Sunday, February 07, 2016

Smart Centipede's 2016 MLB Off-Season Wrap Up and Prediction Show

AL East

Baltimore Orioles
2015: 81-81, 3rd
Acquisitions: L.J. Hoes, Hyun-soo Kim, Mark Trumbo, C.J. Riefenhauser
Key Transaction: Re-signing Chris Davis
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Orioles were middle of the road in an imminently winnable A.L. East, and they have done next to nothing to get better. Mark Trumbo is a cusp impact player, but the loss of Wei Yin Chen leaves their rotation a huge question mark. They did re-sign Chris Davis, the best power bat on the market, but will that be enough to overcome the rest of the division?
Forecast: 4th in AL East

Boston Red Sox
2015: 78-84, 5th
Acquisitions: David Price, Chris Young (the outfielder, not the pitcher), Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Roenis Elias
Key Transaction: Signing David Price
Off-Season Grade: B+
Analysis: The Red Sox have lacked a true number one starter since Jon Lester, and now they have David Price. They've lacked a lockdown closer since Jon Papelbon left town, and now they've got Craig Kimbrel. If either Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez have a bounce back campaign, the Sox could be in the hunt deep into September. If they both have a bounce back year, they just might do the worst to first thing again for the second time in five years.
Forecast: 3rd in AL East

New York Yankees
2015: 87-75, 2nd (1WC)
Acquisitions: Aroldis Chapman, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks
Key Transaction: Trading for Aroldis Chapman
Off-Season Grade: B 
Analysis: The Yanks got one of the top three closers in the game for two years. Plus they got a second baseman that's better than Rob Refsnyder. They are trying to get younger, and have, thus far, avoided dealing any of their coveted prospects. But they're still plenty old.
Forecast: 1st in AL East

Tampa Bay Rays
2015: 80-82, 4th
Acquisitions: Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Hank Conger
Key Transaction: Uhhh... Miller?
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: Look, there's no easy way to say this. The Rays suck, and they're going to keep sucking. There are plenty of options out there right now that would make this team closer to being a contender, or at least more of a draw, like Pedro Alvarez at first, but with the franchise's imminent departure from Tampa Bay, the Rays have chosen options like Logan Morrison. There like a minor car wreck on the side of SR-60; nothing to see here.
Forecast: 5th in AL East

Toronto Blue Jays
2015: 93-69, 1st
Acquisitions: Marco Estrada, Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ, Drew Storen
Key Transaction: Trading for Drew Storen
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Blue Jays went for it last season, and they came within two games of going to the World Series, falling short in the ALCS to the eventual World Champion Royals. And then the went ahead and let the biggest reason for their late success, David Price, leave for a division rival without making an offer. There were plenty of other free agents out there to enhance their team, but then seemingly went with cheaper options at every turn.
Forecast: 2nd in AL East (possible WC2)

AL Central

Chicago White Sox
2015: 76-86, 4th
Acquisitions: Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro, Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier
Key Transaction: Trading for Todd Frazier
Off-Season Grade: B+
Analysis: The White Sox went into 2015 having made some serious moves in the offseason, but still having three alarming areas of need; 3B, 2B, and C. They addressed those areas a year later in the best available ways, and the strength of their rating here is based largely on the fact that they did it and managed to hold onto the prospects that all the other teams were asking for. They have new needs, though, with the departure of Jeff Samardzija and Alexei Ramirez, and as of yet, have not made the necessary moves to compensate for those losses. They're pursuing a free agent outfielder to upgrade the disappointing production of Avisail Garcia, but they're still relying on Tyler Saladino at short and John Danks in the rotation.
Forecast: 3rd in AL Central (possible WC2)

Cleveland Indians
2015: 81-80, 3rd
Acquisitions: Robbie Grossman, Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli
Key Transaction: Signing Rajai Davis
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: Rajai Davis being your key transaction is not a good sign. Cleveland is touted for it's young, controllable pitching, but they still need a stronger lineup. Better options are out there than Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis (Chris Davis and Dexter Fowler, respectively, jump out at me) that would cost a lot more wampum, but the tribe seems content to spend only a handful of beads for sub-standard pieces. Robbie Grossman could be a good value pick up for them, which would bump their grade to a C+.
Forecast: 5th in AL Central

Detroit Tigers
2015: 74-87, 5th
Acquisitions: Francisco Rodriguez, Cameron Maybin, Jordan Zimmerman, Mike Pelfrey, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mark Lowe, Justin Upton
Key Transaction: Signing Jordan Zimmerman
Off-Season Grade: A-
Analysis: The signing of Jordan Zimmerman, barring an unforeseen turn of events or traumatic head injury, is the move of the entire off-season for any team. In the days of $200M, 7 year contracts, they landed him for 5 years at $110M. Is he enough to help an under performing Tigers squad to improve on their last place finish of 2015? Justin Upton for six years at $136M should help with that as well. They also nabbed a closer, another dynamic outfielder, and some other decent pieces. Looks like the Tigers collapse was an aberration.
Forecast: 1st in AL Central

Kansas City Royals
2015: 95-67, 1st
Acquisitions: Ian Kennedy, Tony Cruz, Joakim Soria, Alex Gordon, Chris Young (the pitcher, not the outfielder)
Key Transaction: Re-signing Alex Gordon
Off-Season Grade: B
Analysis:The Royals are going with the "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" approach this off-season. Alex Gordon is back despite reports of their being "no chance" of him returning, Joakim Soria makes a return to the city where he made his name, and Chris Young is back in his role as "Mr. Dependable." Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer were once heralded as the next big things, and it looks like they'll get a shot to crack this formidable lineup. Ian Kennedy gives them another impact arm in the rotation, and is the lone significant addition that wasn't already part of their organization at one point. But they haven't taken enough steps to get better, and to repeat as champions, you have to make bold moves.
Forecast: 2nd in AL Central (WC1)

Minnesota Twins
2015: 83-79, 2nd
Acquisitions: Daniel Palka, John Ryan Murphy, Byung Ho Park
Key Transaction: Signing Byung Ho Park
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: The Twins shocked the world by being competitive last year, and they've done nothing to ensure their surprise success will not be a fluke. Power makes a notoriously poor transition across the Pacific, so it remains to be seen if Park will mash in the tundra of Minnesota, but even sixty home runs won't push this mediocre Twins team to the next level.
Forecast: 4th in AL Central

AL West

Houston Astros
2015: 86-76, 2nd (2WC)
Acquisitions: Brendan McCurry, Cy Sneed, Tony Sipp, Ken Giles, Doug Fister
Key Transaction: The trade for Ken Giles
Off-Season Grade: B
Analysis: Houston surprised a lot of people last year by making the playoffs earlier than anticipated, after years of rebuilding, and they've addressed their key need this off-season by securing two upper level relievers, returning Tony Sipp and trading for Philadelphia's top-flight closer, Ken Giles. They gave up the eternally touted #1 overall draft pick Mark Appel in the deal, but there's only one 1st overall draft pick to ever make the Hall of Fame, so why let that stop you from succeeding? The late addition of Doug Fister strengthens an already robust rotation.
Forecast: 2nd in AL West (possible WC2)

Los Angeles Angels
2015: 85-77, 3rd
Acquisitions: Andrelton Simmons, Cliff Pennington, Geovany Soto, Yunel Escobar, Daniel Nava
Key Transaction: Trading for Andrelton Simmons
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Simmons trade showed that the Angels value defense, securing a dynamic young star in the making. The signings of Soto and Pennington, however, show that they're willing to fill in the blanks with journeymen and also rans. Escobar is not going to make anyone miss David Freese. In a vacuum, this team has gotten better, but with the improvements to the other teams in the division, the Angels won't be ascending any time soon.
Forecast: 4th in AL West

Oakland Athletics
2015: 68-94, 5th
Acquisitions: Liam Hendricks, Jed Lowrie, Marc Rzepczynski, Yonder Alonso, J.B. Wendelken, Zack Erwin, John Axford, Ryan Madson
Key Transaction: Signing Ryan Madson
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: Ryan Madson has been a nice story, and the Athletics have gone in heavy on their bullpen to help closer Sean Doolittle, who is returning from injury. They continue, however, to trade away anything of value for multiple prospects of questionable return. Yonder Alonso is one of the weaker 1B's in the league power wise, and the Athletics continue to look like a bottom rung team with no ability to move forward quickly. The rebuild continues.
Forecast: 5th in AL West

Seattle Mariners
2015: 76-86, 4th
Acquisitions: Boog Powell, Nathan Karns, Joaquin Benoit, Leonys Martin, Anthony Bass, Steve Clevenger, Nori Aoki, Wade Miley, Jonathan Aro, Adam Lind, Hisashi Iwakuma
Key Transaction: Trade for Adam Lind
Off-Season Grade: B+
Analysis: The Mariners are another team that made significant strides last year during the off-season and then on to under-perform and disappoint in 2015. They've once again made significant moves this off-season to finish what they started, landing Joaquin Benoit to bolster the back end of the rotation and give Steve Cishek some help. Adam Lind gives them some pop at 1B and Seager is coming into his own, but there's some serious lack of power in the outfield. 
Forecast: 1st in AL West

Texas Rangers
2015: 88-74, 1st
Acquisitions: Tom Wilhelmsen
Key Transaction: By default, Trading for Tom Wilhelmsen
Off-Season Grade: C-
Analysis: The Texas Rangers are also going with the "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" approach this off-season. Except, unlike the Royals, the Rangers didn't get out of the first round of the playoffs last year. I know they had a lot of injuries, but don't they always have injuries? I see no reason to expect them to dominate in a division that has improved substantially around them.
Forecast: 3rd in AL West

NL East

Atlanta Braves
2015: 67-95, 4th
Acquisitions: Erick Aybar, Sean Newcombe, Ian Krol, Gabe Speier, Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio, Ender Enciarte, Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, Casey Kelly, Kelly Johnson, Ricardo Rodriguez, Tyler Flowers, A.J. Pierzynski, Jose Briceno
Key Transaction: Flipping Shelby Miller
Off-Season Grade: B
Analysis: The Braves plan is to rebuild, which means they don't plan on winning. Which is a key distinction, because it explains why they've been signing as many former Chicago White Sox as possible. Bonifacio, Flowers, Beckham, Pierzynski... someone call Scott Podsednik and Joe Crede on the phone and let them know Atlanta will be making an offer very soon. And they know that teams usually only carry two catchers, right? Because they've acquired four so far this off-season (O.K., Pierzynski was a re-sign, but still). However, when you consider how they landed Shelby Miller, they've now given up one season of Jason Heyward for Tyrell Jenkins, Ender Enciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson (the first #1 overall draft pick ever traded in his first season). Having sent away the best defensive SS in the game (Simmons) and a dynamic CF (Maybin), they will struggle to win, but that IS the plan.
Forecast: 4th in NL East

Miami Marlins
2015: 71-91, 3rd
Acquisitions: Wei-Yin Chen, Edwin Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jeff Mathis
Key Transaction: Signing Wei Yin Chen
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Marlins have done well this off-season simply by NOT trading Jose Fernandez when everyone in the baseball world is wanting to land him. If he stays healthy coming off Tommy John surgery, he's young, controllable, and a Cy Young candidate, and no team would have met the asking price he's worth commanding. Adding Chen and Jackson gives them a viable #2 and 3.5 (Jackson's not really a #3). They haven't given up much, but they haven't done enough to catch the division leaders.
Forecast: 3rd in NL East

New York Mets
2015: 90-72, 1st
Acquisitions: Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alejandro De Aza, Yoenis Cespedes
Key Transaction: Re-signing Yoenis Cespedes
Off-Season Grade: C-
Analysis: The Mets are a hot mess this off-season. Their moves reek of panic and thrift. They angered their fans to no end in their quest to upgrade over centerfielder Juan Lagares, by signing leftfielder Alejandro De Aza instead of making a quality offer to Yoenis Cespedes, and then they made a very player-friendly 3 year offer with a one year opt out to... Yoenis Cespedes? And in the end, neither of them can play center good enough to be considered an upgrade over Lagares anyway. Ian Desmond is still looking for a job, but they went and made an overpay for Asdrubal Cabrera. They get marks for holding onto the Four Horsemen of the Rotation, the best group of four in the biz, but they continually demonstrate that they don't really know how offense works.
Forecast: 2nd in NL East

Philadelphia Phillies
2015: 63-99, 5th
Acquisitions: Sam McWilliams, Peter Bourjos, David Hernandez, Brett Oberholtzer, Harold Arauz, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Vincent Velasquez, Charlie Morton
Key Transaction: Trading Giles while he's valuable
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Phillies had one piece of value left in closer Ken Giles, and they dealt him for a crop of prospects. Considering they have no chance to win, and they are saddled with the contract of an untradeable Ryan Howard, this is probably the best they can hope for. If Mark Appel ever lives up to his original hype (drafted in the first round twice, including 1st overall in 2013) that could end up being a key piece for their future. That's a giant "if," though.
Forecast: 5th in NL East

Washington Nationals
2015: 83-79, 2nd
Acquisitions: Michael Brady, Trevor Gott, Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere
Key Transaction: Trading Drew Storen
Off-Season Grade: B
Analysis: The Nationals had to trade a closer, as they had two of them and it made for a very unpleasant situation last season. So, who to trade; the volatile, notorious clubhouse problem Jonathan Papelbon, or the formerly shaky and now downright shattered Drew Storen, who lost his job to Paps when he rolled into town? Despite the fact that Papelbon attempted to choke the future God of Major League Baseball Bryce Harper, they made the right choice, as Papelbon is an asshole, but an asshole who can still make outs. I really hope that Storen can get his mojo back in Toronto. The under-performing Nats are looking to bounce back hard, and the over-performing Mets did little to cement their place atop the NL East, so this could be interesting.
Forecast: 1st in NL East

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
2015: 97-65, 3rd (2WC)
Acquisitions: John Lackey, Adam Warren, Brendan Ryan, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, 200,000,000 true believers
Key Transaction: Jason Heyward
Off-Season Grade: A
Analysis: What a story! I will freely admit to picking the Cubs to finish last in 2015, and boy was I wrong! Who knew Jake Arrieta was really Cy Young in disguise? To cap off their insane 2015, they went into the off-season loaded for bear. Who's the most versatile infielder in free-agency? Ben Zobrist. SIGN HIM! Who would the Cardinals hate to lose to a division rival, who will solidify our rotation without breaking the bank? John Lackey. SIGN HIM! Who's the best defensive outfielder in free-agency? Jason Heyward. SIGN HIM! The only reason the Cubs don't get an A+ here is Heyward is a rightfielder, but their shifting him to center, which comes with some unnecessary risks, especially given there are other CF's available and their looking to trade a RF anyway (Jorge Soler). Everybody's drinking the Kool-Aid now. The Cubs have successfully used their 107 year futility streak as a SELLING point to get free agents to sign for less! 
Forecast: 1st in NL Central

Cincinnati Reds
2015: 64-98, 5th
Acquisitions: Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, Brandon Dixon, Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda
Key Transaction: Dealing Aroldis Chapman
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: The Reds get some credit for dealing their two most deal-able players in Chapman and Todd Frazier, and landing seven players in those deals. But the trade for Frazier involved the Dodgers, for some reason, when they could have had three superior prospects from the White Sox. And they are still stuck with Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, who could get them many more pieces that would help their rebuild.
Forecast: 4th in NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
2015: 68-94, 4th
Acquisitions: Javier Betancourt, Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki, Freddy Peralta, Will Middlebrooks, Chris Carter
Key Transaction: Chris Carter
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: Carter is not going to help them Brewers be a contender. They're going to struggle mightily, and the roster spot would be better spent bringing a prospect up to give them experience. They also have not castrated Lyin' Ryan Braun, so they lose points for this, because it's my fucking website, and he is a disgrace to the game.
Forecast: 5th in NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates
2015: 98-64, 2nd (1WC)
Acquisitions: Jon Niese, Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Vogelsong, John Jaso
Key Transaction: Inviting Reese McGuire to spring training
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: I really want to believe in the Buccos, but they haven't done anything in free-agency to make me think they're keeping up with the Cubs. If the rumored Bryce Harper comparisons I've heard are true, Reese McGuire will be a major event in the Pirates training camp, because there's not much else to talk about there.
Forecast: 3rd in NL Central (possible WC2)

St. Louis Cardinals
2015: 100-62, 1st
Acquisitions: Brayan Pena, Jose Martinez, Jedd Gyorko, Jonathan Broxton, Mike Leake, Seung Hwan Oh
Key Transaction: Signing Mike Leake
Off-Season Grade: B
Analysis: Mike Leake will be a key part of a rotation that lost Lackey and has been ravaged by injuries for the better part of the past three years. They still haven't done enough to replace Heyward, but Gyorko gives them more flexibility than Jon Jay did, and Pena will be a key figure if Yadier Molina's thumb continues to refuse to heal correctly.
Forecast: 2nd in NL Central (WC1)

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
2015: 79-83, 3rd
Acquisitions: Chris Herrmann, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Gabe Speier, Cody Hall
Key Transaction: Zack Greinke
Off-Season Grade: A
Analysis: Minutes. That's how far away we were from Zack Greinke being on a California based team. Then the Diamondbacks, fresh off signing a $1.5 Billion TV deal, threw some of their new found money around and landed the best free agent pitcher available. Then they went and traded Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in that year's draft, to the rebuilding Braves to get their number one starter, Shelby Miller. Knowing they had starter Patrick Corbin coming back from injury, they created a buffer around him, pushing him into the three spot, and with their young lineup, the D-Backs are suddenly ready to put a lot of pressure on the NL West.
Forecast: 2nd in NL West (possible WC2)

Colorado Rockies
2015: 68-94, 5th
Acquisitions: Yency Almonte, Chad Qualls, Jason Motte, Mark Reynolds, Gerardo Parra
Key Transaction: Signing Gerardo Parra
Off-Season Grade: C
Analysis: The Rockies sent Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo to Miami for two pitchers. Why not? The Rockies aren't going to be any better than the 4th team in a 5 team division with or without Dickerson, why hold onto him, especially since they signed Parra? The Mark Reynolds signing could be fun with him hitting in that thin air. 40 HR's?
Forecast: 5th in NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers
2015: 92-70, 1st
Acquisitions: Chase Utley, Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Erick Mejia
Key Transaction: Signing Scott Kazmir
Off-Season Grade: D+
Analysis:The Dodgers are the Keystone Cops of this year's off-season. They tried (and failed) to trade for Aroldis Chapman, even though they already have a top closer in Kenley Jansen, achieving nothing other than shaking their closer's confidence. They lost Zack Greinke, their only right handed starting pitcher, and replaced him with an inferior lefty in Kazmir. They traded three prospects to the Reds and ended up getting three slightly better prospects from the White Sox, but they bypassed getting Todd Frazier, an upgrade over whomever will man third for them this year, to do it. They re-signed Chase Utley for $7M, when they money could have been better spent somewhere- ANYWHERE- else. Once the Mets signed Cespedes back, they escaped the basement of this off-season's rankings, leaving Los Angeles alone as dunce of the 2015 off-season.
Forecast: 3rd in NL West

San Diego Padres
2015: 74-88, 4th
Acquisitions: Envel De Los Santos, Nelson Ward, Carlos Asuaje, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, Manuel Margot, Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres, Jabari Blash, Christian Bethancourt, Carlos Villanueva, Alexei Ramirez
Key Transaction: Trading Craig Kimbrel
Off-Season Grade: B-
Analysis: After the splash they made last winter just like the Mariners and White Sox, everyone (me included) thought the Padres were going to skyrocket in 2015, but instead the exploded on the launch pad, just like the Mariners and White Sox. Unlike the others, they've decided to sell while the selling is good, and dumped their bullpen for prospects and projects. They won't win, but this will help their rebuild.
Forecast: 4th in NL West

San Francisco Giants
2015: 84-78, 2nd
Acquisitions: Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Denard Span
Key Transaction: Signing Johnny Cueto
Off-Season Grade: A-
Analysis: They've done the most with the least (if you can call boatloads of hundred-dollar bills the least). In three moves, they've landed two top flight starters and a elite centerfielder (when healthy). They've gone all in for 2016, which is wise, considering that since 2009 they are 3-0 in the World Series in even years, and don't even make it in odd years.
Forecast: 1st in NL West

Playoff Predictions

Yankees, Tigers, Mariners, Royals, White Sox
Nationals, Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, Diamondbacks