Results tagged ‘ Adrian Gonzalez ’

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Game 129: Red Sox-Angels …

Coming off a 4-2 road trip, and back-to-back losses to put a sour end to it, the Angels return home (rather briefly). They’ll play three against the Red Sox team they swept at Fenway Park last week before opening up a six-game road trip through Seattle and Oakland.

“That was a tough loss, Saturday was,” veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Sunday, we were either going to hit him [Max Scherzer] or we weren’t. But Saturday, I think we should’ve come through with that game. We had the lead in the eighth inning and just blew it.”

But  with his team still 4 1/2 out of the Wild Card and a solid 10 games back in the AL West, Hunter prefers to look at the positive.

“Four of six on the road,” he said. “That’s pretty good for baseball. And now we’re coming home with four [wins] in our last six, it’s just like we won two series.”

Red Sox (62-67)

Scott Podsednik, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Ryan Lavarnway, C
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Ryan Kalish, RF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B

Pitching: RH Clay Buchholz (11-4, 4.47 ERA)

Angels (66-62)

Mike Trout, CF
Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, DH
Kendrys Morales, 1B
Mark Trumbo, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Maicer Izturis, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C

Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (16-3, 2.74 ERA)

  • Pujols still doesn’t feel 100 percent, but he showed enough during some pregame agility and baserunning drills to return to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury to his right calf at Fenway Park on Wednesday. “Obviously, I’m not where I want to be,” Pujols said, “but it’s good to be back in the lineup. I’m still going to be taking it easy. It doesn’t bother me swinging, but running I’m still a little bit sore.”
  • Asked when he could return to first base, Pujols said: “I don’t have a magic ball, so whenever I feel good. If it’s tomorrow, where I can go and take some grounders and feel good, I’ll go and play my position. But I don’t think that’s a problem here. We have two good first basemen here who can play the position, so as long as I’m in the lineup, that’s more important than anything else.”
  • Mike Scioscia couldn’t divulge much regarding Scott Downsdeparture from the team, saying only: “Right now we’re not sure [how long he’ll be out]. Hopefully as a little time goes on, we’ll get a little more clarity as to Scott’s situation.” Downs left Sunday night, flying back home to Kentucky.
  • Without Downs, and with Hisanori Takahashi being claimed by the Pirates on Friday, the Angels have no lefties in their bullpen. The Red Sox, at least, are without lefty sluggers David Ortiz (DL) and Adrian Gonzalez (trade).
  • Garrett Richards has had three stints as a reliever. One went well (a two-out save against the Tigers on Friday), but he gave up two runs to the Red Sox on Thursday and three to the Tigers on Saturday. Asked about his bullpen role moving forward, Scioscia said: “I think he’s got a power arm that can possibly play in the back end of a ‘pen. We’ll slot him in where we think he can help us, depending on who’s available on a given night.”

Alden

6 Divisions in 6 Days, Day 2 …

Leading up to Opening Day, I’ll roll out an All-Star team for each of the six divisions in baseball — that includes a manager, a starting nine (with a DH also for the National League), three starters and two relievers. One catch: Each team must have at least one representative, and the skipper doesn’t count. Feel free to submit your own lineups below. I’d love to see how yours differ.

Day 2: AL East
All you need to know about how stacked this division is: A-Rod is batting eighth.

Manager: Joe Maddon, TBR

Lineup

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (BOS)
Yunel Escobar, SS (TOR)
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (BOS)
Jose Bautista, RF (TOR)
Robinson Cano, 2B (NYY)
Evan Longoria, 3B (TBR)
Curtis Granderson, LF (NYY)
Alex Rodriguez, DH (NYY)
Matt Wieters, C (BAL)

Rotation

SP: CC Sabathia, NYY
SP: James Shields, TBR
SP: Jon Lester, BOS

Bullpen

Mariano Rivera, NYY
Andrew Bailey, BOS

Alden

My AL & NL lineups differ from yours …

… But only slightly.

See, I never expect perfection when so many fans from so many different places and with so many different biases vote so many times. But, I gotta say, the 32.5 million of you who voted this year didn’t do half-bad. Of course, I would’ve made a few changes.

Here’s my lineup …

American League 

Catcher- Alex Avila, Tigers: Easy choice. Joe Mauer has barely played, Carlos Santana has struggled, and Russell Martin‘s production at the plate went south after a hot start.

First base- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: Another no-brainer. He’s fitting in perfectly at Fenway, and if not for a man named Bautista, he’s the best hitter going.

Second base- Robinson Cano, Yankees: Something tells me he’ll be dominating this position for years to come.

Third base- Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Solid, healthy year — and you can’t say the same about Evan Longoria.

Shortstop- Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: I’m sorry, but you can’t pick Derek Jeter (pictured above by The Associated Press). I could understand if this was his final year and you want to send him out a la Cal Ripken Jr. But Cabrera has been an offensive and defensive key for the thriving Indians.

Outfield- Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Um, yeah, he’s good.

Outfield- Curtis Granderson, Yankees: Off to one of his best starts while looking very good in that 2 hole.

Outfield- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: He’s providing what Boston needs from him — getting on base, stealing bases and serving as a steady presence at the top of the order — while putting up power numbers to boot.

Designated hitter- David Ortiz, Red Sox: “Big Papi” needed a good start in his walk year, and he has it.

National League 

Catcher- Brian McCann, Braves: Unreal that he’s made it to six straight All-Star Games and hadn’t started one until this year. Glad that will change.

First base- Joey Votto, Reds: He’s the reigning NL MVP and is off to another great start even if the power numbers aren’t where they were at this point last year. (I know what you’re thinking, but keep reading.)

Second base- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: All-around solid year, and Chase Utley is still working his way back.

Third base- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: Having a solid year, and for some reason very few realize it.

Shortstop- Jose Reyes, Mets: No doubt about this one. Not sure why it took him so long to pass Troy Tulowitzki.

Outfield- Ryan Braun, Brewers: One of baseball’s best keeps getting better.

Outfield- Matt Kemp, Dodgers: He’s the first half’s NL MVP if not for a guy named Reyes. Looks like a change in managers has done him well, for whatever reason.

Outfield- Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Didn’t expect him to have the first half he’s had, but glad to see I was wrong.

Designated hitter- Prince Fielder, Brewers: Not fair? Hey, it’s my lineup!

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Fielder at ease in his walk year; Yankees haven’t stopped winning since being swept by the Red Sox. 

Too early for MLB power rankings? …

I don’t think so. 
All the big free agents — minus Rafael Soriano — have signed, and it seems every team is pretty much set for the start of Spring Training. It has been an amazingly surprising offseason, with Jayson Werth signing with the Nationals, Cliff Lee going to Philly, Carl Crawford now with Boston, the Angels missing out on everyone, the Yankees staying quiet, and Dan Uggla getting the kind of money I never thought he would land. 
That means a lot has changed since the end of the 2010 season. 
So, let’s get to it … 
* 2010 records are listed in parenthesis

A-Gonz.jpg1. Boston Red Sox (89-73):
The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball after adding Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez (pictured right, by The Associated Press), they have a very good bullpen after key offseason additions, and their rotation is very deep. But they’ll have to stay healthy — something that didn’t happen last year. 

2. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65; lost in NLCS): The old saying says, “You’re only as good as your next day’s pitcher.” If that’s the case, put the Phillies in the World Series right now. Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels is arguable the best rotation foursome in baseball history. And their offense is still scary. But the bullpen, as usual, is a question mark. 

3. San Francisco Giants (92-70; won WS): They’re the defending champs, and their pitching staff is as good or better than anybody’s in baseball. But can their spare-parts offense carry them deep like it did last year? Hard to believe they can repeat without a more-consistent bat. 

4. Texas Rangers (90-72; lost in WS): Not being able to get Lee hurts, especially when considering pretty much everybody in that rotation outperformed last year. But their starting staff is still solid, their bullpen is very good and, after the addition of Adrian Beltre, they have one of the best offenses in baseball. 


5. Atlanta Braves (91-71; lost in NLDS)
Filling the big shoes of Bobby Cox is a whole lot easier when inheriting a team like this one. Fredi Gonzalez has a dynamic lineup, especially with the addition of Uggla — though they’ll regret that extension — plus a solid rotation and a really good bullpen.  

6. St. Louis Cardinals (86-76): I expected the Cards to be a lot better than they were last year, and I don’t expect them to disappoint again this year. Lance Berkman could end up being a liability in right field, but if healthy, he can give them a big middle-of-the-order bat. Regardless, two dynamic duos — Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright — should lead to title contention.  

7. Milwaukee Brewers (77-85):
It took a major toll on the farm system, but the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum give the Brew Crew one of the best 1-thru-5 rotations in baseball. And Prince Fielder is still there. The Brewers will be legitimate title contenders.   

8. Colorado Rockies (83-79)
The Rockies have a bright future with Troy TulowitzkiCarlos Gonzalez and possibly Ubaldo Jimenez — if he agrees to an extension after the 2011 season — locked up. Their present looks very good, too. They have great depth, a solid rotation and a good lineup. Lots to be excited about in the Mile High City.

9. Chicago White Sox (88-74)
Looks like the South Siders are going for it all this year after signing Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko — or perhaps they’re setting it up so that Ozzie Guillen is the main culprit if they don’t win it all in 2011. Regardless, they have a power-packed offense and some nice arms. It’s up to Ozzie to bring it all together.  

10. New York Yankees (95-67; lost in ALCS)The Yankees have issues, yes — they’re aging, they have holes in the rotation and the bullpen is spotty. But they’re still the Yankees. And as long as Alex RodriguezDerek JeterRobinson CanoMark TeixeiraCC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are there, they’re a major threat.  

11. Cincinnati Reds (91-71; lost in NLDS): The Reds were a surprise team last year, but I don’t think they did enough this offseason to stay on top. Their pitching staff is still deep and talented, but they needed to make bigger moves this offseason — mostly on offense — to take the next step, especially when considering how much better the teams in their division got. 


12. Detroit Tigers (81-81): Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit were big pickups, and the Tigers will compete in the American League Central all the way through. But it’s a tough division.  

13. Minnesota Twins (94-68; lost in ALDS)
The Twins always seem to find a way, and they’ll be fine again if they resign Carl Pavano and Jim Thome (as expected). A healthy Justin Morneau will be huge, too. But their bullpen took a major hit, and while the White Sox and Tigers got better, they really didn’t. 


14. Oakland Athletics (81-81):
This is my surprise team of the year. Billy Beane has established a phenomenal young pitching staff and a great defensive team. If only they could’ve acquired a couple of the big bats they needed. (I give their stadium a lot of the blame for that.)  

15. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
The Cubs sure look like they’re going for it by trading for Matt Garza, signing Kerry Wood to a two-year deal and giving Carlos Pena $10 million. On paper, they look good. But that seems to be the case a lot in the Windy City, and somehow it never comes to fruition. Why should I believe otherwise now?  

16. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80-82): It has been a very disappointing
offseason for Angels general manager Arte Moreno, who lost out on Crawford and Beltre despite badly needing offensive help. They have potential in their rotation and a good bullpen that will be great if they get Soriano. But it seems they took a step back this offseason.  

17. Los Angeles Dodgers (80-82):
The Dodgers still have pieces in that lineup that can do some things, as well as a deep rotation. Don Mattingly will keep them relevant in his first year on the job. 

18. San Diego Padres (90-72):
This was the kind of reality Padres faithful expected, even after a surprising 2010 season that should’ve led to a playoff berth. No Gonzalez, and Heath Bell is a very likely Trade Deadline chip. But they still have a great pitching staff and a very good defensive team. I just don’t know where their offense will come from.  

19. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66; lost in ALDS): It’s a different Rays team now, with no Crawford, Soriano, Benoit, Pena or Garza. But that’s a savvy front office, and their array of young players give them a great future once again. But it’s a retooling year in Tampa Bay. And they won’t be as relevant in the AL East as they have been.  

20. Florida Marlins (80-82): The Marlins needed bullpen help, a catcher and another arm for the rotation this offseason and got all of that. They also have a great bunch of young position players and two franchise-type guys in Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson. But it looks like another .500 year in South Florida. Nothing more, nothing less.  

21. New York Mets (79-83): The Mets have toiled in obscurity this offseason, and maybe that’s a good thing. This is a year about finding out their identity and improving for the future — not competing.  

22. Washington Nationals (69-93): Mike Rizzo lost out on Lee, and he overpaid enormously for Werth. But they vastly improved their defense (with Werth and Adam LaRoche), have a nice lineup and boast a few nice, young pitching arms. D.C. is still on its way to becoming a place where free agents will actually want to be at some point.  

23. Baltimore Orioles (66-96): O’s look to have a pretty impressive lineup, but they need a lot more pitching — especially in the bullpen — to compete in baseball’s toughest division.  

24. Toronto Blue Jays (85-77): They’re another team that had its bullpen get completely stripped, and I don’t expect Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells to equal their 2010 season and keep them competitive. Not a bad rotation, though, and Alex Anthopoulos has made some nice forward-thinking moves thus far. 

25. Houston Astros (76-86): Brad Mills led the Astros to an impressive second half last year, but they have a long, long way to go.  

26. Seattle Mariners (61-101): The M’s were a big disappointment last year, and they will struggle once again in 2011. 

27. Arizona Diamondbacks (65-97): Kevin Towers has gone to work on retooling that dreadful bullpen, but there’s a lot more work to be done in Arizona than that.  

28. Cleveland Indians (69-93): Indians are still waiting for the young players they got back from trading two Cy Young Award winners (Sabathia and Lee) to come through. Until that happens, they’ll go nowhere. 

29. Kansas City Royals (67-95): With the pieces they have in their farm system and in the big leagues, the Royals seem set up to be a competitive team as soon as 2012. But not in 2011. 

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (57-105): The Pirates have issues. Their Major League roster is unimpressive, and their farm system isn’t great. All they can hope to do is avoid another 100-loss season.  

– Alden Gonzalez

Some notable additions to the free-agent pool

All the Hot Stove attention, of course, is drawn towards
free-agent targets Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and possible
trade chips like Zack Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez. But not every team is
willing to hand out nine-figure salaries or unload their farm
systems. Every team, however, has a couple million to spare for a potential
bargain pickup.

And that’s what makes this year’s non-tender list so intriguing.

After baseball’s non-tender deadline came and went on Thursday night, 52 players were added to the free-agent pool. Here’s the gist: A player who is under club control — meaning he doesn’t have a set contract and hasn’t reached six years of service time — and is not tendered a contract by the deadline hits free agency.

Most of the time, clubs don’t tender a player a contract because they don’t want to pay him what the Basic Agreement forces them to (no less than 20 percent of a player’s salary from the previous season can be cut), or because they’re worried about what he’ll get in arbitration. The most famous non-tender signing, perhaps, is David Ortiz by the Red Sox in 2002. And last year, the Nationals got a bargain when they signed closer Matt Capps after he was non-tendered by the Pirates.

This year, the opportunity to strike gold with non-tenders seems plentiful. Here are some of the more-notable names (listed by 2011 age) …


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Bobby Jenks, RH-RP, 30
2010: 4.44 ERA, 1.367 WHIP, 27-31 SV, 55 G
Career: 3.40 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 173-199 SV, 329 G

Jenks became perhaps the most notable non-tender on Thursday, when the White Sox decided they weren’t willing to give their long-time closer a raise from his $7.5 million 2010 salary. Jenks has had back-to-back down years since putting up a 2.63 ERA and converting 30 saves in ’08. Now, he joins a free-agent crop of closers that boasts Rafael Soriano at the top, but then drops off rather considerably with guys like Kevin Gregg, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, Trevor Hoffman and Frank Francisco. Expect Jenks, who has made no less than 52 appearances since 2006 and put up a 2.70 ERA from 2007-08, to get a fair share of interest, and perhaps even sign an affordable multi-year deal.   

Russell Martin, C, 28
2010: .248/.347/.332, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 97 G
Career: .272/.365/.396, 54 HR, 300 RBI, 667 G

It wasn’t too long ago that Martin was considered one of the top catchers in the game. But after hitting .286 with a .380 on-base percentage, one Gold Glove and 32 home runs from 2007-08, Martin has struggled the last two years. He hit just .250 in 142 games while battling a bad back in ’09. Then, last year, he hit .248 in 97 games before being deemed out for the year with a broken right hip in early August. The market for free-agent catchers started rather deep but is quickly thinning, and about six teams have reportedly showed interest in Martin. Hard to see him as anything more than a platoon mate right now, though.

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, 28
2010: .244/.305/.482, 21 HR, 51 RBI, 96 G
Career: .258/.336/.453, 100 HR, 337 RBI, 652 G

The Athletics made Encarnacion a free agent weeks after they claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays, mainly because they wanted to keep Kevin Kouzmanoff on board and because they’re still reportedly going after Adrian Beltre. Encarnacion is not very good defensively (a -1.5 UZR last year, according to FanGraphs.com), and he doesn’t really hit for average. But he can drive the ball out of the ballpark and could be a serviceable everyday player. When given 582 plate appearances in 146 games in ’08, he hit 26 home runs. And in 139 games in ’07, he hit .289 with 16 home runs. Perhaps he can be a backup plan for the Red Sox if they don’t resign Beltre. General manager Theo Epstein is more comfortable with Kevin Youkilis playing first base. 

Jack Cust, DH/OF, 32
2010: .272/.395/.438, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 112 G
Career: .245/.378/.452, 102 HR, 300 RBI, 603 G

The A’s also dumped Cust, who made $2.65 million in 2010 and would’ve likely doubled his 2011 salary through arbitration. Cust is sure to draw a lot of interest. He’s a left-handed hitter who averaged 28 homers and 76 RBIs from 2007-09, and even though his power numbers diminished this past season, he did hit for a career-best batting average while starting the vast majority of his games as a designated hitter. Cust can also play both outfield corners. Problem: He’s a .182 hitter with no home runs in 58 career plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

Chien-Ming Wang, RH-SP, 31
2010: N/A
Career: 55-26, 4.16 ERA, 109 G (104 GS)

Remember when Wang was a back-to-back 19-game winner and put up a 3.67 ERA from 2006-07? That seems like a lot longer than three years ago. Wang wound up making just 15 starts in 2008 and hasn’t pitched in the Majors since July 4, 2009. Wang didn’t even pitch in the Minors in 2010 while recovering from shoulder surgery. He won’t get anything more than a Minor League deal, and shoulder surgery is a tough thing to come back from — much tougher than Tommy John. But who knows? It’s worth a shot.   

Keep your eye on these guys, too: George Sherrill (formerly of the Dodgers), Hideki Okajima (Red Sox), J.P. Howell (Rays), Matt Diaz (Braves), Tony Gwynn Jr. (Padres), Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners) and Dustin Nippert (Rangers). 

– Alden Gonzalez  

The dust has settled, so let’s take a clearer look

Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline has come to an end, and so has conflicting reports, absurd rumors and Twitter madness. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think the Trade Deadline is all bad. In fact, it’s quite exciting when you extract the overwhelming rumor fodder. 

Here are some notes from this year … 
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Pitching rules the month: The 2010 season has been deemed by many as “The Year of the Pitcher,” and so it should come as no surprise that the month of July was themed (by me, at least) as “The Movement of the Ace.”
You could make the case (I certainly will) that the three biggest trades leading up to the Deadline involved three frontline starting pitchers: Cliff Lee (pictured left; AP), Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt
Lee is the best of the trio, obviously, and made the first-place Rangers a heavy favorite for an American League West title upon his arrival to Arlington (if he wasn’t already). Oswalt and Haren, meanwhile, are both having rough seasons, but they’re both legitimate aces and should be sparked by joining the contending Phillies and Angels, respectively. Unlike Lee — a free agent at season’s end — both are in the books beyond the 2010 season, too. 
Also, Edwin Jackson joined the White Sox, Jake Westbrook went to the Cardinals, and the Dodgers nabbed the coveted Ted Lilly
The “Evil Empire” strikes again: Did you really think a Trade Deadline was going to go by without the Yankees having a big-time say? They got the most notable position player dealt in Lance Berkman, who will finally give the Bronx Bombers a stabilizing presence at designated hitter. They nabbed Austin Kearns to bolster the outfield. And they got Kearns’ Indians teammate, closer Kerry Wood, to give them yet another bridge to Mariano Rivera
With the Red Sox decimated by injuries and the low-budget Rays standing pat prior to the Deadline (minus the acquisition of a struggling Chad Qualls) the Yanks — owners of the best record in baseball heading into Saturday night — positioned themselves for another World Series run. 
Big names stay put: Although a flurry of moves came down hours before the Deadline, this year sure seemed like one when teams were extremely hesitant to take on salary and part ways with top prospects, even though many described this as a dried-up trade market (especially in terms of reliable bullpen help). 

imagesII.jpg

Adam Dunn (pictured right; AP) and Prince Fielder were seemingly the two biggest bats available, but because of steep demands, neither moved. The Brewers have Fielder under club control for one more season, so there was no urgency to deal him just yet. But Dunn is a free agent after the season, and there have been no indications that a contract extension is in the works. 
Cody Ross was a highly coveted outfielder the Marlins were reportedly shopping, but he wasn’t dealt. Neither was Blue Jays infielder/outfielder Jose Bautista. Or Astros right-hander Brett Myers, who may work out an extension. But the biggest surprise (minus Dunn) is the fact that neither of the Blue Jays’ seemingly available late-inning relievers — Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg — were dealt. 
——-
Among the teams looking to add, here were the biggest winners, in my mind … 
1. Rangers: Hard to argue here. Their only not-great area was starting pitching — until they added Lee. They also got Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman to bolster the infield. 
2. Yankees: A great team got much deeper with the acquisitions of Berkman, Kearns and Wood. 
3. Dodgers: They needed to be active, and they were, by adding Lilly, Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel.
4. Phillies: A lot of the chatter in Philadelphia still revolves around not being able to keep Lee this past offseason, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. almost made up for that, by getting Oswalt in exchange for J.A. Happ — and none of their big-time prospects — and an additional $11 million from the Astros.
5. Angels: The acquisition of Haren gives them an ace through at least the 2012 season. That’s enough to make the top-five. 
… We now return to our regularly scheduled baseball season. 
Alden Gonzalez

6 Divisions in 6 Days: NL West

With this being the final week of Spring Training (crazy, right?), I figured it’d be justified to take a look at all 30 clubs and examine where they stand, what they need and where it looks like they’ll finish heading into the 2010 season. So, leading up to Opening Night between the Red Sox and Yankees, I’ll touch on one of the six divisions each day Monday-Saturday. Today, Day 5, we look at the National League West …


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Dodgers: They’ve gone backwards a bit, which is what makes this one of the most evenly matched divisions in baseball. But the Dodgers are still a big threat. Yeah, Manny Rarmirez‘s best days are behind him. And, sure, having Vicente Padilla start on Opening Day doesn’t say much about your rotation. But the Dodgers’ lineup is solid, with a still-very-productive Ramirez and up-and-coming studs in Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier. The rotation has some nice young arms in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. And the back end of that bullpen is very good with George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton. Other clubs in this division are starting to catch up, but you still have to look out for the Dodgers. 

Rockies: Last year, Jim Tracy was a miracle worker with the way he turned them into a playoff team after taking over for Clint Hurdle. In his first full season as manager in Colorado, he’ll direct a very formidable bunch once again. First off, that bench is the best in baseball — and it’s not even close. As reserves, the Rockies have established everyday players like Miguel Olivo, Melvin Mora and Jason Giambi, and other solid pieces in Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith. Think benches don’t matter much in baseball? They’re crucial throughout the aches and pains of a 162-game season, and this one will be huge in boosting the Rockies. As for the starting lineup, there’s nice pieces in Dexter Fowler, Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki, but they won’t hit much for power. The rotation is good, but not great. And I still have doubts about whether Huston Street (who will start the season on the disabled list) can be relied upon as closer for a full season. Still, the Rockies will be in the hunt all year. 

Giants: The Giants step into the 2010 season with the same problem — offense. Let’s get the obvious positives out of the way first. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito, their rotation is one of the best in baseball. And Brian Wilson is a solid closer. (The rest of the bullpen doesn’t really matter, since starters will be going seven or eight innings for most of the season, anyway.) But will they hit? I don’t think so. They went into the offseason knowing they needed more punch in the lineup, but all the Giants ended up with was Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. That’s not enough. They’ll need Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and that’s never a good sign. As was the case last year, pitching will keep them in it. But they’ll need a Trade Deadline move for a big bat if they want to get over the hump. 

Padres: They’ll finish last in the division, but the Padres, I believe, are on the upswing. I don’t foresee Adrian Gonzalez — very affordable this season, and with a very affordable club option for 2011 — being traded during the regular season, and Kyle Blanks is a nice counterpart in the middle of the lineup. They also have some nice, young position players in Tony Gwynn Jr. and Everth Cabrera. Heath Bell is a top-tier closer. And the rotation isn’t too bad, with Jon Garland, Chris Young, Matt Latos, Kevin Correia and Clayton Richard. They’re a rebuilding team, and they don’t have nearly enough to compete this year — or even next year. But I think they’re on their way up (with or without A-Gonz). 

Diamondbacks: If Brandon Webb is healthy and right, the D-backs — losers of 92 games last season — could end up being the most-improved team in baseball. With Dan Haren and new acquisition Edwin Jackson, they can have a very nice top three in that rotation. But how and when Webb returns from shoulder surgery will be critical, of course. The bullpen isn’t great, but I like their offense. I love Justin Upton. Combine him with Mark Reynolds, newcomer Adam LaRoche, a healthy Conor Jackson and a Stephen Drew who should be better, they’ll be much more improved scoring runs. But even with the Webb of 2008, I felt this team would fall just shy of the postseason. Without him in top form, they’ll struggle to finish at .500.
NL West champion: Dodgers

– Alden Gonzalez
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