The GM's Office: Josh Hamilton

Reviewing my 10 bold predictions 

September, 13, 2013
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Alfonso SorianoAP Photo/Patrick SemanskyThe Yankees find themselves in the wild-card race, not the AL East basement.

Every year at some point during spring training, I offer my 10 bold predictions for the season. Instead of offering the obvious, I try to go out on a limb and prognosticate what most people wouldn’t expect. The tough part of that equation is at the end of the season when my editors ask me to go back and review those 10 predictions and assess how I did.

Thanks a lot, guys.

In retrospect, I think I fared reasonably well, but one way or another it’s time for me to man up and take responsibility for my predictions. Just remember, I was told to go out on that limb ... I didn't walk out there by choice.

Prediction: The New York Yankees will finish last in AL East.

Outcome: Wrong


This prediction came with a caveat: “All five teams in the AL East have a chance to finish anywhere from first to last place.” That included the Yankees. Instead, the Yankees find themselves smack in the middle of an AL wild-card chase. More than the Yankees overachieving, it was the Blue Jays’ rotation that underachieved. The rotation was plagued by injuries or underperformance. R.A. Dickey looked nothing like the 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner; Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow combined for four wins and ERAs around 6.00; Ricky Romero made two starts with an ERA north of 12.00 and J.A. Happ also had an ERA north of 5.00.

Top 10 free-agent signings of 2013 

May, 10, 2013
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Anibal SanchezAP Photo/Paul SancyaAnibal Sanchez has helped give the Tigers arguably the best rotation in baseball.
The cream of the 2013 free-agent crop was obvious and expensive.

Teams entered the offseason flush with cash and spent prodigiously. Outfielder Josh Hamilton was the best position player, while B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn followed not far behind. Right-hander Zack Greinke was clearly the top free-agent pitcher available. All together, the four top free agents signed multiyear contracts worth close to $300 million.

And what do those teams have to show for it? The trio of outfielders has hit a combined .205 with a paltry nine home runs, five stolen bases and 93 strikeouts. Greinke added a lone win and a broken collarbone.

Conversely, there are a number of lower-priced free agents who are more than earning their paychecks. Since the top four free agents haven’t lived up to their usual performance levels, which free agents have been the best bargains in baseball so far? Here’s a ranking of the top 10 so far:

Note: Performance to date, salary and long-term commitment were all considered for this ranking.

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How to fix the L.A. teams 

May, 8, 2013
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No, it isn’t a very happy time in Southern California.

SoCal fans just watched as the Lakers and Clippers got bounced out of the NBA playoffs in the first round, while the Dodgers and Angels have looked like they might not even make the playoffs.

Coming into 2013, both Los Angeles baseball teams boasted the largest payrolls in their respective divisions, hoping big offseason spending meant getting to the postseason. And on paper, their rosters are good enough to make the playoffs. However, both teams have been beset by injury and ineffectiveness, and as a result, postseason appearances are hardly assured. However, it’s not too late for the L.A. teams to save their seasons, although both clubs will have to make some major adjustments between now and the July 31 trade deadline.

Here’s why both the Angels and Dodgers are struggling and how they can turn their seasons around:


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10 bold predictions for 2013 season 

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
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Joe GirardiMike Stobe/Getty ImagesIs Yankees skipper Joe Girardi staring at a last-place finish in 2013?

With Friday’s news of right-hander Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers agreeing to a record-setting contract, the drama of whether baseball’s best pitcher would see free agency in two years came to an end.

Some could say it was predictable in a sense. After all, the Tigers would look extremely foolhardy to allow Verlander to walk via free agency after his current contract expires after 2014. Saying Verlander was going to sign an extension at some point isn’t going out very far on that proverbial limb. It’s just not a bold prediction.

So, what craziness could happen in 2013? With Opening Day just around the corner, here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2013 baseball season:

1. New York Yankees finish last in AL East.

It hasn’t happened in 22 years, since the Yankees finished 67-95 and seven games in back of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the Yankees could very easily go from first in 2012 to worst in 2013. And, with the American League’s largest payroll, there is additional pressure to win in addition to their own high standards of success.

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Doubts growing about Cubs prospects 

March, 12, 2013
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Jorge Soler, Javier BaezUSA TODAY SportCubs prospects Jorge Soler and Javier Baez have shown some holes at the plate.

MESA, Ariz. -- It’s telling that the Chicago Cubs leapt 10 places in ESPN.com’s Future Power Rankings, jumping from 16th to sixth in only one season. Both the major-league club and farm system saw significant additions, but that won’t stop another last-place finish.

Most evaluators at the Cubs' big-league camp are praising the tools and bat speed of prospects Javier Baez, Junior Lake and Jorge Soler. Baez has ridiculous bat speed but also a late cocking motion in his swing that has to be corrected as he heads up the development ladder. Lake has tremendous power but huge holes in the zone. Soler’s power and presence is reminiscent of Frank Thomas.

After watching their at-bats and batting practice, however, I think all three have some “hit” tool issues. Odds are one of them never pans out and follows Corey Patterson and Felix Pie as Cubs prospects who failed to live up to the fans’ often unrealistic expectations. The one prospect who does look like slam dunk isn’t even in big-league camp -- center fielder Albert Almora. He was the Cubs’ first-round selection in last year’s draft and looks like a future All-Star.

However, the Cubs' best prospect might not even be a player. Vice President of Player Development and Scouting Jason McLeod is one of the best evaluators in the sport. McLeod’s history of successful drafts in Boston, San Diego and now the Cubs make him one of the top GM prospects in the game of baseball.

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Ranking the offseason for all 30 teams 

February, 12, 2013
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It was an active offseason that witnessed the trade of a Cy Young Award winner, several large, multiteam trades and an inflated free-agent market. So to evaluate and rank the offseason of all 30 teams, I took into account the following factors:

• How it improved the team for 2013, as well as the next five years.
• How it affected payroll and budgets -- both short and long term.
• How it affected team chemistry and clubhouse culture.
• How effectively needs were filled -- through free agency, trade or farm system.
• The amount of money committed compared with the value received.
• Aggressiveness.

With spring camp upon us, we'll see whose offseason produces the best results. Here are the rankings of all 30 teams’ offseason campaigns.

1. Toronto Blue Jays | GM: Alex Anthopoulos
Acquired: RHPs R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, LHPs Mark Buehrle, Darren Oliver, SS Jose Reyes, C's Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, IFs Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, OF Melky Cabrera
Analysis: Anthopoulos had a tremendous offseason, making two of the biggest offseason trades in baseball history. It cost him some prospects, and when the dust settled the Blue Jays added three top-of-the-rotation starters to complement Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow to give the Jays the best five-man rotation in the division -- on paper. They now have the veteran leadership, speed, energy and enthusiasm to be a legitimate World Series contender.


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Hamilton to Angels, Dickey next? 

December, 13, 2012
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RA DickeyAP Photo/Paul J. BereswillIf the Angels really want to win the winter, they should make a strong push for R.A. Dickey.
For the second straight year, the Los Angeles Angels have swooped in to land the biggest free agent out there, signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal worth $125 million.

The Angels got incredible production from Torii Hunter last year, so Hamilton will fill the void Hunter left when he signed with the Detroit Tigers a few weeks ago. However, signing Hamilton creates the same problem the Angels had last year: too many outfielders.

As I see it, the Angels have three options for handling this logjam.

1. Trade for R.A. Dickey

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5 bold predictions for winter meetings

November, 30, 2012
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R.A. DickeySteve Mitchell/US PresswireJim Bowden thinks the New York Mets will end up trading R.A. Dickey at the winter meetings.

Despite my being a veteran of countless winter meetings, baseball's annual gathering still manages to surprise me. Whether it's a blockbuster trade or an out-of-the-blue free-agent signing, the winter meetings always provide a handful of happenings.

However, experience does offer me a little insight into what could happen. Last year, we saw the Los Angeles Angels reel in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and the Miami Marlins signed Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell. And, well, we know how that turned out. So here are my five bold predictions for the winter meetings:

1. The New York Mets will trade R.A. Dickey

With the Mets extending third baseman David Wright for eight years for about $138 million, I expect them to then turn around and trade right-hander R.A. Dickey to the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels for two good prospects. Wright is the face of their franchise, their version of Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter, and it was essential they get him locked up. With the Tampa Bay Rays’ extension of Evan Longoria this past month and the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman sewn up, as well, this was a relatively simple negotiation for general manager Sandy Alderson. In regards to Dickey, it’s more about selling high on an overachieving pitcher and being realistic on when the Mets will be ready to contend. Although the public thinks it could be sooner, realistically, the Mets won’t be contending until at least 2015.



2. The Cleveland Indians will make more trades than any other team

The Indians are waiting for the top free agents to sign. Once that happens, teams that lose out will be calling them to make deals. The Indians have the highest-quality tradable players currently on the market. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated right fielders in baseball. He’s a complete player and is about to enter his free-agent walk year. He is represented by Scott Boras, which means it’s unlikely he’ll sign a contract extension before testing the open market. Therefore, once Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross and Nick Swisher have inked deals, the clubs that missed out will attempt to trade for Choo.

Several teams are pursuing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. If anyone of those teams puts together the right package of young starting pitching, it might be able to pry him loose. Closer Chris Perez is well respected throughout the game as a straight shooter who speaks his mind without filter, which is fine unless you’re always bashing the ownership, the front office and the fans. His trade value is at an all-time high, and now is the best time to get the best return. With starting pitching always at a premium, the Tribe also will listen to offers for Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The bottom line is the Indians will be an interesting team to watch in Nashville.


3. The Miami Marlins will sign a free agent and give him a full-no trade clause

The Marlins’ trades of Buehrle, Reyes and Bell this offseason have left agents with such a bad taste in their mouths that many of them are saying they won’t even talk to the Marlins on behalf of their clients. Interestingly, a year ago, the Marlins all but had Albert Pujols signed, but their refusal to include a no-trade clause allowed him to make the right choice and sign with the Angels. If he had signed with the Marlins, he probably would be with the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Marlins are under scrutiny from the commissioner’s office and the players' association to spend rather than pocketing what look to be significant revenue-sharing gains the next few years. The Marlins need to step up and surprise baseball by adding a significant free agent and will have no choice this time but to change their policy and give a full no-trade clause so players they sign won’t have to worry about being dealt in a year.


4. The Royals will finally trade for an elite starter, and fans will rebel

Royals general manager Dayton Moore is in a Catch-22 situation. Royals fans have been begging for the team to trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter instead of their continued plan of back-of-the-rotation innings eaters such as Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar. But it will cost Moore one of the young, talented position players he has. Moore definitely feels the pressure and is doing everything possible to make such a trade this coming week in Nashville. Even though I think the best move would be to sign a free agent such as Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez and keep his position players intact, I predict that the Royals are going to trade Wil Myers, Alex Gordon or Eric Hosmer to get their top-of-rotation young starter. If and when they do this, Royals fans will show their disapproval. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


5. The Texas Rangers will re-sign Josh Hamilton to a four-year contract

Some believe Hamilton and Rangers definitely will part ways, but I'm making the bold prediction that he'll stay. Despite all the reports that the Rangers won't go more than three years on a deal for Hamilton, I fully expect them to give him a fourth year with a club option for a fifth at an average annual value of approximately $23 million. There has been interest in Hamilton from several teams, including the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles.

His family lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and plans to stay there regardless. Having been to two World Series in the past three years, Hamilton and the Rangers have unfinished business of bringing a world championship to Rangers fans, and both parties know the best way to accomplish that is for them to try again together rather than apart.

Best fits for 10 elite free agents

November, 13, 2012
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Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton AP PhotoWith which team will Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton sign?

Every team entering the offseason would love a shot at even one (if not several) of the top available players on the free-agent market. But that often only comes with a particular equilibrium of financial resources and baseball needs.

Below are 10 of the top available free agents, and I've ordered them based on how much I think they will earn in their next contract. I've also indicated where they fit best -- never listing a team more than once -- as well as how probable that signing might be.

(Check out the Bowden Big Board, which ranks the top 50 free agents based on what I expect them to earn on their next contact based on average annual value or AAV.)

Josh Hamilton | OF | Best fit: Texas Rangers
I won’t be surprised if Hamilton’s best offer comes from a surprise team like the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles or Milwaukee Brewers. But I think the best fit for Hamilton remains the Rangers. They are the most familiar with Hamilton and all the issues that come with him. They have a strong support team in place for him and are willing to give him a competitive average annual value. I don’t think three years will get it done, and I’ll be shocked if the Rangers don’t go to a fourth or even a fifth year for him. Simply, the Rangers have been a much better team over the past three years with Hamilton in the lineup and he won’t be easily replaced if he leaves.
Probability: Medium
Zack Greinke | RHP | Best fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
Greinke might end up the highest-paid right-handed starting pitcher in baseball history by the time the winter meetings conclude in Nashville, Tenn., next month. The Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers and Rangers appear to be the teams with the most interest and wherewithal to make a play at this level, though the Nationals could be a dark horse.

I think Southern California is the best spot for Greinke, and he proved last September that he can handle the pressure of the large market. In fact, he pitched his best games against contending teams down the stretch. I think he ends up signing with the Angels because they’re more likely than the Dodgers to give him an extra year. However, the Dodgers would be a tremendous fit for him, pitching alongside Clayton Kershaw at the top of the Dodgers’ rotation. And by signing Greinke, the Dodgers certainly would assume sole possession of the highest payroll in baseball. West Coast New York Yankees, indeed.
Probability: Medium

Michael Bourn | CF | Best fit: Washington Nationals
Bourn is the best leadoff hitter available on the free-agent market. Possible fits for the two-time Gold Glove Award winner include the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. However, he’s potentially a postseason game-changer for the Nationals. They would love to move Bryce Harper to one of the outfield corners and put a defender in center field who can run down fly balls as well as anyone.

Offensively, having a leadoff hitter who can help manufacture runs with his speed would really improve the Nats' chances of winning the World Series, but general manager Mike Rizzo told me this week that Adam LaRoche is his top priority this offseason. If the Nationals re-sign him, they will probably keep Harper in center field until their top center field prospect, Brian Goodwin, is ready. It sounds like the only way they make a play on Bourn is if LaRoche signs with the Boston Red Sox, Rangers or Orioles.
Probability: Low

B.J. Upton | CF | Best fit: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies’ No. 1 priority this offseason is improving center field with a long-term solution and Upton is their No. 1 free-agent target. Upton would be an excellent fit with the Phillies because they need another right-handed bat to better balance their lineup, and his raw power should result in more than 30 home runs per season at Citizens Bank Park.

Upton would also give the team some much-needed speed, and he’s a No. 2 or No. 6 hitter in a championship-caliber lineup. From my discussions with Rays manager Joe Maddon it sounds like Upton’s really starting to mature. Sure, he’s going to strike out 160 times, but with his power, speed and above-average defense, Upton would be a huge plus for the Phillies.
Probability: Medium

Anibal Sanchez | RHP | Best fit: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles made their mark in 2012 and are set up as a solid contender in the AL East for the next several years. However, to win the division or a wild-card berth next year, they’ll have to count on their starting pitchers to repeat their 2012 success, which is easier said than done with so many first-year pitchers.

Sanchez would really help improve the Orioles’ chances, and he looks like he’s finally figured it out, as illustrated by his impressive postseason performances with the Tigers. Sanchez, 29, was throwing mostly 93-95 mph down the stretch with a nasty change, solid slider and decent curveball and his free-agent value might have soared more than any other free agent this past season.
Probability: Medium

Rafael Soriano | RHP | Best fit: Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are not going to spend the kind of money Soriano’s seeking on a closer because it’s against the philosophy of GM Jerry DiPoto, who would prefer to fill the role with more inexpensive options like Ernesto Frieri or Jordan Walden. However, Soriano would be a perfect fit for the Angels, who suffered in 2012 without a lockdown closer. The Angels had a whopping 22 blown saves and would have made the playoffs if the bullpen was more effective protecting leads late in games.
Probability: Low

Hiroki Kuroda | RHP | Best fit: New York Yankees
The Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees all have strong interest in Kuroda, who I expect will either return to the Yankees or go back to Japan. Kuroda had a solid first year with the Yankees and handled New York like he’d pitched there his entire career. He had his best ground ball rate of his career in 2012 and developed a strong working relationship with Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Probability: High

Kyle Lohse | RHP | Best fit: Kansas City Royals
The Royals’ early acquisitions of Ervin Santana and Chris Volstad were a start, but the Royals must be aggressive this offseason in building up their starting rotation. Lohse was the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher in the regular season this year, going 16-3 with an ERA of 2.86 and he pounds the zone with the ability to keep it on the black on both sides of the plate and rarely misses in the middle.

Lohse will consider his family needs when making a choice, and it appears that the Royals and Kansas City fit that criteria. Seems like a solid fit for both Lohse and the Royals.
Probability: Medium

Torii Hunter | RF | Best fit: Detroit Tigers

I expect Hunter to sign with the Tigers or another team before Thanksgiving. Hunter is a perfect fit for the Tigers, who can use his leadership and positive energy on the field, in the dugout and around their young players. With the Angels, Hunter was a great influence on Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo, and would be a phenomenal teacher for the Tigers’ young outfielders Avisail Garcia and Austin Jackson. Manager Jim Leyland told me that he’d like to add a 15-20 home run bat who can drive in 80 and play above-average defense on one of the corners. Obviously, Hunter fits the bill better than anyone else on the open market.
Probability: High

Stephen Drew | SS | Best fit: St. Louis Cardinals
Drew is the best available free agent on the market at his position, and there isn't much else out there. He owns a strong arm and plus range to both sides. He has the ability to hit 20 home runs and should be close to 100 percent health by spring training. Drew’s consistent play at shortstop and offensive game would be a significant upgrade.

With an aging Rafael Furcal trying to come back from injury, there is a high probability his decline will continue and include future injuries. If they can sign Drew and Furcal shows up to camp healthy, they can trade him during spring training. The Cardinals liked what they saw from Pete Kozma in September, but after his NLCS meltdown, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t make sense to park him in Triple-A for a year and let him keep developing.
Probability: Medium

Time to blow up the Yankees

October, 20, 2012
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Alex Rodriguez and Nick SwisherGetty ImagesThe Yankees must resolve the Alex Rodriguez issue and upgrade over Nick Swisher.

Let’s consider these facts from ESPN’s Stats & Information department regarding the New York Yankees’ historically poor performance in the American League Championship Series:

• The Yankees' .188 batting average in the 2012 postseason is the lowest in MLB postseason history by any team that played at least seven games. They scored just 22 runs in nine games, for an average of 2.4 runs per game. That's the fourth-fewest runs per game in a single postseason by any team that played at least seven games.

• The Yankees had played 36 consecutive postseason series without being swept -- that was the longest streak in MLB history. This is the first time they've been swept in any series since the 1980 ALCS, when the Royals swept them in a best-of-five series. The last time the Yankees were swept in a best-of-seven series was in the 1976 World Series, when the Reds beat them.

• The Yankees enter an offseason filled with uncertainty. Although they're almost certain to exercise a pair of club options for 2013 on Robinson Cano ($14 million) and Curtis Granderson ($13 million), the key players who are eligible for free agency are Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda and Russell Martin.

Add the fact that Rafael Soriano also has an opt-out clause in his deal, so he is no lock to return.

With all that uncertainty on their roster and questions about things, I've come to one conclusion: It’s time to blow up the Yankees.

It’s time for the Yankees to get younger and more athletic. For this storied franchise, anything less than a World Series championship is considered a failure. The team is built to withstand a 162-game season in which an aging lineup can routinely feast on fourth and fifth starters. But in the postseason, when those same aging bats see the absolute best pitching in a short series, as the statistics above indicate, they fall short. Outside of Derek Jeter and Cano, the lineup’s holes and weaknesses were exposed.

But the only way to rebuild and win now is for Hal Steinbrenner to take a page out of his father’s strategy -- which sometimes worked, sometimes did not -- and that means spend money and trade prospects.

Start with Rodriguez


The most prudent thing to do is to try to persuade Alex Rodriguez to waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees likely would have to pay nearly all of his salary with the exception of perhaps a few million. This would come with the stipulation that the Yankees would pay only if Rodriguez plays and is on an active roster.

There’s simply no hiding or denying Rodriguez’s decline. As Dan Szymborski pointed out, it has been coming for years. Rodriguez at 37 might still be a serviceable player capable of hitting .260 with 20 home runs, but the Yankees would do well to turn the page. Ideally, it would be best to cut ties and pay his salary and move on. But if they cannot, the next move is to convert him to designated hitter.

The Yankees have a track record of leading aging sluggers out to pasture by converting them to designated hitters. In the footsteps of Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Rodriguez should follow suit and join Raul Ibanez in what could be turn out to be an effective lefty-righty platoon, albeit perhaps the most expensive DH combination in baseball history.

Resolving Rodriguez would free up the Yankees to chase, well, Chase Headley, the Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas or Washington Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon. To acquire someone like Headley, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will have to do that which he most despises: trade prospects.

Frankly, I say empty the farm system to get whatever pieces they need. New York's farm system took a hit this year with the poor performance of top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, and he is going to miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Still, the Yankees could get this kind of deal done if they were willing to part with outfield prospect Mason Williams and catching prospect Gary Sanchez. George Steinbrenner never had a problem sacrificing prospects, and New York needs to be aggressive.

Cashman has said repeatedly that he wants complete players, and Headley, for example, is exactly that. Even with Petco Park as his home field, switch-hitting Headley batted .286 with 31 home runs, stole 17 bases and led the NL with 115 RBIs while playing very solid defense. At 28, he enters 2013 in his prime and is about to get very expensive in arbitration. The Padres have built an incredibly deep farm system, and if they sell high on Headley, they can further fortify their farm while freeing payroll to lock up some of their top youngsters.

To get Headley, it probably will take a prospect package similar to what the Cincinnati Reds forked over to San Diego for pitcher Mat Latos in December.

Buy, buy, buy


Outfielder Josh Hamilton will be by far the biggest name on the free-agent market. Fittingly, the team in the biggest market should be the one to reel him in.

Hamilton fits Cashman’s proclivity for “complete” players, and his left-handed swing is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. They Yankees need a better postseason hitter than Swisher, who has been exposed in October, hitting .169 in the playoffs in his career.

Likewise, the Yankees should pursue speedster Michael Bourn. Signing Bourn would free Cashman to trade or decline the club option ($2 million buyout) on Granderson and his 195 strikeouts and move Brett Gardner to left field. Bourn also would serve as the leadoff man the Yankees desperately need and, once again, add some much-needed speed.

On the mound, Pettitte will announce soon whether he will return in 2013. Outside of CC Sabathia, and perhaps Hughes, the rest of the rotation is simply not World Series caliber. Michael Pineda should be back from shoulder surgery and could be an upgrade, but there is no way the Yankees can assume he will be an impact player in 2013.

Re-signing Kuroda will help, but signing Zack Greinke or Kyle Lohse will be necessary to deepen the Yankees’ starting rotation. None of the prospects they have will do that, and the Yankees can’t afford to wait for kids.

I know there has been talk about the Yankees wanting to avoid the luxury tax, but they’re the Yankees -- they should be paying the luxury tax. And let's be honest, George Steinbrenner would have been this aggressive.

Bring back Russell Martin?


As our own Buster Olney suggests, the Yankees loved Martin’s toughness and winning attitude, but a long-term contract just wouldn’t work.

If the Yankees miss out on Hamilton or Greinke, they might think about turning to Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. The Twins probably would love the chance to shed Mauer's huge contract, and the Yankees are one of the few teams that can afford him. As noted, the Yankees could end up clearing a lot of payroll this year if Soriano opts out, Swisher leaves and Granderson's option is declined.

As with Hamilton, Mauer’s swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium. The Twins are desperate to rebuild their pitching staff, and giving some prospects might appeal to them.

To be sure, the Yankees can't make all of these moves, but the point I'm making is that the team needs to think aggressively. The Yankees have been relatively inactive the past couple of winters, but it's time for them to channel some of The Boss' bold mentality. They are baseball’s uber-team, and they should be prepared to lose draft picks and pay the luxury tax. The Yankees have never settled for mediocrity, and they shouldn’t now. The time has come for Hal to become George for just a few years to get the Yankees back to where they belong.

What's next for Atlanta and Texas? 

October, 8, 2012
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Josh HamiltonEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesWilll Texas be able to re-sign Josh Hamilton, or has he played his last game for the Rangers?


After more than seven months and 162 games, the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers won 93 and 94 games, respectively.

Their seasons ended in the span of three hours, as they became the first teams to lose in MLB’s new wild-card elimination game format. Such is the new reality for wild-card berth winners.

This also means the offseason has arrived for the Braves and Rangers. So let’s take a look at what both teams need and the possible moves that could improve their clubs or at least shore up the weaknesses.

Texas Rangers

Free agents: Josh Hamilton, OF; Mike Napoli, C; Mike Adams, RHR; Koji Uehara, RHR; Mark Lowe, RHR; Roy Oswalt, RHR; Scott Feldman, RHR (club option)

Needs/targets

The Rangers will lose several significant arms from their bullpen. They hope to get Neftali Feliz back, but both he and Alexi Ogando have told the Rangers their preference is to start, so the Rangers must address those bullpen losses. The Rangers also must figure out a plan for top prospect Jurickson Profar. Is he ready for the big leagues, and, if so, would he or fellow shortstop Elvis Andrus possibly move to center field? But their biggest decisions this offseason will be regarding free agents Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Will the Rangers re-sign or replace them? Here are several possible free-agent targets, including Hamilton and Napoli:

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5 FAs who could boost stock in October 

October, 3, 2012
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In 2004, outfielder Carlos Beltran came into the season making $9 million on a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals. By the time 2005 spring training rolled around, he was with the New York Mets making $119 million on a seven-year contract with an iron-clad no-trade clause.

Beltran was an All-Star player and soon-to-be free agent peaking for a small-market team that knew it couldn’t afford his upcoming contract demands. So the Royals traded him to Houston where he nearly led the Astros to the World Series by hitting .435 with eight home runs, 14 RBIs and six stolen bases in the NLDS and NLCS combined. It was a bonanza postseason en route to a bonanza offseason payday.

Likewise, in this year’s postseason there are five players who could use bountiful postseason performances to improve their free-agent value. For a couple, it could mean lucrative paydays. And for one, it offers a shot a redemption.


Josh Hamilton, CF
Hamilton has already publicly stated that there will be no hometown discount for the Texas Rangers. With Hamilton planning on several large charitable endeavors in the near future, he is looking for a maximum contract to help get those plans started.

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Best fits for top free agents 

September, 11, 2012
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As end of the regular season approaches, every major league club that plans to delve into the free-agent market has its best scouts at the ballpark looking at the best guys who will be available during the offseason. They are evaluating every plate appearance and/or every pitch while the front office is using video technology to further evaluate prospective free agents. A club simply cannot do enough homework on a player’s health, character, work ethic and makeup.

Taking an early look at this year’s free-agent class, center field is clearly the position that offers the most depth and quality. However, there will be several quality pitchers available, too, both top-of-the-rotation types as well as closers.

Here is a list of the 11 best free agents -- in no particular order -- who will be on the market this November and with which team they might best fit. (You may notice that Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and Torii Hunter are not listed here, and that's because I am almost certain they will re-sign with their current teams.)

Josh Hamilton, CF | Best fits: Rangers, Yankees
Hamilton is the best position player in this year’s class, and the 31-year-old would like to get a deal in the range of what Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols received last year, which would mean a 10-year contract for more than $200 million. However, Hamilton’s well-documented issues with addiction and nagging health issues will dissuade some teams. Remember, though, it only takes one team to set the market.

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Melky's mess is Swisher's gain 

August, 20, 2012
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Curtis GrandersonRick Osentoski/US PresswireNick Swisher keeps his teammates loose and has produced consistently over the last six years.

For most people watching San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, his 2012 season so far seemed almost too good to be true. Turns out it was.

His dream season began in May when he earned the 100th hit of 2012 in his 291st plate appearance, breaking Willie Mays’ 54-year-old team record of fewest plate appearances needed to achieve 100 hits. Cabrera then added All-Star Game MVP honors, and his offensive production helped keep the Giants in first place for much of the season.

The dream soured into a nightmare after Cabrera tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was suspended for 50 games. He’s exacerbated the situation with new reports that he paid a consultant to create a phony website to fool the players' union and MLB into believing he had accidentally ingested a supplement spiked with testosterone.

Investigations are ongoing, but the upshot of it all is that Cabrera had nearly paved the way for a potential contract in the range of five to six years between $12 and $15 million per season or a total package of $72 million-$90 million.

Not anymore. And the great beneficiary of this mess? New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher.

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Rangers can't match what Angels did 

July, 28, 2012
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Josh BeckettBob DeChiara/US PresswireAfter losing out on Zack Greinke, Texas could pursue Josh Beckett, but still can't equate to Greinke.
Mike Trout is putting himself in position to win not only AL Rookie of the Year but AL MVP, and his general manager is making a case for executive of the year. By swinging a blockbuster for Zack Greinke on Friday, Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has built a club that is set up perfectly for postseason success.

Dipoto’s shrewd move to jump in the market and find a way to get the game's best available starting pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers was brilliant. Jean Segura -- the key prospect who went to Milwaukee -- is a promising middle infielder, but most Angels evaluators had him slotted behind second baseman Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, who are each locked up for a few years.

Whether the Texas Rangers, who also were in on Greinke, played "chicken" and lost, or just weren’t willing to part with prospects Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez or Mike Olt can be debated for years depending whom you talk to, but only Rangers GM Jon Daniels and Brewers GM Doug Melvin know for sure.

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