2011 was truly a fun year for the Cleveland Indians…the first half anyway:
Casey Kotchman, Jeremy Accardo, Jose Lopez, Derek Lowe, Felix Pie, Kevin Slowey, and Dan Wheeler.
Jim Thome, Adam Everett, and Austin Kearns.
Why?: This is a weird entry/grade. The addition far surpass the subtractions. That said, I usually don’t put in more than one or two players in the “Notable” lists that have been signed to a minor league contract. In this entry, however, I have five players that were signed to minor league contracts on the list. This serves as an indicator that a lot of the players aren’t game changers. In other words, the subtraction players aren’t that far away from equaling the value to a team that the addition players present, a fact which reflects itself in the grade I gave their offseason.
Also, Kosuke Fukudome and Chad Durbin have yet to sign, which may bring the Indians’ grade down as they were on the Indians last year.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins
This image pretty much sums up the Royals’ 2011 season. The amazing farm system finally gave us a peak last season and the Royals were able to move out of that cellar they had been dwelling pretty regularly over the past few years:
Jonathan Broxton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Mijares, and Jonathan Sanchez.
Why?: I don’t really know. The Royals do have many more people in the plus column than they do in the subtraction (and a few years ago, I would have said getting rid of Melky would be a positive) side. However, the additions they made really don’t make the team THAT much better in my mind.
The two “impact” acquisitions are obviously Broxton and Sanchez, but even they aren’t THAT big of an impact on the team. I guess you can argue that Betancourt and Mijares are polishing touches, but they really don’t pop out to you.
Also, Jason Kendall and Jeff Francis are still on the market and could sign with another team, making them notable subtractions. This definitely stayed in the back of my head while grading them, because it is a very real possibility,’even if the two players aren’t really team changers by any stretch of the imagination.
Despite what I may write about the offseason not working out that well as far as improving the team, I do think that the 2012 squad will be better than that of the year previous, because this may be the year we see most of the Royals’ famed farm system. This alone could get them five more wins.
Predicted Record Range: 75-80 wins
As a person who identifies himself as a Twins fan more than a fan of any other team, I would just like to forget that 2011 happened and be happy that Terry Ryan is back at GM to hopefully rebuild this shell of a team:
Josh Willingham, Jason Marquis , Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, and Joel Zumaya.
Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, and Matt Tolbert.
Why?: I just really don’t like that the Twins lost two of the most underrated Outfielders in baseball and their closer. This doesn’t seem like it went that well. To tell you the truth, I’m just still depressed that the Twins season was so bad and that I went to their stadium the one of the few series the whole year that it would be packed. I really can’t think straight anymore when it comes to the Twins. True, I did give the Twins a D- in this same entry last year, but I didn’t expect that losing most of their bullpen would result in a season of 30 fewer runs, and really, it didn’t. The whole team stunk last year. Michael Cuddyer was their All-Star rep and he ended the year with 20 HRs. This was a below-average season for him, but he was the best player on the team through the first half. They were just THAT bad.
I can’t explain at all what happened. It’s like the whole team just decided collectively to have the worst season of their careers. All I can say is that I really hope Terry Ryan can pick up where he left off and start getting the Twins back to the playoffs. Actually, the Twins never were a team for a big offseason haul. They really just didn’t lose too much in the offseason and developed talent. For example, they still made the playoffs the year Johan Santana. True, Bill Smith messed up big time by only getting back Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber for Santana, but they made the playoffs (I remember that the Red Sox were offering Buchholtz and another player while the Yankees were on the verge of offering Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Everything worked out well in retrospect for the Yankee fan in me as the Mets took their rightful spot loserville, but I would have liked to see the Twins get a little more back. Yay for parenthetical statements!).
Also I really don’t like Target Field for the Twins. As a person who went there this year, it *is* a really nice stadium, it’s friendly and absolutely gorgeous, but it seems to be a disadvantage to the Twins. Yes they did do really well in the first year at Target Field, but this seems more natural. I guess I should actually wait a few more years to get a broader sample base, but it just doesn’t scream home to me like the Metrodome did. The Twins were better at home, but only by three games. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the fact that I prefer domed stadiums, but I would have liked to see the Twins stay in the H.H.H Metrodome -or whatever it is they’re calling it these days.
Predicted Record Range: 65-70 wins. I know I have the Twins getting worse as a result of this offseason, but I just can’t imagine them being worse than last season.
This was the season of three of the four players in the next picture. There was Jose the perfect, Justin the MVP, and Miguel the MVP candidate:
Prince Fielder, Collin Balester, Ocatvio Dotel, and Gerald Laird.
Carlos Guillen, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Perry, and Joel Zumaya.
Why?: The temptation would be to say their good offseason grade came from Prince Fielder. While this is partially true, it was not only him, but all of the players in the “Notable Additions” category that brought this grade to a B+. True, there are only four of them, but that is why it is a B+ and not a grade in the “A”s. Let’s just compare the two sides very briefly. They gained: One of the best 1st Basemen in the game, two bullpen hands, and an above-average replacement for their injured catcher who was an All-Star (I believe) the last time he was on the team. They lost: a declining utility player, a young underperforming utility player, an Outfield prospect, because they had a surplus, and an oft-injured reliever. These are some solid additions they have made.
However, there is a hidden part to this story. There are two free-agents still on the market that were Tigers last year: Magglio Ordoñez and Brad Penny. Both would certainly be more “Notable” than any player on this list if they were to sign with another team. If they both were to do so, I might downgrade the Tigers.
Also, if this grade were for the impact this offseason had on the next few years, it might be higher. I mean the Tigers have a chance to win the World Series, but the move will be more for the years when Victor Martinez, because the lineup will be a mine field to navigate for pitchers.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins
What can I say? The Cardinals were World Series champions with one of the best runs for a team. Ever.
Offseason Grade: D
Carlos Beltran, and J.C. Romero.
Albert Pujols, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Franklin, Gerald Laird, Cory Patterson, and Nick Punto.
Why?: The most exciting things to pay attention to this offseason concerning the Cardinals were the loss of Pujols and the addition of Beltran. Looking at just these two, the Cardinals didn’t do that poorly this offseason. However, if you look at all of the names on the list, the Cardinals actually have had some bullpen trouble. I personally don’t think that either Dotel or Franklin can be compensated for by J.C. Romero, much less the loss of both of them. Also, Arthur Rhodes is on the market and common wisdom dictates that he will probably not be coming back
As far as the other “notable subtractions”, it really just takes away from the depth of the team. Now, if a Catcher, Outfielder, or Infielder goes down, the player called upon to replace his spot will be a lesser quality replacement than it otherwise would have been. Also, there are less possible pinch-hitters to be called upon to hit for the Pitcher. Of course, the depth of the team matters less this year than it would have last year as Mike Matheny is the manager and not Tony LaRussa.
There really weren’t that many moves made on the part of the Cardinals. That’s why there isn’t that much to talk about. So this is it, I guess.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins.
Sorry to do this to you Brewers fans, but these two guys were the biggest story of the 2011 season, even with all the additions last offseason:
Aramis Ramirez, Brooks Conrad, Cesar Izturis, Alex Gonzalez, and Jose Veras.
Prince Fielder, Cragi Counsell, Yuniesky Betancourt, Latroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, Casey McGehee, Jerry Hariston Jr, and Mark Kotsay.
Why?: I know that considering they signed Aramis Ramirez and all, the Brewers look like they have had as good an offseason as they could with there being virtually no chance of signing Prince Fielder. However, you will see many more big MLB players on the “subtractions” list than the additions list.
Ah the McGehee trade. I don’t think we can evaluate this trade yet. If he returns to the level of two years ago, this will be a horrible deal for the Brewers, but if he continues at the level of last year, Doug Melvin looks like a genius.
There are names on both lists I could get into, but it doesn’t make any sense as the players only have an impact on the teams record as aggregate units and not as individuals. I would like to point out, however, that the Brewers are still a good team as they stand. I do see life after Prince for this club. I don’t see them slipping into the days where Jeff Cirillo was on the team and they were the league’s bottom feeder along with Detroit, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and some other team I’m forgetting (the Expos maybe?).
Predicted Record Range: 81-86 wins
Next up: The World Series Champion, St. Louis Cardinals, but what division would you like to see next?
What more can be said about the Cubs 2011 season than any other season:
Actually, this streak is so bad and long it deserves both a picture describing the Cubs’ 2011 season/last 103 years AND a video doing the same. Check it out:
Anthony Rizzo, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm, Andy Sonnanstine, Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Kerry Wood.
Carlos Zambrano, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Colvin, Sean Marshall, Carlos Peña, Aramis Ramirez, and John Grabow.
Why?: First, I realize that the pictures I chose may not be the best ones to put up. I just really put up the most hyped transactions this offseason for the Cubs. Also, now that I realized I probably made a mistake, I don’t feel like pulling the pictures and putting new ones up.
Anyway, the common theme in my comments on Cubs fans’ MlBlogs was that I was glad for them that the Cubs finally decided to go into full rebuilding mode, because the “in-between” stage they have been in for the past few years has really been hurting them. So you may say, “Well, Mateo, then why do you have them at such a low grade in a D+ if you think they are actually doing a good job?” This is a valid question. The answer is that I did give the Cubs brownie points by bumping their grade up from a D (which is usually the protocol when I can’t give the team a high grade, but like the way they handled things). However, I couldn’t give the Cubs a legitimate grade, because the majority of what goes into it is how it improved the team for winning in 2012. The Cubs set themselves up well for the next few years, but I don’t know what planet you’d have to live on to think paying $15 million+ for Chris Volstad is helping the Cubs win in 2012.
There are other examples, but I think you get the gist of things.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins
Things definitely regressed for the Reds a year after winning the NL Central by a comfortable margin:
Mat Latos, Andrew Brackman, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, and Dioner Navarro.
Francisco Cordero, Yonder Alonso, Ramon Hernandez, Edison Volquez, Dontrelle Willis, and Travis Wood.
Why?: I just matched up all the additions and subtractions, and it looked like, in my opinion, that the Reds did add some big names, but the people they lost were marginally better (for this upcoming year). The two main examples are Volquez for Latos and Madson for Cordero.
I think that the Reds package sent to the Padres will be marginally better than Latos, because Volquez is on his way back up from the Tommy John surgery a few years ago ( I believe it was Tommy John, but I’m not 100% sure). He may still return to his form of 17 wins in. This was his only season where he has pitched in more than 20 games. This shows that if he is healthy, he has shown he can pitch. Latos’ struggles as of late, on the other hand, come from over-usage. Therefore, from my experience in seeing over-used pitchers, his struggles will mildly continue into 2012, because he has to get back into the rhythm of pitching. He may not, in which case all of this is null and void, but he probably will. Also, Volquez will be going to PETCO Park while Latos now gets to call the Great American Launch Pad his home. That said, once Latos does get over his <insert clever over-usage pun here> syndrome, I think he will be better than the Volquez group, but I think he won’t until after 2012, so I have Volquez and package being better than Latos this year.
Madson for Cordero is a bit more complicated. I think that Madson may be better than Cordero and it definitely was good to get rid of Cordero before he starts declining, but Cordero has been one of the most consistently excellent closers over the last half-decade, while Madson only has a year of closing experience. I do like Madson over Cordero, but I think the Reds would have been better served letting him go to another team for a year and getting what I think is the last good year before he really declines from Cordero, and letting Madson mature for another year and become a better closer. Either that or sign Madson to a multi-year deal, because I see Madson’s price tag only going up after this season. The only reason I could see them signing Madson to a one-year deal is if they think this is their last year of contention before Joey Votto leaves, either via trade in 2013 or free agency in the 2013-14 offseason.
Other than this, I don’t know what to say. Last year, I predicted their youth to be an advantage, and I got burned because they actually regressed a little. I guess I’ll just say that their youth gives them room for growth again and hope it actually does this year.
Predicted Record Range: 82-87 wins
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yes, it truly was a tale of two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011:
Casey McGehee, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Erik Bedard, Ryota Igarashi (because he’s the only Major Leaguer I’ve played catch with), Nate McLouth, and Doug Slaten.
Paul Maholm, Joe Biemel, Ronny Cedeño, Ryan Doumit, Nelson Figueroa, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Snyder, and Jose Veras.
Why?: The Pirates have had the most transactions of any team I have done a recap for (the total number of names is probably double that of the list of notable transactions. That said, they also don’t have the big names going back and forth so its kind of hard to account how much all of these little gains and losses will affect the team in the aggregate. Some of these additions might not even give the Pirates an extra win. I mean will Doug Slaten have much of an impact of the Pirates? Probably not. I’m not that sure of how these things will pan out in most predictions, much less so many of them.
Anywho, they did make some higher impact changes. Paul Maholm was a big part of their rotation that has left, and the acquisitions of Erik Bedard and Casey McGehee are sure to help the team have their first winning season of the last 20.
However, this grade could possibly and probably should be lower. The reason the grade isn’t where it most likely would be had I done this recap in a month is because two Pirates (Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick) are still on the free agent market and I have to leave the possibility open that they will return to the Pirates-even if they probably won’t. If both of those are on the “Notable Subtractions” list, my grade for the team is probably a half a grade lower, if not more.
Predicted Record Range: 79-84 wins. The NL Central is depleted, but this number will go down if Lee and/or Ludwick don’t re-sign.
I think this next image pretty well descirbes the Astros’ 2011 season, no? (even if it is fr0m 2004):
Jed Lowrie, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, and Kyle Weiland.
Mark Melancon, and Clint Barmes.
Why?: Let me get one thing clear. I know the Astros are not in the AL West yet, but I think it’s better that I make transition now, because it just makes my life slightly easiser to have 15 teams in each league and 5 teams in each division. Secondly, I know the “Notable” names aren’t that notable, because I lowered my standards for the category especially for the Astros and they haven’t had much happening this offseason.
The Astros aren’t exactly an offensive power house. So I like their improvements on that front, but their most feared hitter is still Carlos, which doesn’t doom the lineup, but makes it less imposing than 90% of the other lineups in MLB. Long gone are the days of the Astros contending for the even the NL Central (at times the weakest division in the league), much less contending for the World Series as they did in 2005. It also doesn’t help that they are moving into the most improved division of 2011. Unless there is an extreme shift in culture, they may be lucky to win a division title before 2020.
I think I’ve covered the bases, right? The Astros stink, and they didn’t do much in the offseason.
Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins
Up Next: In my last post, I put up a poll for what division you want next. You voted for the NL Central, for whatever reason. So, here is a poll of which team I should write about in said division: