The GM's Office: Los Angeles Dodgers

Most likely landing spots for Max Scherzer 

December, 17, 2014
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Max ScherzerBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsMax Scherzer went 18-5 with 252 strikeouts and a 3.15 ERA with the Tigers in 2014.
Max Scherzer is considered the No. 1 free agent in this year's class and is expected to get the largest contract of the offseason. In fact, I predicted he will get a seven-year, $189 million deal, a prediction I stand behind despite the fact that he is asking for at least $200 million.

The 30-year-old Scherzer is 91-50 in his career with a 3.58 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. However, it's his performance over the past three years that has separated him from his colleagues. He has become a true ace, with an average wins above replacement of 5.6, which essentially means he alone turns an 88-win team into a 94-win team and a 94-win team into a true championship contender. Scherzer has won 39 games over the past two years, the most of any American League pitcher, with a 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 10.2 K's per nine innings.

His fastball remains in the 92-95 mph range, and he has a hard, nasty slider, a deceptive changeup and an impressive curveball. He can throw all of his pitches in any count for strikes and has learned how to keep hitters off-balance, with the ability to punch them out with any pitch in his repertoire. He has struck out a staggering 723 hitters over the past three seasons.

Still not impressed? Maybe you need to hear the spiel being laid out by his agent, Scott Boras, who compares him to Peyton Manning. While that's an absurd comparison, Boras certainly makes a strong case as to why the two compare favorably. The bottom line is that Scherzer is an ace and a difference-maker for any team that signs him.

Teams should be lined up for his services. But they're not. One prominent GM told me this week it's due to his asking price and contract length.

"He’s looking for too many years and too much money for the injury risk of any pitcher," said the GM, "let alone a right-hander with a power arm and that type of delivery.”

Only a few teams can afford him, but many of them are passing either because of price, risk or budget constraints.

Executives under the most pressure 

December, 7, 2014
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Andrew FriedmanKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsDodgers president Andrew Friedman will be under pressure at this year's winter meetings.
With baseball's winter meetings set to begin in San Diego, here are the five executives who are under the most pressure:


1. Andrew Friedman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers ownership decided they were going to put together the most expensive baseball operations department in the history of the sport, to couple with the game's biggest player payroll. With that comes the most pressure of any front office in the game.

Friedman’s rookie offseason with the Dodgers has seen the exit of Hanley Ramirez, and some smaller acquisitions, including trades that brought in pitchers Juan Nicasio and Joel Peralta and outfielders Chris Heisey and Kyle Jensen. On the surface, these moves look more like small-market deals than the Hollywood blockbusters that would help the team improve after a 94-win season.

The Dodgers have to move Andre Ethier at these meetings to finally eradicate the crowded outfield problem, and must also fill the need of a stopgap shortstop until top prospect Corey Seager is ready.

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10 bold predictions for this offseason 

November, 20, 2014
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Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, complete with 13-year contracts, a trade including a Gold Glover and a good, young pitcher, and a key free-agent signing or two. But that's just the beginning of this wild and wooly offseason.

With that, here are 10 bold predictions I see happening in the weeks ahead:

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1. Jon Lester re-signs with the Boston Red Sox

Most analysts think Lester has pitched his last game for the Red Sox. … I'm not one of them. I think the Chicago Cubs will offer the most years (six) and dollars, but a return to Boston for fewer years (five) and less money is my prediction. The Red Sox desperately need a top-of-rotation starter and won't be a legitimate contender unless they get one. Lester was happy in Boston, and unless the Cubs blow the Sox's offer away, I think that's where he lands.


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2. Marlins sign James Shields

The Marlins shocked the baseball world with the signing of Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year deal, and they'll do it again by landing a top-of-rotation starter.

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Four potential trades for Cole Hamels 

November, 16, 2014
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Cole HamelsAP Photo/John BazemoreMany teams would love to have Cole Hamels, but four teams have the best chance to get him.
The Phillies' rebuilding program really won't commence until they deal their most valuable asset, left-handed starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who is also the most valuable player on the trade market right now.

The Phillies probably will have to wait until free agents Max Scherzer and Jon Lester have found new homes before they find the right trade partner, but that won't stop Phillies GM Ruben Amaro from laying the groundwork between now and then. Hamels, 30, is one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball and is coming off another sensational year (6.6 WAR, 2.46 ERA, 3.07 FIP and 1.15 WHIP in 30 starts). His contract is also club-friendly, with four years remaining at a fair market value of $22.5 million per season.

One of the problems the Phillies have to deal with, however, is Hamels has 20 teams on his no-trade list, which leaves just nine teams. He might be willing to waive it for certain clubs, especially if they agree to pick up his option year or if he is given some type of assignment bonus, but the Phillies also have a limited market of teams that both can afford to take on Hamels' contract and have the top prospects to send back in this magnitude of a deal.

Although there are other possibilities, the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox are probably the four teams that match up the best with the Phillies.

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What's next for the Los Angeles Dodgers? 

October, 13, 2014
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Hanley RamirezRichard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers will have to address Hanley Ramirez's impending free-agent status early this offseason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' offseason begins with ownership making a decision on the status of GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly. Multiple media outlets are reporting that Mattingly's job is safe, but Colleti's job could be in jeopardy. Once those decisions are finalized, whether it's Colletti or a new GM, the objectives for the team this offseason are: addressing Hanley Ramirez's impending free-agent status, improving the bullpen (which was clearly exposed in their National League Division Series loss), dealing with the over-crowded outfield, adding another starter and, most importantly, getting the team younger.

Here's a look at each area:

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez has played in 130 games just once since 2010 and has to be considered a health risk at this point.

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Ranking the MLB playoff lineups 

October, 1, 2014
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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.

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Ranking the playoff bullpens 

September, 30, 2014
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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
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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
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    Jarrod DysonAP Photo
    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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Bartolo Colon Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsWith the injury to Garrett Richards, the Angels could use a return of their 2005 Cy Young Award winner, Bartolo Colon.
As front-running teams gear up for the home stretch, these leading clubs have the chance to impact the last month of the season with a significant move or two. Making these moves could mean the difference in having great postseason success or perhaps not even making the postseason.

Here are five moves I'd like to see before Aug. 31, the deadline for which players can be traded after clearing waivers and the date by which a player must be on a roster in order to be eligible for the postseason.


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Trade deadline objectives: NL West 

July, 27, 2014
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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesThe Giants already added Jake Peavy and could target an upgrade at second base as well.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The five teams in the National League West have stratified themselves into two distinct classes as the trade deadline and the final portion of the season approach. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to jostle for the division title while the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are all at least 11 games back as of Sunday.

The teams have been active on the trade front, as the Padres shipped Huston Street and Chase Headley off recently and the Giants made a major acquisition Saturday, landing Jake Peavy. But the division's buyers still have some remaining needs, and the division's sellers still have some valuable pieces that can help to restock their farm system.

Here's a breakdown of what each team is buying or selling, along with a trade that I'd like to see each franchise make:

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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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The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs kicked off the baseball trade fireworks on the Fourth of July with a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, among others.

With three weeks left until the trade deadline, here are four more blockbuster trades I'd like to happen:



San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Angels

Padres receive: 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SS Jose Rondon, and RHPs R.J. Alvarez and Victor Alcantara

Angels receive: C Yasmani Grandal and reliever Huston Street

The Angels have the second best record in baseball behind only the Oakland Athletics, and if it weren't for 12 blown saves by their bullpen, they would have the best record in the majors. GM Jerry DiPoto has done a great job upgrading the bullpen the past couple weeks with the acquisitions of Jason Grilli (from the Pirates) and Joe Thatcher (from the Diamondbacks), but why stop there? A blockbuster to get one of the game's best closers, in Huston Street, would be huge.

Street, 30, is controllable though 2015 at an affordable $7 million per season. He's also having a career year, with 23 saves, a 1.13 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Add Street to the Angels' bullpen, and the team can start printing postseason tickets.

Grandal, who, at age 25, has yet to fully develop, would be the long-term catcher for the Angels and would benefit from playing under Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. Grandal has struggled the past two years at the plate, but his career numbers -- 16 homers, 64 RBIs and a slash line of .246/.349/.409 in 455 at-bats -- are still respectable. He would benefit from a change of scenery. He's a smart, good kid who I think would thrive in the Angels' environment, though he'd probably have to settle for a backup role this year.

In return, the Padres load up on prospects as their rebuilding program under the new GM gets under way.


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David Price Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMany believe it's only a matter of time before David Price gets traded.
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: David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
Possible destinations: St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays


St. Louis Cardinals

Why? The Cardinals have had a plethora of pitching injuries lately, including shoulder injuries to Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, a forearm injury to Kevin Siegrist, a hamstring injury to Joe Kelly and a back injury to Shelby Miller. A trade for Price would give them a postseason rotation of Price, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Wacha, a group that compares favorably to those in Los Angeles (the Dodgers) and D.C.

Who? The Rays will start by asking for outfield prospect Oscar Tavares. If they could get Wil Myers for James Shields, then Tavares for Price only makes sense. However, St. Louis GM John Mozeliak will say "no," as he will when Rays GM Andrew Friedman follows up with "how about Wacha?"

Then the conversation will get serious and the Cardinals will probably have to part with either right-hander Miller or Carlos Martinez, as well as left-hander Marco Gonzalez.

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Kris BryantTony Farlow/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesCubs prospect Kris Bryant won't be seeing the majors anytime soon.
Perhaps the most obvious reason a top prospect isn't called up to the big leagues is he's simply not ready. For others, serious injuries have derailed their timeline to the big leagues, such as Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins), Archie Bradley (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Addison Russell (Oakland Athletics).

Then there those prospects who are major league-ready but won't be brought up until mid-to-late June simply because their clubs want to ensure they don't qualify for Super Two status. This refers to their major league service time, which would allow them to become arbitration-eligible at the end of the 2016 season, as opposed to 2017. Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Andrew Heaney (Miami Marlins) are prime examples of this phenomenon.

As much as fans might want to see their teams' top prospects, a few who simply won't be in the big leagues anytime soon, regardless of injury or service time. Here are five:

1. Kris Bryant | 3B | Chicago Cubs

Just 12 months ago I said the Astros should draft Bryant as the first overall pick.

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