Tag:Carlos Lee
Posted on: August 5, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Carlos Lee and the Astros' kiddie corps

Carlos Lee

By
C. Trent Rosecrans 

Your stat of the day: Carlos Lee has more career plate appearances than the rest of the Astros' position players combined.

The Houston Chronicle's Steve Campbell figured that stat out for his feature on Carlos Lee. Lee has 7,967 career plate appearances -- four more than the rest of Astros' position players combined.

Only three Astros, shortstop Clint Barmes (2,826), outfielder Jason Michael (2,588) and catcher Humberto Quintero (1,033) have more than 1,000 career plate appearances. Last season Hunter Pence led the team with 658 plate appearances in 156 games, so to put it in perspective, besides Lee, only two current Astros have more than two full seasons worth of big league plate appearances.

How about this? Lee is mired in an 0-for-23 funk -- tonight he'll have three teammates in uniform who don't have 23 career at-bats. In fact, the trio -- outfielder J.D. Martinez, third baseman Jimmy Paredes and outfielder J.B. Shuck have a combined 27 at-bats in the big leagues (and nine hits).

Lee's probably not going anywhere anytime soon, though. He's signed through next season -- and his $18.5 million salary is actually more than twice the rest of the team's position players combined salary.

"I’m more of a teacher, a mentor,” Lee told Campbell. “Pretty much whatever I can do to help, I’m open for it. I try to keep it loose, make ‘em understand to go out and have fun and play hard. Regardless of the situation, it’s still my job to go out there and do the best I can, compete as hard as I can."

(H/T to Aaron Gleeman at Hardball Talk

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Posted on: May 20, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Who will DH in interleague for NL teams?

Soriano

By Evan Brunell


Interleague play is upon us, which means that we'll be seeing some players in the National League get more at-bats over the weekend (and later in June, when interleague play really gets going) while AL teams will grouse about losing one of their best bats in NL parks.

“Any time that you get to interleague play and get the opportunities to get the guys some more at-bats is big,” Astros manager Brad Mills told the Houston Chronicle. “Get some guys some playing time and to have [Carlos Lee] DH is really nice for when we start playing National League games again and having those guys have at-bats under their belt.”

It's pretty easy to figure out which players in the American League will lose playing time -- just look at whose been DHing the most all season and go from there. The NL, though, is a different story, who now have to fit someone from the bench into the starting lineup. Looking at just this weekend only, which players stand to benefit from interleague play?

Cubs vs. Red Sox
: Alfonso Soriano (pictured) is a man without a position, even though he'll go down in history with well over 700 games in left field to his name once he retires. But for the next three days, DH will be his home. Soriano still doesn't have an OBP over .300, but his power stroke is still going with 11 bombs so far. Tyler Colvin was recently demoted, so he won't get the playing time in left, so that job will fall to both Reed Johnson and Tony Campana. Johnson will absolutely be in the lineup Friday against a lefty, but with right-handers going the next two days, Campana could earn his first two starts of the season. Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt could also figure into the equation.

Nationals vs. Orioles: Bank on Matt Stairs DHing, as manager Jim Riggleman termed him the "leading candidate" to the Washington Post. The pinch-hitting extraordinaire has just 21 at-bats on the year with two hits, but regular at-bats could get him going. Other contenders include Mike Morse, who has lost a lot of at-bats in left field to Laynce Nix lately, so this would represent an opportunity to get Morse going.

Reds vs. Indians: Jonny Gomes, despite recently being pushed into a three-way platoon, is the favorite to DH all three games in Cleveland. Gomes has been the DH in 16 of the last 18 interleague matchups for the Reds and will assume that position again in Cleveland which frees up left for Chris Heisey; Fred Lewis will likely also grab some at-bats.

Mets vs. Yankees
: Manager Terry Collins says that Fernando Martinez will DH the first two games with Carlos Beltran going on Sunday to take some pressure off his creaky knees, the New York Post writes. The Mets didn't want to call up F-Mart so he could get regular at-bats in the minors, but were forced into the move earlier. This will allow the Mets some type of justification for the move by getting Martinez into a game.

Astros vs. Blue Jays: As Mills alluded to, Carlos Lee will be the DH in Toronto, with Brian Bogusevic and Jason Michaels picking up outfield starts as a result. Anytime the Astros get Lee out of the field, they become a much better club. Granted, that still leaves them in bad shape. Lee is hitting .245/.274/.390 in 168 plate appearances in his second straight year of struggling. There's only one year left on his deal, which the 'Stros can't wait for to end. He notched his 2,006th hit last Saturday.

Dodgers vs. White Sox: The Dodgers will probably go with Jay Gibbons, as he's been working his way into more and more playing time in left. With the DH around, though, Gibbons should slide over to make room for Tony Gwynn, Jr.'s move into left field. Gibbons hasn't really gotten going yet, and this weekend series will be a great way for him to focus on just hitting while L.A. doesn't have to worry about sacrificing defense.

Cardinals vs. Royals: The Cardinals get some fortuitous timing of interleague as both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are hobbled due to injury. Only one can DH, but it will still get one of the two best bats on the team in the lineup. Bet on Holliday, who had a sore left leg. Berkman's injury is a bit more severe, with a right wrist sprain that limits his ability to swing a bat. John Jay, who earned starting time last season, has found the going much tougher this year, collecting just 78 at-bats despite appearing in 48 games. Jay tends to enter games as a defensive replacement, but has received four consecutive starts because of current or previous injuries to Holliday, Berkman and Colby Rasmus.  He's at .302/.397/.460 on the year.

Braves vs. Angels: To no surprise, Chipper Jones will receive a respite from his balky knees over the next two games as he recovers from a slight meniscus tear that could eventually require surgery. He'll play third on Sunday, though, which will open up DH for someone else. The guess here is the injury-prone Jason Heyward draws a start at DH, with Joe Mather or Eric Hinske patrolling the outfield as a result.

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Posted on: May 1, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Lee injured in ugly collision

By Matt Snyder

Just a half-inning after belting a three-run homer, Astros left fielder Carlos Lee was forced to leave the game after a jarring collision with shortstop Angel Sanchez in shallow left field. Lee has had X-Rays and a CT scan. X-Rays revealed no fractures in his chest or ribcage, but the CT scan results are still pending. (Alyson Footer via Twitter)  He will spend the night in the hospital. (MLB.com via Twitter)

Reports have Sanchez's leg hitting Lee in the mid-section and Lee laying on the ground writhing in pain for several minutes. He wasn't even able to leave under his own power, as a cart came out to get him.

Lee, 34, is off to a slow start for the Astros this season but was having a big day before the injury. There's a gaping hole in the middle of the batting order if he's gone for any length of time.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 28, 2011 1:38 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Bedard's back

Erik Bedard
By C. Trent Rosecrans

3UP

Erik Bedard, Mariners -- The left-hander picked up his first win since June 2009, as Seattle beat Detroit and Justin Verlander 10-1 on Wednesday. Bedard gave up a run on five hits with three strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. 

Daniel Murphy, Mets -- As a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, Murphy tied the game with his second homer of the year and then in the ninth he added a two-run double to help extend the Mets' winning streak to six games with a 6-3 victory over the Nationals.

James McDonald, Pirates and Madison Bumgarner, Giants -- This afternoon I called it the worst pitching matchup of the day and it was anything but -- I just wanted to give credit where credit was due here. Both pitchers went six innings, with Bumgarner giving up just one run on five hits, while striking out seven. McDonald allowed just four hits in his six scoreless innings, earning the win.

3DOWN

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- Boston's center fielder let a ball drop in front of him for a double with two outs. Two outs later, Luke Scott, hit a three-run homer for a 3-0 Baltimore lead. The Red Sox went on to lose, 5-4.

Carlos Lee, Astros -- Back-to-back Cardinals singled in runs from second by hitting grounders past the third baseman into left field, where just about any other left fielder in the game (well, maybe not Johnny Damon) throws out the runners at the plate. Instead, with Lee, the two runners score easily and St. Louis adds to its lead, which was 6-0 going into the eighth. Houston scored three in the eighth and two in the ninth, falling 6-5. That's not to mention his offensive woes -- Lee was 0 for 4 on Thursday and is hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

Vernon Wells, Angels -- Much of the preseason there was talk of the great outfield defense the Angles would have this season, but Wells hasn't been able to live up to the billing. He misplayed a ball in the 10th inning, giving Oakland's Cliff Pennington a triple with no outs. Conor Jackson then drove in Pennington with the winning run, And, like Lee, that's not even talking about his offensive offense -- Wells is hitting just .178/.224/.257 so far this season.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

Top 20 things to expect from 2011 season

Jeter

By Evan Brunell

The 2011 season is slated to start Thursday, and with it comes no shortage of storylines to watch. Last year brought the advent of Stephen Strasburg, yet another Cliff Lee trade, and of course, the Giants being crowned champions. What's on deck?

1. East Coast hype

An all-too easy criticism of mainstream media or any sports journalist is the dreaded "East Coast bias" label. However, this season, most of the intriguing teams and races will come from both the AL and NL East.

In the senior circuit, the Phillies have a vaunted rotation, but injuries to Domonic Brown and Chase Utley have left the door ajar for the Braves to sneak in. Many seem to be overlooking Atlanta, but the club won 91 games and will add Dan Uggla to the lineup while improving production out of left field. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a strong rotation and enough offensive potential loaded in their young players that they can't be discounted. Add in the mess that is the Mets along with some nice storylines in Washington (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth to name three), and there's plenty of topics to go around.

Likewise, in the league with the DH, the Red Sox were the darlings of the offseason after importing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, while adding Bobby Jenks to the bullpen, and appear to be the team to beat, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman has admitted. But you can't count out New York, and Cashman has a quality club ready to push for the division. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, underwent quite a remake but can't be counted out, as this is a club that could crack 90 wins with only a smidgen of luck. The Jays are fresh off a surprising year and have Jose Bautista to draw national interest, while the Orioles are hopeful the middling veterans imported will push the team toward the .500 barrier.

That's not to say that other teams don't have compelling storylines, but the concentration of quality and ease of finding compelling storylines for each team means that the East Coast will dominate the news.

2. Breaking records

It will be a banner year for three players set to hit significant milestones, and there are plenty of other players nearing milestones that, while not Hall of Fame caliber, will put emphasis on the productive careers they have had.

Rounding the Bases

Perhaps the most revered milestone for a hitter to reach, 3,000 hits will come into play for Derek Jeter, who is just 74 hits away. He will probably reach the mark in late May or early June, depending on if he's the .270 batting average Jeter of 2010 or the .314-average Jeter of his career.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee poised for a milestone, however. Mariano Rivera is closing in on 600 saves, as he currently has 559. Given that the major-league record for saves is 601 by Trevor Hoffman, Rivera could also make it to the top of the mountain. That said, Mo will need a good year to reach 600 saves as he has not cracked the 40-save barrier in four out of the past five years.

Ivan Rodriguez is also close to 3,000 hits, needing 183. However, given he has not reached that mark since 1999, you can bet I-Rod will need until at least 2012 to reach the milestone. Heck, depending on how much he plays and produces, he may need until 2013, even though that is quite unlikely.

Jim Thome is 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth member of the 600-club. Paul Konerko needs 35 homers to reach 400, while Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) would need big seasons to hit the 400 mark.

Closing in on 2,000 hits are Carlos Lee (1,967), Orlando Cabrera (1,948), Scott Rolen (1,944), Jason Giambi (1,914), Albert Pujols (1,900), Adrian Beltre (1,889), Luis Castillo (1,889), Konerko (1,861), Michael Young (1,848), Derrek Lee (1,843), Juan Pierre (1,842), Andruw Jones (1,840) and Placido Polanco (1,836).

3. A new labor agreement

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is due to expire after the season, but both baseball and the players union are already beginning work on coming to an accord. In a year where the NFL has locked out its players and the NBA appears headed down that path, it's important for baseball to work together with players and come to an agreement in short order.

Fortunately, after years of rancor, both sides have a harmonious working relationship and it should not be difficult to come to an arrangement even with sensitive topics such as revenue sharing and draft slotting among what will be discussed. The last agreement was finalized and announced on Oct. 25, 2006, so any announcement may not come until the conclusion of the playoffs.

However, recent word comes from the Boston Globe that any hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker, even with delicate issues such as revamping the revenue-sharing agreement. Also on deck is adding wild cards, an international draft and draft slotting.

4. Giants doing just fine

There are a lot of people wondering if the Giants can possibly repeat their World Series run of last year, doing so with a suboptimal offense and squeaking into the playoffs by the skin of their nose.

However, the offense should be much improved with Buster Posey behind the dish for a full year, Aaron Rowand squarely on the bench and Miguel Tejada replacing Edgar Renteria. While Tejada may have his issues, especially on defense, he should be able to improve on what Renteria gave the Giants last season. In addition, prospect Brandon Belt should be in the majors by June at the latest and will add another dimension to the club.

The rotation is one of concern, even if it's ridiculously deep given how young everyone is sans Barry Zito and the load they shouldered last year to win a ring. Fortunately, the Giants are cognizant of this and plan to give starters a lighter load to start the year. Plus, even if one or two starting pitchers fall flat on their face, there's still plenty of quality starters. One concern is the depth behind the front five, which is extremely thin.

5. Yankees trade for starting pitcher

There's simply no way the Yankees don't strike for a starting pitcher this season, but it may not be Francisco Liriano. The lefty is the hot name in trade circles and while Liriano still stands a good chance of being dealt, it probably won't be until after the year.

But the Yankees need help now. They had enough trouble filling the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, so imagine what the depth behind them is like once injuries strike -- and they will. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have a solid farm system and a top prospect in Jesus Montero they can dangle for the right pitcher.

Even if the right pitcher doesn't come along to whisk Montero away, there will be no shortage of candidates as the year goes on for the Yankees to grab. What bears watching is who they grab. While acquiring a No. 4 starter would certainly deepen the rotation, it's more important for New York to get a frontline pitcher. Does anyone feel confident with A.J. Burnett following CC Sabathia in the playoffs? Didn't think so, and it would be presumptuous to project Phil Hughes' emergence into that pitcher even if the talent is there.

6. Strasburg recovering from Tommy John surgery

StrasburgStrasburg underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on September 9, and recovery from such surgeries these days tends to take 9-12 months. Edinson Volquez returned to the majors 11 months after such a surgery. While the Nationals may play it cautious, Strasburg is right on schedule, and given his tremendous work ethic and young age, should have no problem meeting the conservative 12-month estimate.

That means Strasmas could be back just in time to close the season out, where he'll certainly dominate headlines once more. Strasburg would certainly need minor-league rehab starts first, but his timeline should assure him of the ability to get into games before the minor-league regular season ends in early September. Given the club will have expanded to 40 players at that point and will likely be out of the division race, it won't be difficult to get Strasburg back on the roster and in a major-league game.

Could the Nationals play it conservative and hold him back until 2012? Sure, it all depends how Strasburg progresses. But even if they hold him back, Strasburg certainly would play Winterball to get his footing under him. Most pitchers returning from T.J. surgery tend to struggle with command upon return, and the only way to address that is to get on a mound and pitch.

7. Bonds, Rocket dominate headlines

BondsThe trial of Barry Bonds has already started, but is still ongoing. It should be wrapped up before long, but that doesn't mean that Bonds will exit the headlines -- whatever the ruling on Bonds' perjury trial, it will have long-lasting ramifications on the game.

If Bonds is found guilty, many ink will be spilled on how this cements Bonds' exclusion from the Hall of Fame, plus articles on how Bonds is finally getting his comeuppance.

In addition, Roger Clemens will be put on high alert, given the Rocket will be undergoing his own perjury trial in the summer. If Bonds is found innocent, there will be a hot debate once more on whether to vote Bonds into the Hall. You will find those writers who believe that, despite the acquittal of Bonds, he knowingly abused steroids. There will be those who concede that while Bonds likely knew exactly what was going on, the law has deemed him innocent, and thus should be elected. And of course, a broad spectrum of opinions therein.

The Clemens trial, meanwhile, will dominate headlines even more than Bonds given the salacious details that have leaked out about Clemens' career, plus the off-putting way in how Clemens has fought the rumors he used steroids.

Much like the Bonds trial, the verdict will spark debate amid wide-ranging opinions. If both are convicted, there will be those who consider the steroid mess closed thanks to triumphing over perhaps the best hitter and pitcher of the steroid era. If both are innocent, it may open the door for those to wonder openly if they are not truly innocent, that the problem may lie with the system itself if it allows Bonds and Clemens to walk free.

Either way, the Bonds and Clemens trial will spark plenty of discussion that will last for years as they attempt to get into the Hall of Fame.

8. Questioning if Mets stay solvent

WilponsThe Mets are hoping to close a deal to bring in a new investor by the close of July. While it is not yet known what percentage of the team these investors will hold, it is expected to be in the 20-25 percent range, although the Wilpons are focused on acquiring a certain price over selling a certain percentage.

Why? 

They need the money. The Mets have debt to pay off, a $1 billion lawsuit staring them in the face (thanks, Irving Picard) and a ticking clock in which to stay solvent. If the Mets aren't able to bring in a new investor by that time, they will likely need a loan from MLB. At that point commissioner Bud Selig would likely have free rein to do what he wants with the Mets, including telling the Wilpons to sell the entire club.

That's incredibly unlikely, especially since the Wilpons (Jeff pictured on the left, Fred right) and Selig have a long, good relationship, but it bears mentioning.

Most investors are requesting majority control of the Mets -- which won't happen, unless the Wilpons' hands are forced -- or right of first refusal if the Wilpons eventually have to cough up the team. This should be an acceptable compromise to the Wilpons, who need to worry about money more than they do any possible future owner of the club.

9. New wave of prospects arriving

At the beginning of March, CBS Sports revealed its top 100 prospects, and along with the list came information on which prospects could make an impact this season.

Topping the list was No. 3 prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to start in right field for the Phillies and attempt to replace Werth. Unfortunately, the team is now left scrambling after Brown fractured the hamate bone in his hand. He shouldn't be out terribly long, but may struggle with his power stroke upon returning. Philly may have to wait until 2012 to extract real value from the kid.

Meanwhile. No. 6's Jeremy Hellickson will open the season as a member of Tampa Bay's rotation and could easily replace the statistics Matt Garza tossed up. He's that good, that ready for the major leagues and has to be considered the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

A fellow pitcher in Kyle Drabek (No. 16) appears on the verge of cracking Toronto's rotation after a successful late-season stint with the Blue Jays. Across the border in Ohio, Aroldis Chapman (No. 9) is readying for a full year in the bullpen and could wrest the closer's job away from Francisco Cordero by year's end.

The prospects keep on coming, as the Braves boast three in No. 19's Freddie Freeman, No. 29 Mike Minor and No. 85 Craig Kimbrel. Freeman should provide a steady presence at first base even if he lacks high-end ceiling. Minor figures to open the year in Triple-A, but should make an appearance before long and have a nice career in the middle of the rotation. Kimbrel is considered by many to be the Braves closer of the future.

There are plenty of other projected starters who will infuse baseball with youth, such as No. 33's Chris Sale, who will relieve for the White Sox; No. 66's Matt Dominguez who is on pace to play third for Florida -- ditto the same for No. 96's Brent Morel for the White Sox; No. 71's J.P. Arencibia is readying for a season as Toronto's backstop; No. 86's Danny Espinosa rocketing through two years of the minors to open the year as the starting second baseman for Washington; and No. 95 Jake McGee's apparent future as Tampa Bay's closer. You also can't discount No. 18 Brandon Belt, who could easily take home the NL Rookie of the Year honors provided he logs enough time for the Giants. Starting pitchers Zach Britton (No. 14, Orioles), Simon Castro (No. 52, Padres) and Kyle Gibson (No. 37, Twins) are on the verge of the bigs as well.

10. Philly thankful Blanton stayed

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the consensus was that Philadelphia would trade Joe Blanton. After all, who needs a No. 5 starter due $17 miliion over the next two years when you have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels?

Philly couldn't find a fit, however, and will now head into the season with Blanton on the roster. This is a good thing. Just because Blanton is the No. 5 starter doesn't mean he doesn't hold value, and being able to trot Blanton out against the back of the rotation for other teams will give Philadelphia an edge -- one it needs after losing Brown and Chase Utley.

Will Blanton stay with the team for the remainder of the year? Who can say, but even trading Blanton in July for pieces Philly knows it needs for a World Series run -- and to teams who will be increasingly desperate for pitchers once injuries and attrition hit -- is far more valuable than any deal of Blanton in January would have accomplished.

11. Firings

There's no question some managers and GMs will be shown the door in 2011. But who?

Skippers on the hot seat are covered here, so let's take a look at some GMs that could get the axe.

CollettiNed Colletti, Dodgers: Granted, Colletti has been hamstrung by the financial woes of owner Frank McCourt, but Colletti hasn't exactly done a good job with what he's been given. He appears to have learned from his mistakes in signing disasters like Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and giving away Carlos Santana, but he also hasn't improved the team significantly. This team is simply muddling along, and Colletti looks like the classic "change for change's sake" for McCourt to try to improve morale. Of course, nothing will improve morale more than McCourt taking a hike.

Jim Hendry, Cubs: Hendry has been an up-and-down GM with the Cubs. While he made a bold gamble in trading for Garza and the Cubs may be a mild sleeper, if the team missteps yet again it's difficult to fathom the Ricketts family holding still. Hendry is a holdover from the previous ownership regime and is signed through 2012, but that wouldn't give the ownership pause in firing him. If the Cubs slip, Hendry is highly likely to be given his walking papers, especially since he stuck his neck out by hiring Mike Quade.

Tony Reagins, Angels: Reagins has done nothing but take steps back since taking over for Bill Stoneman, all the more curious given Stoneman was promoted and oversees Reagins. But the moves Reagins has made, such as (obviously) Vernon Wells are head scratching. Similar moves for Scott Kazmir and insisting on playing Jeff Mathis have followed. Manager Mike Scioscia loves Mathis, but it's up to Reagins to tell Scioscia no and take Mathis away if need be. Unfortunately, this team looks lined up to disappoint again and hover around .500. Will that fly for a second consecutive year in L.A.? Doubt it, and Scioscia won't be the first candidate on the chopping block.

Ed Wade, Astros: It's possible Wade could be on the chopping block in his third season with Houston. The Astros are widely expected to slide back and simply aren't successful at the major- or minor-league level when it comes tom talent. That may speak more to the owner than GM, but the owner doesn't get fired. Also, McLane is thought to be interested in selling the team and is reportedly close to selling to Jim Crane, who previously attempted to buy Houston and lost out on the Rangers last season. Should that happen, new ownership would absolutely want to bring in its own leader.

Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Jack Z's leash is likely long enough to give him at least one more year, but in Year 3, the Mariners simply don't seem to have improved from his tenure. Yes, they surprised many in 2009, and part of it was probably flukish, but Zduriencik took a historically anemic lineup from 2010 and added ... Jack Cust. If he can get a strong season from Justin Smoak and impressive debuts from Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda, he should be safe.

12. Surprise teams

It happens every year. There's always that one team that takes a big step forward and contends for the postseason. Last year was especially notable in this regard, with the Reds, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays all performing better than expected. The one team to keep an eye on for 2011 is Colorado.

The Rockies finished with 83 wins last year, which is a surprise given the talent. Everyone knows the name Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Carlos Gonzalez, but the rest of the team aren't scrubs either. Colorado has been in the national consciousness the last few years given its Rocktober run in 2007 and another postseason appearance in 2009, but it hasn't been able to sustain that excellence.

TulowitzkiThat could be changing now that Gonzalez has fully matured into a middle-of-the-order hitter and have built out a rotation that should keep Colorado in the game. The Rockies are counting a bit on production from Ian Stewart at third and Chris Iannetta at catcher, but when you look at this team, it's a playoff-caliber club that should challenge the Giants in the NL West.

Unlike Colorado, however, there will also be those teams that crash and burn despite expectations. San Diego is widely expected to slide back, but expectations have also been adjusted due to trading Adrian Gonzalez. The one team that may not be able to live up to its billing is the Brewers.

Like Colorado, the star players are obvious -- Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder are the star names, but Ryan Braun and Shaun Marcum are no lightweights, either. The one area of concern in Milwaukee is the utter lack of depth which will end up a real problem if and when injuries strike. Look at what's happened to the rotation -- without Greinke to start the season, the club is going to have to trot out what will effectively be slop in the No. 5 spot. There's similar stories on offense with little help ready to step in and a complete punting of shortstop defense and center field offense.

The Brewers should finish .500, but they are a popular pick to win the World Series and it's difficult to envision them even making the playoffs unless everything goes right. The odds of that happening are as slim as Greinke accepting a trade back to the Royals.

13. Suffering in K.C ... plus optimism

"The day is darkest before dawn," or so goes the saying. That's certainly true in Kansas City, which will throw out a team capable of losing 100 games. But boasting the game's best farm system in a very long time is just the salve to ease the pain Royals fans will enjoy  watching Luke Hochevar function as the team's "ace."

The Royals have pared payroll, knowing it's pointless to try to pretend they can contend, plus the necessity to keep certain positions open for prospects that are nearing the majors. While Alcides Escobar will start the season in the majors, that won't be enough to excite the masses until the first wave of prospects hit, with Mike Moustakas likely to join the club in June or July.

Fans are going to have to sit through Jeff Francoeur flailing at pitches, Alex Gordon trying desperately to reverse his "bust" label and Jason Kendall struggling to take corporeal form ... but the picture only gets rosier, starting with 2012 where it's possible three of the most heralded prospects could break the year with the club, then an additional three hitting the majors at some point over the summer.

While watching the Royals, at least in the outset, will be an exercise in futility, by September, they may become the hot team to watch for the baseball fanatic.

14. Pirates finish last -- or will they?

The Pirates are poised to register their 19th consecutive losing season, but there is some optimism in Pittsburgh. The first wave of position player prospects have hit, and the club can point to Andrew McCutchen in center field, Jose Tabata in left, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at third as reasons to be optimistic with the offense. There are some other intriguing pieces down on the farm offensively that could make an impact such as catcher Tony Sanchez, and with a strong year, outfielder Starling Marte could be knocking on the door.

The club is also building solid pitching depth, with Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris perhaps making their big-league debuts this season, although the cream of the crop in Jameson Taillon (the No. 2 overall pick behind Harper in last season's draft) and Stetson Allie are further away. While the team waits for Taillon and Allie, however, it could pluck Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in June. Cole has been called by some as the "next Stephen Strasburg." Lofty expectations to be sure, but if Cole is picked and advances quickly, the Pirates could start doing some damage in several years.

In 2011, finishing under .500 is a virtual certainty. But will the Bucs finish in last place? It's possible they could pull out a fourth-place finish. It all depends how well the rotation performs and Alvarez, Tabata and Walker all adjust to a full year in the majors. The Astros may just have enough solid major-league talent to grab a fourth-place finish, but that's in doubt. Hey, any type of progress will be welcome in Pittsburgh.

15. Wild (card) about the postseason?

There seems to be overwhelming momentum toward expanding the playoffs with another wild card likely being added to the fray to battle the other wild-card winner in a best-of-3 series. That means that for the first time since 1995, the postseason would take on an entirely different complexion.

In 2010, the Yankees would have taken on the Chicago White Sox, while the Braves would have had to stave off the San Diego Padres, who lost the division by one game to the Giants.

The year prior, the Red Sox would battle the Rangers, giving the national audience a hint of what was to come in Texas while the NL would have pitted Colorado against the division-rival Giants. Assuming two wild cards can't come out of the same division, the Marlins would have drawn the honor.

Sounds like fun, right? Except that there would be no Game 163s anymore, so knock out the epic Tigers/Twins battle for the division in 2009. Likewise, the Rockies and Padres would never have played Game 163 in 2007.

Should the second wild card be added to the game, an NFL-style tiebreaker will most likely be used to determine outcomes when two teams tie for the wild card or division. On one hand, that's a bit disappointing, because Game 163s are tremendous fun. But on the other hand, that fun would simply be extended to the new wild-card playoff format and happen every year instead of having to wait for the occasional Game 163 scenario to roll around.

Either way, it would be a shocker if there wasn't a new playoff system in place for 2012.

And here's five more things that could happen this season ... 

Ramirez1. In the first game between the Red Sox and Rays, Manny Ramirez forgets he's on the Tampa Bay squad and runs on the field with the Red Sox to begin the game. He asks Crawford what he's doing in left field and why they are wearing opposite uniforms. Crawford tries to explain the situation, but ManRam simply shrugs and heads into the Green Monster.

2. Ozzie Guillen surprisingly releases a book about Jenks (remember when he said he could "write a book on the kid" in the offseason?), full of salacious details about Jenks' time in Chicago, including the revelation that Jenks ate a middle reliever during one game. In his first game against the White Sox in 2011, an enraged Jenks throws at the head of the first two batters, hitting them before Guillen comes out on the field to complain. Jenks then beans Guillen and the two brawl on the field, which leads to a multi-million dollar match between the two in UFC in which Jenks, who hired Mike Tyson as trainer, attempts to bite Guillen's ear off.

3. During one particularly heated Cincinnati-St. Louis matchup, the benches clear, and Johnny Gomes comes face to face with Adam Wainwright. Without a word exchanged, Gomes promptly delivers a crane kick to Waino. "First learn stand, then learn fly," Dusty Baker sagely observes.

4. Joe Maddon, who is already known for using uncommon words, takes things to a whole new level. Witness this quote: "David Price can unequivocally bung. How dexterous is the swain? He's as recherché as Sandy Koufax in his diurnal course." Good luck deciphering that.

5. Pujols announces the team he has chosen to sign with during the last homestand of the season -- against the Cubs on Sept. 25. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, down three runs with a full count and the division title in the balance for the Cardinals, Pujols watches strike three right down the middle. As the crowd groans, Pujols rips open his jersey, revealing a Cubs home jersey underneath and dropkicks Tony La Russa as the announcers scream "NOOOOOOO!" And fade to black.

OK, so these five things won't happen, but one can dream. The rest you can expect.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Jon Daniels' best, worst moves

DanielsBy Evan Brunell

The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...

3 UP

1. The Teix Heist

The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.

He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.

This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.

2. Game Over

Daniels made another significant trade the day of the 2007 trade deadline when he dealt "Game Over" Eric Gagne and cash to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.

Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.

3. Draft Bonanza

A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.

His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee

Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and  may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.

Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.

3 DOWN

1. The Young and Heartless

In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.

Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.

2. A-Gone

It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.

Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.

Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.

3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing

OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.

While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.

In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.

Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.

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Posted on: October 14, 2010 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:57 am
 

R.I.P. Astros: Moving on

As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions through all of October. Now: the Houston Astros.

Few teams were as bad as the Astros were in the first part of the season, and then few teams were as good as the Astros in the second half of the season.

Carlos Lee WHAT WENT WRONG

When I see Carlos Lee (pictured), I sometimes I think of the line in "Major League" when Charlie Donovan says, "I forgot about Dorn, because he's jolly high-priced." Lee owed $37 million through the next two seasons.

Lee didn't hit a homer in the season's first month, entered June with a .206 batting average and finished the season hitting .246/.291/.417 with 24 homers and 89 RBI. He's a below-average designated hitter that plays in the National League.

It's not to say Lee was all that was wrong with the Astros. Others struggled, such as Lance Berkman and Pedro Felice.

What may have been more devastating was seeing prospects the team had been counting on, such Tommy Manzella, Jason Castro and J.R. Towles struggle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Brad Mills A lot of credit has to go to first-year manager Brad Mills. The team went 40-59 in their first 99 games of the season before finishing 36-27 the rest of the way. Mills also did it without some of his high-priced talent, as the team jettisoned Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Pedro Feliz.

Third baseman Chris Johnson had a good season, going .308/.337/.481 with 11 homers. Hunter Pence cashed in on the promise he'd shown early in his career, hitting .282/.325/.461 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

The team relied on good starting pitching during its good streak from Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ, and all four of those starters return for 2011.

HELP ON THE WAY

Ugh. Not really. That's the problem with cutting your losses and going young -- you need young players to replace the old ones. It's cheaper, but the Astros have one of the worst farm systems in the majors.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011

The second half of the season raised the bar for the Astros, so fans will be expecting at least a .500 team, if not a run at the NL Central title.

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011

The Astros took the right direction during the season, trading Berkman and Oswalt.

Houston has Berkan, Oswalt, Feliz and Kaz Matsui off the books, but there's not a whole to to spend that money on in free agency.

Although Berkman had hinted that he wanted to return to Houston, the teams needs to resist nostalgia and give Brett Wallace a chance at first base.

2011 PREDICTION

The optimism from the last part of 2010 will be gone by the All-Star break and the team will finish ahead of the Pirates in the National League Central, but won't be challenging for a title.

Check out the rest of the R.I.P. reports here.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com