Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's only December, so Major League
Baseball teams have plenty of time remaining to upgrade their rosters before
they report to spring training.
However, there have already been quite a few difference-making signings and
trades throughout the league. Let's examine the likely effects of some of
DESPITE THE JOSH HAMILTON SIGNING, IT'S DEBATABLE WHETHER THE ANGELS HAVE
Shortly after reports were confirmed last week that the Los Angeles Angels
agreed to a five-year contract with free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, Vegas
oddsmakers installed the team as the World Series favorite.
A horrible April prevented the Angels from reaching the postseason last year,
but they didn't really have many weaknesses. Now they boast a potential
outfield of Hamilton, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo; those three combined for 105
home runs last season.
When a lineup has those three outfielders and Albert Pujols, it has to expect
to be one of the league's highest-scoring teams. Surprisingly, the Angels
finished only eighth in the American League in runs scored last year.
Although it's likely that the Angels will improve offensively, they would
appear to have taken a step back in pitching. Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and
trade-deadline acquisition Zack Greinke are gone, and the Angels' starting
rotation has more question marks now.
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are still a great 1-2 punch at the front, but
former Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson is penciled in as the No. 3.
He has always shown great promise, but he has yet to realize his full
potential. He's coming off a career-best 13-win season, but he pitched to a
less than stellar 4.48 earned-run average and battled shoulder problems.
Joe Blanton was signed as a free agent to be the No. 4 starter, but he isn't
much more than an innings-eater. He was 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA last season, and
that's about what he is at this point of his career.
On paper, it doesn't seem like the Angels' upgraded offense will be strong
enough to fully offset its weakened pitching staff. Maybe they can find some
reinforcements prior to the season.
THE BLUE JAYS' OFFSEASON MOVES ARE SHOWING THEY MEAN BUSINESS
Toronto was fourth in the American League in runs scored last season. Now it
has a starting pitching rotation to match.
A blockbuster trade with the Marlins brought in Jose Reyes and Emilio
Bonifacio to add to the already impressive offense. More importantly, it
netted the Blue Jays starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
In a subsequent trade completed Monday with the New York Mets, the Jays
obtained 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. Adding
Johnson, Buehrle and Dickey to holdovers Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero
should give Toronto one of the best starting staffs in baseball.
Toronto hasn't been to the postseason since 1993, and it's been difficult to
compete in a division with big-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and
prospect-rich teams like the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Blue Jays finished 22 games behind first-place New York last season, but
it looks like they're going to compete with the big boys this year.
EVEN THOUGH THEY TRADED A CY YOUNG WINNER, THE METS ARE TAKING THE RIGHT
New York Mets fans had little to cheer about in the second half of last
season, but they at least were able to look forward to every fifth day, when
eventual NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey took the mound.
A month after winning the game's top pitching prize, Dickey has been shipped
out to Toronto for a package of players that includes top-flight catching
prospect Travis D'Arnaud and intriguing 20-year-old pitcher Noah Syndergaard.
Catching was one of the Mets' major areas of need, and D'Arnaud is the game's
top minor-league catching prospect. Last year in Triple-A, D'Arnaud batted
.333 with 16 homers in just 279 at-bats before he suffered a season-ending
posterior cruciate ligament tear. Long-term, it wasn't a serious injury, and
he should begin a long career as the Mets' backstop no later than the middle
of the 2013 season.
Syndergaard was Toronto's top pitching prospect. He throws in the mid-90s with
good command. If he can develop an effective changeup, he will become a top of
the rotation starter. The Mets already have others who possess the ability to
one day become top of the rotation starters - Zack Wheeler and, to a lesser
extent, Matt Harvey.
As good a pitcher as Dickey is, he's also 38. The Mets simply aren't close to
being a playoff contender. By the time the Mets field their next truly great
team, Dickey would probably be too old to be a part of it.
He's a knuckleballer, but not in the same way that Tim Wakefield was. Dickey
throws more of a "power" knuckleball, and it doesn't seem all that likely that
he will pitch into his mid-40s the way that Wakefield did.
When a team is rebuilding, it has to find ways to obtain or draft and develop
young talent. Dickey was one of the Mets' most valuable trade chips, and they
utilized him the best way a rebuilding team could when they dealt him for
young, top-level prospects.
THE RANGERS' WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY COULD BE CLOSING SOONER THAN EXPECTED
Texas was the World Series runner-up in 2010 and 2011, then a wild-card
playoff team last season. Since the end of the year, though, the Rangers have
lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young to free agency.
Worse, the Rangers failed to come away with any of the big-name players they
reportedly were targeting. The Los Angeles Dodgers outbid them for Zack
It was believed that James Shields was the Rangers' Plan B if they failed to
sign Greinke. It didn't work out that way, because Tampa Bay traded Shields to
The fallback option if they lost Hamilton was supposedly the Diamondbacks'
Justin Upton. However, it appears that he is no longer on the trading block.
The Rangers have three months to figure out how they can bolster their
starting rotation. Offensively, it looks like the void will be filled by
giving significant roles to top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. If
they turn out to be as good as advertised, Texas' offense could still be
It's just that Texas is taking a pretty big risk. If the youngsters show they
aren't quite ready, the Rangers could fall well back in a stacked American
League, since non-playoff teams like the Angels, Blue Jays, Royals, and maybe
even Tampa Bay, appear to have improved since last season.
THE DEEP-POCKETED DODGERS APPEAR TO BE THE NEW YANKEES
The past three seasons must have been difficult for Dodgers fans, who have had
to watch the hated rival San Francisco Giants walk off with a pair of World
The Dodgers figure they have 220 million reasons that things will turn around
in 2013. That's 220 million as in dollars, which is Los Angeles' projected
payroll for the upcoming season.
Sometimes throwing money at problems with little regard for intangible factors
like team chemistry leads to disappointing results. In the case of the
Dodgers, though, it's going to be difficult to fail with the talent and depth
they have in the starting rotation.
Former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are joined by Josh
Beckett and Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu. Former prospect Chad Billingsley
hasn't lived up to his potential, but it would be tough to find a better No. 5
starter in baseball - and that's if he even beats out the likes of Chris
Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly for the last rotation spot.
Despite the high payroll, the Dodgers' offense will probably still be in the
middle of the pack at best, but it's going to be virtually impossible to not
contend with that rotation.
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