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Gone are the days of Tom Glavine, John Smotlz, Greg Maddux, and Tim Hudson leading the Braves’ rotation.
Having pried Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Max Fried, Matt Wisler, Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Aaron Blair, and numerous others away from other clubs over the past 18 months, the team now looks to open the season with a lot to prove on the starting pitching front. Julio Teheran is primed to make his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Braves on April 4.
Veteran Bud Norris is almost assured a spot in the rotation, even though he was roughed up against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, March 15.
Matt Wisler looks to have solidified the number three spot in the rotation with his good work down the stretch for the club in 2015.
The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation are where it becomes a coin flip for the Braves. Youngsters Foltynewicz and Banuelos are both working their way back from injuries they sustained towards the end of 2015. Newcomb, the prized pitching prospect in the return from the Angels in the Andrelton Simmons trade, has been knocked around pretty good this spring, giving up six earned runs in his 1.2 innings of work.
Blair, and fellow righty prospect Lucas Sims were both reassigned to minor league camp on Friday, March 18. Jenkins, Mauricio Cabrera, Casey Kelly, and Danny Burawa have all already been reassigned to minor league camp. While Chacin looks like a pretty good contender for the fourth spot in the rotation, the fifth spot could fall in the lap of one of the Braves youngsters. The Braves’ offense should be a little more consistent this season with the acquisitions of Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar at the top of the lineup, and a healthy Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman.
Glavine, Smotlz, and Steve Avery all took their lumps and got his hard when they first arrived in Atlanta.
As another spring training camp hits a full stride, we as Pittsburgh Pirates fans are set to wonder…will this finally be the year we break the walls down? Over the past three seasons we have been faced with some devastating defeats in the NL Wildcard games and the NLDS. Though as fans, I think we need to recognize just how amazingly difficult it would be to appear in the MLB postseason four straight years. As the 2016 season approaches, I find myself looking at this Blue Jays team with cautious optimism.
All this is to say that the team looks poised to contend if everyone stays healthy and performs up to or around their career averages.  However, after the rabid excitement of the last half of 2015, I feel a distinct lack of buzz around the team as we near the start of the year.
I worry that our window to win with the current group is closing, and we no longer have the next wave of prospects since so many have been traded away in recent years. One of the first things that struck me when I began to research this is that we’ve actually drafted a lot of big league talent in recent years.
As mentioned, there is a lot of home grown talent here, and even though we could potentially lose a lot of veterans at the end of the year, I love the group of core young players that we have to build around for 2017 and beyond.
There are lots of things to be concerned about in 2016.  Our big stars may leave at the end of the year. The contract, which will take effect this season, buys out a couple of Wong’s arbitration years, and gives the team control of the 25-year-old through his age 30 season.
Wong entered the spring with a little more than two years worth of MLB service time, and hadn’t yet hit arbitration. While the club now has a number of viable infield options, the decision to lock up Wong now, before he develops further and enhances his value is a good one, which ultimately works out well financially for both the player and the team.
While a lot of people would be happy signing a contract to play baseball over the next year for a salary of $8M, long-time Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond will look to rebuilt his value as a member of the Texas Rangers, while also wondering what could have been.
A couple of years ago, fresh of the heels of a back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards and a very successful 2013 season, Desmond was offered a seven-year extension worth $107M, which he ultimately turned down with eyes on free agency. Desmond’s defense, never his strong suit, was also an issue in 2015, as he committed 27 errors at 155 games at SS. Desmond, as well as Ranger fans, hope he can follow in the footsteps of a former Ranger, Nelson Cruz, who was able to rebuild his value after draft pick compensation ruined his vision of a high-dollar payday two offseasons ago. After a number of successful years in Texas, Cruz, like Desmond, was on the free agent market. Cruz was then able to parlay that effort into a four-year $57M payday with the Seattle Mariners. The 30-year-old Desmond has a chance to rebuild his value playing on a good team surrounded by other good hitters, in a very hitter-friendly park, while also playing a less defensive demanding position. It’s been 11 years since a hometown kid named Jeff Francoeur burst on to the scene for the Atlanta Braves and was quickly dubbed, “The Natural.” Now, a 32-year-old journeyman, Francoeur is looking to make an impact after re-signing with the team that drafted him 23rd overall in 2002. After being called up midway through the 2005 season, “Frenchy” showed the promise that made him a highly touted prospect by hitting .300 on the nose with 14 HRs and 45 RBIs in 70 games, and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Since that time, Francoeur has bounced around with a number of teams including the Mets, Rangers, Royals, Giants, Padres, and Phillies. Earlier in the week the Braves decided to bring Francoeur into its outfield mix by signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
However, that task will be a tough one for Francoeur, as the Braves already have a number of outfield possibilities in house with the likes of Nick Markakis, newly-acquired Ender Inciarte, the expiring contracts of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, and imported prospects like Hector Olivera and Dian Toscano. With a lineup full of line drive and contact hitters, Francoeur’s power could be a key ingredient for the Braves off the bench this year should he find his stride during the spring.
Francoeur’s deal will be worth $1M if he makes the Braves’ roster, with an extra $1M available through incentives should he perform well. While the return of “The Natural” to Atlanta might not end in the storybook fashion it began, a lot of fans in Braves Country are happy to have one their favorites with a tomahawk across is chest once again. It’s been an interesting offseason and an even a more interesting 48 hours for free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler, who looked primed to roam the right field grass of Camden Yards, but will now return to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Fowler, one of the most interesting cases on this year’s free agent market, seemed to be inching close to a multi-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles just a couple of days ago. The signing is a sure disappointment money wise for Fowler, who turned down the team’s $15M-plus qualifying offer earlier this winter in the hopes of landing a multi-year deal. With an abundance of outfielders in play for the Cubbies, the team made a corresponding roster move by dealing Chris Coghlan to the Athletics in exchange for pitcher Aaron Brooks. One major upside to the re-signing of Fowler is that the Cubs can now better utilize Heyward in RF, rather than moving him to center. The Blue Jays have signed Dominic Brown to a minor league contract with an invite to major league spring training.
Brown now 28 once was a blue chip prospect, earning the #4 overall ranking by Baseball America back in early 2011. In November of 2013 the world almost exploded when it was rumoured that the Blue Jays were discussing trading Jose Bautista for a package that centered around Dominic Brown plus. The Blue Jays finally got their man, hopefully they can work some magic to help the former all-star find his way again.
The result of all the deadline dealing is that Alex was able to ride out of town as a hero. Up until this point Alford had not shown his true potential but with now his entire focus on baseball many believed he could break out in 2015 since he was still just 20 years old. Future: Alford has yet to play at the AA level and should be there this season in his age 21 season.
Pompey has the best shot of replacing either Saunders or Bautista in 2017 depending on the teams transactions and his 2016 season. Conclusions: Anthony Alford has a very legitimate shot at seeing the big leagues in the coming years as mentioned. Over the past two seasons, the once pitching rich organization, has faced the reality that they needed to strip it all down and build again, which is exactly what President of baseball operations, John Hart, and general manager John Coppolella have done since taking over the front office.


Who will follow in the rotation has been one of the most interesting and worrisome aspects of the team’s spring training thus far. The club signed a number of veterans to minor league contracts this offseason, including Jhoulys Chacin, Chris Volstad, Kyle Kendrick, hoping at least one of them would provide some experience in the rotation. Blair likewise hasn’t missed many bats, giving up seven earned runs in his six innings on the hill.
The bullpen should also be relatively consistent with Jason Grilli, Arodys Vizcaino, and Jim Johnson at the back end. We have a pitcher who feels he has over performed his contract, and an infielder who appears to be on the cusp of a very dramatic early return. Make sure you all come back to the blog on Friday for a complete positional breakdown and analysis of the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates. We traded away some of our most promising young talent last July in order to make a push for the playoffs. It got me to wondering what our team would look like if we hadn’t made all those trades.
Our roster has the highest number of home grown guys that I can remember, and that is even after trading away a number of draft choices who are now playing on big league teams elsewhere.
Sure, we could have a young team filled with the likes of Daniel Norris, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Kendall Graveman, Miguel Castro, with Jeff Hoffman and Franklin Barretto waiting in the wings. RA Dickey has taken a lot of criticism from fans, myself included, but he was a key part of getting us to the playoffs last year. Obviously, much of the roster was acquired under Alex Anthopolous, but I was surprised to discover how much of an impact still remains from the JP Ricciardi days. Louis Cardinals rewarded one of their own this week by locking up speedy infielder Kolten Wong to a new five-year $25.5M extension, the team announced Tuesday evening, March 2. After playing 150 games at second base for the club last season, Wong now has a secure spot in the Cardinals’ long-term plans.
He followed that up by driving in over 100 runs in each of the next two seasons while playing in all 162 games both years.
In 2015, he rebuilt his stock to a degree by hitting 13 HRs and driving in 45 runs in 119 games for a likewise rebuilding Philadelphia club. After once being hailed the new face of the franchise, Frenchy now enters camp as a guy just trying to make the club as an extra outfielder or bat off the bench. Utility players Emilio Bonifacio and Kelly Johnson could also compete for outfield at-bats.
The deal also includes and opt-out where he can ask for his outright release if he’s not on the roster by March 31.
However, multiple MLB insiders, including Ken Rosenthal and Mark Gonzales, are indicating today that Fowler will return to the Cubs on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2017. Now Fowler will settle for nearly half of that, as the attached draft pick compensation was more than likely the biggest obstacle in finding a long-term home.
This move remedies the logjam that already exists with Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber, and now Fowler. Taylor by comparison was also almost as highly regarded, both were the type of legitimate pieces you would expect in return for a player like Halladay. While almost no one close to the Blue Jays thought the rumour had merit, it was telling that the Blue Jays were again interested in Brown who had finally broken out. They have a recent history of helping sluggers find their swagger and getting the most value out of them. At the very least there never is a bad minor league signing, especially one that has some potential upside like Brown at only 28 years of age. The challenge of sustaining a winning team with a depleted prospect pool is the next guy’s problem.
Alford was a duel sports high school star, playing both Football as quarterback and Baseball. At the start of 2015 he was more on the back side of the Blue Jays prospect lists which at the start of the season was still fairly strong.
So there still is some development to be done but with his Speed, Defense, On base skills he is projected to be a future CF option and top of the order hitter. However, Alford with further development will very much be on the radar for 2017 as a call up or to battle for a spot at the start of the year. Because of his On base skills, speed and defense at worst he is a 4th OF but has starting potential. He had to know there was a strong possibility that it was coming, so he would have had plenty of time to think through his response. The most likely winner of the final spot could be the unlikeliest of prospects, right-hander Williams Perez, who pitched well for the team in a pinch late last season.
Hopefully Teheran, Norris, and Chacin can help bridge the gap until some of the organization’s young, powerful arms are ready to flourish. As a yinzer in the burgh, the only thing summer baseball meant was the Steelers would be opening camp up in Latrobe, or as the Pirates’ season was starting, the Penguins would be gearing up for the playoffs. We have a former MVP outfielder saying all the appropriate things, but we all know his contract being there is what draws the national attention.
It was a great ride, but now David Price is gone, as is much of our young talent, and we might only have one more year of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista in the middle of our lineup.
He was fired in 2009, but a number of players from his last draft in 2009 are still around, and of course the trades for Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista happened on his watch. The club also acquired fellow second baseman Jedd Gyorko from the Padres earlier this offseason, who likewise is under team control through 2020. However, after Carpenter lead the team with 28 HRs last season, the club could explore Wong hitting leadoff, with Carpenter dropping down into more of a run producing spot in the lineup…possibly second or third in front of Matt Holliday and Randall Grichuk. Eventually, Cruz chose to sign a one-year $8M deal with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2014 season. Hopefully he can rediscover his stroke, clear his mind of the frustrating winter he endured, and be a viable cog in what is expected to be a contending team in the AL West.
Having spent time with some Triple-A affiliates during parts of the past couple of seasons, Atlanta might be an organization Frenchy would be willing to take an assignment with if he doesn’t break camp with the big club. With the value on prospects and younger, controllable players at seemingly an all-time high, teams were reluctant to surrender their unprotected first round draft pick for the chance to sign Fowler. It’s as if the team sat down when AA took over and picked 10-15 players they loved and made every effort to land those players, many of which eventually were acquired well after their prospect or rookie shine was gone. Fast forward a few years and Brown has posted some mixed and overall unspectacular numbers with the Phillies spread over six partial seasons.
As we know that rubbish never came to past and Brown has since struggled to find any sense of his former All-Star self leading to his outright release in October and electing Free Agency.
He comes to the team at a time when two of their outfielders Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders are in their final years of control.
If the goal was give Toronto some late season excitement, the moves paid immediate dividends. I would wager that at no time in the history of baseball has a team gathered enough excitement that a group of fans would travel to a visiting stadium and start an audible chant thanking the general manager. If the first gamble had worked, I would wager that he would still be here today, having avoided the year or two of non-confidence and doubt that led to his departure. The guys who were brought in energized the rest of the team, and collectively they outperformed all reasonable expectations. In the 2012 draft he was projected to go in the first round but he made it clear his intentions were to attend university and purse his football career. 2015 was a very strong year for Alford, he started again with the Lugnuts played in 50 games before being promoted to Dunedin for another 57 games.


At the moment he is behind Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista on the depth charts and is also blocked by Junior Lake and Ezequiel Carrera on the reserve list. Either way, the team’s pitching efforts will be interesting to watch, and probably highly scrutinized in 2016.
However, in dramatic fashion, the last three years have turned this football and hockey town upside down. The Pittsburgh Pirates have an opportunity this season with many more national televised games to showcase these characters. The bullpen looks solid, though relievers often have trouble staying consistent from year to year. Sure, you may have been able to use the same prospects to acquire a different pitcher that was more suited to the AL East and the Skydome, but there is no question that the Jays have been a better team with Dickey than they would have been without him. We could be close at the trade deadline and not have the prospects to be able to make the trades needed to get us over the top.
He’ll have a lot to prove to the doubters, his checkbook, and to himself as he looks to rebound in 2016. In 2008 however, Francoeur’s power numbers dropped while his average plummeted, ultimately leading to then general manager Frank Wren trading him to the rival New York Mets midway through the 2009 season for fellow outfielder Ryan Church.
If nothing else, he would provide the Braves with organizational depth as it continues its rebuild with focus aimed at competing in 2017 when it moves into its new Cobb County stadium. So, given the choice between doing nothing and leaving quietly, or gambling with someone else’s chips, he gambled. The Royals series in early August was one of the highlights of the season for me and many others. Had the trades of 2015 not worked, he would be gone, but the fans would have been relieved rather than shocked and saddened. Price was made available at the last-minute and the Jays had the necessary pieces to win the bidding for him. In the fall of 2014 Alford announced that he would no longer pursue his University and Football pursuits and join the Blue Jays organization full-time.
There is very little expectation he will be seen this season but with a strong showing could make a case as a September call up to get a better read on his 2017 potential. With 2 potential OF spots opening up for the Blue Jays in 2017, Alford has risen his stock at the perfect timing. My best prediction would be that he makes his debut in 2017 as the 2016 depth is very deep and with 2 spots opening in 2017 he should find his way on the roster by mid-season.
It’s possible that he thought the umpire would throw Bush out of the game and that would end it.
He had pitched well in his previous spring outings before getting battered around on Tuesday. The core of our starting pitching had a great second half of 2015, but our ace is still growing up, and the rest of the staff has all had some pretty bad stretches of pitching in recent years, with each turning in pretty average career numbers. I must say that, to most observers, management has done a poor job of building a pitching staff that allows us to capitalize on the opportunity to win that this offence provides.
Syndergaard may yet turn out to be great, but that likely won’t happen until after our veteran core has passed their prime.
Cruz became a steal for the O’s after belting 40 HRs and driving in 108 Runs for the playoff bound club, while also making the All-Star team and finishing 7th in the AL MVP race. The prospect pool was more advanced, so AA could deal the likes of Daniel Norris and Jeff Hoffman for value and still hold on to Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez (who were the likely cost of doing business in 2014).
The Blue Jays were successful in signing Alford by awarding him a $750,000 bonus and allowing him to attend university, play football and then play baseball in the summer.Their hope was that eventually he would pursue baseball and felt the risk had a strong potential reward.
I suspect he will fight for a starting role by 2018 and join Pompey and Pillar in the OF rotation. An OF of Pompey, Pillar and Alford would be a very nice and athletic look combination with 3 true center fielders in the mix.
Hopefully the Blue Jays and Rangers have realized that there are no winners here, and that it’s time to move on. I’ve heard the arguments about a tight budget, a falling Canadian dollar, and the fact that we only need average pitching to win.
All in all, the Jays are a better team today thanks in part to some astute trades, and even in spite of some big trades that didn’t quite work out the way that they had hoped. They have since acquired many of the rumoured names leading back to the Halladay sweepstakes including Anthony Gose (swapped for Devon Travis), J.A.
Also, the team in 2015 appeared to be better than its record, with underperformance and some bad luck that was expected to turn around over the course of a year. We got the comeback, the bat flip, and the unfortunate early ending with a tough loss to KC.
He may have thought that the best revenge would be to make Texas pay for their foolishness by finding a way to score and go on to win the game. The now 23-year-old has given up one run and one walk, with four strikeouts so far this spring in his 4.2 innings of work over two starts. We found all our old Bucco’s gear, and night after night we were donning it to remind everyone how much we loved a product that finally started to give back to the fans with wins. I have been an advocate of the argument that giving $217 million to David Price, while it undoubtedly makes us better this year, is too high of a price to pay for a team on a budget. Happ (acquired, traded & signed back as FA), Michael Saunders (nearly traded away for Jay Bruce) and Brown was the missing piece that got away.
The goal of a world championship was not met, but I would argue that no series of moves will ever guarantee that. The question that it all leaves for me is: was this all the carefully orchestrated work of a calculating genius, or was it simply the time for rain? While still at a young age Alford has plenty of time to work on his craft and develop further. There is an argument out there that Rogers made a ton of money from last year’s playoff run, and they should be reinvesting that money in the team. However, AA’s often stated goal with every move he made was to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future.
It may be that it wasn’t until the ground ball was hit, and he was surely out, that he opted to send a message. But, since none of the people I hear from have access to Rogers’ books, no one can say for sure that they haven’t done that in some way or another. He leaves as a conquering hero, riding off to an open ticket to the next job of his choosing.
I will admit that from my standpoint, prospects are unknowns, and at some point, you need enough known quantities to win baseball games. Who knows how good guys like Hoffman and Norris (let alone the long list of lesser regarded prospects that were dealt) will turn out to be? He just didn’t think through the possible consequences of his actions in terms of fines, suspensions and possible injuries. It will be many years before we know the true cost of these trades, but there is no question that the deadline flurry cost the jays a lot of medium term potential, and cost them some short and mid-term flexibility.
By choosing to escalate the issue, he put his teammates at risk.  However, to be clear, the biggest escalator of the situation was Odor, and the 8 game suspension he received was a good reflection of this. Both players overreacted, but Odor without question was the main reason for the brawl that followed.



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