Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breakout Players for 2013

                               Mets pitcher Matt Harvey

Every season there are younger players who breakout and have big years. Last year, there were promising young players like Ian Desmond, Aroldis Chapman, Chris Sale, Chase Headley, and Edwin Encarnacion break out. In this blog entry, I made a list of players who I think will break out and have big years in 2013.

Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals

The Royals signed Perez to a contract extension right after his rookie year in 2011. He's one of the big reasons why I think the Royals are on the way up. Perez is a good defensive catcher who also has a good bat. About to turn 23 years old, he could be Kansas City's catcher for the next decade.

First Baseman: Allen Craig, Cardinals

This was a tough choice, I could of went with the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt or the Orioles Chris Davis. Instead, I went with the hometown choice. Craig has yet to play a full season in the big leagues, but is poised to this year. Considering that Craig only played in 119 games last year and still had 92 RBIs, he could put up monster numbers if he played a full year. Craig also finished 19th in MVP voting last year. He also finished 7th in slugging pct. with .522. Craig is a RBI machine and has one of highest batting averages with runners in scoring position in the league.

Second Baseman: Daniel Murphy, Mets

I also considered the Pirates Neil Walker, but Murphy has outperformed him the last season plus. Walker does have more power than Murphy, but Murphy hits for a better average and gets on base more. Murphy is off to a hot start this year, and is the Mets second best hitter after David Wright. The Mets are in rebuilding mode, but Murphy is a player they would like to keep around for the future.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar, Royals

This another player on the Royals who I think could break out and have an All Star campaign. Escobar was the key piece in the Zack Greinke deal a couple offseasons ago. In 2012, Escobar proved he was more than just a light hitting, slick fielding shortstop. He batted .293 and stole 35 bases. Only 25 years old, he figures to keep getting better.

Third Baseman: Manny Machado, Orioles

There are a lot of promising young third baseman in the American League, but they all seem to be off to slow starts. Wil Middlebrooks, Mike Moustakas, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Brett Lawrie have all been scuffling out the gate. Machado isn't setting the world afire, but is putting up respectable numbers so far. Machado is the youngest of the bunch at age 20, but has the most potential of any of them. He's good defensively and could be a shortstop if needed. However, he solidified third base after he was called up last year and was their starter during last year's playoffs.

Left Fielder: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Harper won the Rookie of the Year last year and is the only player on my list who has previously been a All Star. However, last year's All Star selection might of been based more off hype than performance. This year, Harper will be making the All Star team based off his performance. He is off to a hot start, batting .363 and is second in the NL to Justin Upton with 8 home runs. Harper is currently leading the NL with a 1.190 OPS this year.

Center Fielder: Austin Jackson, Tigers

Last season, Jackson made strides, cutting down on strikeouts and becoming more patient at the plate. He finished 8th in the AL in on base pct., justifying his spot in leadoff. Jackson is also a terrific defensive center fielder and has speed. He set career highs in doubles, home runs, and RBIs last year. This is Jackson's fourth season in Detroit, after coming over in the Curtis Granderson deal. That deal worked out well for Detroit since they also received Max Scherzer and Phil Coke in that deal.

Right Fielder: Shin Soo Choo, Reds

I cheated on this one because Choo is playing center field with the Reds this year. Choo is miscast as a center fielder, and had been a right fielder in Cleveland. Also, there isn't many good candidates for breakout years in right field this year. Choo is a major upgrade in the leadoff spot for the Reds, who had Drew Stubbs and Zack Cozart at leadoff last year(both had sub-.300 OBPs). So far, Choo leads the NL with a .505 OBP. Choo had some pretty good years in Cleveland, but this is a contract year for Choo and I think he will have his best offensive season yet.

Utilityman: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

So far, Carpenter has started 12 games at second and 8 games at third. He can also play first base and the corner outfield spots. Carpenter was the Cards top bench player last season, but Mike Matheny is planning on playing him on a regular basis this year. Carpenter has recently been hitting leadoff due to a slow start by Jon Jay. Carpenter gets on base frequently and has some pop in his bat. Currently, he is leading the NL with 20 runs scored. He reminds me of former Cardinals player and current hitting coach John Mabry due to his stance, being a left handed hitter, and not wearing batting gloves. Carpenter looks like he might develop into a better player, though.

Right Handed Starter: Matt Harvey, Mets

Harvey has been the talk of baseball, starting the season off 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. He also has 39 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched.  He pitched very well last year after being called up in the second half. Harvey barely pitched over the innings limit last year and is not considered a rookie this year. Harvey might be the Mets best pitching prospect since Doc Gooden. David Wright has said he is very optimistic about the Mets future because of Harvey and top prospect Zack Wheeler(who was acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal).

Left Handed Starter: Madison Bumgarner, Giants

It's hard to believe that Bumgarner is only 23 years old right now. Already, he has won 2 World Series rings with San Francisco. In 2012, Bumgarner won a career high 16 games and struck out 191 batters. This season, Bumgarner could reach the next level. At the very least, I think that Bumgarner will make his first All Star team this season, and could be a darkhorse Cy Young candidate.

Relief Pitcher: Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners

This is a pretty good story about a pitcher who gave up baseball for five years. Wilhelmsen was drafted by the Brewers in 2002, but the club suspended him a couple years later due to marijuana use. He then quit baseball in 2005 and became a bartender. In 2009, he decided to make a comeback with an independent minor league team. The Brewers then re-acquired his rights, but released him due to a blown nerve in his shoulder area. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencek once worked for the Brewers and signed him to a minor league deal in 2010. After the Brandon League trade, Wilhelmsen became the Mariners closer last year. Dan Plesac has said that Wilhelmsen's curveball is one of the best in the league and he also throws a mid-90s fastball.

                  Craig and Carpenter: Two Emerging Players for the Cardinals

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rookies Could Be Valuable for the Cardinals this Year

Going into the 2013 season, the Cardinals had the #1 ranked farm system. Back in the middle of last decade, that was unimaginable, considering that the Cardinals had one of the worst farm systems during the Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen era. John Mozeliak made it a priority to upgrade the farm system when he took over as GM in late 2007. It paid off by 2011, when Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, and Jaime Garcia helped contribute to their championship in a wild run down the stretch. One of Mozeliak's first trades was trading an aging Jim Edmonds for little known third base prospect David Freese, a St. Louis native who was in Single A at the time.

Already in this young season, the Cardinals have felt the impact of Matt Adams and Shelby Miller. Pete Kozma has took over at shortstop due to Rafael Furcal's season ending injury. Kozma hit well down the stretch last season, but made some key errors in the NLCS. This is Kozma's best chance to be a big league starter this year, and the Cardinals will give him a chance to do so. However, if it doesn't work out, the Cardinals have the depth to make a deal. Trevor Rosenthal looked dominant in the playoffs last year after being called up late in the season. He's still showed that form at times early on, but he has had some rough games so far. Still, Rosenthal brings a 100 mph fastball, and is viewed as a future closer.

Adams' spot on the team wasn't guaranteed this spring, but he hit his way on. Adams has been tearing it up so far this year. He already has 3 home runs and 8 RBI's, despite only having 21 at bats. Adams is hitting a ridiculous .524 right now and slugging 1.048. He is making it hard for Mike Matheny to keep him out of the lineup. Adams has made 5 starts at first base, and appeared as a pinch hitter twice. One of those pinch hitting appearances, he hit a home run against Cincinnati on April 9th. Unfortunately, Adams can only play first base. Still, Allen Craig can play in the outfield to give Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran a day off. Beltran will need to be rested more than last season. He is now 36 years old and wore down as the season went on.

When the Cardinals play American League teams, they could use Adams as a DH. He is also a valuable bat off the bench. I see him getting a couple starts a week at first from here on out. If Craig, Holliday, or Beltran get hurt, the Cardinals won't lose much with Adams. Like with Craig and Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals will find a spot to play a guy if he can hit. Carpenter was the best bench player on the Cardinals last year in his rookie campaign. He also can play first base, but is not likely to see much time there this year. So far, Carpenter has been playing second and third base. Jose Oquendo helped him out in his transition to second, and should have an easier adjustment than Skip Schumaker did, since Carpenter is a natural infielder. Descalso was the primary second baseman last year and is better defensively. Still, Carpenter's defense has been solid so far and he is a superior hitter.

The most valuable rookie on this team is Shelby Miller. He won the fifth starter competition this spring over Joe Kelly and Rosenthal. I predicted that Miller would win the Rookie of the Year this season. Some people say that he is already the second best starter after Adam Wainwright. He has been impressive in three starts this year. So far, he's pitched 18.1 innings, struck out 18 batters, is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. He has averaged over 6 innings a start, and was particularly dominating against the Brewers last weekend. Miller also shut down the Reds in the season finale last season.

The Cardinals also have plenty of players in Triple A and Double A that could reach the big leagues this season. Prized prospect Oscar Taveras figures to be Carlos Beltran's successor in right field next year. Taveras will likely stay in the minors until September, unless a couple of  major injuries happen. Second base prospect Kolten Wong is off to a hot start in Memphis, batting .345 in 13 games. Wong has pretty good speed and some power. If Kozma flops, the Cardinals have Ryan Jackson and Greg Garcia as fallback options. Garcia might of passed Jackson on the Cardinals shorstop depth chart. In Double A, the Cardinals have another second base prospect in Starlin Rodriguez.

On the pitching side, Michael Wacha, Seth Manness, lefty John Gast, and even #33 ranked prospect Carlos Martinez are options if a starter goes down. Martinez finally had his visa issues cleared up after it cost him spring training. Martinez will start the season in Double A, but I think he will reach Triple A by the All Star break. Yadier Molina said that Wacha was already ready for the big leagues this spring. He could be the first guy called up if a starter goes down. There is also a possibility that Joe Kelly could be an option as well. Eduardo Sanchez has started off well in Triple A, after injuries and wildness have hampered him in recent seasons. Sanchez was impressive for the big club in 2011 before injuries shut him down. He could be an option for the bullpen again this year if it continues to struggle.

It's a good problem to have, but the Cardinals are going to have trouble finding room for some players on offense. Next year(or sooner), Taveras and Wong will be ready for the big leagues. Taveras can also play center field, but will most likely be the Cardinals right fielder next year. He could have an impact of a Bryce Harper or Mike Trout when he comes up. If Carpenter has a good year at second, what do the Cardinals do with Wong next year? The Cardinals have options for first base(Craig, Adams), second base(Carpenter, Descalso, Wong), third base(Carpenter, Freese), center field(Jay, Taveras), and right field(Taveras, Craig). On the pitching side, it will be interesting to see what they do with Wacha, Martinez, Gast, etc. Next year, the will likely have an opening with someone taking Jake Westbrook's spot. That still leaves only one spot for many capable arms. The Cardinals have some of the best depth in baseball, and look to be a serious contender for years to come.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cardinals Bullpen Shaky Early On

         MIA: Motte's Status Uncertain This Season as Cardinals Struggle to Replace Him

The Cardinals had a solid 4-2 opening homestead and two weeks into the season have the lead in the NL Central with a 7-5 record. The starting pitching has been outstanding so far. The Cardinals pitchers threw 39 scoreless innings until it was snapped in the 8th inning of Sunday's game vs. the Brewers. Trevor Rosenthal allowed a two run homer to Ryan Braun, and Mitchell Boggs blew another save opportunity in the 9th. Fernando Salas then proceeded to allow the winning run in the 10th. With a 3-0 lead going into the 8th it looked like the Cardinals would sweep the Brewers, but they had the rug pulled out beneath them. Jaime Garcia watched a second straight start go from a win to a no decision.

The bullpen's performance early on is a cause for concern. So is Jason Motte's elbow. Motte has been shut down to the first of May and may need Tommy John surgery. Still, I don't think it's a reason to panic. Despite their struggles, there is a lot of talent in the bullpen. Boggs was a very good reliever last year, posting a 2.21 ERA. He needs to work out his struggles and Mike Matheny may go with a bullpen by committe for awhile. Rosenthal has been labeled a future closer, but he has had 3 games were he came in and allowed runs. Rosenthal possesses a 100 mph fastball and was a weapon down the stretch last season. Still, he may not be ready to be a closer just yet, as he has had some struggles as the 8th inning guy.

Edward Mujica is another possibility in the 9th. He has been lights out since joining the Cardinals last July. Mujica has a 1.17 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 30.2 innings since becoming a Cardinal and was solid in the postseason last year. At the very least, Mujica might get some more opportunities in the 8th inning or when the Cardinals are in a jam. Sometimes, the game is "saved" in the 7th or 8th, opposed to the 9th. A set up guy sometimes comes into a tough spot with runners on. A closer usually does not in today's game, unless it's the postseason.

Matheny has two lefties to work with this season with Randy Choate joining Scrabble in the bullpen. Choate gives some stability to a team who went through JC Romero, Sam Freeman, Barret Browning, and Brian Fuentes as lefty specialists, none of them sticking. Joe Kelly has been buried in the bullpen, due to a couple of poor outings and the starters pitching deep into games. Matheny might start trying to work in Kelly more, with Boggs and Salas struggling early on. Salas actually led the 2011 Cardinals in saves, but lost the closer job to Motte in September of that year. Salas may need to go down to Triple A to work out his slump. It's possible that a pitcher like Eduardo Sanchez or Maikel Cleto could be called up.

A really good closer certainly helps a team win more games, but it is not always necessary to win. The 7th and 8th inning get overlooked and teams blow games in those innings as well. Relief pitchers sometimes go through rough patches and work it out later in the season. This is why many teams are not investing a lot of money in the bullpen and are going with young hard throwers. While I think elite closers like Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are difference makers, and average closer is not. In recent seasons, closers like Heath Bell, John Axford, Brad Lidge, and Carlos Marmol have went from the saves leaders to bums. Even great closers like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have blown big games in the past. Rivera played a huge role in the Yankees 5 championships and is considered to be the best closer of all time. While that gives a team an advantage, it doesn't always guarantee success.

Recent history also says having an established closer isn't a prerequisite for a championship. The Cardinals won both of their recent championships without one. In 2006, Jason Isringhausen went down in September, and then rookie Adam Wainwright was thrust into the role of closer for the postseason. Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran with his curve to save Game 7 in the NLCS is one of the biggest moments in recent Cardinals history. Who knows if the Cardinals still would of won if Izzy would of been healthy? In 2011, the Cardinals went with Ryan Franklin, Boggs, Salas, and finally Motte as their closer. The bullpen was shaky all year, blowing many saves, but it gelled during the stretch run and in the postseason. Going back even further, the 1985 Cardinals won over 100 games with a bullpen by committee. Bruce Sutter left as a free agent prior to that season, and the Cardinal went with a mix Ken Dayley, Jeff Lahti, and Bill Campbell. Late in the season, hard throwing Todd Worrell took over as closer.

Other teams have also been able to win the World Series recently when injuries or underperformance occured with their closer. Brian Wilson played a vital role in the Giants championship in 2010. Early on in 2012, Wilson went down with an injury and needed Tommy John surgery. The Giants went with a mix of Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Sergio Romo in the 9th. Romo eventually took the closer role and the Giants won the World Series again in 2012. They even used starter Tim Lincecum in relief during the playoffs. The White Sox won the 2005 World Series after Bobby Jenks replaced a tired Dustin Hermanson late in the season. The 2003 Marlins flip flopped Braden Looper and Ugueth Urbina from the 8th and 9th inning during their run to the championship. The Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling led 2001 Diamondbacks were able to win the World Series despite Byung-Hyun Kim blowing a couple games. I think the Cardinals bullpen issues will work out at some point this season. There is still a lot of talent in their bullpen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Who is Baseball's Best Pitcher?

In the last few seasons, there has been a renaissance of pitching in baseball. There are many elite pitchers in the game right now, and there are a lot of young arms coming up from the minors. Pitchers like Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver,  Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain have all signed huge contracts within the last couple of years. Younger pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, David Price, and Stephen Strasburg will certainly cash in at some point. So, who is the best pitcher in baseball? That's a debateable topic with several possible answers. I did some research and looked at what each pitcher has done from the beginning of the 2010 season. I included up to Tuesday's games this year, but did not include any postseason games.


1) Justin Verlander    60-23
2) CC Sabathia         56-22
3) Gio Gonzalez        53-29
4) David Price           51-25
5) Jered Weaver       51-26
6) Roy Halladay        51-26
7) Clayton Kershaw  50-24
8) Tim Hudson          50-26
9) Yovani Gallardo    47-26
10) Ian Kennedy        46-26

Innings Pitched

1) Felix Hernandez     729.1
2) Justin Verlander     726
3) James Shields         692.1
4) CC Sabathia          687
5) Clayton Kershaw   681.1
6) Matt Cain              674
7) Cliff Lee                672.2
8) Jered Weaver        659.2
9) David Price           655
10) Dan Haren          654


1) Justin Verlander    719
2) Clayton Kershaw  705
3) Felix Hernandez    688
4) Tim Lincecum       652
5) James Shields       649
6) Cliff Lee               644
7) CC Sabathia        633
8) Cole Hamels        628
9) David Price          618
10) Yovani Gallardo 617


1) Clayton Kershaw  2.50
2) Jered Weaver       2.77
3) Justin Verlander    2.78
4) Cliff Lee               2.85
5) Josh Johnson        2.90
6) Felix Hernandez   2.91
7) Johnny Cueto       2.93
8) Matt Cain             3.02
9) RA Dickey           3.04
10) Gio Gonzalez      3.06


1) Clayton Kershaw  1.04
2) Jered Weaver        1.04
3) Cliff Lee                1.04
4) Justin Verlander     1.05
5) Matt Cain              1.05
6) Roy Halladay         1.10
7) Felix Hernandez     1.13
8) Cole Hamels          1.13
9) Mat Latos              1.14
10) Adam Wainwright 1.15

I went into this thinking Justin Verlander was the clear cut best pitcher in baseball, but one could make a case for Clayton Kershaw or even Felix Hernandez. Verlander got most of the attention after winning the Cy Young, MVP, and pitching Triple Crown in 2011, but Kershaw had a great season as well. Kershaw won the pitching Triple Crown for the National League in 2011 as well as the Cy Young Award. He followed up by leading the NL in ERA and WHIP in 2012. One has to wonder how many wins would King Felix have if he pitched for a better team. The Mariners improved their offense this year, so he might get more run support. Hernandez did win 19 games in 2009, but has never won 20. He even managed to win the Cy Young Award in 2010 despite winning only 13 games. He did lead the league in strikeouts, ERA, and many other categories.

Last season, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum had off years. Will that continue to be a trend this year? So far, it isn't looking good, but it's early in the season right now. These two pitchers were in the discussion of best pitchers until last year. Pitchers like Jered Weaver, Matt Cain, CC Sabathia, and Cliff Lee may not be the best, but they are among the best year in and year out. Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto, and RA Dickey all had breakout years last season, but can they repeat it? Stephen Strasburg will certainly be in the discussion in coming years, but he doesn't have the track record yet to be considered the best.

Right now, I would still consider Verlander to be the best pitcher in the game. Kershaw is closely behind and could pass him this season or the next. Kershaw's next contract might even top Verlander's recent record deal. I would rank Hernadez third, and he has the potential to be the best. Price and Weaver would round out my top five.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Big Spending Teams Who Flopped


There was a lot made this past offseason over the moves made by the two Los Angeles clubs, the Dodgers and Angels. The Blue Jays also made a big splash with their moves. While these three teams acquired some talented(but expensive) players, there is no guarantee how it will work out. There has been occasions in the past when making offseason headlines paid off the following October. The 1997 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, and the 2009 Yankees are the best examples of that. More often that not, it doesn't work out as intended. Sometimes, a player will fall off after signing a big deal, or bad chemistry will effect these teams. This post will discuss teams who spent big and crashed.

1988 New York Yankees

The 1980's Yankees had a lot of stars and even had the best winning percentage of that decade, but only had 2 postseason appearances the whole decade. They occured in 1980 and 1981. George Steinbrenner collected stars like baseball cards, and there were several disastrous free agent signings and trades during this decade. The Yankees traded away future All Stars like Willie McGee, Fred McGriff, Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Al Leiter, and Bob Tewksbury for relatively nothing during the 80's. One trade that did work out was for Rickey Henderson. However, the Yankees would never make the playoffs with the all time leading base stealer.

It's not like it was Henderson's fault, he put up several All Star campaigns, and the Yankees won over 90 games in 1985 and 1986, and 89 in 1987. In the 87-88 offseason, the Yankees hired Billy Martin as manager for the fifth time, signed slugger Jack Clark, traded for pitcher Richard Dotson, and later traded Buhner for aging Ken Phelps. Martin only made it half a season before being replaced by Lou Piniella(who Martin replaced the previous offseason). The Yankees finished in fifth, and went into a four year period of darkness. This would be Dave Winfield's last season in the Bronx as well. Steinbrenner would later get into trouble trying to dig up dirt on Winfield.

1991 Chicago Cubs

In 1989, the Cubs finished with the best record in the National League and won the NL East. They then lost to the Giants in 5 games in the NLCS. They were 16 games worse in 1990, so the front office decided to make some moves. They still had a core of Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, Greg Maddux, and Andre Dawson. The Cubs decided to spend big, signing free agent outfielder George Bell, closer Dave Smith, and left handed starter Danny Jackson. So what happened? Smith was terrible in Chicago and posted a 6.00 ERA in 91 and soon was out of the league. Jackson also flopped and was traded to the Pirates in mid-92. Bell made the NL All Star team in 91, but was traded the next offseason for Sammy Sosa. Needless to say, the 91 Cubs were expected to contend for the playoffs with their new additions, but won the same amount of games as the previous season.

1992 New York Mets

From 1984 to 1990, the Mets were the class of the National League, winning over 90 games every season but 1989. They won over 100 games in 1986 and 1988, the only years they made the playoffs that stretch. In 1991, they fell off and only won 77 games. They lost franchise player Darryl Strawberry after 1990 and replaced him with speedster Vince Coleman. The Mets still had some stars, but it was not the juggernaut who won the 1986 World Series anymore. Only Howard Johnson, Kevin Elster, Doc Gooden, and Sid Fernandez remained from that team. So, the Mets decided to bolster their club by signing Bobby Bonilla to a then record 5 year, $25 million deal, and trading for 2 time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen. They also signed free agents Eddie Murray and Willie Randoph.

So what happened to this team? Bonilla and Saberhagen had down years their first seasons in New York. Johnson was moved from third base to center field, and he didn't bring his bat with him. After leading the NL with 38 homers in 91, Johnson slumped and had a terrible season offensively. The team had a strong pitching staff on paper, but closer John Franco was hurt midseason, and David Cone was traded late in the year. The team's defense was also horrible with players playing out of position and some past their prime. After being predicted to win the NL East, the Mets finished 5th. The following year, they lost 103 games. New York sportswriters dubbed this team the "Worst Team Money Could Buy."

1997 Chicago White Sox

The Sox made big headlines in late 1996, signing free agent OF Albert Belle from the division rival Indians. Belle signed one of the first contracts to pay over $10 million a season. With Belle teaming with Frank Thomas, this was supposed to be one of the best offenses in the league. Belle and Thomas both put up big numbers. However, due to injuries, aging players, and underperformance, the Sox finished 9th in the AL in runs scored. Chicago also signed past their prime pitchers Jaime Navarro, Doug Drabek, and Danny Darwin for the 97 campaign, and they were all bad. About the same time Robin Ventura got healthy, the Sox traded away pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Darwin to the Giants for a package of six prospects headlined by Keith Foulke. Many people dubbed it the "White Flag Trade". Despite some struggles, the Sox were within 3 games of first at the time of the trade, but were never able to get any closer after the trade. Belle later opted out of his deal after his second season in the South Side.

1999 Los Angeles Dodgers

Big changes for the Dodgers actually started during the 1998 season. Rupert Murdoch bought the team from the longtime ownership of the O'Malley family. Star catcher Mike Piazza was traded away in May after contract negotiations broke down. The Dodgers did get a package of five players including Gary Sheffield in the trade. The Dodgers also acquired Jeff Shaw and Mark Grudzielanek during the season, trading away top prospects like Paul Konerko and Ted Lilly. The Dodgers also had two different managers during the 98 season.

For the 1999 season, the Dodgers made even bigger moves. They hired Davey Johnson to be their new manager. They signed Kevin Brown to the first $100 million contract, despite the fact that Brown was 34. They felt that Brown was a better investment than Randy Johnson, who was thought to have a bad back. Todd Hundley and Devon White were also added. This team had a lot of big name stars, but perhaps a clash of egos and personalities did not work out. The Dodgers finished a distant third in 99, as the Diamondbacks won the division with Johnson.

2001-02 Texas Rangers

During the 2000-01 offseason, many big deals were signed. Manny Ramirez signed with the Red Sox, Mike Mussina with the Yankees, and the Rockies signed the Denny Neagle/Mike Hampton lefty combo(that was a big flop as well). The biggest move of all was the Rangers signing shorstop Alex Rodriguez to a 10 year, $250 million deal. Later, owner Tom Hicks would have to go through bankruptcy in part of this deal. The Rangers also added aging players like Andres Gallaraga, Randy Velarde, Ken Caminiti, and Ruben Sierra. The 2001 team was third in the AL in runs scored, led by A-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez, and Rafeal Palmeiro. However, their pitching was atrocious, finishing dead last in team ERA at 5.71. The Rangers only won 73 games and finished in last place. For the 2002 season, they doubled down on big spending, signing Chan Ho Park and Juan Gonzalez. Both players flopped as the Rangers again finished in last in 2002.

2008 Detroit Tigers

The Tigers faded down the stretch in 2007, missing out on the playoffs after making the World Series the previous season. GM Dave Dombrowski decided to bring in some players from his Marlins days. He traded for Gary Sheffield the year before, but he didn't make the desired impact. Dombrowski dealt away pitching prospect Jair Jurrjens to the Braves for Edgar Renteria. Then, he traded away 6 prospects headlined by Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Carlos Guillen moved to first base, then later third base to accomodate Renteria. Their was predictions of a 1,000 run season and talk of a World Series run coming into the 2008 season.

However, the Tigers ended up having a terrible season, winning only 74 games. What was the problem? It certainly was not Cabrera, who put up a monster year, leading the AL in home runs. Renteria wasn't the same player in Detroit as he was in the past. The team's defense was shaky. Jim Leyland referred to it a as a "horseshit defense." The pitching was also bad in 2008, finishing 12th in the AL in ERA. Justin Verlander had his worst season, finishing 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA. Verlander has obviously rebounded from that, but the other pitchers did not. Willis was a complete disaster in Detroit and is no longer in the majors. Jeremy Bonderman was hurt and never the same. The Tigers were also relying on aging pitchers Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones, who slumped and retired at season's end. Unlike many of these other teams, the Cabrera trade worked out great long term. However, pitching and defense sunk the Tigers in 2008.

2011-12  Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox missed the postseason in 2010, and watched division rivals New York and Tampa Bay both make it. They decided to take action in the offseason to correct that. They traded for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford. They figured they weakened the Rays by signing away Crawford, a power and speed threat. Kevin Youkilis was moved to third to make room for A-Gone. With Youk, Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury to go along with these new additions, big things were expected in Beantown.

The Red Sox had the division lead going into September. They soon lost that, but retained the wild card lead. In the season's last day, Boston choked away the playoffs, and the Rays took it. Manager Terry Francona was soon fired, and GM Theo Epstein left for the Cubs job. Then, there was a supposed chicken and beer scandal involving pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz. Boston went with Bobby Valentine to try to bring order in the clubhouse. Instead, Valentine ended up alienating his players and was dismissed after one last place season. Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett were traded to the Dodgers in August, marking a end of the Crawford/Gonzalez era.

2012 Miami Marlins

The Marlins opened up a gaudy new park in 2012, mostly financed by Miami and Florida taxpayers. Owner Jeffrey Loria insisted that a new ballpark was essential for the Marlins to compete and spend money on players. The Marlins had a young core of Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Johnson already. They then added Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Zambrano to the mix, along with new manager Ozzie Guillen. Guillen stirred up controversy from the start, and the Marlins got off to a poor start. Midway through the season, the front office decided to trade away Ramirez, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, Randy Choate, and Edward Mujica. Then in the offseason, they traded away Bell, Buehrle, Reyes, and John Buck, and let go of Zambrano and manager Guillen. Loria claimed these moves were baseball related and had nothing to do with their salaries. Needless to say, the Marlins have one of the lowest payrolls in the league this year. It's unclear if last year's group of players would of been a winner, but they weren't given much of a chance either.