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2014 AL East Preview

By: Jon

The AL East is definitively the best division in baseball since they have the current champions, the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays. The East has a legitimate threat of possessing three of the five playoff teams in the AL. Besides the Blue Jays, who still have a possibility of finishing over .500, the other four teams have a great chance of winning the division.

 

1) New York Yankees

The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires
The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires

The Yankees regained the title as the most expensive team in baseball after they spent nearly $500 million on free agents this offseason. The Yankees will be starting a completely new club from last season as only one player, Brett Gardner, will be starting Opening Day this and last season. The Yankees have a lot of talent, but they have many questions that may lead to their demise. Although the Yankees outfield should be the catalyst of team with Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Jacoby Ellsbury, the infield has many questions because the players, Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, and Mark Teixeira, are all coming off  injury and have questions about their age. If the Yankees stay healthy, they should be one of the best teams in baseball and will contend for a championship.

On offense, the Yankees have speed, power, and high batting averages. The middle of the order, McCann, Tex, Soriano, and Beltran, should record a good deal of RBIs since they will have many opportunities to drive in runs. Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, and Brett Garnder have shown that they have the ability to get on base, steal bases, and score runs at a very high level. In terms of defense, the team should be one of the best in the league, especially in the outfield. Jacoby and Brett are two of the fastest outfielders in the league and should be able to easily cover every ball in the outfield. Although he is old, Beltran is an above average outfielder with a great arm and instincts. On the infield, the return of Tex will be great since he is a premier fielder and prevents errors with his ability to scoop throws. Although Jeter or Roberts do not have great range, they are steady players and will not make many errors in the field.

On the pitching staff, the Yanks have some questions as well. If Tanaka, Nova, and Pineda can continue their success from Spring Training, the team will have a great pitching staff with each player has a lot of talent. Although CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have experienced poor spring trainings and did not have a good finish to last season, the Yankees need them to return to their old form. The Yankees have a few quality options, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and David Phelps, if injuries hamper their starting five. Unlike past seasons, the Yanks are not expected to have a good bullpen. The Yanks must answer a few questions if they are going win games with their bullpen like they have in the past. The Yankees need to replace the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, an eighth inning pitcher to replace David Robertson, and a lefty specialist to replace Boone Logan. If the Yankees’ starters fail to get injured, they can use their extra starting pitchers or prospects to man the positions. Although the Yankees have many questions, they have a lot of talent and expectations that their fans hope they can meet this season.

Predicted Yankees Record: 95-67

2) Boston Red Sox

The Sox are hoping to repeat this season
The Sox are hoping to repeat this season

The Red Sox are the defending champion and many believe that they have a great chance of winning the division and repeating as champions. The Red Sox are currently ranked second on this list because they lost a few good players to free agency that must be replaced. The biggest loss the Red Sox endured was Jacoby Ellsbury, who went to the hated New York Yankees for $153 million. Although Jacoby was occassionally injured, he was a great table setter for the Red Sox and was a lock for at least 90 runs a season. The Red Sox are hoping that Jackie Bradley Jr will be able to succeed at the major league level, although he was unable to hit in the majors at the start of last season. Bradley, although an above average defender, will not be able to replace Ellsbury’s defense because he does not have the speed. At shortstop, the Red Sox will have to replace the production from Stephen Drew. Drew was a solid option for the Red Sox because he was a good defensive player and could hit well for a shortstop. The Red Sox hope that top prospect Xander Bogearts will be able to turn his potential into production and replace the void left by Drew. Xander got his first taste of major league experience last season in the playoffs and regular season.

Besides those losses, the Red Sox kept the same team as last year. On offense, the Red Sox have a lot of good sluggers, Ortiz, Pedroia, and Napoli, and other quality hitters, which gives them a balanced offensive attack. The Red Sox have at least five or six players that can hit over .300 this season. Last season, they had three players hit over .300 and five that hit over .294. Like last season, they should rank as one of the best run scoring teams in the league.

In terms of pitching, the Red Sox have a deep rotation even though they do not possess a dominant ace. The combination of Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, and Clay Buchholz should give the Red Sox an above average staff as long as they do not have to deal with injuries. If the Red Sox do face injuries, they may have serious issues because they do not have many long men/spot starters on their roster. The Red Sox have a very good farm system with good pitching prospects, but it is unknown if they want to hurry these prospects to the bigs. In the bullpen, the Red Sox have one of the best in the league. If Uehara can give the Red Sox similar numbers to last season, they will be in great shape because they have solid lefties and power arms out of the bullpen. The Red Sox should be a 90 win team and compete with the Yankees and other AL East teams for the division and the Pennant.

Predicted Red Sox Record: 94-68

3) Tampa Bay Rays

The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoff
The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoffs

The Rays have been steady winners over the last five seasons. Before their nice run, the Rays were one of the worst teams in baseball and never made the playoffs. Previously, they would always receive high picks in the draft, which enabled them to build a core and achieve success. Although the Rays have lost stars over the past few seasons, they have a deep farm system to replace their stars with stud prospects.

Although the Rays normally win with their pitching and defense, the Rays offense has improved drastically and should be a strength this season. The middle of the order will be led by Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, and Matt Joyce. These power hitters should easily be able to drive in a lot of runs since Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and possibly star shortstop prospect, Lee, are all good table setters and have the ability to reach base. The Rays should continue playing great defense because Longoria, Myers, Escobar, Loney, and Desmond are excellent defenders and do not commit many errors.

Although the offense is improving, the pitching is the best part of the team. The staff is led by former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price. Along with Price, the Rays have Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer, and possibly Jake Odorizzi. Besides Hellickson, each starter had an ERA below 3.50. The Rays’ pitching staff should continue stopping opposing offenses and lead the Rays to the playoff as long as Price stays in the rotation. Since Price has achieved a lot of success, the Rays are looking to trade him since it is unlikely they will be able to re-sign him next offseason. Although the Rays would receive a King’s Ransom for Price, the players will not be able to immediately help the Rays, if they trade him at the trade deadline. Like many prior seasons, the Rays’ bullpen is different from last season and has many questions. The Rays have signed a few relievers that are coming off bad seasons and were able to sign them at a bargain. The Rays will rely heavily on Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, and lefty flamethrower Jake McGee. Each reliever has experienced success in the past and the Rays hope they can catch lightning in a bottle once again.

The Rays were able to win 92 games last season despite them starting slowly because of poor pitching. However, this season, the pitching should not let the Rays down at the start of the season and should enable them to win over 90 games again this season. The AL East should have a great fight at the top since each of the three aforementioned teams has the ability to win 95 games. The Rays do not have as much depth or offensive talent as the Red Sox and Yanks, so it is unlikely they will beat them during the regular season.

Predicted Rays Record: 92-70

4) Baltimore Orioles

The O's need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed
The O’s need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed

Unlike previous seasons, the Orioles spent a lot of money this offseason to improve their team. Last season, the Orioles won 85 games, but still finished 6.5 games out of the wild card race. The Orioles possessed one of the best and most explosive lineups in the league a season ago. The Orioles are led by the middle of their order, which includes stars Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and JJ Hardy. Although the lineup was already deep, they signed power hitting outfielder, Nelson Cruz, to a one year deal. Also, the Orioles will be returning Manny Machado from a serious knee injury, which will bolster the squad. In terms of defense, the Orioles have a solid defense because Jones, Hardy, Wieters, and Machado are great fielders and man the most important defensive positions.

Although the Orioles’ offense and defense is very good, the pitching could pose problems for the Orioles as they attempt to make the playoffs. The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason and are hoping that he returns to his Rockies’ second half form. The Orioles do not have an ace, but have multiple quality pitchers. The Orioles’ staff, Jimenez, Tillman, Norris, Gausman, and Chen, is deep and should be able to win games against the back of opposing teams’ staff. If the Orioles do experience injuries, they have multiple options that will allow them to continue winning. In the bullpen, the Orioles have multiple weapons that can throw hard and strike out opposing hitters late in games. Although the O’s dumped former closer Jim Johnson, they will be replacing him with Tommy Hunter. Hunter throws extremely hard and has been able to pitch well over the past few seasons as an eighth inning pitcher. Along with hard throwing from the right side, Brian Matusz is a lefty specialist that pitches in the mid to high nineties and has improved over the past few seasons.

Although the Orioles improved their team this offseason, the other teams in this division have improved as well, so it is unlikely they will noticeably improve their win total from last season.

Predicted Orioles Record: 85-77

5) Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar
The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar

The Blue Jays entered last season as one of the best teams on paper and many thought they would be one of the best teams in the league. However, the Jays did not meet expectations as they suffered many injuries and their players did not play to previous standards.

Like the other American League East teams, the Blue Jays have a threatening lineup. On the infield, the Blue Jays have Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and Maicer Izturius. In the outfield, the Blue Jays will be led by Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus. The Blue Jays have one of the best 3-4 hitting duos in the league because Bautista is one of the best power hitters and Encaracion has turned into one of the better hitters after a sluggish start to his career. At the top of the order, the Blue Jays will have Reyes and Cabrera at the one-two positions as they both have great speed and the ability to reach base at a very high percentage. If the duo can stay healthy, they will score a lot of runs and help the Blue Jays score runs because Bautista and Encarnacion should both be able to record at least 100 RBIs. Although the Jays have the potential for a great offense, their defense does not have the same ability.

In terms of pitching, the Blue Jays have many questions in their rotation, which negatively separates them from the rest of the teams. Although the Blue Jays gave up two very good prospects to the Mets, they did not receive great production from RA Dickey last season. Although Dickey should be able to achieve more success this season because he is now healthy, it is unknown if he can return to his Cy Young form. After Dickey, the Jays have Brandon Marrow, Mark Buehrle, JA Happ, and Esmil Rogers in the rotation. Mark Buehrle and Esmil Rogers are steady pitchers and should provide the Blue Jays with consistent quality outings. Although Marrow and Happ have great talent and have shown they can produce at the major league level, they are consistently injured and cannot pitch at their full potential. If the duo can remain healthy, the Blue Jays can compete in the East and win about 85 to 90 games.

Although the Jays may have the worst starting rotation in the division, it is likely they have the best bullpen. The back of the Jays bullpen is very solid with Sergio Santos as the closer and Steve Delbar and Brett Cecil as the set up men. Last year, Cecil and Delbar had great seasons and made the All-Star team. If the Jays can maintain a lead into the 7th inning, they will have a great chance of winning games and competing for the last Wild Card spot. Unless the Jays have a few surprises in the rotation, it is unlikely they will win more than 80 games in the difficult AL East.

Predicted Blue Jays Record: 78-84

 

Pics and stats from ESPN.com

10 Most Memorable Sports Moments of 2013

By: Prad

What a year it’s been for the sports community. 2013 has included a myriad of emotions surrounding various events from terrorist attacks to retirements. Unfortunately, I have compiled solely the top 10 moments of the year, so many deserving moments did not make the cut.

10) Superdome Lighting Failure

Half of the Superdome in darkness Courtesy of NY Times
Half of the Superdome in darkness
Courtesy of NY Times

Normally this should not be classified under “most memorable”, but the magnitude of the lighting failure is of note. New Orleans spent an estimated $471 million on this year’s Super Bowl. With almost half a billion dollars, you’d expect for at least all the lights to work, something that should have been a top priority for the Superdome maintenance staff. With 13:22 minutes left in the third quarter, half of the stadium plunged into darkness leaving TV viewers, players, and especially the audience confused. The partial blackout remained for a whopping 34 minutes. Apparently, Beyonce’s extravagant halftime show is somewhat responsible for the outage because of the amount of lighting used during her performance, forcing the device that detects electrical load to open a breaker and cut the lights.

9) Dunk City, USA

FGCU had a lot of fun during their ride to the Sweet Sixteen Courtesy of Naples News
FGCU had a lot of fun during its ride to the Sweet Sixteen
Courtesy of Naples News

Florida Gulf Coast University had quite the emergence on the national stage in 2013 by taking down #2 Georgetown in March. And then #7 San Diego St. went down for an encore performance. FGCU became the first #15 seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet Sixteen. The wins were definitely impressive, but what made it even better was the excitement that the players on that team brought to the court in those two games. Dunk after dunk brought the city of Fort Meyers the fitting name of “Dunk City, USA.” The alley-oops were great, but the Cinderella story was even better. FGCU, a college that was founded in 1991, defeated the mighty Georgetown Hoyas, a team that has been playing for over a century. Plus, the 2012 – 2013 season was their first Division 1 season and first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

8) Mile High Miracle

Joe Flacco's pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore's outstretched arm Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Joe Flacco’s pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore’s outstretched arm
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

This AFC divisional – round game between the Ravens and Broncos came down to a final Baltimore drive with under a minute remaining. A true playoff classic was sent into overtime after a 70 yard heave from QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones resulted in a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. This TD brought the score to 35-35, a score that remained for the next 15 minutes resulting in a second overtime period. It ended up being the fourth longest game in NFL playoff history. Sadly for Denver fans, the game ended with a Manning interception and a Justin Tucker 47 yard field goal. Final score: 38-35. The Ravens were thankful for a birth in the AFC Championship game en route to a Super Bowl win. And undoubtedly,  the 70 yard TD grab was the highlight of an unforgettable season for Baltimore.

7) Louisville’s Inspiration

Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship Courtesy of Examiner.com
Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship
Courtesy of Examiner.com

Essentially every single sports fan in the nation has seen Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury suffered in the win against Duke in the Elite Eight. Everyone on the court was able to see the actual white of Ware’s tibia sticking out of his skin. People who witnessed it agree that it was definitely the most graphic injury they have ever seen and that’s saying something in an internet age where every injury is seen by everybody. More importantly, the words uttered from Kevin Ware’s mouth immediately following his horrific injury stayed with Louisville for the rest of the tourney. “Just win the game. I’m OK. Just win the game.” The boys on that team did every thing they did for Ware. That inspiration and team bond led them to victory over Wichita St. in the Final Four and Michigan in the National Championship game.

6) A British Savior

Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England Courtesy of USA Today
Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England
Courtesy of USA Today

It appeared that Andy Murray had wasted his best chance of winning Wimbledon when he succumbed to Roger Federer in 2012’s Wimbledon Final. But, the best was yet to come. On July 7, 2013 Murray defeated #1 Novak Djokovic, a former Wimbledon champion, to make Wimbledon history. A player from Great Britain had not won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, which was 77 years ago. He was deemed a “choker” on the biggest of stages before his 2012 US Open title, his first Grand Slam. Prior to winning that US Open, he had lost in four Grand Slam finals and six Grand Slam semi-finals. The entire United Kingdom had placed the burden of winning a Grand Slam for years on Andy Murray and he answered the call by capturing Wimbledon this year. This was a truly momentous occasion for a country that dominated the sport decades ago.

5) The First Openly Gay Athlete in North American Professional Sports

Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In SI’s May 6 issue this year, Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in the four major North American Professional sports. The support he received the following days and months was unexpected. The social media circus immediately following the announcement was shocking as he received more complimentary remarks than derogatory.  He started, in his words, a “conversation” that will lead to more athletes coming out openly with their sexual preference. The Stanford product has played 12 seasons in the NBA as a center, but is not currently under contract with any team. Despite his announcement, he is still attempting to sign another contract with an NBA franchise. This barrier needed to be broken at some point and it did in 2013.

4) The Greatest Closer Says Goodbye

Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter gave Rivera the ball for one last time in Yankees Stadium Courtesy of NY Daily News
Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter took the ball from Rivera one last time
Courtesy of NY Daily News

On September 16, Mariano Rivera pitched his final game in front of the home crowd at Yankee Stadium. After almost two decades, all with the New York Yankees, Rivera tallied 652 saves and 42 postseason saves, both of which are records. Fans and analysts identify Rivera as arguably the greatest closer in baseball history. He is also the last player in MLB history to wear #42, because on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired #42 for all teams. However, there were 13 players in the league who already wore the #42 uniform, so Selig allowed them to wear it until they retired. And Rivera was the last of the 13 still playing.  He certainly did #42 justice by pitching his best when it mattered most and doing so with grace and dignity. It will be very difficult to find another player who carries himself with such respect for his peers and the game. Sandman will be eternally missed by baseball fans.

3) Auburn’s Magical Iron Bowl

Chris Davis crushed Alabama's hopes Courtesy of The Washington Post
Chris Davis crushed Alabama’s hopes
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Many consider the ending to the Iron Bowl on November 30 the greatest finish in football history. The ending was not only immensely exciting, but the implications involved made for a moment that will be difficult to ever replicate. The moment Chris Davis ran past the last diving Alabama player at the 45 yard line, every single viewer was in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired, giving Auburn the victory and signaling an end to Alabama’s dream of winning a third consecutive BCS National Championship and a fourth in a five year span. The win gave Auburn the chance to play in the SEC Championship game against Missouri too. The victory against Missouri gives them the #2 ranking and a trip to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game on January 6, 2014. This was quite the turnaround from a season ago when Auburn football went 3-9 and 0-8 against SEC opponents. Currently, the Tigers stand at 12-1 and have had one of the best improvements in terms of record in NCAA football history. Even if Auburn loses to #1 Florida St. in the final BCS National Championship game, their season will still be considered a remarkable one that will not be forgotten for a long time.

2) Ray Allen and Miami’s Miraculous Comeback

The Larry O'brein trophy was being reeled in with 5.2 seconds left and an all but sure Spurs victory Courtesy of The Boston Globe
The Spurs had an almost guaranteed victory with 5.2 second left in Game 6
Courtesy of The Boston Globe

The staff at American Airlines Arena was reeling in the Larry O’Brien Trophy with around 20 seconds remaining in regulation. The score was 95-92 and the Heat didn’t have any timeouts left, an inevitable Spurs victory. On the following Heat possession, LeBron James missed a three but Chris Bosh was able to secure the rebound and pass it back to a backpedaling Ray Allen in the corner, yes the corner three, it’s where Allen has made his living for the last 17 seasons. And Allen drills it with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Score: 95-95. Miami then outscored San Antonio in the ensuing overtime period for a final score of 103-100. Allen made some big shots in overtime as well accounting for four of the eight points in an NBA Finals thriller that will remain a classic for decades to come. With this much momentum heading into Game 7, Miami couldn’t lose and they didn’t disappoint. A stellar 37-point performance from LeBron gave the Heat a 95-88 Game 7 victory and a second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy. LeBron’s triple-double in Game 6 and aforementioned 37-point outburst in Game 7 of the Finals were certainly great spectacles, but Ray Allen’s shot with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 is one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history. Period.

1) Boston Strong

 Courtesy of ESPN
Boston’s resiliency captured the hearts of many
Courtesy of ESPN

On April 15, Boston witnessed a horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon resulting in 3 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The 117th running of the race was marred by two bombs near the finish line on the famous Boylston St. Five days after the bombings, David Ortiz gave a pre-game speech at Fenway and said that “this is our (expletive) city.” Boston has always been known for its uncompromising dedication to its sports teams, but support was at an all time high throughout 2013 after the bombings. Its teams played with greater determination and will than ever before as a result and it was evident in the successful seasons for the Bruins and Red Sox. The Boston Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals eventually losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. And four months later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to accomplish something great in the wake of the disaster and they delivered. The Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the World Series. The unwavering support from Boston fans definitely helped them clinch a third title in nine seasons. Although, the success of the Sox can’t completely eradicate the painful memories of the bombings, the Boston Red Sox certainly lifted the spirits of many who were affected by the tragedy.

Analyzing and Grading the Free Agent Moves in the MLB before the GM Meetings

By: Jon

Free Agent Signings:

1) Robinson Cano

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.29.16 PM

10 yr – 240M with the Mariners

Although Cano did not receive the largest contract in MLB history, like he originally wanted, he achieved the third largest contract in history and the largest for a second baseman. Although Cano is one of the ten best players in the league, the Mariners drastically overpaid for his services. Unlike other players who have reached ten year deals, Rodrgiuez and Pujols, Cano has never won an MVP, cannot carry a team through the playoffs, draw fans into the stadium, or manufacture money for his team. In the recent past, many people did not believe that another player would receive another 10 year 200+M deal in free agent because of the past results. Since Rodriguez, Pujols, and Cano have signed similar deals, they should be compared. Unfortunately for the Mariners, they hope that Cano does not have the problems with age. As seen in Anaheim and New York, the two albatrosses are the worst contracts in baseball because the players are not performing like their franchises originally believed when they signed their contracts. While Cano may continue his success for the first three or four years of the contract, the Mariners will be disappointed by the final 6 years of the deal. Unless Cano can draw other free agents or stars to the Mariners, the Mariners will continue to fail and not meet expectations because their offense will be horrible. In Seattle, Cano will not even be the face of the franchise and his future stats should decline because of the stadium and the bad lineup behind him. Instead of filing one hole, the Mariners should have signed multiple players with the $240M they gave to Cano.

Grade: B-

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.29.38 PM

7 yr – 153M with the Yankees

The 30 year old free agent signed the third largest deal for an outfielder, this offseason. While Jacoby Ellsubry is a quality All-Star player, many people believe that the Yankees overpaid by $30 million. The major question about Jacoby Ellsbury regards around his ability to stay healthy and remain on the field. When healthy, Ellsbury is one of the best lead off hitters in the league and has the ability to manufacture runs for the club. Fortunately for the Yankees, Ellsbury should be able to rejuvenate his power production because of the short porch in right field. If Ellsbury can average 20 home runs and 30-40 steals for the first 5 years of the deal, the contract will be deemed as a success for the Yankees. Along with providing speed to the slow Yankees, Ellsbury plays great defense and has the ability to hit .300 while recording 100+ runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the deal that most relates to Ellsbury’s deal is Carl Crawford. While Carl played horribly for the first two years of the contract, the last season has been an improvement because he has remained healthy for the past season. If the Yankees can manage Ellsbury and limit his number of steals, Ellsbury should be able to remain a star for most of the length of the contract. If the Yankees can trade Gardner, a lesser version of Ellsbury, for a mid level pitcher, the Yankees should be happy with this deal and look forward to his success.

Grade: A-/B+

3) Ricky Nolasco

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.30.02 PM

4 yr – 49M with the Twins

For the first time in Twins’ history, the franchise has spent more than 21M on a player in free agency. While Nolasco is a quality pitcher, he would have been able to net nearly $50 without the abundance of TV money that is entering the sport. As seen with many of deals this offseason, the additional money has been given to the players. Last season, Nolasco had the second best season of his career, 13 wins, 3.70 ERA, and 165K. Nolasco became a prominent free agent this offseason because of the success he encountered with the Dodgers, during the playoffs and the stretch run. While Nolasco’s ERA has ranged from 5.06 to 3.52, he has been able to pitch around 200 innings for the past six years with the Dodgers and the Marlins. The Achilles heel of Nolasco over the past few seasons has been allowing home runs. During his worst seasons, Nolasco allowed nearly 25 home runs per season. During the latter half of last season, Nolasco gave up only 6 home runs while recording a 3.52 ERA. In Minnesota, Nolasco’s home run numbers should decline, which will allow him to decrease his ERA and legitimatize his new deal. If Ricky can continue his success in Minnesota, the Twins should be able to improve their horrible pitching staff and make a run out of the NL Central dweller. While other pitcher may net close to $80 million, the deal for Nolasco will look better.

Grade: B+

4) Brian McCann

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.30.25 PM

5 yr – 85M with the Yankees

The former All-Star and Atlanta Braves has signed the second largest deal for a catcher in Major League Baseball history. McCann has been one of the best power hitting catchers over the past few seasons. Over the past six seasons, McCann has hit over 20 home runs per season, has played above average defense at catcher, and has been voted to seven All-Star games. In New York, McCann should be able to hit 25-30 home runs because of the short porch in right. McCann is has shown in the past that he is great at pulling the ball with power, which fits greatly with the Yankees. Unlike most free agents, McCann is still in the prime of his career and should be able to provide at least 4-5 quality years with the Yankees. Over the next 3-4 seasons, McCann should be able to play catcher at a high level. The Yankees desperately needed a catcher this offseason because they have not had an All-Star level catcher since Jorge Posada. When the Yankees are at their best, they have an above average catcher that can bat in the middle of the order. If McCann cannot play catcher over the last few seasons of the deal, the Yankees should be able to move him to first base or DH, which will allow him to play catcher for a few extra seasons. Along with providing skill at the catching performance, McCann is a great leader and should provide a voice to a locker room that has been lost, since Posada retired. In almost every level, the deal with McCann makes perfect sense.

Grade: A

5) Mike Napoli

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.30.51 PM

2 yr – 32M with the Red Sox

The beard is going to return to Red Sox for another two seasons, which should be exciting for Red Sox fans. Although Red Sox did not have the most talent last season during their championship run, they had great locker room players and many of the players were clutch down the stretch. One of the two main reasons for the Red Sox’s success is Mike Napoli. Last year, Mike Napoli rebounded because he was healthy for most of the season. Mike Napoli returned to the success he established in Texas, which allowed him to score and drive in multiple runs for the Red Sox. Along with improving offensively, Mike Napoli, surprisingly, became a quality defensive first baseman, which was underrated and under appreciated. The deal with Napoli is similar to other deals that the Red Sox signed over the past years. The Red Sox have decided to give short deals to older free agents with great personality, which has enabled the team to bond together and achieve success. Napoli is a great teammate and should help the young players that are coming through the Red Sox farm system. Over the next two seasons, Napoli will be able to fill the Red Sox first base position and provide All-Star statistics to the middle of the Red Sox order, as they attempt to repeat as champion. At $16M per season, the Red Sox are not breaking the bank for an elder player with talent.

Grade: A-

6) Curtis Granderson

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4 yr – 60M with the Mets

The power hitting outfielder will be traveling across town to the Mets and hopes to provide protection to David Wright. Before a terrible year filled with injuries, Granderson was one of the best power hitters in baseball, after two 40 home run seasons. Last season, Granderson played only 61 games because of two fluke injuries to his wrist, which demolished his whole season. The Mets desperately needed an outfielder that could hit in the middle of a playoff team. Last season, the Mets offense was horrible because they do not have much power and the outfield was especially bad after the trade of Marlon Byrd. While Granderson has sacrificed his batting average and on base percentage, his power numbers and his ability to drive in runs has been great. Over the past two seasons before his injury, Granderson has struck out 350 times. The Mets have overpaid for Granderson because they were in desperate need of a quality outfielder and he had all of the leverage. While Granderson will improve the Mets’ order and should improve the entire lineup as a whole, the Mets needed a top outfielder and a better bat than Curtis Granderson can provide. Curtis will have difficulty maintaining his home run power without the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Also, Granderson will have trouble covering the huge outfield in Citi Field over the latter half of the contract.

Grade: B

7) Jhonny Peralta

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4 yr – 53M with the Cardinals

Even though Peralta was suspended for 50 games, the Cardinals did not hesitate to give him a multiyear deal worth half of 100 million dollars. Last season, the Cardinals may have lost the WS because their shortstop position was one of the worst in MLB. The Cardinals are a large market team and have a chance to win the WS again this season. The addition of Peralta changes the Cardinals shortstop from a weakness to a strength. Although Peralta is not the best defensive shortstop, he is one of the best offensive shortstop and extends the Cardinals offense that was already one of the best in baseball. Also, Peralta was needed to replace Carlos Beltran, who left to New York, since Oscar Taveras is a rookie and an unknown in the outfield, this season. Although Peralta is not one of the top five players in the free agent class, his signing created a lot of controversy and commotion. Many people and baseball loyalist feel that he was not really punished for his use of PED. Also, many people feel that the Cardinals may have overpaid for Peralta since they are wondering if he can replicate his performance without the use of performance enhancing drug. Although it may have been an overpay, the Cardinals desperately needed a quality shortstop and feel that they are one player away from winning the WS in 2014.

Grade: B

8) Carlos Beltran

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3 yr – 45M with the Yankees

The possible Hall of Famer and one of the greatest playoff players in MLB history will be headed to the team with the greatest playoff resume. After replacing Albert Pujols in St. Louis two years ago, Beltran will counted on to replace the offense of Robinson Cano. During the past two seasons, Beltran did perform better than Pujols. Although it is unlikely that the 36 year old will play better than the 31 year old Cano, Beltran will minimize the loss of Cano because he is still a productive offensive force. If the Yankees make the playoffs this season, Yankee fans will see the difference between Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano. Ironically both players have played in 51 playoff games and Carlos Beltran clearly has the better statistics. Beltran has a line of .333/.445/.683 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI. Cano has a slash of .222/.267/.419 with 8 home runs and 13 RBI. Although Beltran will not have the impact like Cano in the regular season, he will greatly improve the Yankees’ offense during postseason play. Beltran is a switch hitter, which will provide more options for the Yankees so they do not become a solely left handed batting team. Although Beltran can still play an effective right field, he can play DH, which will enable him to hit through the length of his contract. Although Beltran will not continue batting .290/25+HR/95+RBI throughout the three years, he should be an above average hitter or quality platoon man during the last season of the deal.

Grade: B+

9) Joe Nathan

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2 yr – 20M with the Tigers

The active leader in saves will be good pick up for the Detroit Tigers because their bullpen cost them a trip the WS. Last postseason, the starting pitching performances by the Tigers starting staff were some of the greatest performances by a team in playoff history. Although the team experienced great success at the start of games, the team lost because their bullpen was unexperienced and failed during tough situations. Joe Nathan will provide stability to the team, although he is almost done with his career. Over the last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, Nathan has saved 80 games with a 1.80 ERA and made two All-Star games. Nathan will need to replace Benoit as a closer for the Tigers. With the Tigers, Nathan should be able to replicate his statistics. Although Nathan has switched teams three times, he has consistently been success in the bullpen, which has enabled him to finish top five in the Cy Young voting twice. A contract for $10 million per season for an All-Star closer is not considered horrible or an excessive overpay. Even if the Tigers paid more for Nathan than other teams, they may be only one closer or relief player away from making or winning the WS.

Grade: A

10) Scott Feldman

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3 yr – 30M with the Astros

In the one of the biggest overpays of the offseason, the Astros signed starting pitcher Scott Feldman to a three year deal above market value. After the best season of his career, Feldman cashed in on a big deal with the lowly Astros. For the first half of last season, Feldman pitched with the Chicago Cubs and was effective for the Cubs. In 15 games with the Cubs, Feldman was 7-6 with 3.46 ERA and 67 K in 91 innings. After the trade, Feldman was not the same pitcher with Orioles in the offensive AL East. With the Orioles, Feldman had a 4.27 ERA. Before Feldman’s success in Chicago, Feldman was a below average starter with the Texas Rangers. During his years as a starter with the Rangers, he never accumulated an ERA under 4.08 and never pitched more than 190 innings Besides for his quality half season with the Cubs, Feldman has been a below average 4th or 5th starter. However, the Astros are paying Feldman as a number 3 or a very good number 4 starter. The Astros are hoping that Feldman is a pitcher that is better in the NL, without the DH. The Astros also hope that he can remember how to pitch in the NL Central and replicate his success from last season. However, it seems unlikely because Feldman is a bad pitcher and not deserving of a 30 million dollar deal.

Grade: C

Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com