Monday, February 27, 2017

Smart Centipede's 2017 MLB Off-Season Wrap Up and Prediction Show

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles
2016: 89-73 (T-2nd, WC2)
Acquisitions: Logan Verrett, Welington Castillo, Seth Smith, Gabriel Ynoa
Key Transaction: Re-signing Mark Trumbo
Analysis: They took care of their big need; retaining the services of the 2016 AL Home Run leader for the next three years. Welington Castillo shows the Orioles have moved on from Matt Wieters, and there aren't a great many better options out there, so they haven't made enough serious strides to guarantee they return to the post season.
Off-Season Grade: C
Forecast: 3rd in AL East

Boston Red Sox
2016: 93-69 (1st)
Acquisitions: Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Mitch Moreland, Carlos Quentin
Key Transaction: Trading for Chris Sale
Analysis: There is not much the Red Sox can do to replace their biggest departure, as David Ortiz was not so much a player as a force of nature. Some may say they failed to do enough to replace him, but how do you even do that? The real key here is the Red Sox parted with top prospects to land Chris Sale, who is in a very team friendly contract, to compete for the number one spot. Even if he doesn't unseat David Price, he's the best number two in the league, and their number 3? 22 game winner Rick Porcello.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Forecast: 1st in AL East

New York Yankees

2016: 84-78 (4th)
Acquisitions: Albert Abreu, Aroldis Chapman, Jorge Guzman, Matt Holiday, Ruben Tejada, Chris Carter 
Key Transaction: Signing Aroldis Chapman
Analysis: They brought back the best reliever in baseball, after sending him to the Chicago Cubs to get a World Series ring (how far upside down does that statement sound?). They also brought in a 40 HR hitter in Carter... to play where? He's a 1B, but they have the much younger Greg Bird set to take over. They brought in Matt Holliday to DH, and he's not going to be better defensively than the core they have set to start in the OF, Gardener, Ellsbury and Aaron Judge.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 4th in AL East

Tampa Bay Rays

2016: 68-94 (5th)
Acquisitions: Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith, Logan Morrison, Colby Rasmus, Nathan Eovaldi
Key Transaction: Signing Wilson Ramos
Analysis: The Rays finished dead last last year, and look to do so again, apparently. Wilson Ramos was a smart move, as his great 2016 and high potential value for 2017 was hurt by a late season injury, and they got him for a cheap 2 year deal. They dealt Drew Smyly, and didn't get much for him, and then brought in Nathan Eovaldi, re-crowding their rotation. The B- is an optimistic grade, assuming Colby Rasmus and Eovaldi both get back to the value they were previously perceived to have.
Off-Season Grade: B-
Forecast: 5th in AL East

Toronto Blue Jays
2016: 
89-73 (T-2nd, WC1)
Acquisitions: Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce, Jose Bautista, J.P. Howell, Joe Smith 
Key Transaction: Signing Kendrys Morales
Analysis: The Jays replaced Edwin Encarnacion with Kendrys Morales. Steve Pearce will try to fill the oft-injured shoes of Michael Saunders. There's a drop-off in the lineup. The Jays have had injuries hamper their efforts in the past, but in 2017, a healthy Marcus Stroman will burst back onto the scene and carry them into the playoffs.
Off-Season Grade: C
Forecast: 2nd in AL East

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox
2016:
78-84 (4th)
Acquisitions: Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning, Luis Alexander Basabe, Geovany Soto, Derek Holland
Key Transaction: Trading Chris Sale/Adam Eaton
Analysis: For a rebuilding team that sent away two players (Sale, Eaton) and netted six great prospects, The White Sox have a lot left to do. While I admire GM Rick Hahn for sticking to his guns in not trading away remaining stars Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and David Robertson for lesser packages, what we are looking at now is a team that has enough to sit in the middle of the road, but not enough to take the next step. Now they seem to be moving too slow into the rebuild. If they get comparable packages for Quintana, Robertson, and Frazier to what they got for Sale and Eaton, the rebuild will be a huge success and Hahn will be a genius, but until then, they're not good enough right now, and not good enough in the future.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Forecast: 4th in AL Central

Cleveland Indians
2016:
94-67 (1st)
Acquisitions: Edwin Encarnacion, Boone Logan
Key Transaction: Signing Edwin Encarnacion
Analysis: The Tribe came within four outs of losing the 2016 World Series until Rajai Davis hit a dramatic game-tying two-run HR in the bottom of the 8th of game 7. And then they lost it anyway. There's an old saying about things not needing fixing if they aren't broken. They got that far with injuries, and adding Encarnacion bolsters a team that was strong to begin with.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Forecast: 1st in AL Central

Detroit Tigers
2016: 
86-75 (2nd)
Acquisitions: Alex Avila
Key Transaction: Alex Avila, by default
Analysis: They did next to nothing, only bringing back long time Tigers Avila and Omar Infante (the latter to a minor league deal). They seem to be resigned to standing pat. Terrible for a team that has a core of players that may be in their final homestretch and failed to make the playoffs last year.
Off-Season Grade: D
Forecast: 2nd in AL Central

Kansas City Royals
2016: 
81-81 (3rd)
Acquisitions: Jorge Soler, Jason Hammel, Brandon Moss
Key Transaction: Signing Jason Hammel
Analysis: The Royals have a hard season ahead, with the loss of pitcher Yordano Ventura who was killed in a car accident in the off-season. Signing Jason Hammel will fill in the position, but the Royals have lost a bit of their personality that can't be replaced. A controversial figure, Ventura was nonetheless a big part of their fire, and his loss will be felt not only by the Royals, but by all of baseball.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 3rd in AL Central

Minnesota Twins
2016: 
59-103 (5th)
Acquisitions: Jason Castro, Matt Belisle
Key Transaction: Signing Jason Castro
Analysis: Jason Castro is, in my opinion, an upgrade over Kurt Suzuki. Other than that, the poor stayed poorer.
Off-Season Grade: D+
Forecast: 5th in AL Central

AL WEST

Houston Astros
2016:
84-78 (3rd)
Acquisitions: Charlie Morton, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick
Key Transaction: Signing Carlos Beltran
Analysis: The Astros have been the most common team mentioned in Jose Quintana trade talks with the White Sox, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement they can both live with. The problem is that an arm like Quintana could make them the favorite to take the weak AL West, but they won't budge in their hesitance to deal prospects to get him. Also, four years of Josh Reddick .255 with 13 HR and 55 RBI for $6.5 Million a year is a risk.
Off-Season Grade: B-
Forecast: 2nd in AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California USA
2016: 
74-88 (4th)
Acquisitions: Luis Valbuena, Brooks Pounders, Danny Espinoza, Ben Revere
Key Transaction: Trading for Danny Espinoza
Analysis: Danny Espinoza was vociferously upset when the Nationals decided to go with Trea Truner at shortstop this season, as it meant he was out of a starting job. SO they traded him to Los Angeles, where now he can try to play with a chip on his shoulder and prove they were wrong for with turner instead of him. He will fail to prove that, because Trea Turner is a modern deity.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 4th in AL West

Oakland Athletics

2016: 69-93 (5th)
Acquisitions: Paul Blackburn, Santiago Casilla, Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce, Trevor Plouffe
Key Transaction: Signing Rajai Davis
Analysis: Last season I chided the Indians for having their biggest offseason transaction be Rajai Davis, and he helped them get to the 10th inning of Game & of the World Series. So I am going to go the other way now and say he's the savior Oakland has been desperate for (that should knock him back down a peg). Oakland has too many needs, not enough budget. It would take a miracle for them to finish higher than 4th.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 5th in AL West

Seattle Mariners
2016: 
86-76 (2nd)
Acquisitions: Jarrod Dyson, Jean Segura, Caset Fien, Yovani Gallardo, Mitch Haniger, Chris Heston, Carlos Ruiz, Marc Rzepczynski, Shae Simmons, Drew Smyly, Danny Valencia
Key Transaction: Too many to list
Analysis: The Seattle Mariners were in a club with the White Sox and Padres for the past few years; all three teams made big moves at the winter meetings, then failed to make the playoffs yet again. The White Sox have decided to blow it up this season, and the Padres did so about a minute after their big moves each year. The Mariners have gone the other way, and pushed all in, landing a gaggle of free agents and trade targets that should push them into the top spot in the AL.
Off-Season Grade: A
Forecast: 1st in AL West

Texas Rangers
2016:
95-67 (1st)
Acquisitions: Andrew Cashner, Tyrell Jenkins, Carlos Gomez, Tyson Ross, Mike Napoli 
Key Transaction: Re-signing Jonathan Lucroy
Analysis: The Rangers have been winning the AL West for the past two seasons, despite having injuries and not making any vast improvements. What they've reigned in this off season is a decent set of pickups, but with what Seattle and Houston have done, this might be the year they fall short, assuming Carlos Gomez doesn't return to what he was three years ago.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 3rd in AL West

NL EAST

Atlanta Braves
2016: 
68-93 (5th)
Acquisitions: Tuffy Gosewich, Sean Rodriguez, Jamie Garcia, Luke Jackson, Mallex Smith, Micah Johnson, Kurt Suzuki, Brandon Phillips
Key Transaction: Trading for Brandon Phillips
Analysis: The Braves had made no illusions about where their team is supposed to be right now, they knew going in they'd have a hard time competing with the Nats and Mets. They've had some terrible luck, signing Sean Rodriguez to platoon with Jace Peterson at second, but a car accident has taken him out for the season. They then went ahead and traded for Brandon Phillips, who finally waived his no trade clause and at the very least will be a name to get butts in the buckets in the new stadium.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Forecast: 5th in the NL East

Miami Marlins
2016: 
79-82 (3rd)
Acquisitions: Edison Volquez, A.J. Ellis, Dustin McGowan, Jeff Locke, Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler, Dan Straily
Key Transaction: Signing Edison Volquez
Analysis: The Miami Marlins are still hurting from the loss of pitching phenom Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident last summer. Edison Volquez will succeed him, but they will still have a hard time replacing him. and they still don't have a strong enough infield. If Dee Gordon stays on the field, and Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, they have a shot at a wildcard.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 2nd in NL East

New York Mets
2016: 
87-75 (2nd, WC1)
Acquisitions: Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas
Key Transaction: Resigning Yoenis Cespedes
Analysis: The Mets can't get enough of Yoenis Cespedes. They can't get enough of anything else they need, either. David Wright can't be relied upon to play a full season anymore, and they are overcrowded in the outfield. Juan Lagares is slated to back up Curtis Granderson in center, where the elder has played only 53 games in the past 3 years. Jay Bruce is holding Michael Conforto back, unless he gets starts at first, which is where Wright should be playing if not for Lucas Duda being entrenched there. Too many conrner players, not enough quality up the middle. The pitching is phenomenal, however, which is why the NL East will be a tight division.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Forecast: 3rd in NL East

Philadelphia Phillies
2016:
71-91 (4th)
Acquisitions: Joaquin Benoit, Michael Saunders, Clay Buchholz
Key Transaction: Signing Michael Saunders
Analysis: The Phillies are still going to be terrible, at least they didn't blow a lot of cash.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Forecast: 5th in the NL East

Washington Nationals
2016: 
95-67 (1st)
Acquisitions: Derek Norris, Adam Eaton, Enny Romero, Adam Lind, Matt Wieters
Key Transaction: Trading Danny Espinoza
Analysis: The Eaton deal was a good trade on the surface; they needed a dynamic centerfielder, and the Pirates aren't willing to trade Andrew McCutchen without breaking the bank of whatever team they're sending him to. The Nats gave up a king's ransom to get a somewhat lesser player in Eaton, at least if you look at the entire body of their career. But the coup was sending away incumbent shortstop Danny Espinoza to make room for the new messiah, Trea Turner. He will lead the Nationals, along with Eaton and a resurgent Bryce Harper, back to the playoffs this year. And with Wieters now signed, they have a surplus at catcher, which means they'll deal one of them for a closer (ahem, David Robertson, ahem).
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 1st in NL East

AL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs
2016: 
103-58 (1st)
Acquisitions: Jon Jay, Wade Davis, Koji Uehara, Brett Anderson
Key Transaction: Trading for Wade Davis
Analysis: The Cubs are the defending World Series champions. Go ahead and soak that in, a sentence that couldn't be uttered for over a hundred and seven years. They brought us one of the most dramatic championship runs in a long time, and they didn't make many deals because they didn't think they needed to. And maybe they don't. Having lost Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees (whom they got him from in the first place) they got as pretty decent replacement in Wade Davis, and they freed Jorge Soler from his trap by sending him to KC.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 1st in the NL Central

Cincinnati Reds
2016: 
68-94 (5th)
Acquisitions: Austin Brice, Luis Castillo, Drew Storen, Scott Feldman, Andrew McKirahan
Key Transaction: Trading Brandon Phillips
Analysis: The Reds finally managed to get Brandon Phillips to waive his no-trade clause, allowing the Reds to move fully forward with their long overdue rebuild. They won't trade Joey Votto, because they still need to draw fans, so they're pretty much broken down as far as they're going to go. So, last place in the Central, and potentially the top draft pick, lies in their future.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 5th in the NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
2016: 
73-89 (4th)
Acquisitions: Neftali Feliz, Tommy Milone, Jett Bandy
Key Transaction: Signing Neftali Feliz
Analysis: Speaking of teams that are in desperate need of a rebuild, the Brewers have Lyin' Ryan Braun and not much else. They signed Neftali Feliz, because they'll have about 10 save situations this season, which is about how many saves he's averaged per year over his career. This is going to be sad, and between the Brew Crew and the Red Machine, forecast calls for inflated win totals for the Cubbies, Cards and Bucs.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Forecast: 4th in the NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

2016: 78-83 (3rd)
Acquisitions: Phil Gosselin, Pat Light, Daniel Hudson
Key Transaction: Moving Andrew McCutchen to right field.
Analysis: They get this good a grade solely because moving McCutchen to right allows Starling Marte to take over in center where he belongs. They have some big names coming up (Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow) but may have lost Jung-ho Kang after his third arrest for D.U.I., and they'll need a big bounce back campaign from Gerrit Cole to have any hope of the playoffs.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Forecast: 3rd in the NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals
2016: 
86-76 (2nd)
Acquisitions: Chris Ellis, John Gant, Dexter Fowler, Brett Cecil 
Key Transaction: Signing Dexter Fowler
Analysis: The Cards had the best shot of taking the Cubs out of the NL Central top spot, but their hopes took a big hit with the loss of Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery. Dexter Fowler will make everyone forget Randall Grichuk, even though he's still in the starting lineup, just moving to left. They need big bounce backs from EVERYONE in their rotation... or they may only finish 3rd in this top heavy division.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 2nd in the NL Central

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks
2016: 
69-93 (4th)
Acquisitions: Daniel Descalso, Chris Iannetta,  Juan Graterol, Fernando Rodney, Taijuan Walker, Ketel Marte
Key Transaction: Trading for Taijuan Walker
Analysis: Assuming Shelby Miller was a fluke and will never be the same player he used to be, the acquisition of Taijuan Walker is a necessary step to rebuilding their rotation to compete with the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West. However, Shelby Miller hasn't yet proven he doesn't have what it takes to bounce back. The rotation could be a dominant force, with Zack Grienke, Shelby Miller, Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin making Walker the best number five starter around. This should be the year the Diamondbacks do what everyone thought they were going to do last season; compete for a playoff spot in the stacked NL West.
Off-Season Grade: B
Forecast: 3rd in the NL West

Colorado Rockies
2016: 
75-87 (3rd)
Acquisitions: James Farris, Greg Holland, Alexi Amarista, Ian Desmond, Mike Dunn
Key Transaction: Signing Ian Desmond
Analysis: The Rockies have the best 3B in the majors (Nolan Arenado), one of the speediest 2B's around (D.J. LeMahieu), and a SS  that could have won the rookie of the year award were it not for an injury (Trevor Story), so who better to round out that infield at first than a career shortstop who spend last year in the outfield? Look, Desmond was last year's comeback player of the year, in my opinion, and is a great player, but there are other first basemen that would have been better fits. Unless they trade one of their outfielders and move Desmond out there, they're not making the best moves.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 4th in the NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers
2016: 
91-71 (1st)
Acquisitions: Franklin Gutierrez, Sergio Romo, Logan Forsythe, Brett Eibner
Key Transaction: Signing Sergio Romo
Analysis: The Dodgers also resigned Chase Utley, which shows they are content to do just what they have done the past few years; win the NL West and then get bounced in the playoffs. Their other re-signings, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, are solid, and the Dodgers aren't looking any worse than they did last season, but there have been no real improvements.
Off-Season Grade: C+
Forecast: 1st in the NL West

San Diego Padres
2016: 
68-94 (5th)
Acquisitions: Jered Weaver, Trevor Cahill, Pedro Avila
Key Transaction: Signing Jered Weaver
Analysis: The previous two seasons, the San Diego Padres made big waves during the Winter Meetings, and for the past two seasons, the Padres have been terrible. This off-season, apparently, they've decided to play it cool and stay quiet. Not that that will change the in-season results, because the Padres still look like a 70 win team at best.
Off-Season Grade: C-
Forecast: 5th in the NL West

San Francisco Giants

2016: Record (2nd, WC2)
Acquisitions: Nick Hundley, Mark Melancon
Key Transaction: Signing Mark Melancon
Analysis: The Giants haven't made many transactions, but they did pick up a top flight closer. Will that be enough to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks at bay? This is going to be an interesting race in a tight division.
Off-Season Grade: C
Forecast: 2nd in the NL West

Playoff Teams:
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Mike Rizzo
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
Comeback Player of the Year: Shelby Miller

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