Monday January 9th, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen: Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!
Let’s get to your top questions of the week:
Q: With Prince probably going to the Nats, where do you think it places them in the NL East? Are they ready to compete for a playoff spot? Wade
MLB reports: Great question Wade. Despite the reports (and there are plenty), Prince Fielder to Washington is far from a done deal. In the world of Scott Boras, a mystery team could appear at any time. That being said, let’s assume for this exercise that Prince becomes a National in 2012. Given the strength of the Phillies rotation, the improved Marlins and always steady Braves squads, the Nationals would still be in tough. The Nationals could hit .500, but would not yet be ready for a playoff run. Once they have Strasburg firing on all cylinders and Bryce Harper integrated fully into the majors, the story could change. The Nationals are sitting on one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Adding Prince Fielder makes them a serious playoff contender by 2014 at the latest. They will go from a good team to a possibly a great one. Prince has done it in Milwaukee with the right squad and could replicate his success in Washington soon.
Q: Does Beltran even come close to filling the void that Pujols left? Kevin
MLB reports: No. No. And no. Did I say no? Because I meant no. Carlos Beltran is a good player. But let’s face facts. Aside from his magical playoff run in Houston, he has never been a top player in baseball. He has shown superstar numbers, but given his age and declining health, the Cardinals would simply be happy if he can stay healthy. At best, the Cardinals would get another Berkman type season out of Beltran in 2012. Albert Pujols is one of a kind. A Babe Ruth type slugger. Carlos Beltran is simply a good player that will provide steady production for a lineup that needs to fill a big void. The bigger question is whether the rest of the lineup will pick up the slack. Can Freese continue his breakout? Will Furcal stay healthy? Can Matt Holliday be the main producer in St. Louis? Can Lance Berkman duplicate his 2011 season? Many ifs…too many for my liking. Carlos Beltran helps part of the issue, but is far from the answer in how the Cardinals will play in the post-Pujols era.
Q: Any chance Madson will return to his 8th inning role for the Phillies? Sam
MLB reports: I can’t see this happening. Ryan Madson is not likely to return to Philadelphia. With Jonathan Papelbon entrenched with his old job, Madson will at least need to take a job where he has a chance to win the closer role. Not to mention that Madson’s wife had certain choice words a year ago about playing in Philadelphia. At the time I felt that the Madsons had burned their bridge with the team and I have not changed my opinion since. Madson will need to move on and possibly take a set-up role somewhere. But one where the closer is more volatile and an opening is likely to open up. After the contract fiasco in Philadelphia, a return to the Phillies would be like him coming with his tail between his legs. Pride alone will lead to a new team for Madson in 2012.
Q: Any thoughts on tolleson being the closer for the dodgers by 2013? And when do you see Hutchinson joining the jays (ceiling)? Justin
MLB reports: Considering he was drafted in the 30th round of the 2010 draft, Shawn Tolleson is looking like an absolute steal for the Dodgers. After passing through 3 levels last season, ending in AA, Tolleson is certainly knocking on the door. I can’t see why he doesn’t make the big leagues at some point next season. If he can continue his superior numbers, we could be seeing a set-up man in 2013 and possible closer. I would say 2014 is a more realistic timeline for a full-time closing position, but it will depend on how he pitches at higher levels. Based on the body of work so far, the sky is the limit on this kid. In Toronto, Drew Hutchinson is another kid on the fast-track. A 15th round pick in 2009, Hutchinson has been a dominant starter from day one. At age 21 and finishing last season in AA, I would say 2013 is a realistic timeline for Drew. He clearly has the stuff to succeed. But he is very young and the Jays will not want to risk burning him out by rushing him too soon. Ceiling? From everything he has done so far, I see a solid #3 starter on a contending squad. Good strikeouts and low walk rates are always a recipe for success.
Q: What’s your favorite baseball movie of all time? Lindsay
MLB reports: I love almost every baseball movie that I have seen. Not a big fan of Mr. 3000 and even Mr. Baseball was so-so. There are too many good ones in my opinion. But if I had to pick one, I would go with For Love of the Game. There was something very special and real about that movie that really brought out a great deal of emotion out of me. For a recent film, Moneyball was fantastic. I can’t wait to own it on DVD (in stores Tuesday January 10th, 2012). After I watch it a dozen times or so, we will see where it ranks on my list. It is top-five for sure and could rise even higher. Major League for sure makes the list as well, as does Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and The Rookie. But give me For Love of the Game anytime and I will be a happy camper.
Q: Who do you have starting opening day for the Royals? Jonathan Sanchez? Michael
MLB reports: Good question from one of our top KC readers. My answer will surprise you. The Royals have Luke Hochevar listed at the top spot right now. Sanchez is seen by many as the likely ace for 2012. I think spring training will answer best which arm is in the best shape and looks the strongest to lead the team. If I had to be a dollar right now, my money is on Bruce Chen. I see the Royals leaning on the veteran to guide their young up-and-coming rotation going into the season. I am a Hochevar supporter, but I am not seeing a big upside as of right now. Chen has been very good since joining the Royals and I see him getting the nod in April for opening day.
Q: Any idea what’s going on with Pudge Rodriguez? Nick
MLB reports: Pudge will be back in 2012. I was told that he has been working hard in winter ball and is in great game shape. Speaking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (a neighbor of Ivan Rodriguez in Florida), Pudge is in training and gearing up for the season. I don’t see Pudge starting, but he will be a veteran backup on a squad. The list of available jobs is dwindling, but a team will take a flier on him soon. Perhaps a return to the Nationals. Tigers? Angels? Otherwise, if a catcher goes down, Pudge will be one of the first free agent catchers to get the call. The career is definitely winding down for the future hall-of-famer. I can definitely see him getting a contract in place before the start of spring training.
Q: Why does the winning team only give high 5s to each other and not the other team after the game? Javaman
MLB reports: This is one tradition that I still enjoy in baseball. Teams are supposed to go into battle. Players are supposed to go onto the field looking to win, not make friends. Heck, it bothers me when a baserunner and a first baseman get chatty after a base hit. When a baseball team wins, they will rejoice and celebrate as a squad. The losing team wants to get off the field and into the clubhouse as soon as possible. When a team loses, the last thing they want to do is shake hands and socialize with the team that just beat them. They want to recoup and prepare for the next game. Old time mentality and I like it.
Q: Who is the next big star (besides Prince) to get a $200 mil+ contract? Martin
MLB reports: I don’t even see Prince getting $200 million at this point to be honest. There are very few guys that I could see getting a contract of that magnitude. Going to the list, I am drawing blanks. Josh Hamilton is too injured to get there. Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw might, but teams are generally not interested in handing out unlimited years and money to pitchers. Perhaps Joey Votto will have a chance. Otherwise, we will literally have to wait until the Stephen Strasburgs and Bryce Harpers of this world are eligible for free agency. If I had to throw out one another name, maybe Mike Stanton one day. To reach the $200 million club, you need to be one of the best, if not THE best in the game. Quite frankly, there is just too much risk in handing out deals of that size. Show me the next Babe Ruth and maybe I will change my mind. Until then, expect more $100+ million deals, but not $200 million.
Last Q: With a lack of spending this offseason are the Yankees getting ready to buck up for Hamels/Cain next offseason? Chris
MLB reports:That certainly seems like the plan. But it is a risky plan. A very risky plan that could backfire. Sure, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira found their way to New York. But remember Cliff Lee? He certainly did not work out well for the Yankees. Holding back for such a contingency plan is risky on many fronts. Perhaps the desired player gets injured. Or signs a long-term deal with their current squad. Better yet, the player hits free agency and joins a different team all-together. So while I could see the Yankees waiting for a better group of free agents to be available, there is no guarantees that those players will ultimately land in New York. The decision to hold off on spending this offseason is more based on the overall talent level and asking prices. If there was the right player at the right price on the market currently, the Yankees would grab him. The team would rather go with what they have then take on a bad contract with little return. Next year could find a better talent level available to the Yankees in the form of Cole Hamels and Matt Cain. But as the old saying goes: you have to play for today, because tomorrow might never come. If any of the future free agents do end up signing with the Yankees, it will be a bonus for the team. But to count on it is a pathway to disappointment. The offseason is not over yet, another free agent signing or trade could be in the works. Until opening day is upon us, a lot can still happen. Thank you for reading MLB reports and we appreciate your question.
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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)