All posts by sidelinesmack

Yankees + Stanton = Murder’s Row 2.0

During the early hours on Saturday, the New York Yankees completed a trade with the Miami Marlins that will send 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to New York. In return for the reigning MVP, the Yankees will trade All-Star second baseman, Starlin Castro, and two prospects, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Guzman has potential as he is young and the ninth rated prospect in the Yankees deep organization, while Devers does not even rank in the top 30. However, the biggest reason the Marlins decided to make the trade was due to the fact that the Yankees agreed to pay $265 of Stanton’s $295 million deal. Former Yankee shortstop and legend, Derek Jeter, was part of the group that recently bought the Marlins and decided that the team could not be profitable with Stanton’s ginormous contract on the books. Due to the size of the his contract, very few teams could meet the team’s needs and pay a majority of his contract. In addition, Stanton had a full no-trade clause and stated that he would not accept a trade to either the Cardinals or Giants, two of his main suitors. This gave the Yankees so much more power and leverage, which enabled them to give up so much less in terms of prospects.

The addition of Stanton gives the team another bat to a lineup, which was already one of the best in the league. Stanton is coming off of a year, in which, he had one of the best power seasons by a non-steroid user. Stanton blasted 59 home runs, 132 RBI, and 123 runs with posting a slash of .281/.376/.631. Stanton will be combined with Aaron Judge, Didi Gregarious, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, and Greg Bird. Judge is the best power hitter in the American League as he led the league with 52 home runs. Now the Yankees have by far the two best home run hitters in MLB. If Judge and Stanton played together last year, there 111 home runs would have second most among teammates in MLB history. The only duo that had more than this combo was Maris and Mantle in 1961 for the Yankees when they combined for 115. Along with Judge, Sanchez has established himself as one of the best hitters in the league. After starting the year slowly, Sanchez heated up during the stretch run and collected 33 home runs and drove in 90 RBIs. The middle of the order of Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez is going to strike fear into every team as they should hit over 130 homers in home run friendly Yankees Stadium and account for over 300 RBIs.

The supplementary pieces of Gregarious, Gardner, and Bird will lengthen the lineup to the point where at least seven to eight of there hitters will be either above average or elite. The one wild card in the group will be super prospect, Gleybar Torres. Torres is considered by many the best prospect in all of baseball and should be able to play either second or third. Due to the recent success of Yankees’ callups, there is no reason to believe that Torres cannot provide an immediate impact for the team and thrive toward the bottom of the order. However, this offense still has their flaws. Many of their stars are right handed, which can be neutralized by right handed pitching. In addition, although the power is immense, they do repeatedly strike out, especially against elite starting pitching. In the playoffs, the team can get overwhelmed by quality pitching due to their inability to hit for average. Even though these are realistic concerns, the team should boast the best offense in the league and may be able to break some of major league baseball records relating to home runs.

The interesting part about this deal for Stanton is that there are still many questions and moves that the team can make in the future. The most immediate concern is to see if the team can reach their goal of having a payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. Due to losing Castro’s cap number, the team will have a chance to reach their goal. Currently, people estimate that the Yankees should have about $18 million to spend on free agents. A majority of this total will have to go toward signing a pitcher, whether it be CC Sabathia, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb. The remaining salary should either be saved in hope that during the season, the Yanks can acquire a front of the rotation starter at the deadline like this year. Due to the amount of prospects they have at their disposal, such as Clint Frazier, Estevan Florial, Chance Adams, the Yankees can go after any pitcher. Personally, the pitcher that the Yankees should be targeting at the deadline is superstar pitcher Madison Bumgarner. MadBum has already demonstrated that he may be the best postseason pitcher in the history of baseball and there is a chance that the Giants would trade their ace for the right package. If the Giants are underwhelming again and the Yankees offer a strong enough package, the Giants would have to think long a hard about the offer. However, the most interesting question is what will happen next offseason when many stars become free agents. The current belief around baseball is that the team would not sign Harper after trading for Stanton because Harper, Stanton, and Judge all play the same position. Theoretically, the team could use Harper in left field, but this seems extraordinarily unlikely. The most likely scenario for the team if they decide to spend aggressively during free agency would be to sign third baseman Manny Machado. Machado would be a perfect fit for the team because he can play third base and replace Chase Headley. Machado has experience playing in the AL East, is an incredible hitter, star defender, and does not have a huge ego, unlike Harper. The addition of Machado would make the Yankees lineup borderline unfair. The Yankees would be spending an absurd amount of money, but that lineup would be incredible:

  1. Gardner (LF)
  2. Judge (RF)
  3. Bird (1B)
  4. Stanton (DH)
  5. Gregarious (SS)
  6. Machado (3B)
  7. Sanchez (C)
  8. Torres (2B)
  9. Hicks (CF)

NFL Playoff Picture Heading toward the Final Quarter of Year

AFC: 

The AFC Playoff Picture is unquestionably interesting and intriguing because of the different races that are occurring. The first of the three races is between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the number one overall seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Steelers are able to win on Monday Night against the 5-6 Bengals, they will move to 10-2 and put themselves into a tie with the Patriots for the number one overall seed. The Steelers would be given the number one seed in this situation because they have a better winning percentage in common games. This is due to the fact that the Steelers were able to beat the two teams that the New England Patriots suffered defeats to early in the season, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. Although both teams will definitely end up with playoff positions and first round byes, this race is incredibly important because of the home field advantage at stake. Over the past several years, the Steelers have had solid teams with impressive offensive talent, but they have not been able to overcome Tom Brady in Foxborough. Although it is possible that Roethlisberger and the Steelers can win in New England, in reality there only chance at reaching the Super Bowl and defeating the reining world champions is if they play them at Heinz Field. Fortunate for fans, the owner of the best record in the AFC will be decided in two weeks, when the red hot Patriots, winners of eight straight games, head into Pittsburgh to face the high flying Steelers. This is set to be an intriguing matchup, but I believe the Steelers will win due to their home field crowd.

The second race in the AFC playoff picture is the AFC West Division. After the first half of the season, it looked like the Chiefs were not only going to win the division, but also were the favorites to win the Super Bowl. However, since the midway point, the Chiefs have looked like one of the worst teams in football and are now tied with the Raiders and Chargers for the AFC West Crown. Although none of these three teams are particularly impressive or dominant, the Chargers are the most likely to win the division and claim the fourth playoff spot and a home game in the Wild Card round. Not only do they have an elite quarterback, who has led his team to the playoffs multiple times, they have the easiest of the three schedules and are the hottest of the teams. It is likely that 9-7 or maybe 8-8 will win the divisional crown, but the Chargers should win at least 2-3 of the remaining four games to clinch a playoff spot.

The final race in the AFC is for the final Wild Card position. At both 8-4, the Jaguars and Titans will make the playoffs as either the AFC South Champion or other Wild Card position. However, the 6th position is still up for grabs. The Ravens are currently the owner of the spot and it is likely that they remain in the playoffs. Although the Ravens should make the playoffs, it is more due to the strength of their remaining schedule or I should say lack of strength than their actual talent. Outside of a tough game at Pittsburgh, the team is playing at the Browns and then at home against the Colts and Bengals to finish the season. Although the team is volatile and goes through stretches in which they have trouble scoring or playing well in tight games, they will finish the season at 10-6 and play serious January football.

NFC:

While the AFC has a clear difference in power between the top teams and teams that are struggling to make the playoffs, the NFC is stacked with quality teams. This race became even more interesting after the Philadelphia Eagles were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football. The loss moved the Eagles in a tie for the first overall seed with the Minnesota Vikings. However, due to tie breakers they are the second seed. Over the past several weeks, the best team in the NFC and maybe the league is the Minnesota Vikings. The combination of great defense and impressive quarterback play from surprise starter Case Keenum enabled the team to defeat the Rams in Minnesota and Falcons on the road. The Vikes still have tough games verses the Packers and Panthers, but they are definitely going to make the playoffs and should keep at least a first round bye. The Eagles are in a similar situation because they will win the NFC East and should be able to claim a first round bye, especially if they can beat the Rams next week.

The next four playoff seeds will be fought between five different teams, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons. The final four weeks should be incredibly exciting and high quality football because they will be competing against each other to claim their division title and playoff or Wild Card position. Ultimately, it is most likely that the Seahawks will win the NFC West over the Rams and the Saints over the Falcons and Panthers. The Seahawks have the fortunate opportunity to play the Rams at home, which should be the difference because they rarely lose at home. The Saints should claim the NFC South because they are the most complete team. Brees is the best quarterback of the bunch, even though Matt Ryan and Cam Newton are no slouches, and the defense, which has been notoriously terrible for years, is now above average. In addition, the Saints’ schedule is conducive for the championship because they do not have any difficult matchups besides for the Falcons. The last four weeks of the season should be interesting and exciting football as the playoffs come fast.

 

How the Astros became World Series Champions

On Wednesday night, the 2017 Houston Astros won the franchise’s first ever World Series Championship by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games. The series may go down as the greatest series of all-time mostly due to the absurdity of Game 2 and Game 5, which many will contend as the best and most fascinating game ever played. The Astros’ path to the 2017 World Series was not an easy one. The team had to undergo years of painful losing and atrocious play on the field before they finally were able to capitalize. However, that long process makes this moment even more sweeter for them and their fans. Even if you do not like the Astros or baseball in general, one has to enjoy seeing the excitement that each young player exudes on the field.

THE BEGINNING:

The Astros’ 2017 World Series run began one decade ago, when the team signed a young 17 year old second baseman named Jose Altuve out of Venezuela. At the time, scouts doubted Altuve because he is significantly smaller compared to many of his peers. However, the Astros believed in his talent and his incredible bat speed as well as the veracity with which he swings the bat. Altuve was sent to the Astros minor league where he could develop and improve. Two years later, Houston drafted starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel in the seventh round of the MLB draft. Keuchel was not highly sought after coming out of the University of Arkansas because he did not have a blazing fastball or incredible secondary pitches. After middling in the NL Central, at the time, the Astros decided to tank in a manner that would even make the 76ers proud. In 2010, the team finished 10 games under .500, which gave them the 11th selection in the draft. The team turned the 11th pick into starting center fielder, George Springer. Over the following three seasons, the team lost a total of 324 games, which was by far the worst in baseball. However, GM Jeff Luhnow, hired in 2011, was able to turn these amazing draft picks into superstar selections. In 2012, the team drafted shortstop Carlos Correa with the first overall pick and Lance McCullers Jr. with one of the team’s compensatory picks. Also, in 2012, the club acquired Marwin Gonzalez in the rule 5 draft. In 2015, the team drafted Daz Cameron and Alex Bregman. In addition, since the team was terrible, they were able to give their young and talented stars more at bats and expose in the major leagues. McCullers, Keuchel, Altuve, and Gonzalez all acquired years of experience that allowed them to develop into the game’s best players.

BREAK-THROUGH:

To begin the 2015 season, the Astros named AJ Hinch the manager of the club because of his ability to listen to the data analysts, but also his history of developing young players. In addition to adding Hinch, the team traded for Evan Gattis because of his ability to hit with power and provide a veteran presence to the young club. During the 2015 season, the Astros made the biggest jump in baseball as they won 16 more games than the 2014 squad. In addition, to their increase in wins, the team was able to make the Wild Card Game and upset the Yankees in Yankees Stadium. The team later lost to the eventual champion Kansas City Royals in 5 games, but the season could be seen as nothing but a success. In addition to the team’s success, players such as Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Dallas Keuchel, and George Springer took major steps forward. Already an All-Star in the league, Altuve became an MVP candidate and ultimately finished top 10 in the MVP voting. Correa was called up half way through the season, but was still able to post stats that made him the AL Rookie of the Year. George Springer was also limited to only half a season, but displayed the combination of power and speed that makes him one of the best leadoff hitters in the league. On the mound, Lance McCullers put forth a fabulous rookie season as he started 22 games and compiled a 3.22 ERA during those starts. However, the player that made the largest leap forward was Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel claimed the 2015 AL Cy Young Award by winning 20 games, completing 3 games, striking out 216 batters, and limiting hitters to a minuscule 2.48 ERA. Keuchel’s performance was imperative for the club because the team had enough offensive talent, but they lacked a true ace that could go an win games against the best teams in the playoffs.

FINAL TOUCHES:

After a disappointing 2016 season, in which, the club failed to make the playoffs, Luhnow realized that he had the young core to succeed, but needed more to become a true contender. During the offseason, the team was one of the busiest as they signed veterans Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton, and Carlos Beltran. In addition, they went out and acquired Brian McCann from the Yankees in exchange for prospects. Lastly, they knew they would be getting a full season from Cuban defector Yuli Gurriel at first base. The combination of Beltran, McCann, and Reddick was incredible for the young core because they could teach the players how to play like professionals and guide them through the rigors of a 162 game schedule. In addition, they were the only players on the team that had ever won a playoff series, let alone compete in the World Series. Morton brought a veteran presence to the team, which lack legitimate starting pitching. Dallas Keuchel was the ace of the staff, but dealt with a back injury and their second best starter, McCullers, was frequently hurt and inconsistent. However, due their offense, the team instantly became one of the best in the league and took the lead of the AL West. By season’s end, the team had the best offense in the league and statistically ranked as the best offense since the Yankees in the early 1930s. Those teams were led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to put that in perspective.  The team had five .300 hitters and seven players hit at least 18 home runs. However, the team was still searching for help at the deadline because they knew they did not have the starting pitching to win. Unfortunately, although they had been in trading discussions for Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, and Sonny Gray, they were unable to acquire any of these top starters. The team continued to linger until August 31, when they were able to acquire Justin Verlander from the Tigers for prospects and cash. The acquisition of Verlander gave new life to Houston as well as the veteran ace, who had never won a WS ring. The team led by Verlander, who won 5 games and pitched to a 1.06 ERA, finished the year strong and won the AL West. Throughout the playoffs, the team was able to score an abundance amount of runs and receive clutch pitching performances from Verlander, Keuchel, and surprisingly Charlie Morton to defeat the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers to claim the team’s first title.