The GM's Office: Detroit Tigers

Ranking the MLB playoff lineups 

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
11:15
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Los Angeles DodgersRobert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers scored 21 more runs than any other team in baseball during the month of September.
We ranked the playoff rotations and starting pitchers Monday and the playoff bullpens Tuesday; today we rank -- and discuss -- the lineups of the nine remaining playoff teams.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB ranks (regular season):
Runs: 6th | OPS: 3rd | HR: 16th | SB: 2nd

Projected lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C

The Dodgers enter this postseason with a much better lineup than last year's team, which reached the National League Championship Series before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ranking the playoff bullpens 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
9:52
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HollandPeter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsGreg Holland anchors a Royals bullpen that was sixth in ERA in the second half of this season.
We ranked the playoff rotations and starting pitchers Monday; today we rank -- and discuss -- the bullpens of the 10 playoff teams.

1. Kansas City Royals

Closer: Greg Holland
Setup man: Wade Davis
Situational righties: Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow
Situational lefty: Brandon Finnegan

The Royals might not have the deepest bullpen, but they have the best, thanks mostly to a dominant trio of relievers in Herrera, Davis and the league's best closer in Holland, who has converted 46 of 48 save opportunities this year and has the most saves and best conversion rate of any closer in baseball since May 10, 2013.

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Playoff starting pitcher, rotation rankings 

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
12:03
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Kershaw/GreinkeUSA TODAY SportsZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw anchor a formidable Dodgers rotation.
The most important element of every major league team in the playoffs is its starting rotation; it's the closest equivalent to a quarterback on an NFL team or the top three players on an NBA team. History has shown us that elite starting pitching has played a greater role in winning championships than any other aspect of a team's infrastructure.

Evaluating starting rotations for the postseason is much different than doing so for the regular season. During the regular season, you concentrate on the team's depth, even the Nos. 6 and 7 spots on the depth chart. In the postseason, you emphasize the top three starters on each team, with little weight given to the fourth starter and no weight to the fifth starter, who's normally in the bullpen. You especially focus on the team's No. 1 starter, who often pitches twice in a five-game series and as many as three times in a seven-game series. You also must factor in how much workload a pitcher has had in the regular season, how they've pitched at the end of the season and any signs of fatigue, something that's not controllable outside of a cortisone shot to lessen the inflammation in a shoulder or elbow.

History shows that pitchers who can miss bats and post higher strikeout rates often perform better in the postseason than contact pitchers. Why is this? Well, these hurlers are facing the game's best lineups, and they need to have the stuff and command to win those battles. Having impeccable command of all pitches in and out of the strike zone is a necessity, because many hitters on playoff teams don't have many weaknesses to exploit.

With that as a preface, here are my rankings of this year's postseason rotations based on scouting, statistical and sabermetric analysis, with specific matchups, workloads, trends and intangibles all factored in:

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Possible pennant race X factors 

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
3:40
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    Jarrod DysonAP PhotoSpeed never slumps and Jarrod Dyson has plenty of it. He could impact KC's postseason chances.
    It's coming down to the wire, and every game counts in the pennant race. With several teams still clinging to postseason hopes, even the slightest developments -- an injury, a surprise performance, an emerging rookie -- can make the difference. These X factors can decide whether a team is playing October baseball or going home.

    Here are 14 American and National League players or managers who could be X factors for their teams as they march to the postseason.

    American League

    Kansas City Royals | Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore | OFs

    The Royals have the best two-speed weapons in the pennant race. Dyson and Gore, along with the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, are considered two of the fastest players in baseball right now. Dyson, 30, has stolen 33 bases this year and been caught just six times.

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Trade deadline objectives: AL Central 

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
12:05
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DombrowskiAP Photo/Paul SancyaEven after acquiring Joakim Soria, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski isn't done just yet.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The Detroit Tigers have the biggest lead of all six division leaders and are the heavy favorites to not only win the American League Central but also be the first team to clinch their division.

The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are both within striking distance of the second wild-card spot, and both likely will be buyers. The Indians could use another starting pitcher, while the Royals need an offensive upgrade in right field.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins should be sellers, although neither team has an impact player to trade.

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Joaquin Benoit Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesJoaquin Benoit sports a sterling 1.86 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Joaquin Benoit | RP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? Because Doug Melvin is their GM, and his track record when his team is in contention at the trade deadline suggests he'll make a move. No one expects him to pull off a blockbuster like he has in the past -- to get CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, just to name a few -- but most expect him to make a move of some kind.

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What would it take to get Papelbon? 

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
11:49
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Jonathan PapelbonRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesJonathan Papelbon is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Jonathan Papelbon | RP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers


Los Angeles Angels

Why? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stopped by the GM's office recently and said he's not done making moves; he'd like to add another reliever. Since DiPoto became the team's GM in October 2011, he has needed a defibrillator for many of the ninth innings; only three AL teams have blown more saves since the start of 2012. It's time for the Angels to solve it once and for all, and although they're hoping newly acquired Jason Grilli is the answer, they know Papelbon would be. Papelbon has converted 22 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched. This is a no-brainer move for the Angels if they can get it done.

Who? The Phillies will target all of the Angels' top prospects, focusing more on overall quality rather than positional needs, realizing they could always spin the acquired assets for needs down the road.

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Huston StreetAndy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty ImagesThe Padres' Huston Street could fill either the closer or setup role for a number of teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Huston Street | RHP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Cincinnati Reds

Baltimore Orioles

Why? Orioles GM Dan Duquette told me that the bullpen and offense at second base were the two main areas that needed improvement.

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Rookie Rankings: Tanaka dominating 

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
12:49
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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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Jeff SamardzijaScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith Toronto desperately in need of pitching, Jeff Samardzija would fit in well.
General managers use the first two months of the season to evaluate their teams, then try to improve the team through trades or calling up top prospects in the next two months. Then they try to tweak the team with waiver deals and September call-ups in the last two months.

Given this, teams are mainly concentrating on the draft and don’t focus full-time on trades until after the draft (June 5-7). However, GMs still are talking to each other and laying the foundation for deals. This includes letting other GMs know their interest in a particular player and at least offer a fair chance to trade for that player. Many GMs are also letting other teams know exactly who’s available and who’s untouchable.

Most of the big trades happen between the All-Star Game and the July 31 trade deadline as well as in August via waiver deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals in May or June, and I like to think of these deals as "appetizer" trades, with the entrees coming closer to July 31. Often, these are minor deals, like when Chris Nelson was dealt from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Yankees last May. However, we sometimes get major deals in May.

For example, it was mid-May 1998 when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins, who then traded him to the Mets a week later.

With 27 of the 30 teams within four games of the playoffs coming into the weekend, it is safe to assume there will be fewer teams "selling" than normal. More likely trades will be made between contenders that match up in roster depth and weaknesses.

Here are some possible "appetizer" trades I would like to see that would fill some important needs of these contending teams:

1. Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs

OK, this is not a traditional "appetizer" deal, and is more in line with those aforementioned Piazza deals. The Blue Jays lead the AL in home runs and are third in runs scored. They might have the best lineup in the AL East. However, for the Blue Jays to contend all season, they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.

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With the season's first month in the books, rookies have quickly had significant impact on their teams. The New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals have new top-of-the-rotation rookie starters, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners are enjoying pleasant surprises in the back of their rotations, while the rookie shortstops of the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks are holding their own.

Once again, I'll be keeping track of this season's rookie class every month, which will be based on performance, scouting reports, advanced metrics, the players' actual development reports from the teams' general managers, managers and front office executives, as well as input from teammates and coaches who will comment on the players' intangibles from inside the clubhouses.

Without further delay, here are my top 10 rookies after the first month of the 2014 season. (Note: When I say a player's stock is "up" or "down," I'm referring to my expectations of him coming into the season.)

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | Stock: Up
Tanaka went 24-0 for Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles last season and has continued his undefeated streak here in the United States.

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Five takeaways from Opening Day 

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
9:27
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A large slate of games Monday offered glimpses of what could be an exciting 2014 season. There were unexpected performances (Alejandro De Aza's two home runs) and disappointing ones (Cliff Lee’s eight earned runs in five innings), too, as well as a walk-off win in Pittsburgh.

There’s still a long way to go for any of my bold predictions to play out, but here are my five best takeaways from Opening Day 2014.

1. So far, so good for Sizemore and Sox

Grady Sizemore was the best and biggest story of spring training, and he kept it going Opening Day with a single in his first at-bat and a long home run in his second.

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When will Trout's reign end? 

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
9:55
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Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout clearly has established himself as the best player in Major League Baseball. He is ranked No. 1 in the "Baseball Tonight" 100, and he will be the favorite to remain on the top of this list for the next five years.

The rest of the top five will turn over, as there are a number of players who will move in and out over the next half-decade. Let’s have some fun and take a look at the guys who I think will populate the list of top-five players each year through the 2019 season.

Understand these lists are purely what I think could happen, and I'm assuming some amount of good health and luck during these five years, while hypothesizing some outcomes based on current performance and trajectory. I added some statistical projections courtesy of Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections system, just to give you a sense of what the stats say about these guys. In some case, I'm a bit more optimistic than the computer models.

Top 5 players in 2015 (projected via ZiPS)

1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels (.289/.384/.505, 42 SB, 8.9 WAR)
2.

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Miguel Cabrera's new contract, which is reportedly worth close to $300 million, should keep him with the Detroit Tigers for the rest of his career.

Most of the industry is shell-shocked and isn't sure how to react to this news. Here are my five key takeaways.

1. The timing is weird

If Cabrera happened to be a free agent this offseason, this is the kind of contract I would expect him to get. Problem is, he's not a free agent. In fact, he's under team control for two more years.

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For those who weren't interested in the Dodgers-Diamondbacks series in Australia -- and the latest Yasiel Puig controversy -- the big story of the weekend was the Detroit Tigers' announcement that Max Scherzer has turned down a "substantial" contract extension, and that talks will be tabled until next winter.

The offer was reportedly worth a little more than $25 million per season over six years, for a total value of $150 million or so. Scherzer supposedly wanted something closer to Clayton Kershaw's recent seven-year, $215 deal. With the two sides so far apart, it's no surprise they decided to call off negotiations.

The Boras factor

It's no secret that Scott Boras, Scherzer's agent, prefers to take his clients to free agency, believing that is how he can maximize their value. And while he may have misread the market for players such as Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew this winter, his strategy generally works for players at the top end of the market, such as Scherzer.

Now, once in a while, a player will overrule Boras and take a deal that is below market value if he is in a situation he likes. A prime example is Jered Weaver, who surprised a lot of people by signing a five-year, $85 million extension in 2011.

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