In an era dominated by free agency, the game of baseball has never seemed so uncertain. Every off-season teams make moves that completely change the dynamic of the game, and this year is proving to be no different. We’ve already seen a few key acquisitions that will make teams that were merely in the hunt last year into teams that are now title contenders. As exciting as it is to follow the top prospects every move during their signing process, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in what the game has become. Free agency and the general lack of a salary cap has changed the MLB (and many other sports) from a child’s game into a Wall Street minded business. The majority of players don’t have as much commitment to their teams and are willing to jump ship as soon as a rich, desperate team comes crawling to them with an inflated contract. Not that I can’t understand how hard it must be to turn down some of these offers, but does loyalty mean nothing?
I’ve watched countless superstars walk out on teams that have invested in them 100% and made the franchise their franchise; that’s just not right. I believe it also turns the game into a mere display of these star players, as opposed to a stage for a team to shine. Often times when you turn on a game you hear more talk about whether a guy like Albert Pujols will break a record then you do about whether his team will actually win; it’s a pretty dramatic shift from what the sport felt like when I began watching in the 90′s. At that time talk was all about the Brave’s Triple Threat of Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux or about the well rounded Yankees club that featured a young Jeter and Rivera among others. The point is I feel like I don’t even cheer for a team anymore, I’m essentially a fan of certain players I respect and enjoy watching, and quite frankly it’s not as enjoyable. However, this is the new MLB and it’s all about bringing in star power by whatever means necessary. With that being said let’s take a look around the game of baseball and see which 4 teams made the biggest splash in this year’s free agency
4. Yu Darvish & Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers: The Rangers made it clear that they needed to replace C.J Wilson and they got the job done. They ended up paying a hefty fee for it though, giving the prized Japanese ace Yu Darvish a 6-year, $60 million deal (in addition to the 51.7 Million they paid just to talk to him). Darvish is largely unproven playing only in the Japanese league, but scouts think he’s the best pitcher to come out of Japan…ever! The Rangers also quietly picked up Joe Nathan, a former all-star who if healthy could be one of the most underrated signings of the season. If you’re looking to get a couple of guys that won’t be rated too high in the fantasy baseball rankings, take a look at these two as their potential is enormous. Nathan will likely become the teams closer which only helps his fantasy value, get him while you can.
3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers: The Tigers also addressed a need with a big free agent signing. After getting news that Victor Martinez would be sidelined the entire season with a badly torn ACL, the organization splurged and got a prized piece in Prince Fielder. Coming off a 38 HR and 120 RBI year (he also batted .299), Prince was due to get big money and he cashed in with a massive 9-year, $214 million deal. The deal should give the Tigers one of the best one-two punches in the game now as Miguel Cabrera (one of the top 5 hitters in baseball) and Fielder are sure to complement each other nicely. I look for Prince to compete for MVP this year as he may get a good amount of his at-bats at DH, which will keep him fresh throughout the season. If he can put up a 45 HR-130 RBI type of year I think Prince could break the barrier that no DH can win the most coveted award in baseball. Fantasy owners be sure to pick him with confidence.
2. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano & Heath Bell, Miami Marlins: New team, new logo and new faces. That’s really the story with this team as the off-season saw many changes in the Marlins organization. Not only did they relocate, but they added top free agents that will blend well with their young core of talent. The biggest move they made was for Mets star Jose Reyes; a guy who has a knack for getting on base (.384 OBP last year) and can steal bases. Reyes’ speed is a game changer and having him lead off will be a great boost for Hanley Ramirez, who I now view as a #2 hitter. If Reyes can get on base, Hanley will drive him in which is great for both the team and for fantasy owners. I look for the Marlins to make a big push this year and Reyes could be the key to their resurgence. The Marlins also boosted their pitching staff by adding Mark Buehrle (could be one of the game’s best #2 starters) and took a chance by adding the volatile Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano could be a steal if he can control his temper, as he has shown he’s a very capable third or fourth starter. The Marlins also signed Heath Bell from the Padres to be their closer, a smart move for a team like this. Bell could be pivotal for this team as young squads often struggle to close out games. Bell can be that calming figure that shuts it down. If he plays at the level we’ve come to expect, Heath Bell could be a big fantasy contributor.
1. C.J Wilson & Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Well how do you beat a team that added four pretty damn good players to their roster? Simple..just sign Albert Pujols. Pujols agreed to an incentive loaded 10-year, $240 million deal that changed baseball for the next decade. The Angel’s signed the most consistent power hitter of the past decade and his impact will be felt immediately. Pujols has shown he can deliver in the clutch (last year’s playoffs were evidence enough) as he captained his Cardinals squad (that fought to make the playoffs) to a championship. The Angels also upgraded their starting pitching by getting the most sought after pitcher out there, C.J Wilson. Wilson went 16-7 last season and 15-8 the year before while showing the league that he’s one of the premier starters. Wilson and Dan Haren along with Cy-Young runner up Jered Weaver should team up to make one of baseball’s most formidable rotations. I like for Wilson to be the #3 guy and finish with similar stats to last season, which would be welcome news for all fantasy owners looking to pick him.
Who Do You Think Made The Biggest Splash? Is Pujols The Best Of All Time? Let Me Know!