashioka. Gerrit Cole asked for Gary not to be the catcher when he pitches, which says a lot as Cole is one of those guys that controls the game himself. With so much promise out of the gate for Gary Sanchez, the 28-year-old 2-time all-star looks to be in “last chance” mode with the Pinstripers.

I think there is still hope. I agree with the Yankees keeping him around for one more season due to the shortened season that saw so many players struggle. It is smart to give Gary one more chance as he is just 28 years old after all. If he can bounce back and find himself again, he might return to being one of the best hitting catchers in the MLB. It seems like he has gotten healthy and is getting extra reps in the Dominican Winter League. Hopefully he can come into 2021 with a fresh mindset, a clean slate, and improved fielding mechanics. Most importantly, the ability to show Yankee fans why they jumped for joy when he would come to the plate.

While he does have a lot of pressure to perform in 2021, he needs to remember at the end of the day we all know the talent he has and as Yankee fans,we are cheering for his success in 2021. Hopefully Gary returns to that franchise star once again, but only time will tell.