The Marlins "demoted" Dan Jennings to manager on Monday.
Since, many stories have been written, many tweets have been sent, and many opinions have been shared.
The main consensus?
Dan Jennings' appointment/demotion/movement was a terrible decision by Marlins management.
Jennings hasn't coached baseball in three decades and even then it was just for a high school team.
But even before Jennings managed a game, but even before he even ran the clubhouse, the move was written off, by both people around the game and people outside it.
Jennings isn't an idiot. He's been working within baseball for over 30 years. Does that mean he's going to be a good manager? Absolutely not. But should we give him a chance? Yes.
The Marlins were going to be better than they are right now. They are 16-23, and have managed to fall to the bottom of the NL East, even with the talent they have on their roster in the form of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and others.
But maybe the Marlins management makes a good point with the movement of Jennings.
General manager Dan Jennings built this team. Now, manager Dan Jennings must lead them. There isn't one person who knows this team better, inside-and-out, than Jennings. This is his creation. Now, he must build chemistry and turn them into a winner.
Does that make Jennings the best lineup developer? The best leader in the clubhouse? The best manager?
But what it does make him is possibly the most seamless transition from Mike Redmond there is. The Marlins brought in a new voice to the club without having him have to get used to the team.
If this is just a one season thing, I like the gutsiness the Marlins are showing. To me, this move showed that they needed a new voice, but are in such a dire need of wins they wanted to keep a guy who knows the product, or team, well.
So, let's wait and see if Dan Jennings is truly a terrible manager. He deserves a fair run.
If everything goes right, we could see the Miami Marlins in the 2015 MLB Playoffs.
That's right. The Miami Marlins. In the playoffs. For the first time since winning the World Series in 2003. Folks, it could and very well might happen.
The Marlins might just have one of the deepest, and most well-rounded, rosters in the National League. In the outfield you are looking at Giancarlo Stanton, masher of baseballs (NL leading 37 homers in 2014); Christian Yelich, a Gold Glover with a .362 on-base percentage (14th in NL); and Marcell Ozuna, who had a not too shabby .772 OPS last season. That is arguably the best outfield in baseball.
In the infield, the Marlins don't have any flashy players, but they have a lot of depth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia handles the catching. Around the horn, Mike Morse is out at first, Dee Gordon is at second, Martin Prado plays third, and Adeiny Hechavarria mans shortstop. The Marlins have an underrated lineup that if it produces could be dangerous against anyone.
The Marlins' rotation is solid too. They have a great top two starters in Jose Fernandez and Mat Latos. Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, and Dan Haren round out a rotation that has some young guns (Fernandez, Alvarez, and Cosart) with some veteran presence (Haren and Latos). The Marlins rotation is a good one all the way across the board and could be much better than most people think.
The 2014 Royals surprised us all by making the postseason for the first time since 1983. How did they do it? With balance all around the roster. They did not have many flashy players in the infield (Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar) and had one star in the outfield (Alex Gordon), along with two other solid outfielders (Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki). I see a real similarity between the two teams, considering that they are balanced all across the board.
On the staff, the Royals boasted James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, and Danny Duffy. Just like the Marlins, they had a good mix of veterans and young guns. The resemblances between the two teams, at least to me, are very scary.
FanGraphs projects that the Marlins will go 81-81 in 2015, posting a -4 run differential. I could see that being a modest projection for a team that could win in the 87-90 games range. The Marlins do have the best team in baseball in their division, which could cost them a few games. However, this team is built on balance and depth, and with some good performance, they could be a real surprise this upcoming season.
The Marlins in the playoffs? Start believing it.
When Jon Lester was closing in on signing, the speculation was astounding. Some were believing that the Red Sox and Cubs were finalists, others were saying Cubs and Giants, with some even saying Dodgers and Red Sox. The Lester ordeal was a real eye-opener, showing how much social media has changed the way we get and distribute baseball news. Without further ado, here are the winners and losers from the Winter Meetings.
Chicago Cubs - Winner
When Lester signed with the Cubs, we knew that they had achieved their ultimate goal of the offseason. And now, they are among the best in the National League, with a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 postseason. Jon Lester is that type of player. He is the guy you want in a Game 7, a postseason clincher, or any other big game. No, I'm not talking about James Shields, I'm talking about Lester, who has a 2.57 ERA in the playoffs, as a two-time World Series champion.
But it isn't just Lester that makes the Cubs the winners of this Winter Meetings. They made one other move, much more strategic and a lot less prevalent, acquiring Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs have needed catching, finishing second in the Russell Martin bidding, and the acquisition of Montero fits the bill. He's under team control for three more years and posted a 1.2 fWAR in 2014. The Cubs can surround Montero and Lester with their prospects and have a shot at the postseason.
Chicago White Sox - Winner
Move to the south side of Chicago, where we find our other Winter Meetings winner. The Chicago White Sox played both the free agent and trade markets well. They acquired Jeff Samardzija from the Athletics in a six-player deal and now they boast a rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Samardzija, and Jon Danks. Samardzija makes the White Sox rotation look like a contender's rotation, and now their team looks like it could be a contender.
The White Sox also added David Robertson to their relief corps that were highly inexperienced last season. Him and Zach Duke represent their transactions of relief pitchers this offseason, which helps to evolve a White Sox bullpen that previously didn't have anyone over the age of 27 in it. Duke and Roberston add experience and talent to a now-interesting Chicago team.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Winner
Dee Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Matt Kemp, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Brandon McCarthy, and Jimmy Rollins. What do all those names have in common? They were all involved in either a trade or a signing with the Dodgers. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman kempt (sorry, bad pun) himself busy during these meetings, wheeling and dealing with the Phillies, Marlins, Angels, and Padres. I'm not even sure who is on their roster anymore.
What makes the Dodgers a winner, you ask? They were able to unload one of their big-time outfielders (Kemp), while getting a young, promising catcher, something they needed, in return. They traded Dee Gordon, who posted a poor .648 OPS in the second half for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, and Austin Barnes. Heaney's career with the Dodgers didn't even last 12 hours, as they filled their hole at second base with an even better option than Gordon in Howie Kendrick, who, at 31, is among one of the better all-around second baseman in baseball. Oh yeah, they also signed Brandon McCarthy and traded for Jimmy Rollins, too. The Dodgers upgraded their outfield, catcher, shortstop, and rotation all in the matter of 24 hours.
Miami Marlins - Winner
Once the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to that big $325 million extension, I really wasn't sure if the Marlins thought they could be contenders, or if they just wanted to keep that gem they had in Stanton on their roster. After these Winter Meetings, I can definitely see that the former is true. They acquired Dee Gordon and Mat Latos at the Meetings, and while someone could argue that they gave up a lot, they are finally showing that they want to go all-in in 2015. Or at least have a shot at contending.
The Marlins starting eight looks like this: Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, Casey McGehee, Adieny Hechavarria, Dee Gordon, Garrett Jones, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Their rotation? Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Nathan Evoldi, and Jarred Cosart. Now you tell me, do you think the Marlins are contenders? I would say definitely. By acquiring both Gordon and Latos at the Meetings, Miami ownership proved to the baseball world that they want and are wiling to play meaningful baseball for the first time since 2003.
San Francisco Giants - Loser
I'm still confused as to what the Giants really want to accomplish in 2015. The best move for San Francisco at the Winter Meetings was getting Madison Bumgarner on the cover of Sports Illustrated after winning the Sportsman of the Year award. In all seriousness, I think you have to attribute some of the Giants' offseason success, or lack there of, to just plain old bad luck. They finished third for Lester, second for Yasmany Tomas and Pablo Sandoval. But any good Giants fan would tell you that they finished first in the most important category.
I'm still trying to understand where the Giants plan on spending the money that they were planning to give Lester, Tomas, or Sandoval. Could they go after a guy like James Shields? That would be interesting. Whatever the case, the Giants did not get better at the Winter Meetings. I guess that means San Francisco fans should just start watching the team again in 2016, the next even year.
Baltimore Orioles - Loser
The Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, and now perhaps their general manager, Dan Duquette. It was rumored last weekend that Duquette might soon be on the move to Toronto to become the Blue Jays' CEO, but it was later reported that the Blue Jays would reconsider until after the 2015 season. Regardless, Duquette has to deal with a mess in Baltimore. Three months after winning the AL East, they lose Cruz and Markakis, two of their top performers from the season.
The Orioles usually stay relatively quiet until later into the offseason anyway, so they might be able to salvage a good piece of what they lost with mid-tier free agents. But for now, their Winter Meetings weren't good, and they need to find a plan to get back to the top of the American League East, a division where the Blue Jays and Red Sox have already gotten better this offseason.
James Shields is the third of the "big three" starting pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester) to be a free agent this offseason. Shields, off of a World Series appearances with the Royals, might just be the most affordable of the big three due to his age. That doesn't mean that he won't be inexpensive by any means.
The 32-year-old Shields was drafted in the 16th round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He worked his way through the minors nicely, breaking out especially in 2005. Shields came up to the Rays in 2006 and worked his first 152 games (151 starts) over the next five years. He was an average pitcher -- above average at best -- working his way to a 4.25 ERA in 977 2/3 innings pitched.
His 2011 season changed his entire career. Shields went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and a 134 ERA+, also averaging 3.46 strikeouts per walk in 249 1/3 innings. He led the American League with an astounding 11 complete games and 4 shutouts. He was shipped to Kansas City in 2012 in the deal that moved Wil Myers to Tampa. Since, he's been with the Royals.
This past season, Shields went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA and a 124 ERA+, averaging 4.09 strikeouts per walk over his 227 innings pitched. He was a 3.7 fWAR player this past year. The Royals decided to offer Shields a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer, but he has yet to make a decision.
Shields just isn't as good as Lester or Scherzer. Those are the facts. He's also older, which means that his contract won't be as extravagant, nor for as many years. Currently interested, as previously reported, in Shields are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs (obvious ones), but also the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Marlins. It's hard to gauge the interest of the latter three teams right now, but I have to assume they're in due to a smaller contract size.
Shields is a really good pitcher, but this postseason he didn't help his stock in pitching well down the stretch. Lester posted an ERA around 2.6 in close to his last 30 postseason innings and Scherzer has an ERA around 3.6 over his last 30 postseason innings. Shields has a 7.20 ERA over his last 30 postseason innings. This has to be taken into consideration for teams wanting to sign him, for sure.
This contract is a tough one to peg for me, but I really believe that the Cubs are going all in this offseason. Whether this means they are going to sign Lester, Shields, or both, I do not know, and I probably won't be able to tell you until both of them sign. My personal opinion is that they will sign Lester, but I'm not sure about Shields. But it's really hard to peg a contract for him in general. So, I have James Shields signing with the Chicago Cubs on a five-year, $80 million contract.
Boy, has this season gone by fast. It feels like just yesterday the Boston Red Sox were hoisting the 2013 World Series trophy, and everyone else was waiting for the season to start again. It feels like just yesterday that Opening Day was here and that the teams were back on the field to start a new season with a clean slate. But this first half of the season has gone by fast. Really fast. Now we are at the All-Star break, and it is time to give out some "first-half awards," talk about some surprise teams, and just recap what went on during this fantastic first half of the 2014 season.
National League Awards:
MVP: Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Jonathan Lucroy has been the best player in the National League this season. He's more valuable to the Brewers than Troy Tulowitzki is to the Rockies. It is not only his offense that is near the top of the National League, but his handling of the Brewers pitching staff is arguably just as good as Yadier Molina's handling of the Cardinals pitching staff. While Lucroy's 3.7 WAR is tied for fifth in the National League and his OPS ranks 9th. So far on the season, Lucroy is batting .315/.385/.494 with nine homers and 44 runs batted in. Those are MVP worthy numbers on any level.
Honorable Mentions: Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Giancarlo Stanton
Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Only two rookies, Hamilton and Chris Owings, have WARs above one. While Owings has had a good season, Hamilton has been more impressive. He's hitting a slash line of .285/.319/.423 with 38 stolen bases, which ranks second in the National League to only Dee Gordon, who has an astounding 43 stolen bases. Hamilton's 4.7 percent walk rate is not great, but he is getting on-base on a fine rate. One other plus to Hamilton's game is his defense; he boasts a 9 defensive runs saved this season and a 23 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) prorated to 150 games. Hamilton's case is better than anyone else's.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Owings and Tommy La Stella
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
A no-hitter, a 40+ innings scoreless streak, and a sub-2 ERA. That's enough to be not only a Cy Young award winner, but also MVP. On the season, Clayton Kershaw is 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.60 FIP in 96.1 innings pitched. Kershaw leads all National League pitchers with a 3.7 WAR, 1.72 xFIP, and ranks third in the National League in left-on-base percentage with an 83.6 mark. Kershaw also has a 126 to 13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In terms of FIP, Kershaw is having the greatest seasons of his career. The Dodgers are fantastic in his starts, as they are 11-3 when Kershaw is on the hill.
Honorable Mentions: Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg
Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, MGR, Milwaukee Brewers
Ron Roenicke has dealt with the issues surrounding Jean Segura quite well. Not to mention, he took the Brewers, a team that was supposed to be around the bottom of the National League Central, into contention, with one of the hottest starts of the season. While they have cooled off greatly, they still are playing very good baseball, which has to come back to the managerial experience of Roenicke. Not to mention, Roenicke has challenged 14 calls this season, and nine were overturned, for an astounding 64.2% success rate. His work for the Brewers has taken them far and could take them further.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Williams and Bryan Price