Spring Training Preview
Spring training is starting! Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camps from Florida to Arizona this week, as well as position players in the coming days. Grapefruit and Cactus League games will be starting within two weeks, and by the beginning of April, baseball will be in full swing. However, the roster and Hot Stove work aren't done. Players such as Kyle Lohse, Jose Valverde, Brian Wilson, Carlos Lee, Dallas Braden, and Casey Kotchman all remain without a team. Also, there is not a team out there without some roster decisions to make. Take the Nationals: they have three lefties in their bullpen, but only have room for two. Zach Duke has probably already won the first job, but Will Ohman and Bill Bray will have to battle for the second spot. And the Nats have it easy. Many other teams have numerous decisions to make regarding starting spots. This is what makes spring training so special. It won't be unusual for dozens of players to appear in one game, and most starters (not just pitchers: position players too) will be out by the middle innings. We get to see names that we've never seen before, as well as watch top prospects such as Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras, Billy Hamilton, and Jose Fernandez compete against major leaguers for the first time. Fallen superstars like Troy Tulowitzki, Victor Martinez, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Heath Bell will all get a chance to reestablish themselves as the best players in the game. Even more players, such as Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, Rafael Soriano, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Jose Reyes, and R.A. Dickey will be donning their new colors for the first time. The Nationals have brought in their fair share of new faces, including Soriano, Denard Span, Dan Haren, Bill Bray, Micah Owings, Chris Snyder, Will Ohman, and more. On the digital level, the spring training season means more "specials" from my blog, such as season previews and offseason reviews. Starting when spring games start, "Hot Stove" will change to "Spring Training" and include game scores, spring leaders, injury updates, and more.
Mariners signed Felix Hernandez to a seven year, $175 million extension ($25 million per season), the largest contract ever for a pitcher.
Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter re-injured his pitching arm and may miss the 2013 season.
King Felix, who first donned a Mariners jersey when he was 19 years old and hasn't looked back since, will be staying in Seattle for a long time to come. The right hander just agreed to a massive $175 million extension, besting C.C. Sabathia's $161 million for the largest contract ever given to a pitcher. The 26 year old Venezuelan already has 98 victories, 238 starts, and almost 1500 strikeouts to his name, as well as a perfect game (which my friend was on site to witness), a Cy Young Award, and three All Star Appearances. His best pitching came from 2010-2011, where he was 32-17 with a 2.38 ERA and 449 strikeouts in 488.1 innings. Last year, he was 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 223 K's in 232 innings. Over his eight year career, Felix, one of the top pitchers in baseball is 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA.
Free Agent Signings
Indians agreed to terms with Michael Bourn (9 HR, 57 RBI, .274 AVG, 42 SB, 2013 age: 30) on a four year, $48 million deal ($12 million per season).
Mariners signed Joe Saunders (9-13, 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2013 age: 32) to a one year, $6.5 million deal.
Cubs signed Scott Hairston (20 HR, 57 RBI, .263 AVG, 8 SB, 2013 age: 33) to a two year, $5 million deal ($2.5 million per season).
Pirates signed Brandon Inge (12 HR, 54 RBI, .218 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 36) to a minor league deal.
Dodgers signed Kevin Gregg (3-2, 4.95 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 2013 age: 34-35) to a minor league deal.
Indians agreed to terms with Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7, 8.28 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 2013 age: 32) on a minor league deal.
Nationals signed Will Ohman (0-2, 6.41 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2013 age: 35) to a minor league deal.
Mariners also signed Kameron Loe (6-5, 4.61 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2 saves, 2013 age: 31) to a minor league deal.
Indians also signed Jason Giambi (1 HR, 8 RBI, .225 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 42) to a minor league deal.
Mariners also signed Jon Garland (missed 2012 season, 132 career wins, 4.32 ERA, 2013 age: 33) to a minor league deal.
Indians also signed Omir Santos (0 HR, 1 RBI, .125 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 32) to a minor league deal.
Michael Bourn, the top offensive free agent left, will join the Indians on a four year deal. The completely revamped outfield that also includes newly acquired Drew Stubbs (Nick Swisher will move to first base with the arrival of Bourn) will look like Cleveland's strong point as they hope to surprise everybody in the division this year. Bourn will be hitting leadoff, supplying incredible speed and Gold Glove defense to the team. The Houston native has stolen more than 40 bases in each of the past five seasons while also winning Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 and 2011, he stole 61 bases both years while batting .285 and .294, respectively. Bourn was previously linked to the Mets, who very well may have signed him if they didn't have to lose their eleventh overall pick to the Braves for him. He did set a career high in home runs last year at nine. Over his seven year career, he has hit 22 home runs, batted .272, and stolen 276 bases in 871 games.
Seattle signed the second best remaining free agent starter (behind Kyle Lohse) in Joe Saunders, a West Springfield High School (the one here in Fairfax County). Though he is a little inconsistent, Saunders has a track record of success with 78 career victories and a 2008 All Star Game appearance. The 6'3" lefty will slot in behind the newly extended Felix Hernandez in the rotation, effectively replacing Jason Vargas, who was sent to Los Angeles in a deal for Kendrys Morales. Joe will join Michael Saunders, the only other player in baseball with that surname, on the Mariner. His best year was 2008, when he was 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA over 31 starts for the Angels. Over his eight years, he is 78-65 with a 4.15 ERA through 189 starts.
The Nationals signed Will Ohman to compete for a spot in their bullpen. The German-born left hander has made 483 major league appearances for the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers, Orioles, Marlins, and White Sox. Zach Duke is already scheduled to be the long-man out of the bullpen, having signed a major league deal earlier in the offseason, so Ohman will have to battle with Bill Bray for the second spot. His best year was 2005, when the then-27 year old went 2-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a .201 BAA over 69 appearances. Left handers batted just .173 against him that year. Another one of his best years was 2008 with Atlanta, where he was 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and one save. He struggled last year, pitching to a 6.41 ERA in 32 appearances despite solid secondary numbers. His WHIP was a career best 1.05 (though he made just 32 appearances), and opponents batted just .228. Lefties had an even tougher time against him, struggling to the tune of 11-59, a .186 average. Over his ten year career, he is 12-16 with a 4.28 ERA and a .239 BAA in 483 appearances.
Dice-K will get a chance to resurrect his career in Cleveland under his former manager, Terry Francona. The 2007 equivalent or even superior of Yu Darvish when he originally joined the Red Sox, Matsuzaka's career has plummeted after a hot start. In 2008, the 27 year old went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA, and then faded. The very next year, he was 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA in 12 starts, and ended up having Tommy John surgery in 2011. Last year was his worst year ever, as he went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA and 1.71 WHIP through eleven starts. Over his six year tenure in Boston, he was 50-37 with a 4.52 ERA and one complete game in 117 games pitched (116 starts). Once baseball's most hyped up pitcher, he will now have to battle with Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Corey Kluber, and Trevor Bauer for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, and Zach McAllister.
Teams followed in this update: Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies
If your team is not included, please leave a comment.
HR: home runs. RBI: runs batted in. AVG: batting average. SB: stolen bases. ERA: earned run average. WHIP: walks/hits per innings pitched. K's: strikeouts. WPCT: winning percentage