By Ben Diamond
With the MLB Winter Meetings around the corner, and the offseason gets into full swing, Yankee fans should start spreading the news: some very exciting moves could be on the way.
Trading for starting pitcher James Paxton from the Mariners (with the unfortunate exchange of Justus Sheffield) was only the first piece to the Yankees offseason puzzle. With the possibility of getting a starting pitcher (Not named Patrick Corbin), Manny Machado, and/or Bryce Harper, this offseason really can push them into being a real World Series contender.
Corbin originally had three teams on his mind: the Yankees, Nationals, and the Phillies, but the Phillies were reportedly dropped off the list late last week, making the possibility of him going to the Yankees even more likely. It was rumored that the Yankees were going to offer five years and $100M. The possibility to go to his childhood team was just a pipe dream however, and Corbin went for the extra year, and the extra money, inking a six-year $140M contract with the Washington Nationals.
So now what? Bryce Harper’s name has been coming up more as a real possibility for the Yankees, although the front office continues to deny. Manny “Johnny Hustle” Machado has also been linked, although his on-field antics down the stretch and into the postseason have hurt his stock. Never doubt the Evil Empire though, as either of these generational talents could be in play. If they do end up signing Harper, he will most likely play first base for them, with a crowded outfield. Harper also has a great lefty bat and can go opposite of breakout Yankee Luke Voit, who showed potential in 2018.
The other side of the coin is in Cleveland, where Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber are elite starters who are certainly available in a trade with the Indians. And let’s not forget about San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who will be a free agent in a year. Finally, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ are the next tier of free agent pitchers, and are worth looking at.
All in all, this offseason will be a rollercoaster ride for all Yankee fans, with the chance that it leads to a parade down the Canyon Of Heroes
By Michael Burgner
The 2016 Major League Baseball season is almost to the halfway point and I think it’s high time to acknowledge all the young players rising to stardom this year. It seems as if for the first time in a long time there are a plethora of young players doing exceedingly well and taking the league by storm. There is new blood in the MLB led by the young arms and bats of players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Kris Bryant.
It seems there hasn’t been this great of an influx of talent since I was a young fan about 15 years ago. Back then there was Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettite, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and many others. Of those famed players I just named half were named and accused of taking PED’s. The best in the game, the heroes of baseball but most could not be trusted. Rodriguez and Pujols are still in the league but the others have since retired and moved out of the spotlight making way for the new age of baseball.
The steroid era plagued baseball for a long time because the stars of the game could not be trusted to be honest and play the game with the same respect the fans gave it. Now it appears most if not all of that bad blood and poor mentality are out of the league and in the past of America’s Pastime. A few may remain but the main focus now is on the new talent. It’s a class of players that young fans can be excited about, and it’s not just a couple of players it’s a wave of new players for fans to look up to.
This is exactly what baseball as a sport needs to grow and engage it’s young fans. Like all sports baseball is very much generational with everyone loving the top players of their time and passing down stories. The unfortunate issue with this for baseball is that, a generation of players is longer than in any other sport. The average career length is longer and those who are at the top typically have at least a 10-15 year career. People do not have great stories from the past generation and if they do it’s not unusual to hear “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on steroids.”
That steroid generation or era of baseball has come to pass. Yes, people will always try to cheat the system but it appears that these new stars along with the new stricter policies in place by the MLB are prepared to play the sport with respect and heart and show the fans how baseball can be fun again. I wouldn’t be surprised if in another 5-10 years midway through this new generation of players baseball’s popularity resurges and once again becomes America’s pastime. That’s what I would like to see and I know I’ll be telling my kids about these guys for a long time.
By Michael Burgner
Last year, the Boston Red Sox came into the 2015 regular season as one of the hot teams to watch, giving lots of hope to their fans. They had signed on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to create an offensive powerhouse, and on the pitching side they added Rick Porcello who had been improving and seemed to be poised for his best season to date. That plan fell to shambles. They ended up finishing dead last in the AL East (78-84) and their big signings ended up being some of their worst performers. Hanley Ramirez finished with a .249 Batting Average, playing in only 105 games due to a shoulder injury. “The Kung-Fu Panda,” Pablo Sandoval, seemed to have lost his chi and batted only .245 with a slugging percentage below .400 (.336). Rick Porcello was no help either, posting his only non 10 win season. Red Sox fans could not have been happy.
This year however it seems to be a different story, the Red Sox are tied for first place and 10 games over .500 (34-24). They seem to be doing everything right, being the only team in the AL East that is over .500 both on the road and at home. Their pitching staff is doing better with the addition of Craig Kimbrel and David Price. David Price has been solid for the team posting a 7-2 record in 12 starts. Rick Porcello has also stepped it up returning to a solid pitcher with a 7-2 record. Craig Kimbrel was one of the top relievers in the game before signing with the Red Sox for 4 years/$42 million and he has continued his success.
The real key to their turn around this year though has been their offense. After getting over his shoulder injury, Hanley Ramirez is now batting .277, but the most impressive player is Xavier Bogaerts. The 23-year-old seems to have finally come into his own and is batting an AL leading .346 average. The team has the highest batting average in the MLB(.292) which is .15 higher than the next team Pittsburgh. David Ortiz does not show signs of slowing down at his age, leading the MLB in RBI’s. But the question becomes: can he keep it up? Can the whole team keep up this pace of leading in Batting Average and RBI’s? Even if they do, they’d have to be wary of their team’s overall ERA 4.35 if they want to continue the success throughout the season.
By Brett Malamud
MLB free agency is upon us. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll preview teams around the Major Leagues, and give you a look at what to expect. We started off with the New York Yankees, so it makes sense that our next team is the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox only lose Craig Breslow and Rich Hill this offseason.
The infield is basically set. Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are lined up across the diamond. Blake Swihart will be behind the plate next season after he made a nice impact during his rookie season. If Hanley Ramirez plays first base, as is being reported by multiple outlets, it’ll block 25-year old Travis Shaw who finished off a stellar rookie season. There is the possibility that the Sox trade Ramirez and/or Sandoval, but right now, neither player’s value is high so I’m not sure that dealing either right now is best for the team. I’d look to sign some backups to accompany Brock Holt. David Ortiz will enter what should be his final season, so maybe the Sox sign a player that will eventually fill that role.
There aren’t many holes in the outfield either. Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts will be in the outfield this upcoming season, with appearances by Brock Holt. So now what? Well the Red Sox do have room to back these players up, and have been linked to former Yankees outfielder Chris Young. Signing Young would be a good move for the Sox, and would bring them added depth.
This is where the focus of the offseason should be for Boston. They will be in the market for the top arms out there. That is no secret. Other than their 2013 World Series title, Boston has experienced three last-place finishes in the last four seasons. It all starts with the pitching. Dave Dombrowski acquired David Price back when he was with the Detroit Tigers. What makes you think he wouldn’t want to get him again? They won’t have to surrender a draft pick to get him, which makes Price the most likely offseason free agent to turn contract talks into a bidding war. Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto are other candidates to sign with Boston, and would turn the Red Sox from zeros to heroes. There are always trade opportunities too. The Sox talked to the Cleveland Indians over the summer regarding Carlos Carrasco, and so there could be an avenue there. There is also the possibility that was raised in my Yankees preview, that the Washington Nationals could look to deal Stephen Strasburg. The Red Sox have six prospects in the MLB.com Top 100 Minor Leaguers list, and a group of starters that could be dealt for better arms. In the bullpen, I’m looking for the Red Sox to do what they do best, and race the Yankees in gaining assets. They’ve already done that in trading for closer Craig Kimbrel, and may have overpaid for him. My feeling is that he’s only going to be in there when the team is up by three or less, and they haven’t been in that situation lately. But while I would’ve tried to build up the rest of the team first, Kimbrel is a great addition to Boston. Now the Sox need to build up the rest of their pitching staff this offseason.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Brett Malamud
MLB free agency is upon us. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll preview teams around the Major Leagues, and give you a look at what to expect. We start off with my team, the New York Yankees
The Yankees will not see too many losses this offseason, losing just Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew and Chris Young to free agency. I see all three in different uniforms in 2016.
With Mark Teixiera and Greg Bird (who should and will start the season at AAA) at first base, Didi Gregorius at Shortstop, and Chase Headley at third base (and of course Alex Rodriguez at DH/3B), the Yankees are pretty set at the infield positions. I will say that they need “could use” an improvement at second base. They don’t NEED one. With Jose Pierla traded to the Padres earlier today, I’d look to use the 25 year old Rob Refsnyder at second base as the Yankees look towards the future. Brendan Ryan is going to be 34 years old on opening day, and should stay as a utility infielder. The argument for Ben Zobrist is intriguing but he’s going to turn 35 next year. I’d only take him on a two year deal. Today’s trade of Pierla does open up a spot for him though.
There aren’t really any holes in the outfield either. The Yankees have Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Dustin Ackley, plus Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott locked in the outfield. If I were the Yankees, I don’t think that I’d trade Gardner, as he represents the leader of the clubhouse after Derek Jeter’s retirement. But, it was reported Wednesday morning that Brian Cashman discussed trading Gardner with the Seattle Mariners. It’s not a big surprise as the Yankees look to trim payroll and Gardner has three years at $39.5 million left on his contract. Speaking of the Mariners, an interesting NY Post column on Tuesday questioned whether the Yankees could trade a hefty Ellsbury contract and a prospect northwest to Ellsbury’s hometown team (Although he’s really from Oregon), for the hefty contract of Robinson Cano. Boy, would that change things. I don’t really see that happening because Seattle is in “win-now” mode, but an interesting idea none the less. If the Yankees were to go out and trade Jacoby Ellsbury though, I’d welcome it. The Yankees could however trade one of their outfielders, and make room to sign Justin Upton, who’d be a great addition to the team and would succeed in Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, the team just acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins, trading away catcher J.R. Murphy. Hicks was a .256 hitter with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Clearly this is an acquisition of a right handed hitter to replace Chris Young. I like the move, as it gives the Yankees a great defensive player in Hicks. Not much to change, but acquiring an outfielder would be ok with me.
The Yankees do need some pitching. Yes, their bullpen is good, but it can always improve. The reports of Brian Cashman being open to trading Andrew Miller are definitely true, because other than Severino, a guy who I really wouldn’t trade for anything, no player is un-tradable. (See side note below)
Side note: One of the things that I’d like you, the readers, to take away is that General Managers have hundreds of discussions with other GM’s over the course of the season. Many of these do not turn into actual trades, and so hearing that a name was discussed doesn’t really mean much. That’s because every name is discussed, whether the GM wants to trade him or not. That’s how Josh Donaldson got traded to the Blue Jays last season. Do you really think that over 17 years, Cashman was never approached to discuss trading Derek Jeter? Of course he was. He just never traded him. So when we hear these names dropped over the next few months, just remember that every name has been discussed.
Ok back to the pitchers market. If Miller is traded, I’d slide Delin Betances into the closer role and go after Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman. Chapman and Betances would make for a deadly combo. But I like the Betances-Miller combo right now so I’m not so quick to trade the closer. Then we get to the starters. Masahiro Tanaka is the ace and he is going to stay. So is Michael Pineda and Luis Severino. Then there’s CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Ivan Nova. There is room for improvement and I will immediately look at David Price, and not Zack Greinke. They’ll both go for a lot of money, but what’s the defining factor for me? The draft pick compensation. By signing Greinke, the Yankees would have to forfeit their first round draft pick. With Price, they won’t have to surrender anything because Price was traded mid-season. So if you’re the Yankees, why sit back and wait till next offseason to get a starter? One of the best is right in front of them, so they should definitely get their feet in the door. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been raised in possible Yankee targets. My personal favorite option comes out of our nations capital (and no, I’m not talking about Bryce Harper, who many have already declared a future Yankee in 2019). I’m talking about Stephen Strasburg. Well why would the Nationals get rid of Strasburg, you might ask. Well, the former number one overall pick will become a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. His agent, Scott Borus, has been known to take his players into the open market. Why not test drive Strasburg for a year before making a decision on him and overpaying? Strasburg to the Yankees would be an interesting acquisition and shouldn’t go overlooked. All in all, the Yankees should mostly be looking at pitching for this offseason.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Seth Schuster
It is irrefutable that, in recent years, baseball, our national pastime, has waned significantly. Blame increased player salaries, dropped attendance and T.V. ratings, ticket prices through the roof, and—most importantly—declined youth participation in Baseball, from 2008-2012, by a staggering 7.2 percent according to a study done by the Wall Street Journal. Despite the drop, President Barack Obama’s Administration could be unlocking the door to MLB success through diplomatic relations.
Even current players admit to the downturn of their beloved sport. Andrew McCutchen, center fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates—oh, and a perennial All-Star and former Most Valuable Player in the National League—suggested the decline was due to economic reasons in a recent article in the Players’ Tribune. He described why he believes baseball is dying throughout the country, particularly in areas that are economically challenged. “Things are more expensive. Gloves are more expensive. Bats are more expensive. You know, the price of things is more. It’s just more difficult. Poverty is growing, you know? And so it’s getting tougher.”
Those who put baseball on the back burner complain about the slow pace of the game and loathe its monotony. Many feel it lacks the adrenaline rush of higher intensity sports such as football and basketball, both of which offer bigger hits and a quicker pace. Gone is baseball’s firepower in recent years with the decline of the home run, the game’s biggest and most exciting play. Since the 1990s and the early 2000s, stat sheets show the number of MLB players’ 40 home run seasons plummeting. In the last 20 years there have been as many as seventeen 40-home run hitters in one season (1996), and as few as two in others (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013).
Despite its lackluster numbers, this doesn’t mean baseball has lost its flare for dramatic and media-grabbing attention.
Yasiel Puig is the most polarizing player in Major League Baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, who hails from Cuba, is one of the best young talents in the game today. Puig made his MLB debut on June 3, 2013. In his first 15 games he tallied 27 hits—second all-time, tied with legendary New York Yankee, Joe DiMaggio. He recorded 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games—the most in MLB history.
Puig finished 2013 with a .311 batting-average, 19 home runs and 42 runs-batted-in. He made the 2013 All Rookie Team and finished second in the race for NL Rookie of the Year. The award was given to 2013 All-Star and Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández—a fellow Cuban. In 2014 Puig made his own first All-Star game.
These competitors aren’t the only Cubans making waves in the MLB. In 2014, rookie slugger José Abreu of the Chicago White Sox took the AL Rookie of the Year and was named to the American League All Star Team. The likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Alexei Ramirez and Aroldis Chapman have dominated the MLB as well. Each player boasts at least one all star appearance, with Chapman scoring three.
It’s not only the All Stars making headlines, it’s the unproven, untested Cuban players, whom MLB teams believe hold the potential to propel the sport’s popularity.
The Boston Red Sox made a splash in Cuban waters this past summer signing highly rated prospect Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 million contract that runs through 2020. The Red Sox continued their Cuban signing spree in February of 2015, when they signed 19 year-old infielder, Yoan Moncada.
On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a plan to normalize relations with Cuba, a plan lacking Republican support. His proposal includes the re-establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two nations that were cut off in 1961, and the authorization of expanded imports and exports with Cuba, thus lifting the long-standing trade barrier. Most significantly, the proposal attempts to facilitate more travel to and from Cuba.
This proposal, a major a diplomatic achievement as it would be, would certainly shake up the world of baseball.
Yes. In the grand scheme of things, a baseball game is quite trivial. However, with the passage of this proposal, it is almost certain that the United States would see an influx of young Cuban talent—talent capable of putting up Yasiel Puig-like numbers.
This is music to a baseball fan’s ears; a symphony of power, athleticism, speed, strength, durability and work ethic.
The MLB has longed for a diplomatic advancement like this. It brings attention—and money to the league.
Since Puig’s debut, Google searches for “Los Angeles Dodgers” has risen almost 60%; likewise ticket and food prices rose 6.2% at Dodger Stadium between 2013 and 2014.
The Cuban players add spark to a dying fire of the National Pastime.
Message to Republicans:
Support the rekindling of relations with Cuba. If not for Obama and the democrats, do it for the game of baseball. Do it for the National Pastime. Do it for ‘Murica.
Seth Schuster is a student at Blind Brook High School in Westchester, New York. He is an avid sports fan, who knows it all when it comes to the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, and Boston Bruins. Yup, that’s right – a Boston sports fan living in New York! Seth’s favorite all-time athletes include David Ortiz, Tom Brady, and Paul Pierce. Follow Seth on Twitter for all your Boston Sports updates at @Seth_Schuster
By Dan Lagnado
- The returns
Everybody in Mets world knows about the imminent return of Matt Harvey. In fact, he’s progressing very nicely and is scheduled to face hitters for the first time on Thursday. Sandy Alderson said that Harvey’s workload this spring will be 90-95% of what it would be on any other year and he has not ruled out Harvey pitching 200 innings this year. But Harvey is not the only Mets pitcher to be coming back from Tommy John surgery. Closer Bobby Parnell also went under the knife after getting injured on Opening Day of 2014. He is expected to make his return by the end of April, giving the Mets a potentially dominant bullpen with the ability to strike out the world. Harvey and Parnell, two hard throwing pitchers in positions of maximum importance (ace and closer), are ready to help pitch the Mets back into contention.
- Dillon Gee moving to the bullpen
With the return of Harvey as mentioned above, the Mets are faced with a unique problem: too many starting pitchers. With Harvey as the headliner, the Mets have six quality starters (Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee) as well as at least two more waiting in the wings in Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Matz. As a result of this, Gee appears to be headed to the bullpen. This will require an adjustment for the 28-year-old Gee, who has served as a starter for his entire career. It is likely he will serve as a long reliever, so that the Mets can keep him stretched out for when Harvey needs to skip an outing to rest his elbow (or barring any injury to another starter). That said, he will need to be ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice and his adjustment to life in the ‘pen will be noteworthy.
Some people may be surprised I made it this far without mentioning the biggest hole in the lineup in the Mets lineup. Wilmer Flores is currently penciled in as the starter with Ruben Tejada to be the backup. While the situation is extremely likely, neither of these assumptions is set in stone. The team has said that prospect Matt Reynolds will see a good deal of time at shortstop during Spring Training. While Reynolds may not be ready this season (he spent only half a year in Triple-A), the team may feel much more comfortable with the position going forward if he impresses them in spring training. He won’t be starting on Opening Day but Tejada may find himself looking over his shoulder at Reynolds.
- Eric Campbell as a catcher
This is a weird one. Eric Campbell served as a utility infielder/outfielder/bench player for the Mets last season after Josh Satin couldn’t get the job done. He reported to Port St. Lucie this spring with the intention of adding catcher to his increasing positional repertoire. At this point, it isn’t clear whether or not this is for the sole purpose of fulfilling the role of “emergency catcher” or if Campbell is using this to earn more playing time as a potentially regular backup to Travis d’Arnaud. If he does opt to make the positional change more serious, he could open a roster spot for another player. If Campbell serves as backup to d’Arnaud and utility defender, the Mets would not need Anthony Recker and instead could opt to carry a player like Dilson Herrera or Matt den Dekker, who each earned a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2014, but will likely will be left off the Opening Day roster in 2015.
- Left-handed reliever competition
The Mets have expressed interest in trying to carry a second left-handed reliever to complement Josh Edgin. However, with Gee in the bullpen and Parnell returning, they are somewhat short on space. That said, I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson and believe that they find a way to bring two lefties to D.C. for Opening Day. The leading candidate is Sean Gilmartin, the team’s Rule-5 draft pick this offseason. I give him the edge primarily because of his Rule-5 status, which dictates that if he is not on the active roster, he is sent back to the team the Mets took him from. Additionally, he does have experience as a starter, indicating that he can be more than just a simple lefty specialist. Also competing for this job will be Dario Alvarez, who was promoted towards the end of last season but saw only limited time, Jack Leathersich, a prospect who also attended Spring Training last season and Scott Rice, lefty specialist from 2013, who suffered an injury last season in the minors following his demotion. Rice has the most major league experience of the four but there are questions regarding his health and effectiveness.
There you have it. Five important things to watch as the Mets begin the first official workouts of Spring Training 2015. Each will be key for a team that hopes to return to relevance and competitiveness this year. Only time will tell whether the current pieces are enough. Fight through the cold Mets fans, only 42 days until baseball is back.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995