Tigers make it official: Miguel Cabrera is moving back to first base

Tigers make it official: Miguel Cabrera is moving back to first base

Dec 4, 2013, 4:16 PM EST

Prince Fielder, Miguel CabreraAP

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was initially coy last week when asked if Miguel Cabrera would be moving from third base to first base following the Prince Fielder trade, but today he admitted that’s the plan.

No surprise, certainly, as Cabrera was banged up physically a lot this year and has long been stretched defensively at third base. He played first base almost exclusively from 2008-2011 before moving to make room for Fielder.

Nick Castellanos is now slated to be the Opening Day third baseman after the 21-year-old prospect spent most of this year playing left field at Triple-A. Castellanos previously played third base full time in 2010 and part time in 2011, and he’s considered one of the better all-around position player prospects in baseball. Despite being very young for the International League he hit .276 with 18 homers and a .793 OPS in 134 games this year before making his MLB debut in September.

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Mets, Curtis Granderson step up talks

Mets, Curtis Granderson step up talks

By Mike Puma

December 4, 2013 | 10:19am

Curtis Granderson has gone from eating salmon with the Mets to talking turkey.

According to an industry source, discussions between general manager Sandy Alderson and the free-agent outfielder have intensified since Sunday, when the two convened for a dinner meeting in San Diego.

But as of Wednesday night, Granderson and his agent still were in talks with other teams. The Mariners and White Sox were believed to be in the mix, and the Red Sox could be a dark horse following Jacoby Ellsbury’s defection to the Yankees on Tuesday.

As The Post reported earlier this week, the 32-year-old Granderson has sought a four-year contract. But the Mets, according to the source, are hesitant to go beyond three years, with perhaps an option for 2017.

If Granderson, a Chicago-area native, were to receive a three-year offer from the White Sox, the thinking is the Mets almost certainly would have to add a fourth guaranteed year to the contract.

If the Mets whiff in their pursuit of Granderson? A source with connections to the club predicted the Mets then would turn attention to Nelson Cruz, a less preferable option because Granderson is viewed as a more complete package.

The Mets also like Granderson — who hit 43 home runs for the Yankees in 2012 — because he would bring a lefty power presence to a lineup that has become more right-handed with the addition of free-agent outfielder Chris Young.

Only bolstering Granderson’s resume, from the Mets’ perspective, is the fact he has experience playing on the New York stage and has thrived.

The Cubs and Astros are among the other teams that have been linked to Granderson, who declined a qualifying offer from the Yankees after an injury-shortened 2013 season in which he hit .229 with seven homers and 15 RBIs.

Because the Mets’ first-round draft pick (10th overall) is protected, the club would lose a second-rounder next year by signing Granderson.

The Mets already missed in their top shortstop target of the offseason, Jhonny Peralta — who last week signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals worth $53 million.

Young, who signed a one-year deal with the Mets worth $7.25 million, represents the only money spent by the club this winter. Alderson has said about $40 million came off the books after last season, though the general manager has declined to pinpoint how much of that money will be reinvested toward 2014.

But the general manager has said next year’s payroll won’t dip below the 2013 figure of $87 million.

10 Yankees questions in wake of Ellsbury deal

10 Yankees questions in wake of Ellsbury deal

        Chad Jennings, USA TODAY Sports     10:52 p.m. EST December 4, 2013
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Chad Jennings examines 10 ramifications the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury will have on the New York Yankees:

1. What does this mean for $189 million? The goal to sneak under Major League Baseball’s luxury-tax threshold is not a mandate. That’s what we’ve heard again and again, and that seems to be the way it’s playing out. The Yankees are being aggressive. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, they’ve signed the two most expensive free agent deals of the offseason. They also still need a second baseman (though Kelly Johnson helps there), probably a third baseman, and they’re well aware that they still need significant help in the rotation. It’s unavoidable that they’re going to spend more, and it may be that their only hope of staying below the luxury tax threshold is seeing Alex Rodriguez suspended for the season.

BIG DEAL: Yankees throw $153 million at Ellsbury

2. What does this mean for Brett Gardner?

The Yankees are making it seem as if they’re planning to keep Gardner and play him in left field. And with Gardner likely to make roughly $4 million in his final arbitration-eligible season, the Yankees don’t have to trade him. He’s kind of a poor man’s Ellsbury, and there’s almost certainly $4 million worth of value in what he does defensively and offensively (not to mention the fact he gives the Yankees a legitimate backup in center field, something they were lacking). But even so, Gardner could become expendable in the right deal, and teams in search of center-field help could come calling. Gardner doesn’t have to go, but it’s much easier to trade him today than it was yesterday.

3. What does this mean for Robinson Cano?

It’s hard to think the Yankees are bluffing at this point. They’ve made an offer to Cano, and they’re beginning to put themselves in a position of strength by proving they’re willing to spend elsewhere. Cano is the best player on the free agent market, the Yankees know he can play in New York, and they know he plays a position they can’t easily fill from within. He’s a terrific fit, but spending has limits, and the Yankees can’t afford to wait around. If Cano wants to come back, he can, but holding out for more than $200 million might mean holding out for a team other than the Yankees.

4. What does this mean for Carlos Beltran?

It’s hard to believe it means anything good for him, unless what it means is that the Kansas City Royals really have offered a big three-year deal, and it was that deal that forced the Yankees to move on to the long-term risk of the Ellsbury signing. If the Yankees are going to keep Gardner in left field, and if they’re going to rotate the DH spot among several players, that means Alfonso Soriano has to play a lot of right field by default. And that doesn’t leave much of a spot for Beltran or Shin-Soo Choo or Curtis Granderson. Then again … if the Yankees decide they aren’t going to sign Cano, they could sign Beltran — or Choo  — to help make up for the lost offense, and then shop Gardner in search of a starting pitcher or an infielder. It seems like a possibility, but the way the team is constructed, right field isn’t a position of significant need.

FREE AGENT TRACKER: Who’s coming, going around MLB

5. And Ichiro Suzuki?

It has been pretty clear for a while that the Yankees were looking for an outfield upgrade. Instead of signing one to play right field — as was expected — they signed one to play center. As long as there’s no permanent DH in place, the Yankees could use Ichiro to serve as a fourth outfielder, maybe even getting regular starts in right field against right-handers, leaving Soriano to DH on those days. Ichiro has much more experience in right than Soriano does and brings a speed element to the bench.

6. What does this mean for Vernon Wells?

The Yankees are basically getting Wells for free this season, so they could dump him pretty easily if he doesn’t produce (or if they simply need the spot on the 40-man roster). One thing Wells has going for him is that he bats right-handed, and the Yankees seem to be putting together a left-leaning lineup. Even Zoilo Almonte, who is a switch-hitter, is much better from the left side. Maybe Wells could scratch out a role as a platoon player against lefties. That seems to be his best shot at sticking around.

7. What does this mean for Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams? These are two of the Yankees’ top position prospects, and they’re both leadoff-type center fielders who bat left-handed. Of course, the Yankees just signed a seven-year deal with a leadoff-type center fielder who bats left-handed. If Heathcott or Williams looked like a sure thing at this point, the Ellsbury deal might not have happened (or at least, it might have become a little less likely). But prospects can be suspect, and that’s true with these two. Heathcott and Williams might now have to hit enough to prove they’re worth a spot in one of the corners. Unless something goes wrong, the center-field job won’t be available for a while.

8. What does this mean for the rotation?

You have to assume it means basically nothing. Surely the Yankees aren’t blowing their entire budget this early in the process, only to cry poor when it comes time to actually find some starting pitchers to provide those 400 innings general manager Brian Cashman has talked about. One potential rotation impact might come from Gardner. Even if the Yankees haven’t said aloud that they want to trade Gardner, the Ellsbury signing should at least open the possibility of using Gardner to trade for a starting pitcher.

9. What does this mean for Jacoby Ellsbury?

It better mean that he’s buying the drinks and the dinner next time he’s out with his buddies. It also means the Yankees have put their faith — and their future — into the idea that he can stay healthy and be one of the game’s elite leadoff hitters for several years to come. Every long-term deal is a risk, and that’s especially true for a guy whose main tool is his speed and who already has spent time on the disabled list. The Yankeesare committed to Ellsbury, and it’s up to him to perform. It could go down as a horrible contract, but that’s true of every major free agent signing.

10. What does this mean for Hal Steinbrenner?

Two months ago, he was being called cheap. Now, there are plenty who think he has overpaid for Ellsbury. I suppose it’s possible to be both — spending freely and spending wisely are different things — but early offseason deals with McCann and Ellsbury really do feel like moves his late father, George Steinbrenner, might have made. It’s hard to say Hal Steinbrenner is digging through the bargain bin this winter. He’s giving out big contracts. Now he needs them to work out.

Is David Price Worth the Asking Price for the Texas Rangers?

Is David Price Worth the Asking Price for the Texas Rangers?

Yahoo Contributor Network

By                                  December 3, 2013 11:17 AM
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COMMENTARY | The rumor mill is buzzing again about a certain star player coming to the Texas Rangers. This time, according to MLB.com, it’s Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, who pitched brilliantly against the Rangers in a Game 163 tiebreaker to eliminate them.

An ace starting pitcher never hurt any team. But what will the Rangers have to give up in order to get Price? Is he worth it?

The Rays will likely ask for Jurickson Profar as part of any trade package for Price. And the Rangers just traded away their second baseman to open a spot for Profar, who was rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball as recently as the start of the 2013 season. The Rays could also ask for Martin Perez, a 22-year-old stud left-hander that the Rangers just locked up relatively cheaply for four years.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels should think this one through long and hard before pulling the trigger on a deal that will send Profar and/or Perez to the Rays for David Price. Here is why:

* Pitching rich: As soon as the 2013 season ended, Daniels stressed the team’s need to upgrade the offense and said they were fine pitching-wise. Assuming Matt Harrison is healthy in 2014, the Rangers already have four-fifths of their rotation set for next year with Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Martin Perez, with several candidates for the last spot.

* Give the prospect a chance: Profar never really had a chance to live up to the hype around him in 2013, because he didn’t have a position and did not know where or even if he was going to play each day. They signed the Curacao native when he was only 16 and developed him; he is almost 21 now and the Rangers need to give him that chance to prove himself in the major leagues. The Rangers have two major middle infield prospects in Guilder Rodriguez and Rougned Odor, but neither has played above Double A .

* Keep Perez: The young lefty had a breakout season for Texas in 2013 and the Rangers have him for the next four years. Meanwhile, Price is eligible for arbitration for each of the next two years and he made $10 million in 2013. He will be a free agent in 2016 and will ask for the moon. A good pitcher, but very expensive. The Rangers are better off sticking with Perez.

If Profar is traded, it is assumed that the Rangers will enter the sweepstakes for free agent Robinson Cano. And the talk is that Cano is asking for a contract worth $300 million. He probably will not get it, but he might get at least $200 million from any one of a handful of rich teams.

The Rangers should not even entertain the idea of signing Cano; if there is one thing baseball teams should learn from each other, it’s that a contract in excess of $200 million for a single player is always bad regardless of how good the player is (Alex Rodriguez, anyone?). Just ask the Tigers how that worked out with Prince Fielder. Fortunately, the Rangers got him two years into his contract and got $30 million from Detroit along with him.

The pieces are in place for the Rangers to have a successful 2014. The Rangers should not go after the high-dollar, bank-breaking free agents to fill positions that are already set for next season. They would get some good players, but the asking prices are simply too high.

MLB and NPB Nearing $20MM Max Bid Agreement

Decmeber 4, 2013

According to Jon Morosi, the MLB and NPB are nearing an agreement on the posting system. In the new blind bidding approach, there will be a maximum bid of $20 million. There are currently two proposals for tie breakers, one which goes to the team with the worst record, and the other determined by the player’s preference. It’s much more likely that player preference is the system agreed upon, but I’ll update this post when more information becomes available.

This will affect any bidding for Masahiro Tanaka, and since this may increase the salary for the Japanese agent, it should hurt the Yankees chances at getting him for their prefered budget price. (Assuming the budget is still a thing)

                 

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo Inks New Multi-Year Deal with SiriusXM and Joins MLB Network as On-Air Talent

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Will continue to host daily show, “Mad Dog Unleashed,” exclusively on SiriusXM, every weekday afternoon Starting in 2014, will host new daily show on MLB Network that will be simulcast on MLB Network Radio Takes on an additional featured role as SiriusXM’s Baseball Ambassador to MLB Network Radio channel

NEW YORK, Aug. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI) today announced that it has signed renowned sports talk personality Chris “Mad Dog” Russo to a new three-year contract that will keep his daily all-sports radio show exclusively on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio channel.  Russo’s on-air role will be expanded to include a significant presence on the MLB Network Radio channel on SiriusXM.

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101014/NY82093LOGO)

Russo will continue to host his daily show, Mad Dog Unleashed, weekday afternoons on Mad Dog Sports Radio, SiriusXM channel 86.  Starting in September, with the beginning of NFL season, the show will air daily from 3:00-6:00pm ET/12:00-3:00pm PT.  The show is also available to subscribers through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com.

MLB Network today also announced that Russo will join its roster of on-air talent to host a new weekday baseball show launching in the spring of 2014, in addition to appearing across its studio programming. The show will be produced by MLB Network and simulcast on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. MLB Network’s Emmy Award-winning studio show “MLB Tonight” is currently simulcast on MLB Network Radio on weekdays at 6:00 p.m. ET.

In addition to hosting Mad Dog Unleashed daily, Russo will take on an expanded role that will feature him prominently on the MLB Network Radio channel on SiriusXM (channel 89 on XM, channel 209 on Sirius Premier and on the SiriusXM App).  He will serve as SiriusXM’s “baseball ambassador,” hosting shows and specials and appearing regularly on the channel to comment on MLB news and issues.

“I’ve always loved the on-air freedom that comes with being on SiriusXM,” said Russo.  “I can do the kind of show here that I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else and I’m fortunate to be able to continue to give my listeners my kind of sports talk radio each and every day on Mad Dog Unleashed.  I’ll also get to emphasize my passion for baseball with my new role on MLB Network Radio and MLB Network, where I’ll be talking to dyed-in-the-wool baseball fans like me throughout the year.  This is a terrific opportunity that allows me to do what I do best, while also reaching new audiences.”

“Chris is a one-of-a-kind sports radio talent, one of the best in the history of the medium, and we’re very pleased to keep him on SiriusXM for years to come,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer.  “Our listeners will continue to get his unique style of sports talk — the biting commentary, the high profile interviews, the great rants — on a daily basis.  And by expanding his role to the MLB Network Radio channel, we can better showcase his passion for baseball and his extraordinary knowledge of the sport.  This will enhance our overall sports programming and increase his reach, and will be a benefit to both Chris and our listeners.”

“Chris Russo is one of the top sports voices in the country and he will be a terrific addition to our unparalleled roster of on-air talent,” said Tony Petitti, President and CEO of MLB Network. “Expanding MLB Network’s live programming has been a continued goal since our launch in 2009, and we look forward to bringing his refreshing take on baseball to MLB Network’s weekday lineup in 2014.”

Russo is widely credited for having helped popularize the sports talk format across the country and is known to sports fans everywhere for his feisty, unflinchingly candid approach to talking sports and unrestrained, rapid-fire delivery that earned him the nickname “Mad Dog.”  He joined SiriusXM in 2008 after nearly 20 years in New York hosting the popular Mike and the Mad Dog show.  In addition to hearing him on SiriusXM daily, fans can follow Russo on Twitter (@MadDogUnleashed).

About Sirius XM Radio

Sirius XM Radio Inc. is the world’s largest radio broadcaster measured by revenue and has more than 25 million subscribers.  SiriusXM creates and broadcasts commercial-free music; premier sports talk and live events; comedy; news; exclusive talk and entertainment; and the most comprehensive Latin music, sports and talk programming in radio. SiriusXM is available in vehicles from every major car company in the U.S., from retailers nationwide, and online at siriusxm.com. SiriusXM programming is also available through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App for Android, Apple, and BlackBerry smartphones and other connected devices. SiriusXM also holds a minority interest in SiriusXM Canada which has more than 2 million subscribers.

On social media, join the SiriusXM community on Facebook, facebook.com/siriusxm, Twitter, twitter.com/siriusxm, Instagram, instagram.com/siriusxm, and YouTube at youtube.com/siriusxm.

About MLB Network:

MLB Network is the ultimate television destination for baseball fans, featuring the multiple Emmy Award-winning MLB Tonight, live regular season and Postseason game telecasts, original programming, highlights, and insights and analysis from the best in the business, including Bob Costas, Peter Gammons, Jim Kaat, Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds. MLB Network debuted on January 1, 2009 in a record-setting 50 million homes and is currently distributed in 70 million homes throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For  more information and to find MLB Network in your area, go to www.MLBNetwork.com.

This communication contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements about future financial and operating results, our plans, objectives, expectations and intentions with respect to future operations, products and services; and other statements identified by words such as “will likely result,” “are expected to,” “will continue,” “is anticipated,” “estimated,” “believe,” “intend,” “plan,” “projection,” “outlook” or words of similar meaning.  Such forward-looking statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of our management and are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are difficult to predict and generally beyond our control.  Actual results may differ materially  from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements. 

The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from the anticipated results or other expectations expressed in the forward-looking statements: our competitive position versus other forms of radio and  audio services; our dependence upon automakers; general economic conditions; failure of our satellites, which, in most cases, are not insured; our ability to attract and retain subscribers at a profitable level; royalties we pay for music rights; the unfavorable outcome of pending or future litigation; rapid technological and industry change; failure of third parties to perform; changes in consumer protection laws and their enforcement; and our substantial indebtedness.  Additional factors that could cause our results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the  year ended December 31, 2012, which is filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) and available at the SEC’s Internet site (http://www.sec.gov).  The information set forth herein speaks only as of the date hereof, and we disclaim any intention or obligation to update any forward looking statements as a result of developments occurring after the date of this communication.

Can Cano fit into Yankees’ salary picture?

mlbf_31233991_th_13 Bryan Hoch

NEW YORK — The warning was delivered to Robinson Cano two weeks ago from a midtown Manhattan office: Unless he reduced his demands significantly, there was nothing more for the Yankees to talk about.

Club president Randy Levine was speaking on behalf of the organization that day, stating that the team was not going to wait for the free-agent second baseman’s asking price to come down. The Yankees were talking to other free agents, and they were ready to get signatures on dotted lines.

It wasn’t a bluff. The Yanks are back to their spending ways, having committed $238 million to secure Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, making Ellsbury the game’s third-highest-paid outfielder and giving McCann the most lucrative contract ever for a free-agent catcher.

A news conference is scheduled to be held at Yankee Stadium on Thursday to introduce McCann, and it would not be a surprise to see Ellsbury appear at the podium with him. The Yankees promise that they are not finished spending, but will there be enough room in their budget to make Cano happy?

If not, Cano seems to have options. The New York Post reported that Cano’s representatives have popped up in Seattle, meeting with the Mariners — a club with payroll to spend and a desire to add an impact bat.

“The meeting went very well,” an industry source told the newspaper.

Yanks officials have said all along that they want to retain Cano, but not at any price. The organization refuses to move much further off its original offer of a seven-year deal worth approximately $160 million to $170 million, leaving a gap of nearly $100 million between the sides.

Through his representatives — veteran agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports on the baseball side, and Jay-Z and his Roc Nation Sports venture on the marketing side — Cano originally asked for a 10-year deal worth in excess of $305 million, a proposal that was met with crickets from the Yankees.

In recent discussions, including a face-to-face talk before Thanksgiving that included Levine and general manager Brian Cashman (but not Cano), Cano’s camp came down slightly from that number. The asking price is still high, reported to be nine years and $260 million.

Cashman said recently that Cano “loves the money” and that the team believes he may well go to the highest bidder. Cashman has talked about the allure of Monument Park and being a lifetime Yankee, but if Cano is intent on scoring a deal worth more than $200 million, he may have to find it in another city.

And where could that be? Hours before the Ellsbury developments broke, ESPN reported that the Mariners were stepping up as a major player for Cano’s services, perhaps ready to offer a deal in the range of eight years and $200 million. However, there is some skepticism on the part of those who suspect Seattle’s interest may have been overstated.

The Rangers could still be a dark horse if they choose to trade away middle infielders Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. The Mets entertained Cano’s people at a Manhattan hotel last month and took a look at their PowerPoint presentations, but aren’t interested in giving out $100 million contracts.

The Tigers promise that they are set at second base with new acquisition Ian Kinsler, and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on Wednesday that his club is fine going forward with players like Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon at the position.

“We’ve got a good bunch of Minor League prospects down there,” Rizzo said on MLB Network. “None of them are Robinson Cano at this point, but we’re happy and satisfied with what we’ve got at second base.”

Even with the Ellsbury and McCann signings, it is conceivable that the Yanks’ goal of a $189 million payroll could still be in play. But it will be a challenge to fill all of their other needs while also stuffing a Cano deal into the budget.

Including estimates for arbitration-eligible players and approximately $11 million more for pension and insurance fees, an unofficial count of the Yankees’ payroll toward the luxury tax presently sits close to $168 million, with more needs to fill.

They still want to add 400 innings to the starting rotation — Hiroki Kuroda has a standing offer, believed to be a one-year deal at $15 million or $16 million — and the Yanks are keeping a close eye on the posting developments regarding Japanese standout Masahiro Tanaka.

Cashman would also like to upgrade the bullpen and the left side of the infield. The Yankees have already signed shortstop Brendan Ryan and are reportedly close to a deal with second baseman Kelly Johnson.

Add in the wild card of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who doesn’t really represent a need right now, but Boras was able to sell Ellsbury to the Bombers. If Choo somehow appears in right field, it would push Alfonso Soriano to designated hitter and close the door for Cano’s return.

Signing two starters alone might nudge the Yankees over the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, so Alex Rodriguez‘s situation remains a huge variable. If Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld for all of 2014, the Yanks’ payroll hit on Rodriguez would dip from $27.5 million to $2.5 million.

Perhaps that will be enough for the Yankees to do most of their shopping and grab Cano, too. You can then sketch a scenario in which the Yanks add McCann, Ellsbury, Kuroda and Cano while still staying under $189 million.

Can Cano wait that long? Will the Yankees? No one has doubted that Cano will be paid handsomely, one way or another, but the team name in the upper left-hand corner of those future paychecks suddenly appears much blurrier.

Los Angeles Dodgers Easily Have Best Rotation in Baseball

Los Angeles Dodgers Easily Have Best Rotation in Baseball

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke Lead Baseball’s Best Group of Hurlers

Yahoo Contributor Network

By                                  1 hour ago
Los Angeles Dodgers Easily Have Best Rotation in Baseball

Los Angeles Dodgers stud Clayton Kershaw is baseball’s best pitcher.

                                        COMMENTARY | “Pitching wins championships” is a phrase often thrown around in baseball circles, mostly by former players and television personalities.

While talent throughout a roster and not having glaring holes are the true keys — and pitching plays key roles in championships because good teams almost always have good pitching — you really can never have enough live arms with great stuff.

While there are plenty of rotations that can lay claim to a top-three ranking in the game, one group clearly stands above all others as easily the best in baseball: the staff of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw

When your rotation is led by the undisputed best pitcher in baseball (as I’ve written about previously) who has a filthy repertoire and is still in his mid-20s with a half-decade of experience under his belt, you’re pretty set and always going to find yourself in the conversation for best staff in the game.

Kershaw’s career has started out better than a number of all-time greats, including a legendary former Dodgers southpaw in Sandy Koufax, whom he was compared to before he even threw a pitch in the majors. The kid is only getting better, and there is no pitcher I would rather have anchoring my staff than Kid K.

Zack Greinke

One of the more underrated pitchers of the last half-decade, Zack Greinke gives the Boys in Blue the best 1-2 tandem of starters in the game, and it’s not close. Greinke had a phenomenal year while dealing with elbow issues during spring training that delayed his debut and a broken collarbone that followed soon thereafter.

The former Cy Young winner has great control (career 2.29 BB/9 IP, over 3 Ks per career BB), misses bats with regularity, and boasts tremendous stuff. He’s better than most think, and though he could opt out of his contract after the 2015 season, it’s quite unlikely he will as he’s already being paid more than any pitcher in terms of annual average value.

Greinke will pair with Kershaw for years (Hyun-Jin Ryu’s an excellent No. 3) to give the Dodgers a stellar starting group and the opportunity to win multiple games in any postseason series.

Dan Haren as Your Number 4 Starter Is Pretty Darn Good

The recent addition of Dan Haren as a low-risk, potentially very high-reward No. 4 starter was a shrewd and excellent move by general manager Ned Colletti and his staff. While Haren is no longer the ace he was for a number of years — he averaged 4.9 fWAR over a 7-year span from 2005-2011 — he still misses plenty of bats and is one of the best in the business at limiting walks.

Haren has issued just 1.87 walks per nine innings pitched in a career that has spanned 11 years and over 2,046 innings. He’s fanned in excess of 7.5/9 IP over his career and has an insane and ultra-elite 4.08 K/BB career mark. Those four whiffs per walk place Haren fourth since his debut in 2003 among all starters with at least 1,000 innings pitched in that time frame.

Haren’s biggest problem has been giving up the long ball, and Dodger Stadium will help to some extent in alleviating that issue. Most importantly, Haren does not have to be the ace he once was; he merely has to be the same old control guy he’s always been, and with a bit of luck he’ll clock in around 2.5-3 fWAR with the possibility of more production.

Good Depth

After that fantastic top four, the Dodgers have the needed depth in the high minors to contend with and manage through injuries should and when they arise.

Stephen Fife and Matt Magill both had up-and-down years in 2013 and while it didn’t go well at all for Magill and Fife had to work through injuries, they still serve as necessary and good depth arms should they be recalled for a spot-start or a longer stint.

Fife made 10 starts last year and allowed two runs or less in seven of them. He’s just a No. 5 starter, but if he can just be what Chris Capuano was for the Dodgers last season (3.55 FIP) then he’d more than serve his purpose as a minor leaguer filling in.

Magill strikes out a ton of guys, and though he had control issues last season when he was rushed to the bigs, he’s just 24 and has good stuff. Missing bats is a necessary and key tool for pitchers, and it inherently brings with it added potential, especially if the wildness can be reined in.

The most important minor league depth, however, comes in the form of Zach Lee and Ross Stripling, two righties who excelled in Double-A last season. Lee — a former first-round pick the Dodgers paid big bucks to keep from quarterbacking LSU — has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. Just 22, he misses plenty of bats while limiting his walks. Stripling, 24, doesn’t strike out as many but walks even fewer opponents.

Both Lee and Stripling could make an impact in 2014 if called upon, and also serve as excellent trade bait in the meantime.

Final Thoughts

The Boys in Blue, even with an excellent top three and a solid No. 4, will still go after Masahiro Tanaka if the opportunity presents itself. They have the benefit of being able to outbid any team for his services.

Cultivating young pitching has always been a strong suit for the organization dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, and their current crop of pitchers — with free agents like Greinke and Haren mixed in — is no different. Their rotation misses bats frequently; limits free passes; is led by the best pitcher in baseball; and possesses the best 1-2 punch and one of the best 1-2-3s in the game, if not the best.

With all of that working in their favor, it is clear the Los Angeles Dodgers easily have the best starting rotation in baseball, a group that will put them in position to contend for the ultimate prize for years to come.

MLB Trades: Dexter Fowler and the befuddling Rockies

MLB Trades: Dexter Fowler and the befuddling Rockies

By                                on Dec 4 2013, 10:30a

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The Colorado Rockies are a … curious team. They’re just a year removed from a bizarre 75-pitch experiment. They make their baseballs moist on purpose. They’ve previously dickered with sinkerballers, power hitters, defensive whizzes, and mascots that gyrate behind home plate. They have a gigantic outfield that’s supposed to eliminate cheap homers, but it adds cheap singles and doubles. It’s an impossible place for predictable baseball or predictable transactions.

They also have a thing for clubhouse camaraderie and hard workers. Here’s the Gray Lady from 2007:

Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference.

This bit about integrity and strong moral values came into play with Dexter Fowler, at least in a roundabout way. From just before the trade:

“I think he’s got to get tougher. No doubt. He’s got to show up and play with an edge every day, not just when he thinks he has to.”

That’s a GM talking about his displeasure with the player who’s about to go on the trading block. It’s why I started the Craigslist ad for my car with “SMELLS LIKE WET DOG: ’05 COROLLA.” Let them know up front, it’s the only way.

I don’t know Dexter Fowler personally. I don’t know if he flosses loudly in the middle of team meetings, or won’t stop with the Homeland spoilers on the bench. Maybe he really doesn’t try all the time. Maybe his lack of effort bugs his teammates and affects their performances.

Here’s what I know about him:

Year Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ WAR
2009 23 518 .266 .363 .406 .770 94 1.2
2010 24 505 .260 .347 .410 .757 92 1.7
2011 25 563 .266 .363 .432 .796 103 2.6
2012 26 530 .300 .389 .474 .863 119 2.7
2013 27 492 .263 .369 .407 .776 102 2.0

I see a productive player. Check that: a relatively cheap and productive player, under team control for the next two seasons. Fowler brought solid on-base skills, impressive base running, and improving defense to the Rockies. He wasn’t an All-Star, nor was he especially close. But he was productive, as-is. I guess the Rockies figured he could have been an All-Star if he applied himself, or something to that effect, and every time he betrayed that potential, it brought the rest of the team down.

I don’t think I would pay $140 million extra to have Jacoby Ellsbury on my team instead of Fowler, though, so I would be interested in talking trade with the Rockies if I ran a baseball team. As such, it kind of stuns me that the Rockies got so little for Fowler. Jordan Lyles is just 23, sure, but here are his ERA+ over the last three seasons: 71, 79, 72. His strikeout rate has dipped each year, even as the league strikeout rate increased.

Lyles also has one of my favorite spring-training lines ever, with 36 hits and one walk allowed in 11 spring innings this year. Not like that means anything. Just sharing.

The Rockies also acquired Brandon Barnes, a PCL-dusted semi-thumper who can play a little center field if he’s in a normal ballpark, which he won’t be.

That’s an underwhelming return for a player who would upgrade two-thirds of the outfields in baseball. And in Fowler’s place, the Rockies will start Charlie Blackmon. Your mileage my vary, but I’ll predict he’s a step back from Fowler, especially from a defensive perspective.

This is an 88-loss team taking a step back for no good reason. Even worse, it’s taking a step back after cashing in one of the better trade chips they had. They’re thinking about players like Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz, and they’re signing Justin Morneau because they want to win in the short term. If you’re looking for short-term assets, here’s a bold suggestion: Don’t deal with the Astros. They might have a promising future and a bright brain trust, but they’re pretty short on players who can help in 2014.

The Rockies are going to use the Fowler savings on Morneau, by the way. He’s the first baseman who hit worse than Fowler in each of the last three seasons.

There’s so much I hate about this trade from the Rockies’ perspective. It doesn’t help them win now; it probably doesn’t help them win then. And I’d wager there was a deal that would have helped them win now. It seems, though, that their offseason plan had a header of DEAL FOWLER BEFORE HIS VALUE DIPS, and they stuck to it. Now they’re worse, older, and without any extra money to spend.

It probably started with Fowler-related grumbling. It wasn’t like Fowler went full Milton, acting like something between a malcontent and a truly disturbed individual. But someone in the Rockies’ front office or clubhouse was tired of Fowler and the perceived lack of effort. He wasn’t worth the good play, and his absence will make the rest of the Rockies grow fonder.

That’s the story of how, for the 20th straight year or so, the Rockies confused the world with their attempts to find the philosopher’s stone. Their on-field production is probably worse, but they think their clubhouse might be better. If they think that swap makes them win more, the burden of proof is on them. So far, they haven’t given us any reason to trust their judgement.

Tigers, Nathan announce two-year pact

Tigers, Nathan announce two-year pact

Veteran right-hander owns 341 saves over 13 Major League seasons

By Jason Beck / MLB.com | 12/4/2013 3:38 P.M. ET

Tigers have deal with Nathan00:03:01
MLB.com Tigers reporter Jason Beck breaks down the two-year deal with Joe Nathan and the Doug Fister trade with the Nationals

DETROIT — The Tigers promised Monday night they weren’t done dealing after freeing up money in the Doug Fister trade. By lunchtime Tuesday, they were dealing again, spending some of that money to fill their biggest need.

By Wednesday, they were introducing Joe Nathan as the latest piece to their World Series quest. With Nathan, the reigning American League Central champions have the proven veteran closer they arguably needed this season, signing a two-year deal, with a club option for 2016, worth a reported $20 million.

“We are pleased to be adding a premier closer to our ballclub,” Tigers president, chief executive officer and general manager David Dombrowski said in a statement. “Joe solidifies the back end of our bullpen and fills what we identified as a big need on our pitching staff.”

Torii Hunter, Nathan’s old teammate in Minnesota and a key recruiter in Detroit’s pursuit, was already welcoming Nathan’s arrival Tuesday.

“We needed him,” Hunter wrote Tuesday in a text message to MLB.com. “I had to sell the vision of winning it all to him.”

Like Hunter a year ago, Nathan has been seeking a World Series title as he nears the twilight of the career. At age 39, these next couple of years might well be his final chance to do it. He’ll chase it with the team he shut down for years while closing for the Twins in the American League Central.

“I definitely love the Tigers, know them very well, having competed against that squad for so many years when I was with the Twins,” Nathan told MLB Network Radio last month. “I know some of the guys over there, know how deep they are, rotation deep. Their lineup sand offense obviously are impressive. I think one of the things is that their defense has definitely improved. It’s a good ballpark to play in, a good crowd to play in front of. Detroit’s definitely very appealing and an attractive team to look at, I think.”

The move addresses the top priority Dombrowski took into the offseason, and kept at the top after trading Prince Fielder to Texas two weeks ago and Doug Fister to Washington on Monday night.

“We hope to get a closer, and we’re still trying to do that,” Dombrowski said Monday night, “so that will be our No. 1 need, and it’ll continue to be until we find someone.”

That didn’t take long. The Tigers had their share of candidates on the open market, topped by Nathan and Brian Wilson. The Tigers had also been in discussions with Wilson, who reportedly was seeking a three-year deal, before talks broke off on Monday.

If a proven closer was the goal, Nathan is the guy. He has saved 340 games over the last 10 years and owns 341 saves over a 13-year Major League career, the most of any active pitcher now that Mariano Rivera has retired. The vast majority of those saves came with the Twins during their reign over the Tigers atop the AL Central.

Nathan has never blown a save against Detroit, going 36-for-36 in his opportunities while allowing just 33 hits over 62 2/3 innings with 23 walks and 75 strikeouts. For that matter, Nathan has converted 90 percent of his save chances over his career, the highest conversion rate of any Major League pitcher with at least 200 career saves, just ahead of Rivera.

Just as important, at age 38, his statistics remained strong. He allowed 10 runs on 36 hits over 64 2/3 innings with 22 walks and 73 strikeouts for the Texas Rangers this past season, racking up 43 saves in the process. He has predictably lost some velocity on his fastball, down to a career low average of 92.2 mph this year, but he made up for it with a nasty slider that drew hitters to swing and miss a third of the time according to STATS.

After missing the 2010 season to surgery, Nathan has proven durable in his late thirties. He pitched three consecutive days on four different occasions this past season, and pitched four days in a row twice down the stretch. However, he pitched more than three outs in only one of his 67 outings, though that wasn’t so much a restriction as the product of a deep Rangers bullpen.

In that sense, Nathan has reverse trends to last season’s Tigers closer. Joaquin Benoit could cover multiple innings on a given night when the need arose, but the veteran setup-man-turned-closer rarely pitched on three consecutive days.

Benoit garnered All-Star consideration for his 2013 season in Detroit’s bullpen, but he might end up being remembered for David Ortiz‘s game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series, even though three different Tigers relievers allowed baserunners to load the bases before he came in.

Once Nathan is on board, the next question for the Tigers might be whether they can woo Benoit to return or another veteran to sign on for a setup role. That market, however, might not come together until other teams fill their closer voids. Benoit indicated near season’s end that he would be willing to return in a non-closing role, but that was well before testing the open market.

Detroit has hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon and just-acquired left-hander Ian Krol in their bullpen to handle eighth-inning work, but both were rookies this season who opened the year in the Minors. Rondon is healthy and expected to be at full speed for Spring Training after ending last season with right elbow soreness. Drew Smyly, a key lefty reliever this past season, is moving back to the rotation to take Fister’s spot.

To make room for Nathan, who will wear No. 36, on the 40-man roster, the club designated infielder Dixon Machado for assignment.