According to Jon Heyman, the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to extend starting pitcher Carlos Martinez to a 5 year deal worth $51M. St. Louis is expected to hold a press conference tomorrow to announce the extension of Martinez. Details of the contract are yet to be released.
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak decided to lock up the team's most electric starting pitcher. With St. Louis trading away Jaime Garcia and starters Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha battling health and performance issues, St. Louis was dealing with uncertainty in their starting rotation for the first time in recent memory. Now with the extension given to Martinez, Cardinals fans should feel at ease with Martinez and rookie Alex Reyes manning the rotation for years to come.
Martinez, 25, will be entering his 5th big league season at the start of 2017. After spending a majority of his first two seasons out of the bullpen for the Cardinals, Martinez started the 2015 season in the starting rotation. He thrived with a 14-7 record and a 3.01 ERA. Martinez followed up his impressive first year in the rotation with a 16-9 mark with a 3.04 ERA in a career high 195 innings thrown. After compiling 30 wins in his first two seasons, it was more than enough to show the Cardinals front office that he was willing to earn an extension.
With the eventual departure of 37 year old Adam Wainwright and soon to be free agent Michael Wacha, now was the time for the Cards' to lock up Martinez. The Chicago Cubs are still the primed favorites for the NL Central for years to come, but the Cards are doing all they can to stay revelenat and hopefully get back to the postseason in 2017.
With the departure of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has had himself another busy offseason. This time around, it's in the form of wheeling and dealing instead of acquiring and resigning. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Texas Rangers have renewed their pursuit of current White Sox ace Jose Quintana.
This new piece of information has re-energized the Quintana talks for the first time in weeks. Texas arguably does not have the quality of prospects that the White Sox may be looking for, but never count out Rick Hahn when it comes to creating a 3 team trade.
Texas may only be pursuing Quintana to make Houston overpay for Quintana, or they might be legitimately interested in acquiring the southpaw's services. Either way, the big question that remains is whether or not Texas has the quality of prospects that the White Sox are looking for. Coming into 2017, Texas has only 2 top 100 prospects according to MLB.com. OF Leody Taveras (#55) and LHP (#56) Yohander Mendez headline Texas's minor league system. Along with other highly regarded young talent, (Gallo, Ibanez, Guzman) Texas may have to give up a huge chunk of their minor league talent that is already left to be desired. A Nomar Mazara or Martin Perez might be the headliner of a deal in order for Rick Hahn and company to budge on Quintana. Hahn has made it emphatically clear that the Sox are unwilling to budge on their asking price for Quintana.
Nomar Mazara (left) could be the headliner in order for the Rangers to acquire Jose Quintana.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Quintana is without a doubt the most valuable and talented pitcher available to acquire this offseason. After coming off his first all star campaign, Quintana, 28, has a career 3.41 ERA and a 7.39 K/9 rate. Not only has he been one of the more durable starters (200 IP over last 4 seasons) but he also possesses one of the game's friendliest contracts. Quintana is under control for 4 seasons with a vesting option for '19 and '20. He is set to make $7M this season, $8.5M for '18, and potentially $10.5M for '19 and '20. Quintana's contract might be doing the White Sox more of a disregard than anything else. With how valuable he is to begin with along with his contract on top of that, his asking price deservingly so should be as high as it is.
If Texas is to pull the trigger on a Quintana deal, I believe it would need to consist of either Mazara/Perez, and a handful of other prospects. This is what it might look like:
Texas Rangers acquire: LHP Jose Quintana
White Sox acquire: OF Nomar Mazara, LHP Yohander Mendez, OF Leody Taveras, and C Jose Trevino
It may seem like a lot, but durable starters with affordable contracts are a rarity in the game today. Texas would be acquiring a healthy starter in Quintana, (something Texas's rotation has lacked over the past few seasons) and a great number 3 in their rotation behind Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. This move could put Texas over the top and make them division winners for the 4th straight season.
For the White Sox, this could give them even more pieces moving forward in their rebuilding process. A starting left fielder with power in a 21 year old Mazara, and Texas's #1, #3, and #19 prospects would put the White Sox into having the best farm system in the Majors.
A Quintana deal would benefit the Rangers as they could be potential World Series contenders for not only this season, but for the next 2-3 to come. As for the White Sox, this deal would give them even more pieces to build a bright future on the south side of Chicago.
2016 was one of the more memorable rookie classes in recent memory. For the National League, the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award consisted of a young shortstop from Los Angeles who carried a Dodgers offense all the way to the NLCS, a Japanese import that assisted the Dodgers to the NLCS, and a talented middle infielder/outfielder who led off for the NL East winning Washington Nationals. On the otherside of the page in the American League, the rookie class was headlined by a Tiger who roared through the American League in his first year of big league ball, an all around athletic center fielder for the American League champion Cleveland Indians, and a power hitting catcher from the Bronx who set a new rookie record for recording 20 HR's in just 52 games. That sounds pretty hard to beat right? Believe it or not, 2017 has even more talent to unfold.
Like I did earlier, I will be stating who I believe will rise above their expectations in their 1st year in the Majors. Between the National League and American League I am going to select 3 rookies from each league who I believe will have the most impact to their respective teams and have their own breakout year.
Oakland A's - 3B Ryon Healy
Healy, 25, got a good taste of the Major League level last season. Through 72 games, Healy posted a .305/.337/.524 slash line along with 13 HR's and 37 RBI's. Healy was drafted by the A's in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. After exhibiting flashes of surreal power in the minors, Healy got the call up and gave A's fans a glimpse of a hopeful future. With his massive 6'5 frame, Healy is only projected to be an average third baseman at best. His absolute strength is his all around skill level with the bat. Healy's best ability is to use power to all parts of the field, and being more than just a power hitter. He struck out only 22% of the time last season in just under 300 at bats. If he is able to keep his strikeout rate around there for a full season of 550-600 at bats, there is a very good chance Healy can be a consistent .290-.300 hitter. Healy, barring injury, will be the A's opening day third baseman. He will most likely slot behind Khris Davis in the batting order and provide production while attempting to be a future cornerstone of the A's franchise.
Benintendi arrived late on the scene last season as the Red Sox were making a postseason push down the stretch. In just 34 games, Benintendi hit .295 with 2 HR's and 14 RBI's. Benintendi impressed the Red Sox so much that he was added on to their postseason roster. The 22 year old outfielder clubbed a home run and hit .333 in the ALDS against the Indians. After the Red Sox last World Series title in 2013, they fell to the bottom of the AL East in 2014, which allowed them to draft Benintendi 7th overall in the 2015 draft. After playing 2 years at Arkansas, Benintendi was on the fast track to the Majors as soon as he got drafted. He demonstrated a quick bat with a very good knowledge of the strike zone and played a good center field. Andrew is projected to left field for the Red Sox next season and hit towards the bottom of the order. With Benintendi, Bradley Jr, and Betts left-to-right, the Red Sox have one of the most talented and youthful outfields in the game today. Surrounded by great hitters like Betts, Bogaerts, and Pedroia, Benintendi should be seeing a lot of good pitches in 2017. 9/10 he'll be making those mistakes count.
When you're acquired for one of the best pitchers in baseball, you have a lot of people to prove wrong, and that's what Yoan Moncada is looking to achieve in 2017. As I stated, Moncada along with 3 other prospects were acquired by the White Sox for ace Chris Sale back in mid December. Moncada, 21, has been ranked the #1 prospect in all of baseball since the start of 2016 season. Moncada defected from Cuba in February of 2015. He was signed by Boston for $31.5M, which broke the record by far for the most money given to an amateur international player. Moncada had his ups and downs with Boston through his minor league seasons in 2015 & 2016. He was called up at the beginning of September for the Red Sox, but was later on not added to the playoff roster after the regular season ended. In just 19 at bats, Moncada hit .211 with 1 RBI. The White Sox look to continue their full blown rebuild and are currently looking for a position on the diamond for Moncada. Todd Frazier currently occupies third base as Brett Laurie occupies second. Rumors are the Sox intend on converting Moncada into his original position at second base. I do not predict Moncada to be on the Sox opening day roster, but I do anticipate him to be called up sometime in May and make an immediate impact from there. His short, quick swing from both sides of the plate make him fascinating to watch. His overall athleticism and versatility just add on to his impressive qualities as a ball player. If all goes on track, Moncada will be a superstar in no time.
With the Padres going from acquiring all stars that did not pan out, to the Drew Pomeranz scandal, this franchise has been a complete mess these past few seasons. Thanks to their 2013 1st round draft choice Hunter Renfroe, the Padres are looking to change their misfortunes in 2017 and beyond. Renfroe, 24, was only called up for 11 games at the end of September last season. He could not have performed better. Renfroe hit .371 with 4 HR's and 14 RBI's with an OPS over 1.100. As small as a sample size as this is, San Diego will take any promising hope at this point. Refroe swings a powerful bat that has the ability to be used for all fields. Even in Petco Park, Renfroe can make it look like a bandbox. He will most likely be the Padres #3 or #4 hitter come Opening Day 2017. With little to no support around him, Renfroe may be pitched more cautisouly if he gets off to a hot start, but make no mistake, this kid can hit.
St. Louis manages to find a way to produce great pitching from their minor league system year after year. They may have struck gold with Dominican born right hander Alex Reyes. Reyes, 22, defected from the Dominican Republic to the United States in 2012 when he agreed to a 950,000 dollar contract with the Cardinals. 5 years later, he is regarded as the top pitching prospect in the Cardinals system, and one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Reyes was called up at the beginning of last August to fill a gaping need in the Cards starting rotation due to injury. Not only did Reyes do a good job filling the spot, he excelled in it. Over 12 games, (5 of which he started) Reyes went 4-1 with a scarce 1.57 ERA. He averaged 97 MPH on his fastball and has a K/9 rate over 10.00. Reyes is projected to take the spot of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the near future as Wainwright should be heading towards the end of his career. Along with Reyes, the Cards will have Wainwright, Martinez, Leake, Wacha, and Reyes as their starting 5 to open 2017. As long as Reyes can stay healthy, he has the acumen and the repertoire to become very successful. Not only for the rookie of the year, but the Cy Young as well.
2017 PROJECTIONS: 32 GM's STARTED: 16-9 2.85 ERA 213 K's
Atlanta Braves - SS Dansby Swanson
The hometown kid. Also known as Dansby Swanson, has already gone through a lot in his brief MLB career. Shortly after he was drafted 1st overall by the Diamondbacks in 2015, a line drive hit his face in rookie ball and it required Dansby to miss all of this rookie league season. A few months later, Swanson was traded to the Braves in the infamous Shelby Miller trade. If Swanson plays up to his first overall pick capabilities, that trade can go down as one of the most lob sided trades in MLB history. In just 38 games last season, Swanson hit .302/.361/.442 with 3 HR's and 17 RBI's. Swanson is now the cornerstone of a Braves franchise that is in the middle of a rebuilding stage. With his quick bat and his fantastic glove skills, Swanson can grow to be a generational shortstop that we all remember for many years to come. Swanson will most likely hit 2nd behind Mallex Smith in the Braves order in 2017. With Freeman & Kemp hitting behind Swanson, he should be able to score close to 80-85 runs and become an excellent 2 hole hitter.