How the Tigers can make it back to World Series in 2014

The year was 1984. The Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres 4 games to 1, to win their 3rd ever World Series, 1st since 1968. Only 6 members of the Tigers current 40 man roster were alive. 30 years later, the Tigers face the tough task of getting back there. Led by former MVPs Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the Tiger have come so close year after year, but have fallen short every time. To win the Fall Classic in 2014, here’s what the Tigers will need.

A number 5 starter

Drew Smyly? Jose Alvarez? who gets the job done? Whoever is the Tigers fifth starter will need to get the job done. Rick Porcello started 29 games for the Tigerss last season, finishing with a 13-8 record and a 4.32 ERA with 18 quality starts. Due to trading Doug Fister this off-season, Porcello will most likely be the Tigers number 4 starter in 2014.

Drew Smyly started 18 games for the Tigers in 2012, he went 4-4, posted a 3.99 ERA, striking 94 batters in 99 innings. Smyly served a reliever in 2013, and was very effective. In 66 games, Smyly had a 2.37 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 2.6 WAR (wins above replacement), and 86 Ks in 76 innings.

Jose Alvarez had a 2.80 ERA in 20 starts with the Toledo Mudhens, the Tigers triple-A affiliate. Before being called up to the MLB, Alvarez was leading the International League in strikeouts, WHIP, and baserunners per nine innings. Alvarez was called up to the majors for the first time on June 9, 2013, and made his debut starting in place of Aníbal Sánchez. He recorded a win and a quality start, pitching six innings while striking out seven against the Cleveland Indians. After that, Alvarez really struggled. He finished with a 5.82 ERA and a 1-6 record. If he can pitch well in Spring Training, I think he can challenge Smyly for the 5th starter role.

Consistency at catcher

Alex Avila has been mightily inconsistent the last two seasons. After hitting .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs in 2012, he’s averaging a .235 average, 10 homeruns and 48 RBIs the last two seasons. He may be a great defensive catcher, but his hitting needs to be more consistent on a day-to-day basis. Last season, Avila hit just .227 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs, his 0.7 WAR was one of lowest among eligible catchers. With Bryan Pena now in Cincinnati, and Victor Martinez on his last legs, Avila will have to step up his game in 2014. The Tigers gave Avila another chance, avoiding arbitration by signing him to a 1-year deal worth $4.15 million.

Stronger Bullpen

Last season, the Tigers bullpen combined for a 4.01 ERA and a 17-25 record with16 blown saves. While major pieces like Joaquin Beniot and Jose Veras left, they signed Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlin.

Last season, Joe Nathan was arguably the best closer in all of baseball. The 39 year old posted a 1.39  ERA in 64 innings last season with the Rangers. He closed out 43 games in 46 opportunities, a solid 93% save percentage.

Joba Chamberlin has pitched in just 60 innings the last two seasons due to numerous injuries. He has been inconsistent throughout his whole career, but has had some outstanding seasons. In 2008, Joba’s rookie year, he posted a 2.60 ERA while striking out 118 batters in 100 innings.

My #3 rated prospect in the Tigers organization, Bruce Rondon, will likely pitch in the Tigers bullpen next season; probably as a setup man. Rondon, whose fastball topped 100 MPH in spring training last year, has been a stud in the Tigers farm system for many years, and is due for a breakout season.

Andy Dirks producing again in 2014

In 2012, Andy Dirks hit .322 with 8 HR and 35 RBIs in just 219 ABs. After his successful sophomore season, the 27 year old was given the Tigers #6 spot in the batting order, hitting behind Victor Martinez. However, Dirks didn’t produce like the Tigers expected him to in 2013. The lefty hit .256 with 9 HR and RBIs in 438 ABs.

While his stats weren’t horrible, the Tigers expected a lot better. We all know what Andy is capable of after his 2012 season, and we want to see him play like that again. Dirks will likely split time with newcomer Rajai Davis in left field.

Brad Ausmus getting the job done

After Jim Leyland stepped down from after 8 seasons as Tigers manager, Ausmus is left with the tough task of replacing Leyland. Jim led the Tigers to 700 wins and 2 AL pennants with the Tigers. Leyland will serve as a  special assistant for the club in 2014. Ausmus used to play ball back in the day, catching 1971 games for the Astros, Padres, Dodgers, and Tigers, yeah he played for the Tigers. He finished his 18 year career at the age of 41 with a career .251 average, 80 HRs, and 607 RBIs, he was also pretty speedy for a catcher, stealing 102 bases in his career.

However, successful playing careers don’t always lead to great coaching success. Look at Isiah Thomas for example, “Zeke” finished his NBA career as one of the best point guards of all time, but had a 187-223 record as a manager.

Ausmus comes to Detroit with no coaching experience at all, which worries me. He was a catcher, but catchers usually always turn out to be great managers. Look at St. Louis’ Mike Matheny for example. He had no managerial experience when the Cards hired him, but look at what he’s done with Cardinals. He’s made them one of the best baseball cities in America, if not the best.

Can the 44 year old Ausmus get the job done in 2014? If you ask me I think he can. I think he can take this team to next level, sort of like what Matheny did in St. Louis. With tons of returning pieces from the last few seasons, I believe the Tigers can go all the way in 2014.

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MLB Daily Transactions: 1/31/14

Manny Corpas re-signs with Rockies

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Rockies re-signed RHP Manny Corpas to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  The deal includes an opt-out that Corpas can exercise if he doesn’t crack the Opening Day roster. The veteran put up a 4.54 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 41 2/3 innings for the Rockies last season

Rays sign Wilson Betemit to minors deal

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Rays signed INF Wilson Betemit to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Betemit was limited to just six games last season due to a knee injury. The switch-hitter doesn’t make for a good platoon partner with Matt Joyce in the designated hitter spot, as Betemit has always hit right-handers (.819 OPS) much better than left-handers (.636 OPS).

Reds sign Roger Bernadina to minors deal

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Reds signed OF Roger Bernadina to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Bernadina looks the part with plenty of speed, but has done poor to hit consistently and is prone to lapses defensively. The 29-year-old batted just .181/.250/.295 over 112 games last season for the Nationals and Phillies.

Reed Johnson catches on with Marlins

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Marlins signed OF Reed Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Johnson hit only .244/.311/.341 this past season, but he’s a career .311/.366/.456 hitter against lefties and can play all three outfield positions. He’ll likely get an opening day roster spot as a bench hitter.

Orioles bring in veteran Alex Gonzalez 

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Orioles signed INF Alex Gonzalez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Gonzalez, batted just .177/.203/.230 over 40+ games for the Brewers last season before being released in June. The veteran  played some third and first base last season and could crack a Opening Day roster as a backup infielder.

Aaron Crow and Royals avoid arbitration

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Royals and RHP Aaron Crow avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.475 million contract. He can earn an additional $50,000 if he makes the All-Star team. The Royals and Crow just wound up settling a bit under the midpoint on what he asked for earlier this month. Crow posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 44/22 K/BB ratio in 48 innings for the Royals last season.

Corey Brown elects free agency

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Corey Brown has elected free agency. He had the option after being outrighted off his second 40-man roster in the last two months (second time today). He spent  most of the season at Triple-A with the Nationals, batting .254/.326/.473 with 19 homers and 12 steals.

Cubs reach agreement with Jason Hammel

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FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cubs have come to terms on a one-year contract with Jason Hammel. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman says Hammel will receive $6 million. Hammel posted a 4.97 ERA over 139 1/3 innings last season but could be a sneaky addition if he can rebound to his 2012 form, when he held a 3.43 mark while striking out nearly a batter per inning.

Kevin Jepsen and Angels avoid arbitration 

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Angels and RHP Kevin Jepsen avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.4625 million contract. They agreed in the middle what the two sides put out. Jepsen put up a 4.50 ERA, 1.53 WHIP with a 36/14 K/BB ratio in 36 innings last season.

Freese and Angels avoid arbitration 

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Angels and 3B David Freese avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.05 million contract. The 2011 World Series MVP receives a sizable raise over last year’s $3.15 million salary even though he’s coming off a disappointing year that saw him bat just .262/.340/.381 with nine homers. He’ll look to rebound in 2014 in his first year in Anaheim.

Lucas May signs on with Brewers

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Brewers signed Catcher Lucas May to a minor league contract. He was not given an invite to spring training. May batted just .226/.277/.301 with three homers last year at Triple-A with the Pirates.

Rockies Sign Nick Masset 

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Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Rockies are close to signing Nick Masset to a minor league contract. Masset would receive an invitation to spring training. The righty didn’t pitch at all in 2013 and was limited to just 9 2/3 rehab innings in 2012 due to injury. He underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in August, which means he’ll be a major heath question mark this season.

James McDonald inks minors deal with Cubs

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Cubs signed RHP James McDonald to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. McDonald made just six starts for the Pirates last season, posting a 5.76 ERA while also battling shoulder issues.  McDonald should get a shot to compete for a rotation spot with the Cubs but could wind up in the bullpen. It’s a solid no-risk move for Chicago.

Rich Hill lands with Red Sox on minors deal

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Red Sox signed LHP Rich Hill to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Hill spent three seasons with the Red Sox before going to Cleveland last year.  The southpaw reliever will earn $840,000 if he makes the Opening Day roster, with $500,000 more available in appearance bonuses.

Alex Avila and Tigers avoid arbitration

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Tigers and C Alex Avila avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $4.15 million contract. The deal also includes a $5.4 million club/vesting option for 2015 that contains a $200,000 buyout. Avila was arbitration-eligible for the second time after batting .227/.317/.376 with 11 homers last season.

Rangers bring aboard right-handed Daniel Bard

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Rangers signed RHP Daniel Bard to a minor league contract. The deal was first reported by MLB Network’s Peter Gammons, who also reported that Bard recently underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Bard was non-tendered by the Cubs last month after being claimed off waivers in September.

Diamondbacks ink Cesar Carillo to minor deal

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Diamondbacks signed RHP Cesar Carrillo to a minor league contract. The former Tigers farmhand, and college teammate of Ryan Braun, was suspended 100 games last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. He’ll look to get his career back on track in Arizona.

Joseph Ortiz suffers broken foot in accident

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Rangers LHP Joseph Ortiz suffered a broken foot after being clipped by a motorcycle in Venezuela, and will miss at least three months. He underwent successful surgery to repair the broken left foot. The 23-year-old southpaw likely won’t be ready to rejoin the Rangers bullpen until early May.

Mets sign Matt Clark to minor league deal

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Mets signed INF/OF Matt Clark to a minor league contract. The deal includes an invitation to Major League spring training. The 27-year-old spent the 2013  in Japan where he batted.238/.328/.457 with 25 homers and 70 RBI in 407 at-bats.

Raul Valdes (knee) sidelined for 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that Raul Valdes will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.  He claimed off waivers from the Astros earlier this offseason. He was expected to compete for a role in the Opening Day bullpen, but will now have to overcome the obstacle of being a few weeks behind everyone else in camp.

Angels sign Vorvit Torrealba to minors deal

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Angels signed C Yorvit Torrealba to a minor league deal. The deal includes an invitation to big league spring training. The 35-year-old Catcher is coming off a disappointing 2013 season where he hit .240/.295/.285 with no homers and 16 RBI in 61 games.

MLB Daily Transactions: 1/30/14

Orioles all in on A.J. Burnett

According to Peter Gammons of MLB Network, the Orioles are “all in” on free agent A.J. Burnett. This week Burnett said he will not retire and will instead open himself up to offers from all major league teams.  He makes his offseason home in Maryland, so signing with the O’s seems like a fit. Gammons says the Rays also have serious interest. Burnett posted a 3.30 ERA, 1.215 WHIP and 209/67 K/BB ratio in 191 innings last year for the Pirates.

Royals re-sign Bruce Chen

i-1FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Royals have re-signed left-hander Bruce Chen. It is a one-year contract (worth $4.25 million in guaranteed money) and includes a $5.5 million mutual option for the 2015 season. Chen, 36, posted a 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 78/36 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last year for the Royals.

Michael Young has opted out for retirement 

iKen Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that infielder Michael Young has chosen to retire rather than continue playing in 2014. Young was considering suiting up for the 2014 season, preferably for the Dodgers, but chose to retire. The 37-year-old will end his 14-year MLB career with a career .300 average and 2,375 hits.

Casey Crosby Moving to Relief Roll with Tigers 

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Casey Crosby will compete for a job in the Tigers’ bullpen during spring training.  All 93 of Crosby’s appearances between the minors and majors have been in a starting roll, but the Tigers have decided to shift him to a relief role. He has a big arm but has struggled to throw strikes throughout his pro career. With Ian Krol and Phil Coke already locked into relief roles, Crosby will surely begin the season in Triple-A. In time,  he then could develop into a bullpen weapon.

Tyler Massey Interview

Tyler Massey is a minor league outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, and Everything MLB/MLB News blog was lucky enough to interview the young prospect Wednesday afternoon. Here is what was said:

Everything MLB: When did you start playing baseball?

Tyler Massey: I started playing every summer at the age of 4 and began to play competitively at age 11 ( like 70 games a summer).

EMLB: When did you realize that you had the chance to go pro?

TM: In my junior year of high school when I began having some success and getting invited to showcases and things I realized playing pro ball could be a possibility.

EMLB: How were you introduced to baseball?

TM: My dad coached all three high school sports . Baseball, football and basketball so I was introduced by growing up as a gym rat, always around the field or weight room or gym.

EMLB: Did you play any other sports in high school?

TM: [I] played football all the way through high school.

EMLB: What position did you play?

TM: Quarterback and strong safety.

EMLB: Which sport did you enjoy more?

TM: Baseball was def my first love.

EMLB: You were drafted in the 14th round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft, do you still remember that day?

TM: Yea, I’ll never forget it. My dad called me and told me the Rockies drafted me. I was still actually in Denver because I was in town for the pre-draft workout. I didn’t have an agent or anything, my parents help me with everything.

EMLB: What were you thinking after your dad called you with the news?

TM: Excitement, pure excitement. Haha.

EMLB: Do you remember the first thing you did after getting the call?

TM: I talked to my scout, then talked to some friends and things. Then I went fly fishing that day in Colorado haha.

EMLB: That year you played in 19 games for the Casper Ghosts (now named the Grand Junction Rockies), what do you remember from your first season?

TM: It was fun . Long bus rides in the pioneer league. I played 19 games and tore my ACL so that was disappointing, but looking back it taughtme a lot about hard work; rehabbing my knee that offseason

EMLB: After your injury, did you ever think about quitting baseball?

TM: No I was 19 just signed. That never even crossed my mind.

EMLB: Have you ever thought about quitting baseball in your career?

TM: No. I’ve had a goal and a dream since I was 4, that word (quit) isn’t in my vocabulary. I want to play until they take the uniform from me.

EMLB: You’ve been in the minors for 6 years so far, which season has been your favorite so far and why?

TM: Probably 2012 in Asheville, not only did I have my most success but also played on a championship team in the SAL league. Great experience beinga champion.

EMLB: What factors led to your own personal success and your team’s success in the 2012 season?

TM: We as a team really complemented each other’s skills and played for each other zero selfishness. I really became a more patientand professional hitter.

EMLB: In 2013, you played for the Modesto Nuts, how would you say that your season went?

TM:[It] went well. I got [a] good opportunity to play some center field and show some versatility.

EMLB: And offensively?

TM: [I] Continued to progress and work on some things. I feel I finished the season very strong at the plate.

EMLB: This off-season you played in the Australian Baseball League with the Melbourne Aces, what was that experience like?

TM: Great experience getting to see a different country and continue getting work and at-bats during in game action. Made for a great offseason program.

EMLB: You went to Melbourne with fellow Rockies minor-leaguer Ryan Casteel. How much did you get to know him in your time overseas?

TM: We have played together the last three years we have been great friends over the last seasons and spent a lot of good time together. [He is a] good friend and good teammate.

EMLB: In an http://MLB.com article, it said that you and Casteel grew up only 30 miles apart, but had never crossed paths until a couple of years ago. Is that true?

TM: Yea I heard about him in the newspaper and stuff but never played with him until [the] Northwest League in 2011.

EMLB: What do you think of when I say the name Joe Sclafani?

TM: Played against him this past year in the cal league in Lancaster and in Adelaide in the ABL. Most recently however the ball he hit to right center…

EMLB: I was going to ask you about the play. What do you remember?

TM: Just remember taking off after it and having a good beat on it. Knew I could get to it but knew I would have to make a little contact with the wall. I had no idea the wall would give out like it did.

EMLB: It didn’t look like it was padded very well, haha. Did the game go on afterwards?

TM: Yea we had about a 10 minute break to mend the wall back.

EMLB: What are your goals for the 2014 season?

TM: To improve my game at the plate and continue chasing the dream of becoming a big leaguer.

EMLB: What is the worst part of the minors? Any stories?

TM: Ha I guess we’ve had some bus breakdowns that have made for long trips. Middle of the nights sitting on the side of the road… But those bad times usually make for the funniest stories later on.

EMLB: I’ll bet. What do you usually do during the busrides?

TM: Usually get some good sleep. I’ve gotten better at sleeping on the bus if I’m not playing spades

EMLB: Do you have any pregame routines?

TM: I always tape my wrists the same way and have to have two pieces of Wrigley spearmint gum before I go out to stretch.

EMLB: Interesting. Which pitcher that you have hit against has the most dominant stuff?

TM: I faced Kimbrel when he was coming up [and] then this past summer Archie Bradley had some pretty good stuff! [I’m] excited to see how he does.

EMLB: Have you been able to talk with any of the current Rockies players, like Tulo, Cargo, or anyone else?

TM: No, I haven’t.

EMLB: As you continue to progress through the Rockies system, is there one player you most like to meet?

TM: I’d really like to meet [Derek] Jeter. I like the way he goes about things and plays the game.

EMLB: What message would you give to kids who have the dream of playing professionally?

TM: If you love it, keep working hard and believe you can do it.

EMLB: And lastly, your pick for the Superbowl is?

TM: Russell Wilson former teammate. Go Hawks!!

EMLB: Thank you for your time.

Tyler will also be sending an autographed item, it is still to be determined, to a follower of the blog. Once we receive 75 followers, we will raffle it off to the blog followers. Remember, you can follow the blog by email by signing up on the right side of the blog.

Where Will A.J. Burnett Go?

UPDATE: 3:58PM ET

The Orioles have announced that they will “go all out” to sign A.J. Burnett.

ORIGINAL

It’s was made official on Tuesday that 37 year-old RHP A.J. Burnett will not retire and will continue with his career. It was also reported that he is open to leaving Pittsburgh to find opportunities elsewhere. So the big question is does he stay in “The Burgh” or will he continue his great career into another city?

A.J. Burnett’s numbers over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh are definitely not “Cy Young worthy”, but they are slightly better than his numbers in the Big Apple with the Yanks. In his two years with the Bucs, Burnett went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA. With the Yankees, he went 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA. Like I said before, not deserving of a Cy Young, but his numbers went up when he went to Pittsburgh, which is probably because he wasn’t under a microscope, without the media watching his every move unlike his situation in New York. Before going to NY he was starting to make a name for himself in Toronto alongside Roy Halladay as they were both putting up great numbers. Then, when he eventually signed with New York, he was expected to put up those numbers, which he could not do. He works very well in the Pirates rotation and gets along with the coaches. Besides the bunting incident in 2012, his time in Pittsburgh has been pretty good as he found peace away from the New York media, but will he leave “The Burgh”?  Where will he go if he does?

Besides the Pittsburgh Pirates being a good fit, I believe there are some other teams that could benefit from Burnett’s services.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies already have a decent rotation with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee even though this will be the first year of the “post Halladay era”. I believe Burnett could fit in great somewhere between Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick in the number three role. Like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia is a smaller market than the Bronx, so there is not much media pressure there either. Plus, he lives in a small town outside of Baltimore called Monkton in Maryland. Philadelphia is just about an hour away from Monkton. He and his wife have two kids, and the  37 year old dad probably wants to spend time with his children.

Baltimore Orioles

My other match for Burnett is the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore is very close to his home in Monkton, Maryland. Baltimore is in dire need of a starting pitcher and Burnett could be the savior to the rotation. Oriole’s executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette even showed interest in Burnett during this off-season. Baltimore is a good choice, but not a stellar one.

The Pirates, Orioles, and Phillies are possible destinations for Burnett but it’s possible that other teams could enter the mix, especially teams that need an immediate fix to their starting pitching woes like the Giants, Blue Jays, or Angels, or even the Indians. A.J. Burnett may be 37 years old, but he will be one of the more talked about free-agents of this off-season, which ends in less than three weeks.

Royals Bullpen Among The Best?

When you hear the bullpen mentioned, you probably think of the  Atlanta Braves, they have Craig Kimbrel and company, maybe you think of the St. Louis Cardinals and their uncountable amount of young arms, and still,  you might think about the Dodgers, who have four guys who can close games out. Yet the team that might have the most complete bullpen is the Kansas City Royals. First of all, the Royals have Luke Hochevar, who spent a large chunk of the beginning of his career as a starter, but now has totally been re-established himself as a long/middle relief pitcher. Hochevar had a 1.92 ERA and won 5 games out of the pen in 58 relief outings in 2013. Two more key parts of the Kansas City bullpen are Tim Collins and Aaron Crow. Collins took the 7th inning role last year and gave the Royals a very solid 66 outings with a 3.54 ERA. Aaron Crow took the setup role and pitched in 57 games in 2013, posting a 3.38 ERA. Crow’s best season came in 2012 where his ERA was a little higher at 3.48, but was partly due to the fact that he pitched in 73 games rather than 57. In 2012 Crow only allowed 4 home runs all year, struck out 65 batters, and batters only hit .231 against him. The Royals hope to receive 2013 ERA numbers and 2012 numbers in every other category from Crow.

The star of the bullpen is closer Gregg Holland. Holland had a fantastic 2013 season, as he saved 47 games, had an eye popping 1.21 ERA, struck out 103 batters, and blew only three saves. Holland has the chance to put himself among the best closers in the game if he has another big season in 2014. The back-end of the Royals bullpen, with Hochevar, Crow, Collins, and Holland is among the best in the game. Together with the lesser-known names in the bullpen, this KC pen may be best in the bigs.

MLB Daily Transactions: 1/29/14

Yuniesky Betancourt signs with Japanese club

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Yuniesky Betancourt has reached an agreement with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes. It was reported earlier this offseason that Betancourt was receiving plenty of MLB interest, but it’s no surprise that he ultimately found a better opportunity overseas. The 32-year-old batted just .212/.240/.355 in 409 plate appearances last season for the Brewers.

Andrew Albers signs with Korean team

Andrew Albers has officially signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization, according to the Yonhap News Agency.  The deal includes a $100,000 singing bonus.  He had a 4.05 ERA and 25/7 K/BB ratio in 60 innings with the Twins last season.

Twins sign RHP Matt Guerrier to minors deal

Twins signed RHP Matt Guerrier to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Guerrier, 35, posted a 4.01 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 42 2/3 innings between the Dodgers and Cubs last season before undergoing surgery in August to repair the flexor mass in his right arm.  If he is back to full health, he could compete for a bullpen job in the spring. Guerrier spent the first seven seasons of his major league career with the Twins.

Royals acquire OF Carlos Peguero from Mariners

Royals acquired OF Carlos Peguero from the Mariners for cash considerations. Peguero was designated for assignment by the Mariners earlier this month. The outfielder has shown some power potential in the minors, but he owns a .195/.242/.380 batting line over 219 plate appearances in the majors. He’ll go into spring training out of options.  With the Signing of  Carlos Peguero the Royals designate LHP Everett Teaford. He made one appearance with the Royals last season and posted a 3.49 ERA and 99/39 K/BB ratio in 95 1/3 innings in the minors. He should draw interest on waivers.

Cardinals, Daniel Descalso avoid arbitration with 1-yr deal

Cardinals and INF Daniel Descalso avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.29 million contract. Descalso requested $1.65 million and was offered $930,000 from the Cardinals. The 29-year-old will function as a utility infielder for St. Louis in 2014.

Yankees Sign RHP Bruce Billings to minors deal

Yankees signed RHP Bruce Billings to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Billings, 28, has appeared in the majors since 2011 and posted a 4.31 ERA and 135/51 K/BB ratio over 148 1/3 innings last season with the A’s Triple-A affiliate. He’ll serve as organizational pitching depth for New York.

Rangers claim LHP Pedro Figueroa off waivers

Rangers claimed LHP Pedro Figueroa off waivers from the Rays.  Figueroa was just claimed off waivers from the A’s earlier this month He mostly pitched in the minors last season, but he could contribute out of the Rangers’ bullpen in 2014. With the Signing of Figueroa the Rangers designate RHP Roe for assignment.  Roe, who was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks in November, had a 4.03 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings in the Major’s.  He could generate interest on waivers once again.

Cubs, Justin Ruggiano agree on deal to avoid arbitration

Cubs and OF Justin Ruggiano avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract. Ruggiano requested $2.45 million and was offered $1.6 million from the Cubs when arbitration figures were exchanged earlier this month, so the two sides settled for a little under the midpoint. Acquired from the Marlins in December, the 31-year-old figures to serve on the short side of a platoon in Chicago’s outfield in 2014.

Reds sign Ramon Santiago to minors deal

Reds signed INF Ramon Santiago to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Santiago can earn $1.1 million if he makes the Reds’ Opening Day roster and remains on it all year. He batted just .224/.298/.288 in 80 games last season for the Tigers.

Dodgers sign Aaron Bates to minors deal

Dodgers signed 1B Aaron Bates to a minor league contract. Bates batted .306/.397/.411 with seven home runs and 57 RBI in 126 games last season for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters. He’ll be depth at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Lance Berkman retiring from MLB at age 37

Lance Berkman has retired from baseball. The 37-year-old former first-round pick of the Astros spent 15 seasons at the major league level, batting .293/.406/.537 while tallying 366 career home runs in 1,879 career games. After spending 12 years in Houston, he went on to play for the Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers.

Mariners and Indians are most likely to land Pitcher Scott Baker

UPDATE: 4:10PM ET

The Mariners have signed Scott Baker to a minor-league contract

ORIGINAL

Chris Cotillo of mlbdailydish.com reports that the Cleveland Indians and the Seattle Mariners are the favorites to land Free Agent Pitcher Scott Baker.  According to a industry source, there are 5-7 teams interested in Baker.  He will likely make a desicion within the next few days.

Baker has been interested in signing a Major League contract, but will most likely settle with a Minor League contract that includes an inviation to spring training. “He is feeling better than he has for the past three years” says the source, “and will try to earn a starting role in the rotation in Spring Training with the team he decides to sign with.

The 32 year old pitcher made three Starts with the Chicago Cubs last seasons recording 6 earned runs in 15 innings after not playing for almost three years.  Scott showed interest in returning with the Cubs but now likely heading back to the American Leagues with either Seattle or Cleveland.

In eight seasons with the Minnesota Twins (’05-’11) and Cubs (’13), Baker has a lifetime 63-48 record and 4.14 ERA in 166 major league appearances.

Possible breakout players

In the times of rookies and stars, some underrated players may be ready to shine. Let’s take a look at the breakout candidates.

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies- Highly touted as a prospect, Arenado was even better than expected as a rookie in 2013. He hit 10 homers, and put to rest any thoughts of moving to 1B. Becoming the 1st rookie in MLB history to win a 3B gold glove, he beat out perennial winners David Wright and Martin Prado. He also is underrated- most people selected Wright or Prado to play 3B in fantasy. This could be a great prospect to become the next Ryan Zimmerman.

Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres- As a power-hitting second baseman, Gyorko could follow the path of Dustin Pedroia. Gyorko had a slash line of .249/23/66 as a rookie last year, and that was with playing half of his games in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park. In the minors in 2012, he hit 30 homers and batted in 100 RBI’s. As Gyorko learns how to face major-league level pitchers, he could be among the likes of Jose Bautista and Chris Davis (in terms of power potential). Look for Gyorko to make a big statement this year.

A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks- Pollock was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft and has been a machine for getting on base and getting into scoring position. A bit underrated for a while, in college summer ball he was a bench player- and won the “10th man award”. With a slash line of .269/8/38 in 2013 as a utility player, he offered some promise. Enough to be given the starting CF job for 2014. Pollock stole 36 bases in 2011 and 21 in 2012 (in the minors). Not unlike Jason Kipnis, he gets on base and then gets into scoring position, which is invaluable to a team. All in all, Pollock may have the best potential of all of these players.

 

Reds avoid arbitration with Aroldis Chapman

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Cincinnati Reds have avoided arbitration with closer Aroldis Chapman at a $5 million contract extension for one year, the midpoint of Chapman’s $5.4 million asking price and the Reds’ $4.6 million.

In 2010, Chapman signed a 5 year, $25.25 million contract with a 2015 player option.  This was his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Chapman pitched 63 2/3 innings last season from the bullpen for the Reds in 68 appearances, recording 38 saves.  He had a 2.54 ERA and 1.037 WHIP, recording 15.8 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9.  Chapman’s 15.8 K/9 was the highest of any closer last season, with the second-place closer coming in 2.0 K/9 less.  He has a save percentage of 88.37%.

Chapman has done well for the Reds, and has made the All-Star Team each of the last two years.  In 2012, Chapman came in 8th place for the Cy Young Award and 12th place for the MVP Award, which is surprisingly good for a closer.   The last closer to win the MVP was Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the last closer to win the Cy Young was Eric Gagne in 2003.

Chapman is a good keep for the Reds, and will continue to be one of their star performers.