I understand that Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera are still on the market along with Manny Ramirez. But that won't change any of these teams I am about to evaluate.
Baltimore Orioles-They are at least one or two years away, but their future looks brighter than it has in a long time. The five-for-one Bedard and Tejada trades upgraded a very much depleted farm system. If some of their young pitching develops, they should still be young and fun to watch come 2011, minus Brian Roberts, of course.
Toronto Blue Jays-Each year, they win 85+ games. And each year it gets them no higher than third place. I used to believe they were a good team in the wrong division. They even had a great three month surge in 2008.
But now, due to the departure of 18-game winner A.J. Burnett, the loss of owner Ted Rogers, and the declining Canadian dollar, I just don't see how they can compete any time soon.
Detroit Tigers-They traded away all their farm talent for a washed up Dontrelle Willis and a very good Miguel Cabrera, but was it worth mortgaging your future (Cameron Maybin)?
(Note: If the Marlins are interested in you, be wary. They have excellent scouts, demonstrated by their fire sales every five years)
They have nothing but old vets, like Sheffield, that no one will trade for. And they still have no bullpen. Brandon Lyon was nice, but he only replaces retired Todd Jones. What about the rest? Will Joel Zumaya ever return to form?
Texas Rangers-They haven't made the playoffs since 1998, and they don't have a Johnny Oates type manager who can develop players and help them win. Free agents no longer want to come here, and the ones that do, use it as a one-year rehab clinic
Gary Matthews and Marlon Byrd are players who used the AL Coors to inflate their numbers before they wisely move on. Sammy Sosa used the Rangers to fade out, as will Andruw Jones.
This is where contracts go to die. (see Millwood Kevin (yes he is still in the league) and Padilla, Vicente.)
Seattle Mariners-Is there more of a mess in MLB than the 101 loss Mariners? No winning seasons since 2004, minus the fluke 2007 season that saw a fifteen game winning streak and manager Mike Hargrove resign mid streak.
Dumb contracts to older players like Jarrod Washburn, Ritchie Sexson, Carlos Silva, and Miguel Batista have cost them. And those are just in the past few years.
Their best FA, Raul Ibanez, wisely left for the World Champs for a reasonable three year $31.5 million price, leaving Ichiro as the lone drawing card.
Is the best they can do is apparantly sign aging (is an understatement), nostalgic Ken Griffey Jr. to a ceremonial Farewell Tour contract? It must really be hard knowing your team is going to be bad.
Expect this team to be in last place for at least the next five years,while the Angels will dominate first place for years to come.
Atlanta Braves-Clearly this isn't the '90's anymore. 18-year Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox has the best job in all of baseball with the most job security.
Yes, some of their free agent signings have been impressive, notably Derek Lowe and Kawakami, but they've also made dumb moves. That includes trading for 16 game loser. and big game (ask Ozzie Guillen) choker, Javier Vasquez and letting icon John Smoltz go. They could lose 90 but more likely 85-87.
Washington Nationals-The Dunn move is a good one, as it's nice to see big FA go to a team that actually need them.
Clueless in the draft and in developing players, the Nats are still two or three starting pitchers away and two or three relievers away from contending. And that's just on the pitching side.
Hitting wise, they need a lead off man, and two or three hitters, most notably stability at first base and a solid 2b (Orlando Hudson would only be a start).
They'll be better than last year's 103 loss mess because of Dunn, but they will win only 75 games at most. That's if a few guys like newly acquired Daniel Cabrera finally live up to their potential by benefiting from a change of scenery.
Pittsbugh Pirates-They have 16 consecutive losing seasons, so why would this year be any different? They are in the top three every year in the draft, yet they can't ever seem to catch a break.
Their second year GM Neal Huntington is carrying on the same old penny pinching orders from management and can't make trades (see Bay, Jason or Nady, Xavier.)
Yes, they were giveaways, but while these are good players, what exactly did Pittsburgh win with them as I had pointed out to me? I could say more, but what's the point? Waste of a beautiful park. You think they'd get lucky some year by default right?
Cincinatti Reds-While I liked the fit for Willy Tavares and the trade for Ramon Hernandez only because it fills a need, they will miss Dunn and Ryan Freel too, so that probably offsets Hernandez.
I was ready to move them up had they completed the Jermaine Dye deal, which fell through. But as we know now, he'd only have been replacing Dunn, and likely not as effectively.
Arroyo, Harang, Cueto, and Edison Volquez all have potential, but what are the chances the former two bounce back and the latter two continue to impress? Seems too much to ask, especially all at one time.
Milwaukee Brewers-The team lost miracle worker C.C. Sabathia and fragile, but proven, Ben Sheets. Adding Braden Looper negates some of that loss, but he can only do so much. The back end of the rotation with McClung and Gallardo is young, unproven, and thus, weak, to put it bluntly.
They aren't nearly in Pirates-dire shape with all that hitting, but it took them 26 years just to make the playoffs, and that was with Sheets and Sabathia clicking together. Without them, I can't see them higher than third at best.
San Diego Padres-It's widely known that they are slashing payroll, which is supposed to bottom out around $40 million, just under $3 million less than what the Rays took all the way to the World Series.
Sadly, the team has lost veteran Greg Maddux and of course, couldn't afford, literally, to replace him with anyone. They also lost proven, but fragile, Khalil Greene via trade to St. Louis for scraps. They are actually counting on utility man Luis Rodriguez to be their starting 2B.
No major FA moves as expected. This team could lose 110 easily, seeing as how they are coming off a 99-loss season. The Mariners of the NL as I see it.
So there you have it. 11 teams that you can count out even before a single pitch is thrown in spring training, much less the regular season.
There is a glaring problem with a league where 36 percent of its participants are non factors from day one. That can't get fixed without a salary cap and floor which the big clubs will never allow to happen. That's a shame but it is what it is.
You'll note that this list excludes teams like the Oakland A's, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies.
Oakland-The players acquired in the Haren deal will help soon, and I love the Holiday and Giambi additions. There are also rumors of Orlando Cabrera going here, and thus, solidifying the infield.
If they lose, hitting won't be the cause. If that pitching comes together, they should finish second in the West, about fifteen games behind the Angels, who are the best regular season team money can buy.
Kansas City-Don't laugh, but I actually think they can vie for third or as high and second this year in their division.
While the Rafael Furcal deal didn't happen, they finally have capable, major league talent all over the field. They just need one or two relievers and a true No. 1 pitcher, so they don't have to rely on a bunch of No. 2's and No. 3's. In K.C., this is a big improvement. They are rising.
San Francisco-Real simple here. They get Manny, they win the division. They have a good mix of young and old in the rotation, with Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, and ace Tim Lincecum.
Still, they will finish in third place finish even without Manny, but they are rising-quicker than I gave them credit for last year. Bochy will be manager of the year with Manny.
Colorado-At first, I was critical of the Matt Holiday trade, but it did fill many organizational needs. They lost Willy Tavares, but kept Ubaldo Jiminez, and got Jason Marquis to add veteran leadership and depth to a very young staff.
Everything would have to click for them to finish higher than fourth, but they made some pretty shrewd moves this winter. Time will tell just how good, or bad, they are. But for now, they look okay at worst.