Saturday, March 30, 2013

2014 Predictions: The Roster

Burch has been predicting what will happen in MLB this season, whether that be with awards or in the standings. I thought about writing my own thoughts on those subjects, but I decided to go another direction when it comes to predictions. Now, a lot of things can and likely will happen before the end of the season, so this may all be for nothing. But who cares? It's fun playing fantasy GM.

For starters, I really don't see a big trade happening with the Yankees this season. And by "big" I mean bringing in Curtis Granderson's replacement. Justin Upton seemed like the guy to do that, as the Diamondbacks were clearly looking to move the guy, but that ship has sailed. Looking around the league at other outfielders, I don't see anybody that could be what the Yankees will need to replace Grandy. There just aren't any players of that magnitude that seem available, as they are already locked up due to being younger and/or on a good contract. Not that Granderson is on the same level as these guys, but the team could really use somebody behind Robinson Cano that scares people. I'm looking at players like Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Hamilton, and Matt Holliday. Guys that can not only hit the ball out of the park, but also have a batting average of .290 or higher. You know, the type of hitter Alex Rodriguez was in 2009 and before.

"Have you seen this man?"

Pitching-wise the team seems to be set. In fact, by mid-season the team could be overflowing with starters. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, and Michael Pineda could all be fighting for only five jobs. Even looking at 2014 the team could be just fine to use CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, a re-signed Phil Hughes (I think he will be back), Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. There's a chance, albeit a slight one, that Chien-Ming Wang becomes a good rotation option too. Sure, I can see the Yanks adding a veteran pitcher like  Kuroda or Pettitte, but it's the type of move that may be able to be put on the back-burner.

Going back to the hole that will be left by Curtis Granderson, I really want the Yankees to sign Shin-Soo Choo when he hits free agency. The Reds will likely be in the hunt the entire season, so I wouldn't count on them looking to trade Choo. I suppose Cincinnati may be interested in re-signing him, or possibly extending him before he becomes a free agent, but if a bidding war develops for the outfielder I can see the Reds backing off.

As for Shin-Soo's credentials, in eight MLB seasons his triple-slash is .289/.381/.465. Choo is not a stranger to hitting home runs either, as he's currently projected by ZiPS to hit 21 of them. He will be 31 in July, meaning the Yankees should be able to sign him to a contract which will allow them to miss his big decline years. In fact, the only stat I see going down throughout his next contract is his stolen base total.

I think it's highly probably that the team does something about third base. Alex Rodriguez is a huge health concern at this point, and I just don't see him being able to play the field 125+ games a season. And seeing as how he is set to be paid another $86 milion, for four more years, the Yankees have to figure out a way to keep him not just healthy but effective. And being the team's regular DH may be the only way. Let's keep in mind that ARod is not "done", though. Sure, he's unlikely to hit 30+ home runs a season, but seeing that he had a 19% Line Drive percentage last season, which is his career average, I think there's a good possibility that his last 4 seasons will not be a total waste at all. I can totally see him lowering his strikeout rate a bit, while lowering the number of infield fly balls, making him a bit of a threat once again.

"I'm glad somebody thinks I can still get it done, but what I want to know is this... What do you think about the suit? Sexy, isn't it?"

Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, and Ronnier Mustelier are hardly good options to be the regular third baseman for the Yankees in 2014. Nunez and Nix are fine backups, but starters? No thanks. And I believe Mustelier's bat may play well in MLB, but if he breaks into the big leagues it will likely be as an outfielder instead of third baseman, as his defense is already suspect.

Although I don't expect Kevin Youkilis to return in 2014, it wouldn't surprise me if the Yankees brought him back should he have a good 2013 season. Kevin is only 34 years old as well. But there may be something better....

I'm going to say that the Yankees are in the market for a third baseman. Looking at the list of free agents, though, I don't see anything compelling. Wilson Betamit, Eric Chavez, Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot, Jerry Hairston Jr, Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Mark Reynolds, Juan Uribe, Michael Young... none of them stand out to me. This is an area where I see Cashman looking to make a deal.

Even though the Padres have said they are not looking at trading Chase Headley, I just don't believe it. Headley will make $8.575 million this season, making him the 2nd highest paid player on the Padres, and that salary is likely to go over $10 million in 2014. San Diego will also need to either re-sign or replace 1B Yonder Alonso, as well as starting pitchers Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis. After finishing the 2012 season 18 games out of first place, I doubt they are thinking about contending again soon, so they would likely want to make moves for a few years down the road. Since I highly doubt they'd give Headley what he'll command as a free agent, they may want to move on now.

"Yeah, sorry Chase, there's nothing in here for you. Guess we'll just trade you to the Yankees."

And as for their future, Jedd Gyorko, the Padres #3 prospect according to Baseball America, is ready for MLB. Jedd is set to start at second base for San Diego this season, however I can see the team wanting to get 2B/3B Logan Forsythe some more playing time. To do that either Gyorko would have to move to 3B, where he played most of the time while in the minors, or Logan would have to play 3B. Forsythe isn't the greatest thing to have ever touched a baseball bat, but his OBP of .445 in AAA in 2011 and .419 in AAA last season, as well as improvements across the board at the MLB level between 2011 to 2012, makes me believe the Pads would like to get him more playing time.

Trade proposals by people on the internet are generally terrible, and mine is probably no different. But what if the Yankees packaged a couple young pitchers like Ivan Nova and Brett Marshall, who could fill the spots left by Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis, as well as one of the Yankees' young outfielders like Slade Heathcott or Tyler Austin, for Headley? Perhaps Eduardo Nunez could be thrown into the deal. The Yankees seem to really want him to be the heir to Derek Jeter at short, but I just don't see it happening. Eduardo would certainly be an improvement over the Padres current shortstop... Everth Cabrera, who has hit .240/.321/.327 in over 1100 MLB plate appearances.

Anyway, as I said, a lot can happen between now and the end of the season, so this bit of fantasy GM may turn out to be moot. But wouldn't you feel really good about the team rolling out this lineup in 2014?

1. Brett Gardner - CF
2. Shin-Soo Choo - RF
3. Robinson Cano - 2B
4. Chase Headley - 3B
5. Mark Teixeira - 1B
6. Derek Jeter - SS
7. Alex Rodriguez - DH
8. Ichiro Suzuki - LF
9. Francisco Cervelli - C

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