Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Full Count: Offseason Edition

Editors Note: New Segment on RedStockingsThoughts. Three Balls are for the positives, Two Strikes for the Negatives.

Ball 1: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies had a historic offseason, and it was all based around one move. They were able to add ace and playoff extraordinaire Cliff Lee to a rotation that already boasted All Stars Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. This is shaping up to be the best rotation in baseball since the Braves rotations of the early-mid 90's. They lost middle-of-the-order threat Jayson Werth, but for the contract he ended up signing in Washington, that was a smart move. The loss of his offense could prove costly, however, if Utley's injury ends up being serious, but you can't blame them for not being able to see into the future. It was overall a good offseason in which they became prohibitive favorites to win the NL.

Strike 1: Anaheim Angels
This probably looks like a surprise, given that in my 2011 MLB Preview I picked the Angels to win the AL West, but they could have fielded a much better team. This is a team that is getting older in a young, talented division. The A's have made big strides in the offseason, retooling their pitching staff like they did in the early 2000's. All offseason, the Angels were the favorites to land OF Carl Crawford to a long term deal. They were also rumored to be in on the afore mentioned Werth. However, the Angels were stunned when the Red Sox swept in to sign Crawford, and they missed out on Werth. They made a decision to trade for the overpaid Vernon Wells. While I think he will have a nice year after all the criticism he's heard since the trade, they still missed out on the two biggest bats in free agency, and therefore get a strike.

Ball 2: Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers probably improved more than anyone in baseball over the offseason. They have always had a young improving offense, built around Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They have added some young pitching to make the NL Central a division to watch in future years, with them and the Reds both sporting young, talented teams. They traded for a bonafide ace in former Kansas City Royal and 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zach Greinke. To go along with that, they traded for another good young arm in Toronto's Shawn Marcum. With young talent in pretty much every aspect of their team, they have a chance at a playoff berth.

Strike 2: New York Yankees
Before I start, realize that none of this means I believe the Yankees have a bad team, just that they missed out on opportunities. The New York Yankees are notorious for having the most money and being able to attract any and all free agents they please. However, this season, we saw things begin to change. The prize of the 2010 winter was ace Cliff Lee. The Yankees and the Rangers were seen to be favorites for Lee. He would have been a huge addition for the Yankees, who lost lefty Andy Pettitte to retirement and have to face a lefty-heavy Red Sox team 18 times this season. Lee shocked the baseball world and decided to go to Philadelphia. (People say it's because Yankee's fans were rude to his wife, but would Philly be the place to go if you're looking for civilized fans?) So the Yankees realized they needed to make a splash, and they did so in a panicky way. They signed former Rays closer Rafael Soriano to a 3 year $35 million contract. That is for him to be a set up man this year. I know they have endless amounts of money, but that is still a lot of money to pay for bullpen help. However, there is no doubt in my mind they will compete this year.

Ball 3: Boston Red Sox
This may seem like a bit of a homer-pick, but it is hard to disagree with this assessment. The Red Sox saw some major overhaul to the roster from last year. They traded for a top-5 first basemen whose swing is tailored for Fenway Park in Adrian Gonzalez, and also signed former rival Carl Crawford. These two additions instantly make this lineup way better. Another area of concern for the team after last season was the bullpen. To make up for that, the team went out and signed two former closers in Bobby Jenks and Danny Wheeler. The team also lost 3B Adrian Beltre, who only performs in contract years, and catcher Victor Martinez. Martinez is tough to see go, but with the addition of Crawford and Gonzo, it's pretty hard to get upset about it. Because of the great offseason by Theo and company, many ESPN "experts" are picking the Sox to win it all.

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