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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2012 MLB Previews: AL East, Plus Cain Notes

It's about that time of year, getting towards the end of Spring, when we like to make our predictions and preview the league for the upcoming baseball season, starting in the AL East and ending at home in the NL West, saving the best for last. Don't worry though, we'll still save some room in the division preview posts for Giants news, including today's topic on Matt Cain's contract situation.

AL EAST PREVIEW

1st Place, New York Yankees

Lineup:
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
C Russell Martin
DH Andruw Jones
LF Brett Gardner

Rotation/Closer:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
RHP Ivan Nova
LHP Andy Pettite
CL: Mariano Rivera

The Yankees again sport one of the premiere offenses in baseball, and should be even better this year with a healthy and motivated ARod. They also deepened their bench by adding Raul Ibanez. However, the biggest move for the Yanks this offseason, their stealing of Michael Pineda from Seattle, should be the one that gets them over the hump and wins them this division!

2nd Place, Boston Red Sox (Wild Card 2)

Lineup:
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Alex Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
LF Carl Crawford*
RF Cody Ross
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Mike Aviles

Rotation/Closer
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Clay Buchholtz
RHP Danial Bard
RHP Vincente Padilla
CL: Andrew Bailey

The Red Sox got weaker, in my opinion, this winter after their big offseason last year. Carl Crawford had surgery on his wrist in January and will likely be out till late-April. They also lost star closer Jonathan Papelbon, although they did get a decent replacement in Bailey. Still, their lineup isn't up to New York's standard, and their rotation isn't as strong either. They'll still should be right their battling for one of the 2 wild card spots though!

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays

Lineup:
LF Desmond Jennings
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
RF Matt Joyce
DH Luke Scott
SS Sean Rodriguez
C Jose Molina

Rotation/Closer
RHP James Shields
LHP David Price
RHP Jeremy Hellickson
RHP Wade Davis
LHP Matt Moore
CL: Kyle Farnsworth

The Rays are another team, much like Boston, that didn't help themselves out a whole lot this winter. They did add Carlos Pena, and they have a surprisingly strong young rotation, but failed to grab a true closer in a market completely stocked with them. That, coupled with their horrid bottom third of the lineup has them looking way up at Boston and New York. However, they have young players who could help push them, like Jennings did in '11.

4th Place, Toronto Blue Jays

Lineup:
SS Yunel Escobar
LF Eric Thames
RF Jose Bautista
1B Adam Lind
3B Brett Lawrie
DH Edward Encarnacion
CF Colby Rasmus
C J.P Aaroncibia
2B Kelly Johnson

Rotation/Closer:
LHP Rickey Romero
RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Brett Cecil
RHP Henderson Alvarez
RHP Dustin McGowan
CL: Sergio Santos

In any other division in baseball, besides maybe the NL East, the Blue Jays are players. They have a strong young nucleus with good hitters and good young arms, and they have more on the way. They have depth in the bullpen and rotation as well as good young positional players on the rise. Look for them to keep getting better and possibly contenders by the 2013 season!

5th Place, Baltimore Orioles

Lineup:
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
3B Mark Reynolds
C Matt Wieters
LF Nolan Reimold
DH Wilson Betimit
1B Chris Davis
2B Robert Andino

Rotation/Closer:
RHP Tommy Hunter
RHP Jason Hammel
RHP Jake Arrieta
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Chris Tillman
CL: Matt Lindstrom

The Orioles are the same old Orioles, and haven't seemed to figure out how to put together a team since the turn of the decade 12 years back as they've been one of the worst teams of the 2000's. They look like they have a bright future in their rotation with three star prospects, but those guys have been hyped for a few years now and haven't yet broken through, so who knows? All I know, is they're the black sheep of this division and will be lucky to win 70 games.

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Giants Notes: As I said at the top of the post, I wanted to talk a bit about Matt Cain's situation. Apparently, the hometown discount, every Giants fan as well as Giants' management were hoping he'd give the club, can be thrown out the window. Cainer won't be signing a Jered Weaver-type deal that puts him a tad below market value to stay in San Francisco and says that he does want to stay, but at the same time, wouldn't mind testing out the market. As I said with Lincecum back before the locked him up, if they don't get Cain signed long-term, this offseason's approach and failure to add free agents will come back to bite this team in the rear. I'm still holding out hope that Cain gets a deal done before the season starts, but if he doesn't, things will likely stall for a bit, and who knows, if the Giants don't play well, he very well could be dangled out there as bait. The Giants need to figure that if they can't get anything done before the season, chances of getting something done in season aren't likely, and they'd face the very real possibility of entering next offseason with Cain ticketed for free agency. It's been said Cain is seeking a deal closer to the $20M+ range while the Giants were trying to get him on a similar deal Weaver signed, 5 year/$75M. It's something to keep a close eye on over the next couple weeks before opening day.
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    Love Matt Cain but I don't want to see the team over pay, especially on a long term deal. I like the Pittsburgh Steeler model: Pick good rookies, be very careful who you give big money to, and when your young players become free agents, it's next man up. I don't know if the Giants have a next man up, though.

     
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