The MLB hot stove has heaten up early this offseason.
The Toronto Blue Jays started the late-fall flames with their blockbuster deal that picked up any sort of talent the Miami Marlins still had. Then Toronto struck again, signing 2012 MLB All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, who will be fresh off a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. The rest of the young offseason has already seen a plethora of re-signings and small-end swaps to keep fans interested enough to care.
Just two months into this uncharacteristic MLB offseason things have been exciting without a top name free agent finding a new home. With names like Josh Hamilton, and Zack Greinke on the market, it’s unusual Free Agency hasn’t been the talk of this early offseason buzz. But all of that may have ended Wednesday afternoon when the Atlanta Braves struck a deal with B.J. Upton, who is considered the top free agent center fielder. (more…)
For part seven of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best baseball players by position for 2012, I’m going the be showing a lot of love for the National League’s top left fielders. This list was an easy pick before I remembered that Ryan Braun’s suspension had been lifted. So although I don’t agree with his actions, until the man is proven guilty, he’ll lead off Couch Side’s list of the best in L.F.
Like it or not, Ryan Braun was the N.L. MVP last season. And hate it or love it, he will be playing this season despite some faulty handling of his drug test. With that out of the way, let’s focus on how this guy plays. Braun almost won the Triple Crown last season, falling just short in each category by the slimmest of margins. By hitting for power and contact last year, Braun proved that he may just be the best hitter in baseball. And it’s hard not to call a guy who hit 33 bombs, 111 RBIs and carried a .332 batting average just that. You never saw guys like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire hit for average. That’s why it’s hard for me not to love Ryan Braun just a little. He may have cheated, but at least he didn’t gun for the single season home run record. Instead, he was Mr. Baseball last season. And if he is completely innocent, I feel like he could be one of the best of all time. After all, the guy is an extremely talented outfielder, feared hitter and a threat on the base paths with 33 swipes last season.
If Hamilton can avoid injury and any sort of bad press by “relapsing,” he may just have a breakout season this year. It’s a stretch to say a former MVP is still capable of a breakout season, but Hamilton is due after missing solid stretches of time during the past two summers. We all know he is capable of 30 or even 40 home runs and is a lock to secure 100 RBIs. With a full season, he may just throw his name back into the MVP hat and Hamilton will certainly be looking to improve his numbers, considering this is the final year of his contract.
In part six of Couchside’s spring training previews, we take a look at baseball’s men at the hot corner. Whereas you didn’t find Miguel Cabrera in my top five first basemen, you’ll find him here, but you won’t don’t look for Jose Bautista’s name since he’s expected to play the outfield this season now that phenom Brett Lawrie is here to stay in Toronto.
Longoria suffered an oblique injury that cost him all but the first two games in the month of April last season and never really got going. As a result, he hit a career-worst .244. However, despite playing in just 133 games, he did manage to crank out 31 homers, just two shy of his career-high, and walked a career-high 80 times. Not to mention that he had his best month of the season when it counted the most in September as the Rays made their push to overtake the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card, posting a .289 average with seven dingers and 22 ribbies while reaching base at a .454 clip. The two-time Gold Glove winner is one of the cornerstones for a Rays team that is a legitimate contender for the AL pennant this year and is poised for a huge season. Is it possible for a guy to have a breakthrough season if he’s already a three-time All-Star?
The only reason Miggy isn’t first on this list is the questions surrounding whether he can be adequate defensively at third base. The last two seasons that he played third base full-time (2006, 2007) he had a combined 40 errors, so the questions don’t come without some basis. But the guy has reportedly lost a ton of weight to prepare for his move across the diamond, and there’s no denying the bat that he carries to the plate. On this side of Albert Pujols, there may not be a more pure hitter than Cabrera. He is the reigning AL batting champ after a career-best .344 last season and has hit better than .292 in each of his eight full seasons in the big leagues. In addition, he’s also failed to hit 30 or more homers just once and has driven in at least 100 runs in each of those eight seasons while totaling no less than 177 hits. The guy will never be mistaken for a defensive wizard or a speed demon, but he’s as consistent as they come in the batter’s box, and one can only think of the offensive numbers he’ll put up this season regardless whether he hits in front or behind Prince Fielder. Can you say a second coming of the Bash Brothers?