Each MLB Team's Best Roster Move Thus Far
Making the right call at the right time is what makes a successful season. The pressure is on GM's to pull the trigger and handle the scrutiny that can come with any decision. Sometimes the answer lies in the team's farm system while at other times it lies in the free-agent pool.
With a little over 50 games in the books for all teams, the division races are beginning to take shape. Some teams have stumbled out of the gate only to catch fire and others have fallen on their faces and have not been able to get back on their feet. Putting your team in the best position to win falls on the general manager and managers shoulders and some teams have done a better job than others.
New York Yankees: Turning Back the Clock
We all know by now that the Yankees tried to put the pieces together with limited resources after they were spurned by Cliff Lee. Those make-shift pieces are named Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
In his first complete season at the major league level, Nova has been up and down but has been more than what the Yankees could have hoped from their rookie starter. He has pitched some real gems—7.1 innings of two-hit ball against the Rangers but has also imploded—four earned runs against the Royals.
Garcia and Colon on the other hand have seemed to turned the clocks backward and been quite successful this season. Though they both aren't the pitchers that they were in their prime, they have found a way to make the best out of what is left in the tank. Garcia has become more crafty, and Colon has gained movement on his two-seamer.
While this is not what the Yankees expected to be going into 2011 with, they have to be quite surprised by how their back end of the rotation has performed this season.
Boston Red Sox: Trading for and Signing Adrian Gonzalez
Even when the Red Sox started out 2-10, did we really expect them to finish anywhere near .500? No. Now that they are firing on all cylinders, they are looking like the team that many predicted to take home the championship trophy.
The Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez and from that moment on we all knew that this team would be a force to be reckoned with. Even when the team was struggling, Gonzo was still putting up MVP numbers. During that horrendous start, his average was still hovering around .300.
Theo Epstein is a fantastic GM, and that is hard for me to say. He earned a date with the prom queen with the signing of Gonzalez.
Toronto Blue Jays: Acquiring Rajai Davis
Jose Bautista steals all of the headlines for the Blue Jays and rightfully so. This guy is amazing. But someone who goes a bit unnoticed is Rajai Davis.
Rajai Davis is quite the table-setter for this squad. He gets on base and causes havoc for opposing pitchers. Davis has been caught stealing seven time this season, but he is always on the pitcher's mind which makes the hitters' jobs easier.
Davis on the base paths has to help Jose Bautista get a few more pitches to hit. Rajai also fits perfectly into manager John Farrell scheme of running the bases and creating runs, not just relying on the long ball even though his squad is quite the power hitting bunch.
Baltimore Orioles: Promoting Zach Britton
The best roster move for the Orioles thus far has been the promotion of Zach Britton. This kid has been the best pitcher on the whole staff and has done more than just fill the void left by an injured Brian Matusz.
Britton was not looked at as option this early in the season. He was looked at more as a June call-up, but when Matusz went down, he was called up to continue his spring success. He was electric during spring training and has carried over the success into the regular season to the tune of a 5-3 record and a 2.98 ERA.
Even though the O's can no longer push back Britton's payday, he has proven to be worth every penny he will be earning.
Tampa Bay Ray: Making Matt Joyce the Starting Right Fielder
Matt Joyce has always had potential, but has never had the stage to showcase what he can do. When Zobrist became the full-time second baseman, Joyce stepped right in and has been on fire. He is boasting a .365 BA with eight HR.
For a team that has been searching for offense after Carlos Pena left for the Cubs and Longoria struggling, Joyce has been the lone bright spot for this squad. On the days that the Rays stellar rotation can't hold the opposition scoreless, Joyce has stepped up and led the charge.
While these numbers might not be sustainable—Joyce is only a lifetime .273 hitter—anything close to this type of production throughout the season will be welcomed by Joe Madden though.
Kansas City Royals: Promoting Eric Hosmer
Another prospect made his major league debut recently and has lived up the to hype. Eric Hosmer was called up earlier this month and has added another power bat to the surging Royals. With Hosmer in the three-hole, this Kansas City squad is no longer the door mat of the American League.
During spring training, Hosmer's slashline was an absurd .450/.520/.950. It was only a matter of time before the Royals brightest young prospect made his debut.
Since his call up, Hosmer is hitting .274 with five home runs. He is struggling a bit at the moment, but this is all part of the maturation process and as he battles through his first real struggle, he will only get that much better. That is a scary thought.
Detroit Tigers: Going with Alex Avila as the Full-Time Catcher
Alex Avila has been a pleasant surprise this season. We all knew the potential was there, but he has really blossomed this season. Even with the presence of Victor Martinez, Avila has been one of, if not the best catcher in the American League this season.
His 2010 campaign was forgettable, but he has been able to add some protection in the lineup for Miguel Cabrera, especially when Martinez was out with an injury.
In 2011, Avila is hitting .279 with eight homeruns. At 24 years old, we are witnessing a star being born before our eyes.
Cleveland Indians: Not Rushing the Future
The Indians have been patient. They have been horrible over the past few seasons and sometimes when your team is struggling, the guys calling the shots feel that they need to rush their big-name prospects to the major league level to try to right the ship. The Indians did not panic, and it is paying off.
With Drew Pomeranz and Lonnie Chisenhall maturing in the minors, this team will be better prepared for the future. With the numbers they are putting together this season, both of these studs will be stars at the next level when their name is called.
The Indians seem to have turned the corner this season which makes it much that easier to let these guys develop and not rushing them just for the sake of a quick fix.
Minnesota Twins: The One Bright Spot
Things have turned sour for the reigning AL Central champions and in a hurry. Once this team lost Joe Mauer, everything has gone wrong. The Twins have the worst record in the majors and with the way they are playing, they could remain in the cellar for quite some time.
The one bright spot has been Jason Kubel. He is hitting nearly 30 points higher than his career BA and he has led the offensive charge for this offensively challenged squad. Without Kubel, this team might be even worse than they are if that is at all possible.
Ron Gardenhire better have some magic up his sleeve, or he will never come close to living up to his Manager of the Year victory in 2010.
Chicago White Sox: Moving Sergio Santos to the Closer Role
The White Sox thought they were heading into 2011 with a two-way battle for their closer role. It seemed as if the job belonged to Matt Thornton, but Chris Sale was nipping at his heels.
Turns out, neither could handle the role. In his first four save chances, Thornton blew all four. When Sale was given the opportunity, he promptly blew the save.
Tired of his team losing in the late innings, manager Ozzie Guillen turned to Sergio Santos, a converted pitcher from his native shortstop position. The move has paid off as Santos has converted eight of nine save opportunities.
Even though the White Sox need to find ways to win more games, at least they know now that when it's a nail-biter, they have someone in the pen who can put the nail in the coffin.
Oakland A's: Trading for Josh Willingham
The A's have a young and talented pitching staff. They have three legitimate starters in Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. Each could be the ace of most staffs in the majors. But their rotation has not been the red flag—their lineup has been.
With all of the young talent on this squad, this team cannot hit for a lick. Bring in Josh Willingham and there is finally some pop in this lineup.
While Willingham will never hit for a high average, he can provide some power with his explosive swing. Since becoming a full-time player in 2006, he has hit over 20 HR three times and always finished in the upper teens when he didn't eclipse the mark.
Willingham fills a much needed whole in this promising Oakland squad.
Los Angeles Angels: Making Jordan Walden the Closer
The Angels were looking for answers at the closer position just like many clubs this season. Fernando Rodney could not be relied upon and Jordan Walden only had 15 innings under his belt. During those 15 innings, Walden was dominant striking out 23.
In 25 games this season, Walden has recorded 12 saves, but his ERA and WHIP need to come down a bit. Each are 3.20 and 1.38 respectively. The strikeouts are still there though as he has fanned 25 batters in 24.1 innings.
While Walden has had his share of bumps in the road, he has made a successful transition to the closer role.
Seattle Mariners: Promoting Michael Pineda
Michael Pineda has been one of, if not the best, pitcher in the American League this season. His numbers are off the charts. Through 10 starts, he is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and 66 strikeouts. He has been better than his teammate and 2010 Cy Young Award Winner, Felix Hernandez.
If the Mariners could hit, then this team would be at the top of the open AL West. With Pineda, Hernandez, Justin Vargas and Erik Bedard pitching well, this team could be quite scary for the opposition.
Pineda is looking to run away with the AL ROY Award, but Zach Britton is giving him a run for his money. Even though his innings will most likely be limited as the season goes on, this kid has a bright, bright future ahead of him.
Texas Rangers: Making Alexi Ogando a Starter
It was first rumored that the Rangers wanted to make their star closer Neftali Feliz a starter this spring. When that idea fell through the cracks, Alexi Ogando was looked at as the next option. He was phenomenal in 2010 and looked like a great option to fill the hole left by the departure of Cliff Lee.
So far, so good.
Ogando has been all they could have asked for and then-some. In 10 starts, he has gone 5-0, but has been prone to the long-ball, letting seven pitches end up over the fences. Other than that, he has been just what the doctor has ordered for the Rangers.
Atlanta Braves: The Rookie Bullpen
Even though Billy Wagner had quite an incredible season in 2010, he decided to hang up his spikes and go out on a high note. The Braves decided to put the burden of setting the table and closing out games on two young flame-throwers named Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.
Both have been more than capable of closing out games when the Braves made the call.
Kimbrel has not been quite as dominant as he was in 2010 but has been a shut-down closer nonetheless. In 18 chances, Kimbrel has converted 14 saves while blowing only four. He is still striking out hitters at an alarming rate—38 K's in 26 innings.
Venters on the other hand has been even more dominant. Just like Kimbrel, Venters made quite the impression last season posting a 1.95 ERA in 79 games. This year, he has a 0.55 ERA to his credit and fanned 30 in 32.2 innings.
When the eighth inning rolls around, the Braves are as lock-down as it comes with their two young studs.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Cliff Lee Sweepstakes
The addition of Cliff Lee is an obvious choice as the best roster move of the spring. What makes this even more amazing is just how they went about it.
While everyone was penning the Yankees and the Rangers as the front-runners to obtain the ace, the Phillies came out of no where and signed Lee. The kicker is the deal that they reached was far less than what both the Rangers and Yankees were willing to offer.
Lee wanted to finish his career in Philadelphia, and he got his wish and the Phillies rotation became just that much more terrifying.
Florida Marlins: Sticking with Leo Nunez
Even though his job was not in jeopardy this year, Nunez was a bit shaky last season which can only bring a bit of uncertainty into the mind of the manager. Even though Nunez closed the door on 56 games over the last two seasons, he blew 15 saves during that span. With Clay Hensley proving to be a more-than-capable setup man, Nunez was on a short leash.
In 2011, no one has saved more games than Nunez who has already accumulated 18 saves and only blew one game. Hensley has not been as productive this season and the Marlins have been winning, so Leo is safe and letting manager Edwin Rodriguez feel secure with the game on the line.
New York Mets: Holding off the Fire Sale... for Now
The Mets have a few big name players on their roster who could be moved before the end of the season. David Wright could be shipped to create extra funds for Jose Reyes if they attempt to resign him, or Reyes could be moved before he hits free agency. The latter seems to be the more likely scenario.
The Mets are in turmoil. We all know that, but they can still make a run this season. Reyes is playing his baseball in a while and Carlos Beltran—another soon-to-be free agent—has turned back the clock as well.
Maybe if the ownership keeps their lips sealed, the Mets could make something out of this young season.
Washington Nationals: Giving Michael Morse Playing Time
Michael Morse seems to have been a forgotten player on the Nationals roster. He has finally received some constant playing time at first base with Adam LaRoche on the DL and has made the most of the opportunity.
Morse clubbed nine HR this spring—second most in spring training—and has been on a tear as of late. Over his last 10 game, Morse has homered in five of those games.
With Jayson Werth still struggling to live up to his massive contract and Ryan Zimmerman on the DL for the majority of the season, Morse has done a great job bringing some pop to NatTown.
Chicago Cubs: Moving Starlin Castro to the Three Hole
The best player on the Cubs is Starlin Castro. His defense is suspect at times, but he more than makes up for it in the batters box.
This season, he is hitting .320 with four triples and 12 doubles. Castro is the type of player that the Cubbies have been missing for some time.
Even though Castro has better numbers at the top of the lineup—.397 BA in 70 AB—he needs to be featured in the three-hole to hopefully drive in more runs. Pena has turned it on as of late, but he is extremely streaky and Tyler Colvin has not been anything close to what he was last season.
Castro isn't putting up the numbers we would like to see quite yet—.244 BA in 90 AB—but he has the skills to make an impact when the ducks are on the pond.
Cincinnati Reds: Not Rushing Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman throws smoke. Simple as that. You might as well swing when it comes out of his hand since you have a better chance of hitting it with your eyes closed.
With Francisco Cordero aging and Chapman seeming like he could be the best closer in baseball, Dusty Baker decided to stick with his vet, at least for this season.
So far that move looks genius. While Cordero has not been lights out, Chapman has wound up on the DL and has lost some of that 106 MPH velocity he has shown in the past.
If the Reds rushed their promising lefty and cut ties with Cordero, their season could be in serious jeopardy.
Down the road, Chapman is the heir to the closer throne, but not rushing him into a roll before he was ready was a smart move by a savvy manager.
Houston Astros: Not Giving Up on Brett Wallace
During his time in the minors, Brett Wallace moved from one affiliate to another and finally wound up on the Houston Astros major league roster. During his debut in 2010, he struggled mightily. Through 51 games—one less than this season—Wallace hit .222 and struck out 50 times and only walked eight times.
During that same span this season, Wallace is hitting .311 with only 38 K's and 19 free passes.
Wallace mashed in the minors and even though it took some time for him to adjust to the next level, the Astros are reaping the benefits that the Blue Jays, Cardinals and A's passed up on.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trading for Shaun Marcum
When Zach Greinke left the Royals to come play for the Brewers, it seemed as if the Brewers had that missing piece they were looking for since CC Sabathia left for the Yankees.
While Greinke has done a great job since coming off the DL, the real staple in the rotation has been Shaun Marcum.
Marcum flew under the radar as he was overshadowing by the Brewers obtaining the new ace of their staff, but maybe that was just how Marcum wanted it.
After pitching quite well for the Blue Jays in the power-packed AL East over the last five seasons, it seemed as if Marcum would reap the benefits of pitching in the National League as most pitchers who make the transition usually do.
He has done much more than just make a fluid transition. Through 11 starts, Marcum is 6-2 with a minuscule ERA and WHIP sitting pretty at 2.80 and 1.05 respectively.
Marcum has only had two bad outings—giving up five runs twice—but has blanked his opponents three times.
Greinke might have gotten the hype, but Marcum has yielding the results.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sticking with Charlie Morton
It would be the easy thing to do to give up on a guy after a 2-12 season and a 7.57 ERA. The Pirates did just the opposite with Charlie Morton.
Morton decided to start from scratch. He changed everything from his delivery to his arm angle, and it has worked. How could anything go wrong when you duplicate the delivery of one of the best pitchers in the game in Roy Halladay.
This season, Morton has not been exactly Hallady-like but has done a complete 180. Through nine starts, Morton is 5-2 with 2.51 ERA.
The Pirates are known for giving up on players fast and giving away the season early. They took a different approach with Morton and so far so good.
St. Louis Cardinals: Signing Lance Berkman
The best move of the offseason has to be the St. Louis Cardinals signing Lance Berkman. This cost the Cards next to nothing and it seems as if they signed the Puma circa 2006. He has been playing at a level that most 35-year-olds dream about.
Berkman is hitting .351 with 11 HR and has a ridiculous .471 OBP. This can't be the Lance Berkman that was shipped to the Yankees at the trade deadline can it?
The Puma has more walks than strikeouts—35 to 25—and has been picking up the slack for a struggling Albert Pujols. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)
Berkman is showing the world that he is not done just yet. Just ask his former team—he went 8-for-15 with two HRs against them this season.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Signing J.J. Putz
J.J. Putz was ka-put. He went played for four different teams over the last four seasons and couldn't seem to find what he had with the Mariners when he put together two stellar seasons.
Now with the Diamondbacks, Putz has gotten back on track. He has recorded 16 saves and is yet to blow one. His ERA and WHIP are reminiscent of his 40 save season with Seattle back in 2007.
The Diamondbacks are trying to return from the cellar and with their young bats and Putz closing out games, things are looking better in the desert.
Colorado Rockies: Recalling Eric Young Jr.
This just happened recently, but it was a smart move by the Rockies' management. Colorado needed to generate some chaos on the base paths and Young can do just that. In three games, he already has two stolen bases.
In the minors, Young was burning up the basepaths. In just 42 games, he stole 17 bases. During that span he also was able to work more walks than K's which is something you want to see as a player matures.
The Rockies already had plenty of super stars on their team with Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Jimenez but need that speedster to push them to the next level.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Keeping Broxton on a Short Leash
Before Jonathan Broxton hit the DL, he was struggling and the Dodgers knew it. Since his poor performance in 2010, the Dodgers were keeping a close eye on how he performed.
Even though he was able to earn seven saves, he was not the dominant closer he was before. His stuff was no longer electric and his ERA ballooned to 5.68.
Mattingly had to make some tough calls with regard to his closer, but Broxton's move to the DL made it that much easier. I frankly wouldn't be surprised if Broxton's time as a closer, at least for the Dodgers, is all but over.
San Diego Padres: Signing Dustin Moseley
Dustin Moseley proved that he could make some quality starts at the big league level last season with the Yankees. When New York needed him to make a spot start, he was serviceable at best, but that was all the Yankees needed with their offense.
The Padres picked up Moseley after the Yankees let him go and he has been quite a surprise. He has reaped the benefits of pitching in a hitter friendly park, but maybe that was all he needed to get his career up and going.
His record is a bit underwhelming at 1-6, but his ERA tells another story—3.18. Moseley just does not get the run support. If he did, this record would be much closer to .500.
San Francisco Giants: Using Vogelsong in a Starting Role
The Giants relied on pitching and timely hitting to win the World Series last season. Once again this year, that is how the Giants win their games.
San Francisco already has quite the pitching staff with Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner, but they needed the fifth piece to be elite. Ryan Vogelsong has provided just that.
Before joining the Giants, Vogelsong was less than impressive with the Pirates. He never had a winning season and never had an ERA below 4.25. Since joining the Giants, he has been a totally different pitcher.
He is 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA. What is even more amazing is the fact that over the last 26.1 innings, Vogelsong has only allowed one run.
The Giants will never be a team that slugs their way to victories, but with this complete five-man pitching staff, this team can be dangerous come October.