Tag:Jose Reyes
Posted on: November 2, 2011 8:39 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 11:59 am
 

Buyer Beware: Soon-to-be overpaid free agents



By Matt Snyder


Another free agent crop means we have another group of players about to be woefully overpaid by some franchises trying to make a big splash. Here's a handful of players who will likely be paid more than they're going to be worth over the next year to half-decade.

C.J. Wilson, SP
He'll be 31 when next season starts and he's only been a big-league starter for two seasons. Considering the market for starting pitchers, some team is going to have to give him ace money. He has been good in long stretches over the course of the past two seasons, but it's still not a huge track record. Plus, he's been playing in front of one of the best defenses in baseball, especially strong at second, third and short. What if he signs to pitch for a team with range issues? Lots of those groundouts become base hits and he's a bust, that's what.
I would rather sign: Mark Buehrle. He's more consistent and he'll probably only need a two- or three-year deal for much cheaper. Sure, he doesn't have the upside, but you won't have to commit $75 million to him, either. And he's a workhorse, averaging 220 innings per season in the past 11 years.

More Free Agency
Position rankings
Jimmy Rollins, SS
The soon-to-be 33 year old hasn't been more than a major-league average offensive player for the past four seasons. His defense is on the decline, too. Yet because of playing in every postseason and being a one-time MVP, Rollins' name carries a ton of weight. He earned it, that's for sure, but he shouldn't get a lifetime pass. Some team that loses out on Jose Reyes will probably throw a four-year contract at Rollins and that's a mistake.
I would rather sign: I'd obviously rather have Jimmy Rollins than Clint Barmes if given the choice between the two for the 2012 season at the same price, but c'mon. Barmes could possibly be had for a one-year deal at a fraction of the cost of Rollins. I'd go Barmes and save the money to use elsewhere.

Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, etc., closers
Paying big money for a closer to all of a sudden come in and solve late-inning problems rarely works. It does work at times, and someone will probably get lucky with one of the above names on the list, but the problem is that shelling out eight figures for one of these guys has a track record of crippling payroll, while new closers emerge every single year. I'm not just talking about young, elite arms like Craig Kimbrel and Neftali Feliz. I'm talking about Joel Hanrahan, Brandon League, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Motte, Javy Guerra and more. This happens every single season. Knowing it's possible, there's no reason to try and solve the problem by throwing barrels of money at an aging veteran.
I would rather sign: Starting pitchers or position players

Roy Oswalt, SP
Let's see ... a 34-year-old pitcher who battled back issues during 2011 while allowing the highest hit rate and accruing the lowest strikeout rate of his career? I'd pass anyway, but keep in mind Oswalt has talked about an early retirement before and the rumors keep popping up. His name certainly has cache, but I'd let someone else pay.
I would rather sign: Edwin Jackson is six years younger. Easy choice.

Derrek Lee, 1B
So who are you going to get, the guy who was lackluster for 85 games in Baltimore or the guy who tore it up in 28 games for Pittsburgh? The smart money is on the former, as Lee is 36 and well past his prime. Some non-contender will likely add him as a patchwork, temporary "solution" at first base, when he's going to be overpriced and pretty much just an adequate bat. This is where teams would be better served to just save the money and play a kid.
I would rather sign: Casey Kotchman is 28 and just hit .306 with a .378 on-base percentage for Tampa Bay. Because he plays first base and doesn't have much power, he'll be overlooked, but he's a nice cheap option -- especially for teams with power at second or short.

Honorable mention: The "big three" of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes all carry a certain amount of risk. Pujols likely lands at least a six-year deal, meaning he's going to be getting paid like the best player in baseball into his late-30s. Fielder's body type resembles Mo Vaughn, who was elite only until age 30, and then just good for three more seasons before being cooked. Fielder is 27, but he's also shorter and weighs more. Prince's father, Cecil Fielder, had his last big power year at age 32, also. And, of course, we know about Reyes' hamstring history.

Look, all three are going to get paid and they have earned it. And there's a good chance any of the three are still studs when their new contracts run out, just as there's a chance any of the above players pan out and prove to be good signings. But when you see contracts like Barry Zito, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano, you have to keep in mind those guys were once elite players, too. There's risk everywhere.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Team-by-team NL free agency outlooks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With open free agency set to hit us at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, it's worth taking a quick look at what every single team is going to be looking for. We've already done detailed breakdowns in the R.I.P. series, so here are some quick hitters for the National League:

East
Atlanta Braves | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder, relief pitching
Money to spend?: Not much. The Braves' biggest need was getting rid of Derrek Lowe, and they did that and have saved $5 million to boot. The team has good, young starters, but put too many innings on their bullpen. They'll need more bullpen arms and also a bat in left field and a shortstop. With Tyler Pastronicky just about ready, the team could use a veteran backup just in case he doesn't work out.

Miami Marlins | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, center field
Money to spend? Oh yeah… with the team preparing to move into a new stadium, owner Jeffrey Loria is expected to make a splash in free agency and could raise payroll to the $100 million range. South Florida will be a favorite of baseball agents in the offseason who will use the Marlins as leverage -- they may even be more popular than the "mystery team" of the past off seasons. The Marlins will be rumored as a possible landing point for nearly every big free agent. The question is, which ones -- if any -- will actually take their talents to South Beach.

New York Mets | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, closer, relief pitching, middle infield
Money to spend? There are plenty of questions about the Mets ownership group, so nobody outside GM Sandy Alderson really knows what's going on and how much money he has to play with. It doesn't look like the team will go crazy in trying to re-sign Jose Reyes. The team will instead hope to improve its bullpen and rotation.

More Free Agency
Position rankings

Philadelphia Phillies | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder, closer, relief pitching, first base
Money to spend? It seems like they always find it when they need it, so there's no real concern about the budget. Even with Roy Oswalt likely to leave Philadelphia, there are few worries about the team's rotation. The bullpen, however, will need to be addressed. Ryan Madson may be re-signed and used as the closer, but the Phillies need middle-innings guys, as well. Left field is still an issue and the team could look to upgrade there, but will also need to address first base while Ryan Howard recovers from his Achilles injury. John Mayberry Jr. can play first, but moving him there creates a spot in the outfield.

Washington Nationals | R.I.P.
Needs: center field, starting pitching, relief pitching
Money to spend? Oh yeah. Like the Marlins, the Nationals have money to spend and unlike the Marlins, they have shown a willingness to actually use it. Last year the team overspent on Jayson Werth, something that certainly caught the eyes of free-agents-to-be. Several top names will certainly be courted by the Nationals, including Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. The Nationals really can't be counted out on anyone.

Central
Chicago Cubs | R.I.P.
Needs: first base, third base, closer, relief pitching, right field
Money to spend? The Ricketts opened the pocketbooks for their general manager, so it's unlikely they'll close 'em for players. Epstein says he wants to build a team from the bottom up, but that takes time and there will be pressure to win right away, and free agency will be part of that. Expect the Cubs to at least talk to the likes of Pujols and Fielder, even if they don't sign them. With Epstein in the fold, it'll certainly be interesting to see what route the Cubs take.

Cincinnati Reds | R.I.P.
Needs: closer, relief pitcher, corner outfielder, shortstop
Money to spend? Not much. It looks like the team will stand pat in the rotation, but after not picking up the option on Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati will need someone to finish out games. Last year Walt Jocketty stayed quiet during the offseason, but this winter that may not happen. However, the team is more likely to use the trade market than spend big in free agency.

Houston Astros | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, relief pitching
Money to spend? The Astros are in full-on rebuilding mode, as evidenced by their July fire sale. There's also the holdup of the sale of the team and the possible switch to the American League. If Jim Crane is approved by MLB, he may want to find his own general manager. The Astros won't be much of a player in the free agent market, looking for low-priced.

Milwaukee Brewers | R.I.P.
Needs: first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, relief pitching
Money to spend? Some -- for the right people. The team will try to make a pitch to retain Fielder and possibly Jerry Hairston Jr., but are likely celebrating to be free of Yuniesky Betancourt. The team probably won't be in the race for Reyes or even Jimmy Rollins, but could be in the market for a second-tier shortstop like Clint Barmes. They'll also need to add some arms in the bullpen, but could try to re-sign the likes of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins.

Pittsburgh Pirates | R.I.P.
Needs: catcher, first base, shortstop, corner outfielder, starting pitching
Money to spend? Yes, as much as $25 million or even a little more, but they also have plenty of holes. The Pirates took some steps forward in 2011, but will need to fill out their roster and will likely be going for the second-tier players to fill out a lineup around Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

St. Louis Cardinals | R.I.P.
Needs: First base, shortstop, relief pitching
Money to spend? Some for the right player. The Cardinals have nearly $60 million tied up for 2012 in six players -- Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook. There's also the little matter of Pujols -- who will listen to offers from the Cardinals, but is unlikely to give much (or any) of a hometown discount. The team also needs a shortstop and could use another left-handed reliever.

West
Arizona Diamondbacks | R.I.P.
Needs: second base, middle infield, relief pitching
Money to spend? There's not much tinkering expected of a team that surprised everyone by winning the NL West in 2011 -- the rotation is looking good and most of the positions are already manned. The team declined its option on second baseman Aaron Hill, but could also look at former Diamondback second baseman Kelly Johnson. The bullpen was radically rebuilt last season, but could use some tweaking.

Colorado Rockies | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, second base, third base
Money to spend? The team needs a starter and also two infield spots -- all without spending much money. They could be looking to trade to find their infielders and a lefty reliever. But they also need a pitcher that can throw 200 innings in a season, but those don't come cheap on the open market. They'd also like a right-handed bat.

Los Angeles Dodgers | R.I.P.
Needs:catcher, second base, third base, starting pitching, relief pitching
Money to spend? Who knows? With the Frank McCourt mess, nobody knows what the future holds for the Dodgers. If they are sold, the timing may still be off for any big additions to the budget. In a perfect world, the Dodgers are looking at the big names like Fielder, Reyes and Wilson, but it doesn't seem like that will happen.

San Diego Padres | R.I.P.
Needs: closer, relief pitching, corner outfield, middle infield
Money to spend? The Padres have money to spend and spots to fill -- but don't expect them to be wooing the big names. Big money in San Diego is still small money to the likes of the Phillies and Cubs. The highest-priced free agent likely to sign with San Diego is closer Heath Bell.

San Francisco Giants | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder
Money to spend? The Giants will spend for the right player, and Reyes may just be that player. Or Rollins. The team may also try to retain Carlos Beltran, but at his age and injury history, the Giants are unlikely to gamble with a multiyear contract.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Free agent shortstop rankings: High risk, reward



By Matt Snyder

The theme here is high-risk, high-reward guys, at least toward the top. In the top two (and I'd include number four as well) teams are possibly looking at All-Star seasons or an albatross contract down the road, depending on how things shake out with health and the aging process. The entire list here contains gambles, but you know what? Sometimes in gambling you win.

List of MLB free agents

1. Jose Reyes. The 28 year old has now been an All-Star four times. He's led the majors in triples four times and the NL in steals three times. He upped his on-base percentage to .384 (nearly 30 points higher than his previous career high) in 2011 while winning the NL batting title. Had he not injured his hamstring twice, he may have been an MVP candidate. Of course, therein lies the issue. From 2005-08, Reyes was very durable. Since then, he's been unable to shake injuries. Someone is going to give him a big contract, there's little question about that. If Reyes can stay healthy, he'll be worth every dime. If he can't, the contract could end up handcuffing a franchise.
Potential teams: Mets, Tigers (shifting Jhonny Peralta to third), Giants, Nationals, Phillies, Brewers, Mariners

2. Jimmy Rollins. He turns 33 in a month and is actually coming off his best season since 2008. He can still steal bases, can still hit for moderate power and play good defense. He's just not a star anymore, and Rollins seems to be seeking a star-like contract. The hunch is some team that misses out on Reyes gives Rollins three to four years and regrets the deal by the third season, but it's possible he could be a good signing. 
Potential teams: Same as Reyes, Rollins is just the second option.

3. Marco Scutaro. He'll be 36 in less than a week, but he should have enough left in the tank to be a meaningful starter for the next two seasons. He had a .358 OBP in a tough division, so Scutaro could prove a good option for some ballclub that isn't capable of spending big money to fill a hole at short. Of course, they probably won't have a chance, because the Red Sox are expected to pick up Scutaro's option.
Potential teams: Red Sox

4. Rafael Furcal. It seems like Furcal has been around forever, and that's because he was a rookie at the ripe young age of 22. He's 34 now and certainly has lost some speed and power. Plus, he has only been healthy enough to play at least 100 games once in the past four seasons. Furcal has played better since joining the Cardinals, but he still hasn't shown enough to be considered a big name on the free agency market. He has said publicly he wants to remain in St. Louis and a one-year deal there is a distinct possibility.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Twins, Reds, Giants, Brewers, Mariners, Phillies

5. Clint Barmes. Barmes had a decent 2011 season for the Astros, shifting back to being an everyday shortstop -- the position he lost to Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado. He'll be very affordable and the Astros may let him walk, considering that's very little chance for them to compete in the next two seasons. It makes Barmes a nice, cheap option for teams strapped for cash.
Potential teams: Twins, Reds, Braves, Pirates, Giants

6. Willie Bloomquist.
The Diamondbacks will be getting Stephen Drew back from injury, but Bloomquist still has value to the franchise as a sort of supersub -- someone who can be plugged in as an injury replacement anywhere on the field (in 2010 he played every position except pitcher and catcher). The D-Backs are expected to pick up his option.
Potential teams: Diamondbacks

7. Yuniesky Betancourt. He has power, but his inability to get on base (.271 OBP in '11) and awful range at shortstop make Betancourt a liability most games. He did have a great offensive NLCS, so it's possible that lands him a few extra bucks on the open market. It's possible the Brewers pick up Betancourt's option if they can't get one of the above guys, but it's a $6 million option. That's hard to justify for a guy who can't get on base or field very well.
Potential teams: Pirates, Astros, Brewers, Twins, Braves

8. Ronny Cedeno. He's 29 and already shown his upside is severely limited. If the Pirates don't pick up his option, it's hard to see anyone signing him to come in and be the starter, at least not unchallenged.
Potential teams: Astros? Otherwise he'll be a backup just about anywhere.

9. Alex Gonzalez. The veteran will be 35 before next season starts, but he still has some pop. A team looking to bolster the offense's power could give him a one-year deal. There is talk the Braves will end up keeping him, so that bears watching.
Potential teams: Braves, Twins, Giants, Mariners

10. Cesar Izturis. He's only 31, but he's long since shown that he can't be a decent major-league hitter. He can help someone as a backup middle infielder that is only used as a defensive replacement, but his value is minimal. Look for teams with a good offensive shortstop that can't field to see Izturis as a late-innings defensive replacement -- but it can't be a star. Stars don't usually come out of the game.
Potential teams: Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Rays, Nationals, Brewers, Retirement

11. John McDonald. Very similar to Izturis in that McDonald can play defense but not hit. He's just depth.
Potential teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Rays, Nationals, Brewers

12. Edgar Renteria. Is there a place for an old backup who can barely hit or field anymore, but was once an All-Star and has a penchant for dramatic postseason hits? It's possible. Renteria could realistically be forced into retirement, but the guess is someone gives him a modest one-year deal.
Potential teams: Brewers, Twins, Mariners, Astros, Pirates, Retirement

13. Felipe Lopez. He's a headache off the field and has alienated himself from several ballclubs. He was an All-Star in 2005, when he hit 23 home runs and stole 11 bases, but Lopez hit just .206/.247/.277 in 2011 and he's north of 30 years old. If he gets a chance somewhere, it's gonna be on a minor-league deal.
Potential teams: anyone other than the eight teams he's already played for ... or forced retirement.

14. Orlando Cabrera. The soon-to-be 37 year old can't hit and his defense is drastically declining. With more and more teams ready to go young instead of wasting money on veterans, there is likely to be zero market for Cabrera's services early in the free agency period. It's possible when several of the names above fly off the board that some club grabs Cabrera on the cheap, but he also might end up like Jermaine Dye a few years ago ... just waiting on the right deal that never comes along.
Potential teams: Marlins? Mariners? Brewers? Retirement very possible.

15. Drew Sutton. He hit .315/.362/.444 in 31 games for the Red Sox, but there is little chance of that keeping up in the long run. Sutton is probably more likely to land a job -- for different reasons -- than Cabrera (age), Lopez (personality) or Renteria (asking price), but it's hard to tell who is going to view him as the proper fit to back up their shortstop.
Potential teams: Anyone and everyone.

Other free agents who could play shortstop: Jamey Carroll, Jerry Hairston, Ramon Santiago, Jack Wilson, Nick Punto, Omar Vizquel, Craig Counsell, Alex Cora

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Players association announces award nominees

By C. Trent Rosecrans

For those who love to debate awards selections, the players association has announced its finalist for the Players Choice Awards, voted on by the players. The winners will be announced Nov. 3 on MLB Network.

So, because you can't wait, here are your nominees:

American League
Outstanding player: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox), Curtis Granderson (Yankees)
Outstanding pitcher: James Shields (Rays), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Jered Weaver (Angels)
Outstanding rookie: Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Trumbo (Angels)
Comeback player: Bartolo Colon (Yankees), Jacony Ellsbury (Red Sox), Casey Kotchman (Rays)

National League
Outstanding player: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks)
Outstanding pitcher: Roy Halladay (Phillies), Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks), Clayton Kershow (Dodgers)
Outstanding rookie: Freddie Freeman (Braves), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Vance Worley (Phillies)
Comeback player: Lance Berkman (Cardinals), Jose Reyes (Mets), Ryan Vogelsong (Giants)

Overall
Player of the Year: Gonzalez, Granderson, Verlander
Man of the Year: Paul Konerko (White Sox), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Michael Young (Rangers)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 17, 2011 10:15 am
 

Big-ticket free agents may sign with small market



By Evan Brunell


The four big-ticket items slated to hit the free-agent market may be in for a rude awakening.

Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson have been expected to receive healthy contracts, but unless each of them is willing to head to a lesser competitor than the top dogs that threaten every year, it figures that the total value of the contracts signed will come in well under what was projected. Wilson might not reach $100 million. Pujols may not crack the $30-million annual salary barrier. Fielder might not even match Adrian Gonzalez's new contract in Boston. Reyes might struggle to get five years, but he'll still have more money than he'll know what to do with once he signs.

There are a multitude of reasons why, but in the cases of Fielder and Pujols, it's because there is simply not a great demand for their services, by virtue of hitting free agency at the wrong time. Boston, the Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Cubs... all may pass on either first baseman due to money problems, no open spots or simply not fitting within the club's process at the moment. (Especially the Cubs -- Chicago painfully needs to rebuild and unless Fielder or Pujols lands in the lap of incoming GM Theo Epstein, there's zero chance Epstein will give up draft picks.)

Wilson may have a better time of it by virtue of being a left-handed starter that could attract the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels to name a couple, but even he's suffered a beating in perception as of late, struggling through the postseason thus far and better profiling as a mid-rotation starter that is being lifted up by virtue of a stagnant free-agent crop. But even he could fall shy of $100 million, a demarcation line that has long been bandied about for the Ranger. And Reyes has his problems with injuries and inconsistency that will tamp down his market.

If any of these four players want to hit benchmarks -- Pujols signing the richest contract for annual value, Fielder besting Gonzalez and Wilson netting triple digits, Reyes grabbing five or six years -- they may have to follow in the footsteps of Jayson Werth, to name a recent example. Werth inked a deal worth $126 million to join Washington in a stunning turn of events last winter, a contract that met with instant incredulity from all sides, and no wonder. But if the Nationals wanted to announce themselves as true players instead of wallowing in the dregs of wannabe contenders, they had to make that leap, just like the Tigers had to throw gobs of money at Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez following their 119-loss debacle in 2003. (These contracts ended up onerous by the end, just like Werth's is and will, but it put Detroit on the map and the club has been better for it since.)

A similar process could unfold this year, and the Nats could be in the thick of things again, having been linked to Wilson and possibly even going after Pujols or Fielder. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are expected to eventually skyrocket their payroll north of $100 million and that could begin as early as this year with a play for Pujols or Fielder. The Royals have stated an interest in playing in the market and bringing in a starting pitcher -- that would mean Wilson. The Orioles have been linked to Fielder for years now; the Mariners may attempt to solve their offensive problems in one fell swoop; the Brewers could replace Fielder with Reyes; the list goes on -- and none of these teams are anyone's idea of a big-market power dominating year in, year out.

And this is a good thing. A's GM Billy Beane has said before that he sees baseball morphing into what soccer has become overseas, with a handful of "superfranchises" dominating the landscape, leaving other teams to pick up the scraps and the occasional joyful run in October that the superfranchises will consider their birthright.

But the more these players filter out to the clubs not synonymous with cash, the better off the sport will be. More fans in more locales will have heightened interest in their local teams, both due signing these players and the eventual (at least, one hopes) winning to follow. Hey, these clubs flush with cash have enough advantages, which shine through in player development and club personnel.

So as you log onto CBSSports.com this winter and see a headline of Wilson landing in Kansas City, Reyes in Milwaukee, Fielder in Baltimore and Pujols remaining with St. Louis, don't bemoan the Yankees or Red Sox missing out. Baseball's better for it.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 3:51 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 San Francisco Giants

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: San Francisco Giants
Record: 86-76, second place in NL West, eight games back.
Manager: Bruce Bochy
Best hitter: Pablo Sandoval -- .315/.357/.552, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 55 R, 26 2B
Best pitcher: Tim Lincecum -- 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 220 K, 217 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The defending World Series champions entered the 2011 season with high expectations and as heavy favorites to win the NL West again. For most of June and July, they held first place, too. But the Diamondbacks played really well down the stretch and the Giants just couldn't get enough offense going to keep up. An eight-game winning streak in the middle of September -- teamed with the Braves' collapse -- got the Giants to within striking distance of the NL wild card, but it wasn't to be.

R.I.P. series
We cannot discount the blow Buster Posey's injury caused to the team. He's a major part of the offense and he was only able to play 45 games this season. Still, the story was the Giants' pitching carrying the team and the offense just not doing its part. Only the Phillies had a better staff ERA than the Giants in the NL, while the Giants ranked dead-last in the NL in runs scored. Yes, they even managed to score fewer runs than the Padres, Pirates and Astros. No matter how good your pitching is, you can't make the playoffs with that large a void in offense.

2012 AUDIT

The Giants don't have a very strong farm system, according to most outlets, but a lot of the good talent on the major-league roster is young. Still, with the Diamondbacks and Rockies -- and maybe even the Dodgers, if they can get through the McCourt nonsense -- set to be strong in the upcoming years, the Giants window of contention with this nucleus won't last much longer. Don't get me wrong, three years from now, the Giants will be freed from some bad contracts and may never even fall below third place in the division, assuming they spend smarter in free agency than they have in the past. But in order to get back to first place in 2012, short-term moves need to be made to shore up the offense.

Getting Posey back will definitely help improve the team, as will full seasons of continued development from the likes of Brandon Belt, Madison Bumgarner and several other young players.

FREE AGENTS

Orlando Cabrera, utility IF
Mark DeRosa, utility
Carlos Beltran, OF
Pat Burrell, OF
Cody Ross, OF
Guillermo Mota, RP
Jeremy Affeldt, RP ($5 million club option)
Javier Lopez, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • Put Brandon Belt in the lineup and leave him there. The 23 year old has torn up the minors (.343 with a 1.052 OPS in his minor-league career) and all talent evaluators love his bat. He didn't hit well with spotty playing time in the bigs in 2011, so just leave him in the lineup.
  • Lock up Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain long term. Yes, the offense is lacking, but the reason the Giants won last year and were in contention this season was the pitching. You can't risk losing that. I would hold off on Ryan Vogelsong, though. He was good in 2011, but it very well could have been a fluke. He has one more year before hitting free agency, so the Giants can take a wait-and-see approach.
  • Keep Carlos Beltran, if possible. The Giants can't afford to go long-term here or pay a ton for Beltran, but if they can get him at a reasonable price for two years with a club option for a third, he's needed. He hit .323/.369/.551 down the stretch for the Giants and is a good part of the middle of the order along with Posey and Sandoval. That would give the Giants a Belt, Andres Torres and Beltran outfield with Nate Schierholtz as the fourth guy. While we're here, let's point out that they need a much better season from Torres in 2012.
  • Is there enough money to get Jose Reyes? That's a tough call. The Barry Zito contract albatross is still affecting how much the team can spend. They do have money coming off the books (close to $15 million), but there are arbitration raises coming for a few guys and, of course, Cain and Lincecum need to be dealt with. Not to mention re-upping with Beltran, if they so choose. Reyes is certainly a tall order, but if they can backload some deals and increase payroll -- after a record-breaking attendance season -- it's entirely possible. If not Reyes, the Giants could go after Jimmy Rollins. Then they can use Brandon Crawford as a backup at both shortstop and second -- with him maybe even supplanting Freddy Sanchez and Jeff Keppinger at second, eventually. A lineup that looks like this might be productive enough to take back the West: Reyes, Torres, Sandoval, Posey, Beltran, Belt, Huff, Sanchez/Crawford/Keppinger. (For the record, I don't think they can afford both Beltran and Reyes, but you never know. It's worth a try).
  • Grabbing Beltran and Reyes would mean, however, that the Giants have exhausted all possibilities of free agency, so everything else would have to be done internally. The only real hole would seem to be the void left by Lopez and Affeldt, as they need a late-innings lefty. Here, general manager Brian Sabean should finally trade Jonathan Sanchez to shore up the left-handed side of his bullpen and attempt to scrape by with Zito in the rotation, using Dan Runzler or Eric Surkamp as a backup plan. In 2010, Zito gave the Giants 199 1/3 innings with a 4.15 ERA. That isn't horrible for a fifth starter.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:06 pm
 

Braun: Reyes more likely for Brewers than Prince

By Matt Snyder

The thought of Prince Fielder leaving the Brewers after this season via free agency is certainly secondary at this point in time, as the Brewers square off against the Cardinals in the NLCS. But when the Brewers season does eventually end, all the focus will shift to Fielder's status. And it's very likely the Brewers just don't have enough money to keep him. But that doesn't mean they're out of options. It's entirely possible the Brewers could afford Jose Reyes, and star left fielder Ryan Braun believes he's the more likely target.

"I think there's a better chance we sign [Reyes] than we re-sign Prince," Braun said (New York Post).

Brewers in NLCS
Braun then gushed about the Mets' speedy shortstop.

"[Reyes] is dynamic, man -- he is one of the most exciting players in the game," Braun said (New York Post). "He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion and I enjoy watching him play. He's one of my favorite players to watch. Whenever their games are on, I love watching him, man. He always plays the game the right way. He always plays hard. He runs everything out."

Now, Braun isn't the GM, so this is merely him thinking out loud, but it makes a ton of sense. Yuniesky Betancourt is currently playing shortstop for the Brewers and he can be bought up for $2 million after this season. While Corey Hart has had a good season in the leadoff spot, he's not exactly the prototypical leadoff hitter. If Fielder walks and the Brewers ink Reyes, the top of the order could look something like: Reyes, Hart, Braun, Rickie Weeks. That's a lot of speed and power, and it would certainly help fill the void left by Fielder.

But, again, this is all idle speculation for the time being. Now go enjoy Game 1 of the NLCS.

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 3:53 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 82-79, third place in NL West, 11.5 games back
Manager: Don Mattingly
Best hitter: Matt Kemp -- .324/.399/.586, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 115 R, 40 SB
Best pitcher: Clayton Kershaw -- 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 248 K, 233 1/3 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Dodgers were mediocre at best and pretty bad at times for most of the 2011 season, but all of a sudden, something seemed to click. After an August 21 loss, the Dodgers sat 57-69. The rest of the way, they went 25-10. Simply: For the last five weeks of the season, the Dodgers were one of the best teams in baseball. It's just that it was too late and not many noticed -- including Joe Buck, who said "a bad Dodgers team" during the ALCS telecast Saturday night.

On the field, this Dodgers season will be remembered for two reasons. More specifically, two players. Matt Kemp would have the NL MVP in the bag had his teammates played better all season. He may lose out to Ryan Braun, though, due to many voters believing the winner of the individual award has to come from a team that was in contention. Clayton Kershaw won the pitching triple crown (led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts -- note: He tied Ian Kennedy in wins, but that still counts). He's the likely Cy Young Award winner in the NL.

Off the field, this Dodgers season has been completely and utterly marred by owner Frank McCourt. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, he's still the owner. At least as of this writing.

2012 AUDIT

R.I.P. series
Despite the strong close, the Dodgers are still in a state of limbo. There are several holes and the ownership mess makes it unknown as to how they can proceed. Fortunately, the nucleus is young and rather strong. Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra make a strong back-end duo in the bullpen. Kershaw is an elite ace. Kemp is one of the best all-around players in baseball. Chad Billingsley is fickle, but he's still only 27. The youth movement showed promise for the future, too, with Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa (who had Tommy John surgery in August) showing they can be part of the solution in L.A. On the other hand, decisions need to be made with James Loney, Andre Ethier, catcher, second base and third base.

The franchise is not set up to be a slam-dunk contender, nor is it set up for futility in the near future. If the ownership situation would get settled very soon and the Dodgers could be a major player in free agency, they'd have a great shot at winning the NL West in 2012. It's just that we don't know how long the ownership situation will linger. Even if McCourt lost the team today, however, the approval process wouldn't be complete until it was too late to make several major plays at the likes of Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson.

FREE AGENTS

Rod Barajas, C
Jamey Carroll, 2B
Aaron Miles, 2B
Casey Blake, 3B (option declined)
Juan Rivera, OF
Jon Garland, SP (option declined)
Hiroki Kuroda, SP
Jonathan Broxton, RP
Mike MacDougal, RP
Vicente Padilla, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they can't act like a large-market team as long as the McCourt financial stuff continues. And that won't be resolved this offseason. Still, there is significant payroll coming off the books. The general direction of the franchise should be to try and compete with the younger players while letting the aging veterans walk, but a few exceptions can be made -- because it's very realistic that the Dodgers can compete in the NL West in 2012.
  • They can probably make a run at Jose Reyes. His zealous personality would fit perfectly in Hollywood, just as his bat would atop the order. Gordon could be moved to second base and hit second. So the lineup would start: Reyes, Gordon, Kemp, Ethier (well, maybe, we'll get to that ... ).
  • Play Juan Uribe full time at third base. He's not too old to bounce back from an injury-plagued campaign.
  • Dangle Ethier as a trade candidate. Even when he's at his best, he's not an elite player -- yet many seem to view him as one. He's a free agent at the end of 2012 and has had several episodes of complaining about the team and then backing off the comments. I wouldn't necessarily come out and say he's gone, but instead quietly shop him. If he can be dealt for prospects, Sands and Tony Gwynn Jr. are enough to fill out the outfield for the time being, while L.A. just treads water waiting for the ownership situation to be sorted out.
  • Give Loney one last chance. The 27 year old was one of the best hitters in the league in the last five weeks. If it was a fluke, the Dodgers can address first base next season. If the McCourt situation was different, a run at Fielder or Albert Pujols while selling high Loney would make a lot of sense, but I just don't think they could pull that off financially at this point.
  • Bring Kuroda back for one more year. He wants to stay in L.A. anyway, and with De La Rosa on the shelf recovering from surgery, there's a need for a stop-gap in the rotation. 
  • If there's any possible way to do so financially, Kemp needs a huge contract extension. He's only 27 and can anchor the franchise for a long time. He's also wildly popular, so this would at least send a message to the fans that the Dodgers are still very relevant.
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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