Sunday, August 21, 2011

Prepping the Stove

Cubs fans have basically been stuck in Hot Stove forever, having not gone to the World Series in the past sixty-five years. As current fans have likely noticed, the team hasn't contended since being swept out of the first round of the playoffs in '07 and '08.

This year's pennant races may be spectacular in the end, but there are really only two playoff positions up for grabs. Taking a quick jaunt over to Coolstandings, we see that everything has basically been decided except for the AL Central and NL West champions.

2011 Playoff Probability

NL East
The Phillies will roll into October.
Phillies 99.9%
Braves 95.6% (WC)

NL Central
Brewers 96.5%

NL West
Diamondbacks 68%
Giants 29.9%

AL East
Yankees 98.8%
Red Sox 95.4% (WC)

AL Central
Verlander helps TV ratings
Tigers 66.2%
Indians 22.1%
White Sox 11.8%

AL West
Rangers 91.6%

WC = Wild Card

In other words, if the playoffs ended today, the Phillies would host the D'backs, and the Braves would be back in Milwaukee to play the Brewers. In the American League, the Yankees would have the unenviable task of facing Justin Verlander and the Tigers in the first round, while Boston would go to Dallas to play the Rangers.

Joe Posnanski had an interesting take on the future of baseball's pennant races with the inevitable advent of an additional playoff team. Check it out, if you have a few minutes.

Joe sort of alludes to how winning the AL East may not be as good as being the Wild Card because it could be better to play the Rangers than any team with 2011 Justin Verlander. If true, couldn't that make for an emotional end to the season as people's subconscious battle for what's more desirable?

Enough about the playoff possibilities. At this moment, we are here as a support system to baseball fans of distraught franchises. Does your team owe more than $30 million to a worthless player? Tell us about it. Has your best player been injured since 2009? We know the feeling. Empathy, we has it. Is your favorite player the fourth outfielder? Or the backup catcher? Let's talk hot stove.

Astros owner, Jim Crane,
doesn't want to spend a lot.
While misery loves company, it's always nice to turn the page and lean towards optimism. We're going to look at upcoming Free Agent lists to see if anyone on the horizon, who might be able to help. Sorry for the truly small market thinking clubs right now. For example, it sounds like Houston's new owner is going to slash payroll. The Dodgers are going to be a mess for a while longer. We'll do a separate Astros post in the near future, and Dodger fans don't really care that much. They can still go to the beach or the movies or wherever. For other fans, even if your team doesn't have a ton of money, they might be able to make a savvy move or two.

The consistently enjoyable MLBtraderumors.com keeps track of upcoming free agents for this coming offseason, and the offseason after the 2012 season.

There are many players in the lists linked above. Take a look for yourself, it won't take long. Below are the names that we personally hand-picked as being more relevant to inspiring even an inkling of hope.

Please keep in mind, this is a primer for the true hot stove season. Please begin discussion topics in the comments section, or contact me via email or our social media channels. We're looking forward to providing more thoughts on what may be ahead as the market develops.

2012 MLB Free Agents

Catchers
*None*

First basemen
Fielder's career has been on an
historical pace, hitting his prime.
Prince Fielder (28)
Albert Pujols (32)

Second basemen
Brandon Phillips (31) - $12MM club option / $1MM buyout

Shortstops
Jose Reyes (29)
Jimmy Rollins (33)

Third basemen
Aramis Ramirez (34)
Wilson Betemit (30)

Left fielders
Jonny Gomes (31)
Josh Willingham (33)

Center fielders
Grady Sizemore (29) - $8.5MM club option / $500K buyout
Carlos Beltran (35)
Coco Crisp (32)

Right fielders
Nick Swisher (31) - $10.25MM club option / $1MM buyout
Lance Berkman (36)
Jason Kubel (29)
Michael Cuddyer (33)
Josh Willingham (33)

Designated hitters
Aramis may not know it, but he
would be a great Designated Hitter.
Aramis Ramirez (34)
Carlos Beltran (35)
Jason Kubel (29)
Johnny Damon (37)
Vladimir Guerrero (37)
David Ortiz (36)
Edwin Encarnacion (29) - $3.5MM club option / $500K buyout
Jim Thome (41)

Starting pitchers
C.C. Sabathia (31) - may opt out of remaining four years, $92MM
C.J. Wilson (31)
Chris Carpenter (37) - $15MM club option / $1MM buyout
Adam Wainwright (30)
Roy Oswalt (34) - $16MM mutual option / $2MM buyout
Edwin Jackson (28)
Mark Buehrle (33)
Dontrelle Willis (30)
Ryan Dempster (35) - $14MM player option, no buyout
Freddy Garcia (36)
Hiroki Kuroda (37)
Paul Maholm (30) - $9.75MM club option / $750K buyout
Rich Harden (30)
Tim Wakefield (45)

Right-handed relievers
Ryan Madson (31)
Jonathan Papelbon (31)
Heath Bell (34)
Francisco Rodriguez (30)
Jose Valverde (34) - $9MM club option, no buyout
Kerry Wood (35)
Michael Wuertz (33) - $3.25MM club option / $250K buyout
Jonathan Broxton (28)
Joel Peralta (36)
Micah Owings (29)
Mark Prior (31)

Off the top, maybe we'd rank the Top 10 MLB Free Agents as:

10. Aramis Ramirez
Yu Darvish is ready
for Prime Time.
9. Brandon Phillips
8. Carlos Beltran
7. Chris Carpenter
6. C.J. Wilson
5. Jose Reyes
4. Albert Pujols
3. Prince Fielder
2. Yu Darvish*
1. CC Sabathia

*Hey, it's our blog, and we decided to include Yu Darvish, although he's not yet an official free agent. If he is made available by his Japanese club, we would aggressively place him just behind the incredible CC.

Major League front offices don't analyze free agent classes in a vacuum. Among many other things, like draft classes, international talent, and more, they keep multiple season classes in perspective. For simplicities sake, let's just look at the market for the 2013 season:

2013 MLB Free Agents

Catchers
Brian McCann (29) - $12MM club option / $500K buyout
Miguel Montero (29)
Mike Napoli (31)
Chris Iannetta (30) - $5MM club option / $250K buyout
Russell Martin (30)
David Ross (36)
Carlos Ruiz (34) - $5MM club option / $500K buyout
Jeff Mathis (30)

First basemen
*None*

Second basemen
Ian Kinsler (31) - $10MM club option / $500K buyout
Howie Kendrick (29)

Shortstops
Stephen Drew (30) - $10MM mutual option / $1.35MM buyout

Third basemen
David Wright (30) - $16MM club option / $1MM buyout
Kevin Youkilis (34) - $13MM club option / $1MM buyout

Left fielders
Josh Hamilton (32)
Delmon Young (27)

Center fielders
Curtis Granderson (32) - $13MM club option / $2MM buyout
Matt Kemp (28)
GM's all over baseball are ready to
throw money at Matt Kemp.
B.J. Upton (28)
Michael Bourn (30)
Shane Victorino (32)

Right fielders
Andre Ethier (31)
Carlos Quentin (30)
Ichiro Suzuki (39)

Designated hitters
*None*

Starting pitchers
Zack Greinke (28)
Matt Cain (28)
Jered Weaver (30)
Cole Hamels (29)
Dan Haren (32) - $15.5MM club option / $3.5MM buyout
Tim Hudson (37) - $9MM club option / $1MM buyout
Shaun Marcum (31)
Ervin Santana (30) - $13MM club option / $1MM buyout
James Shields (31) - $9MM club option / $1.5MM buyout
John Danks (28)
Francisco Liriano (29)
Gavin Floyd (30) - $9.5MM club option
Jeremy Guthrie (34)
Brandon McCarthy (29)
Colby Lewis (33)
Jake Peavy (31)
Anibal Sanchez (29)
Jonathan Sanchez (30)
Jorge de la Rosa (32) - $11MM player option / $1MM buyout
R.A. Dickey (38) - $5MM club option / $300K buyout

Right-handed relievers
Mariano Rivera (43)
Joakim Soria (29) - $8MM club option / $750K buyout
Huston Street (29) - $9MM mutual option / $500K buyout if club declines
Leo Nunez (29)
Brandon League (30)
J.J. Putz (36) - $6.5MM club option / $1.5MM buyout
Mike Adams (34)
Grant Balfour (35) - $4.5MM club option / $350K buyout
Matt Lindstrom (33) - $4MM club option / $200K buyout
Taylor Buchholz (31)
Jose Contreras (41) - $2.5MM club option / $500K buyout
Joel Peralta (37)
Sean Marshall is ready for a nice
3 yr/$30-something million deal.
Robinson Tejeda (31)
Carlos Villanueva (29)

Left-handed relievers
Sean Marshall (30)
J.P. Howell (28)
Sean Burnett (30)
Hong-Chih Kuo (31)

That is an amazing array of Starting Pitchers available for 2013.

Which player sounds best for your favorite team? Which position is the scarcest? Who's at the top of your "avoid" list?

Please add to the comments section, email, or tweet at us.

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