The Boston Red Sox opened their checkbook and signed shortstop Hanley Ramirez (who they will turn into a left fielder) and World Series MVP third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Ramirez received a four-year deal worth $88 million and Sandoval is walking away with a five-year deal worth $95 million (with a sixth-year team option for $17 million).
Sandoval’s post-season success is the reason teams were hoping to land ‘Kung Fu Panda’. He’s a career .343 in the post-season with a .400+ batting average in the World Series…the best in baseball history with at least 150 postseason at-bats.
Sandoval is a nice asset to have in the playoffs, but is he worth $95 million on team who drastically needs pitching?
The American League had a productive off-season, in which they added two of the best players in the game, Albert Pujols & Prince Fielder. If you rank the best teams in the Majors, most of the best teams are in the AL. You have the mainstays like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers, but you have up-and-coming teams like the Royals and Blue Jays. This league has a nice combination of young talent and established veterans. The teams are deep and can pick guys out of their farm system to fill any holes, which is a huge luxury. The AL isn’t all great, since the Orioles and Twins expected to have bad seasons. Which teams will make the playoffs? Who will win the AL Cy Young and MVP awards? Will a mid-season call-up win the Rookie Of The Year?
AL Cy Young – Jared Weaver
AL Rookie Of The Year – Jacob Turner
AL MVP – Robinson Cano
New York Yankees – 97-65
Boston Red Sox – 95-67
Toronto Blue Jays – 85-77
Tampa Bay Rays – 84-81
Baltimore Orioles – 60-102
The biggest surprise here is that the Rays are in 4th place. I think the Blue Jays are a better team this year and will be able to win close games. This is not a knock on the Rays, it is more about how much I like Toronto. The Red Sox will bounce back and contend with the Yankees for the division crown.
Detroit Tigers – 99-63
Kansas City Royals – 82-81
Chicago White Sox – 80-82
Cleveland Indians – 74-88
Minnesota Twins – 59-103
The Tigers are going to be a beast this year and they will run away with the division. There will be a crowded middle of the division, in which I like the Royals young roster to finally start to peak. The Indians will come back to life and fall down a few spots. The White Sox and Twins will end up about where they were at the end of 2011 season.
Texas Rangers – 94-68
L.A. Angels – 92-70
Oakland A’s – 76-86
Seattle Mariners – 70-92
The Rangers and Angels made some moves this off-season and this race will be cut-throat. Pujols and C.J. Wilson will help the Angels, but the Rangers return a great team that nearly won the World Series. Yoenis Cespedes will help Oakland, but they are still a work in progress. I expect the Mariners to sell off a few pieces at the trading deadline and keep adding young talent.
AL Wild Card – Red Sox & Angels
AL Champions – Los Angeles Angels
They don’t have the best rotation 1 thru 5, but I really like a short 3-man rotation in the playoffs. This is one of the many cases where a wild-card winner will make the World Series.
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The Chicago Cubs should be popping champagne bottles in celebration that Carlos Zambrano won’t need season-ending surgery for his shoulder. He was diagnosed with tendinitis and inflammation in his shoulder, which is much better than what the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times was hinting at the last few days. The Cubs will only go as far as Zambrano can make it.
Rich Harden is having some issues and will have a start pushed back, Dempster hasn’t thrown this many innings since he was on the Florida Marlins, Lilly kind of imploded at the end of the season last year, and I will never trust Jason Marquis. The replacement starters for the Cubs would either be Sean Marshall or long-reliever, Jon Lieber. Marshall seems to pitch one good game and followed it by two awful outings. I don’t think Lieber would be a sufficient addition either, he has been hurt for most of the season. Angel Guzman could possibly start a game, but he has been hurt for nearly the entire season and has yet to win a start in his limited history as a starter.
I think that Zambrano and Harden should make it to the post-season, but their ability to go on 3-days rest on a few occasions isn’t an ideal situation. Zambrano hasn’t been good on 3-days rest and would fear Harden would be over-worked. My theory would work and think it would be best. I know Kerry Wood has been a great closer, but he has post-season experience and seems to be pitching really well. If they were to convert Wood back to a starter for the rest of the season, they would have to start building up his arm strength right now. I know Jeff Samardzjia was a starter in the minors this season, but his ERA wasn’t great and doesn’t have the ability yet to get guys out the 2nd or 3rd time through the lineup.
If Zambrano or Harden can’t make it through their next start, you have to think that starting Kerry Wood would at least make it through Pinella or GM Hendry’s thought process. He is a free agent after this season, so Wood may not want to risk injury, but it may be the Cubs’ best option to winning their first World Series since 1908.