Tag:Ned Colletti
Posted on: August 29, 2011 9:29 am
 

Pepper: Ethier-Dodgers saga takes another turn



By Matt Snyder


Sunday, we passed along the report that Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier was playing through an knee injury that would need offseason surgery -- a report in which he seemed to insinuate the Dodgers were forcing him to play. Also contained therein, general manager Ned Colletti seemed to say he believed Ethier was faking an injury.

One day later, manager Don Mattingly was upset.

"I'd rather lose my job and us not win than put a guy out there that has a chance of hurting himself and doing something that would affect his career in a long-term way in any shape or form, especially if he says, 'Hey, I can't go,'" Mattingly said (LATimes.com).

Meanwhile, Ethier kind of backed off his sentiment, though he never denied making any of the statements to the Los Angeles Times reporter.

"It's always been my choice to keep playing and keep going," Ethier said (LATimes.com). "They've never said, 'We don't think you can or you can't play.' It's always been they've said, 'Hey, you've obviously put up with this and it's at your discretion.'"

Remember, earlier this season Ethier publicly complained about the Dodgers' ownership situation and reports indicated he was jealous of his friend Dustin Pedroia getting to play in Boston. Is Ethier just angling to leave Los Angeles when he's a free agent after 2012? Or is he a bit of a drama queen? Or did he back off his Saturday statements due to meeting with Mattingly and Colletti Sunday after the duo read the Sunday Los Angeles Times story?

Hard to figure. Whatever it is, it's another mess for the Dodgers. As if they didn't have enough stuff to worry about.

For like of the game: Dirk Hayhurst is a minor-league pitcher in the Rays' system and also a published author. He's been in the bigs before, but not since 2009 with the Blue Jays. He's also very active on Twitter and has his own blog. In his latest entry, Hayhurst explains why he hates hearing the phrase "for love of the game," and instead prefers "like." It's a great read and I highly recommend clicking through with an open mind.

Dunn the realist: It's no secret how awful Adam Dunn has been this season, his first with the White Sox. When asked about a rather drastic production in playing time moving forward, Dunn was fully accountable: “I’m a realist," said Dunn, who wasn't in the lineup Sunday and is batting .163 with 156 strikeouts (ChicagoTribune.com). "I’m not like an idiot. We’re right in the middle of things. What do you do? What do you say?”

Royals ready to 'go for it:' Royals general manager Dayton Moore is sitting on mountains of prospects, several of which have begun to filter into Kansas City this season. Now, it sounds like he's done biding his time, because he plans on pursuing a deal this offseason in which the Royals cough up prospects to get a proven starter -- and The Kansas City Star article mentions one like the Indians getting Ubaldo Jimenez.

Relationships to keep Friedman in Tampa Bay? Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman has been the subject of rampant rumors in the Chicago area, now that the Cubs have a vacancy at general manager. Speculation by many is that Friedman would jump at the chance to be freed from the mighty AL East and get to throw some money around instead of pinching pennies. A TampaBay.com article says that won't matter, because of Friedman's strong relationship with owner Stu Sternberg, president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon.

Crane in danger? Prospective new Astros owner Jim Crane has yet to be approved by Major League Baseball, even though two weeks ago Drayton McLane said a deal would be approved in two weeks. Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle believes Crane may not be approved by commissioner Bud Selig. "If Commissioner Bud Selig is comfortable with Jim Crane owning the Astros, then Jim Crane will own the Astros. You can read the delay in the approval process any way you like, but as someone who has known Selig for almost 30 years, it’s not insignificant." Justice does point out that a deal is still obviously possible, but it just seems fishy.

Rockies after arms: The Rockies top priority this offseason will be to upgrade starting pitching. That might sound a little weird after they just dealt Ubaldo Jimenez, but they actually traded for two guys who could end up being frontline starters in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. But they might not be ready to lead a team to the playoffs just yet, so a trade for a proven veteran might be coming in the winter months ahead (Denver Post).

Ribbing the rook: Mariners rookie Trayvon Robinson gave a high-five to a fan and heard about it from his teammates in a playful way (MLB.com).

Sanchez may be done: Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez -- who seemed to be having a contest with Barry Zito to see who could get kicked out of the rotation for good -- might miss the rest of the season with his ankle injury. Meanwhile, Zito is feeling much better (Extra Baggs). If the offense doesn't drastically improve, however, none of this will be relevant. 

Only triples: Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson got four at-bats in interleague play and tripled for his only hit. Baseball-Reference's blog found 20 players in big-league history with only triples among their hits in a season.

Branyan the barber: Did anyone notice Sunday night that Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos is now bald? Yeah, that's because he entrusted veteran slugger Russell Branyan with cutting his hair. And Branyan purposely took a little more off than was asked. "He pulled a nice little prank on me," Bourjos said good-naturedly (LATimes.com). "I keep scaring myself when I look in the mirror."

Let's play two ... with one extra player: Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks teams should be able to expand rosters by one on days when they're playing a doubleheader (MLB.com).

Happy Anniversary: On this day back in 1977, Duane Kiper hit his only major-league home run. In 3,754 plate appearances. Current White Sox color commentator Steve Stone was on the mound. Funny note: Stone's future broadcast partner (for Cubs' games) Harry Caray had the call that day. (Hardball Times)

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Ethier says he's hurt, Dodgers still playing him

By Matt Snyder

Back in July, Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier played in the All-Star Game after a big first half that was highlighted by a 30-game hitting streak. He's slumped badly since the break, though, hitting just .224 with one home run in 37 games. And it's with good reason, because Ethier's playing injured.

Ethier's playing on a bad right knee, which will reportedly require offseason surgery. The Dodgers are 11 games out of first place in the NL West with one month to play, but Ethier hasn't been shut down yet.

"If you're expecting me to do what I've done in the past, no, there's no possible way I can do that right now. You can say tough it out and give it your best shot, but it's not going to happen," Ethier said (LATimes.com).

"It's only going to get worse from this point," he continued (LATimes.com). "I've dealt with it all season long, but as the season goes on my body wears down. That's just the way it is — I keep getting put in the lineup, so what am I supposed to do?"

From that statement, it almost seems like Ethier thinks he should be shut down, and it's hard to blame him -- though he did tell the L.A. Times he thought there was "value in finishing what you started."

Still, the team isn't going anywhere this season and he's playing well below what he's accustomed to doing, likely because of the injury. Why don't the Dodgers just shut him down for the season and let him undergo his surgery now -- which would allow him to begin rehab sooner?

There isn't a great answer, unless you don't believe Ethier is hurt. General manager Ned Colletti almost sounds like he's in that camp.

"What am I supposed to be concerned about?" Colletti said (LATimes.com). "That he has those numbers [since the All-Star break], that he's hurt or contends he's hurt?"

Contends? So Ethier is faking it? That has to be the insinuation, doesn't it? Even during a five-game winning streak, the Dodgers front office continues to say all the wrong things.

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 11:39 am
 

No shortage of rumored names in Cubs' GM search



By Matt Snyder


Friday will mark exactly one week since the Cubs announced they had fired general manager Jim Hendry. Cubs' chairman Tom Ricketts asserted he wants to find a GM with a strong track record, an analytical background and with an emphasis on player development. The latter two criteria would seem to point to someone opposite of Hendry -- who had a recent history of big contracts and trading prospects for veterans. The former criterion points to an experienced general manager, not a first-timer.

So many names have been tossed around for what is absolutely an attractive job. Now, this is where the Cubs haters all jump up and down and start screaming about how bad the Cubs "suck." No one in his right mind can deny nearly any general manager would want this job, though. As the Cubs' general manager, one would have the capability to work with a payroll that dwarfs any other in the NL Central. One would have a rabid fan base that is absolutely desperate for a World Series, so residing over one would be the ultimate sports accomplishment. Also, in the present, the Cubs have more than $50 million falling off the payroll next season, so there's a chance to basically start over. No ballclub can compare to the resources the Yankees have, but there's no reason the Cubs can't eventually be the Red Sox of the National League -- and there is no Yankees in the NL.

With this in mind, you'd have to figure almost every name is initially in the mix with few exceptions. And it sounds like that's true. Let's sum up the recent rumors:

ESPN's Buster Olney said earlier this week that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein "could" be a name for the Cubs to consider. What Epstein did under John Henry's ownership group is something similar to what the Cubs want under the Ricketts family, so it makes sense. Of course, Epstein also has very strong Boston roots and is currently in a better situation than what he'd be taking over with the Cubs. Unless he wants a fresh, new challenge or is simply tired of competing with the Yankees, it doesn't seem like he'd have any incentive to leave. For what it's worth, Henry emailed Red Sox reporters about the speculation:

“This kind of speculation happens from time to time to successful GMs and managers,” Henry wrote (BostonHerald.com). “The Cubs have one of the best presidents in baseball. I think this shows how highly regarded Theo is by the media and baseball in general.”

• Speaking of AL East powers, a "long-odds" option is Ricketts calling Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and trying to convince him to head to Chicago as a package deal with manager Joe Girardi. Cashman's contract does expire at the end of the season. (SunTimes.com) This is total speculation on my part, but there's not much more Cashman could accomplish with the Yankees and he could very well be tired of ownership forcing his hand (a la the Rafael Soriano contract this past offseason that he didn't want to give). Also, keep in mind Girardi had two different stints with the Cubs as a player and was born and raised in Peoria, Ill. This scenario makes sense, if Ricketts could convince the two to leave New York. But, again, this was reported as a long shot.

• More AL East: Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman has been named by pretty much every reporter in the business as a possibility. Friedman should be incredibly attractive because of what he's helped do with the Rays. He now has experience building a farm system basically from the ground up and in Chicago he'd be able to sign and keep higher-priced players. He also wouldn't have to worry about attendance or moving. ESPN's Olney wrote about Friedman's tough decision this coming offseason.

• Another small-market guy who might enjoy getting to have a few extra payroll dollars for once is A's general manager Billy Beane. According to Susan Slusser of SFGate.com, Beane "might consider an offer" if the Cubs came after him. Slusser also reports the Cubs are "expected" to talk to Beane. Another reason Beane might want to bail on Oakland is how long it's taking to get the A's stadium situation resolved. Beane is signed through 2014, but the report indicated owner Lew Wolff would let Beane out of the deal if he wanted.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is an option, despite that he's a bit more old-school than Ricketts seemed to say he preferred. In the case of Colletti, one reported benefit would be that he'd bring Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg back to the organization as the Cubs' manager, the job which Sandberg didn't get last season. (SunTimes.com)

• On the flip-side of much of the above notes, SI.com's Jon Heyman reported that the big names -- Cashman, Beane, Epstein, Friedman -- are not likely to take the job. Heyman instead reports it's going to come down to Rick Hahn and Josh Byrnes. Hahn is the vice president and assistant general manager of the White Sox and is considered a true up-and-comer by several in the business. In fact, several outlets have ranked him as the top GM candidate in baseball (excluding current GMs). The issue, of course, is he doesn't have experience as the top dog. Byrnes is the vice president of baseball operations for the Padres and has previously been the GM of the Diamondbacks. He had a hand in putting together the 2007 playoff team, but when things fell apart afterward, he was fired in 2010.

• According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, Cashman is "very unlikely" and the Cubs might have to pay something like $10 million a year to pry Epstein away from Boston.

So there you have it. Several huge names, a hot-shot up-and-comer and lots of things we don't know. We need to keep in mind that initial interest in either side doesn't necessarily mean a job offer -- or acceptance of the job offer -- is coming. We also have to keep in mind that guys presently on the job, especially those in the middle of pennant races, will publicly deny interest no matter what.

Ricketts will likely want a new GM in place very quickly once this season ends, but until then -- about five weeks -- we'll continue to see the names swirl.

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Posted on: April 27, 2011 3:36 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 4:25 pm
 

Padilla, not Broxton, gets Dodgers' save

By Matt Snyder

Wednesday, Vicente Padilla collected his first save since September 28, 2000, but it was the manner in which he got the save that draws the attention of most.

Monday night, Dodgers closer (at the time) Jonathan Broxton blew a save. It was the first save he'd blown in 2011 and would have been closed down had Jamey Carroll not completely whiffed on a grounder with two outs.

Tuesday morning, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said on the radio that the Dodgers would go with Broxton, Vicente Padilla and Hong-Chih Kuo as a bit of a three-headed monster for save situations. Later Tuesday, Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly reportedly held a meeting with Broxton to inform him he was still the team's primary closer.

But the next save chance came Wednesday afternoon in Florida, and Padilla was summoned to close down the Marlins -- and he set them down in order, 1-2-3. Broxton was did not appear in the game, a 5-4 Dodgers victory.

So are the Dodgers going with Colletti's plan? Did Broxton just get one day off from closing duties to clear his head? Is Padilla the closer?

Hey, it's the Dodgers. Bud Selig forced MLB to take control of the Dodgers last week after Frank McCourt ran the franchise's finances into the ground. Anything's possible at this point.

The only thing that really matters is the Dodgers won the game. Oh, and Andre Ethier not only extended his April-record 24-game hitting streak, but he hit the go-ahead home run in the 10th.

UPDATE: After the game, Mattingly reportedly said Broxton has elbow soreness and would only be available in an "emergency" and that Broxton is still his closer. Of course, he also said he wasn't averse to using Padilla in a save situation with Broxton healthy and available. So, yeah, it's still confusing (LA Times via Twitter)

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

Top 20 things to expect from 2011 season

Jeter

By Evan Brunell

The 2011 season is slated to start Thursday, and with it comes no shortage of storylines to watch. Last year brought the advent of Stephen Strasburg, yet another Cliff Lee trade, and of course, the Giants being crowned champions. What's on deck?

1. East Coast hype

An all-too easy criticism of mainstream media or any sports journalist is the dreaded "East Coast bias" label. However, this season, most of the intriguing teams and races will come from both the AL and NL East.

In the senior circuit, the Phillies have a vaunted rotation, but injuries to Domonic Brown and Chase Utley have left the door ajar for the Braves to sneak in. Many seem to be overlooking Atlanta, but the club won 91 games and will add Dan Uggla to the lineup while improving production out of left field. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a strong rotation and enough offensive potential loaded in their young players that they can't be discounted. Add in the mess that is the Mets along with some nice storylines in Washington (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth to name three), and there's plenty of topics to go around.

Likewise, in the league with the DH, the Red Sox were the darlings of the offseason after importing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, while adding Bobby Jenks to the bullpen, and appear to be the team to beat, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman has admitted. But you can't count out New York, and Cashman has a quality club ready to push for the division. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, underwent quite a remake but can't be counted out, as this is a club that could crack 90 wins with only a smidgen of luck. The Jays are fresh off a surprising year and have Jose Bautista to draw national interest, while the Orioles are hopeful the middling veterans imported will push the team toward the .500 barrier.

That's not to say that other teams don't have compelling storylines, but the concentration of quality and ease of finding compelling storylines for each team means that the East Coast will dominate the news.

2. Breaking records

It will be a banner year for three players set to hit significant milestones, and there are plenty of other players nearing milestones that, while not Hall of Fame caliber, will put emphasis on the productive careers they have had.

Rounding the Bases

Perhaps the most revered milestone for a hitter to reach, 3,000 hits will come into play for Derek Jeter, who is just 74 hits away. He will probably reach the mark in late May or early June, depending on if he's the .270 batting average Jeter of 2010 or the .314-average Jeter of his career.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee poised for a milestone, however. Mariano Rivera is closing in on 600 saves, as he currently has 559. Given that the major-league record for saves is 601 by Trevor Hoffman, Rivera could also make it to the top of the mountain. That said, Mo will need a good year to reach 600 saves as he has not cracked the 40-save barrier in four out of the past five years.

Ivan Rodriguez is also close to 3,000 hits, needing 183. However, given he has not reached that mark since 1999, you can bet I-Rod will need until at least 2012 to reach the milestone. Heck, depending on how much he plays and produces, he may need until 2013, even though that is quite unlikely.

Jim Thome is 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth member of the 600-club. Paul Konerko needs 35 homers to reach 400, while Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) would need big seasons to hit the 400 mark.

Closing in on 2,000 hits are Carlos Lee (1,967), Orlando Cabrera (1,948), Scott Rolen (1,944), Jason Giambi (1,914), Albert Pujols (1,900), Adrian Beltre (1,889), Luis Castillo (1,889), Konerko (1,861), Michael Young (1,848), Derrek Lee (1,843), Juan Pierre (1,842), Andruw Jones (1,840) and Placido Polanco (1,836).

3. A new labor agreement

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is due to expire after the season, but both baseball and the players union are already beginning work on coming to an accord. In a year where the NFL has locked out its players and the NBA appears headed down that path, it's important for baseball to work together with players and come to an agreement in short order.

Fortunately, after years of rancor, both sides have a harmonious working relationship and it should not be difficult to come to an arrangement even with sensitive topics such as revenue sharing and draft slotting among what will be discussed. The last agreement was finalized and announced on Oct. 25, 2006, so any announcement may not come until the conclusion of the playoffs.

However, recent word comes from the Boston Globe that any hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker, even with delicate issues such as revamping the revenue-sharing agreement. Also on deck is adding wild cards, an international draft and draft slotting.

4. Giants doing just fine

There are a lot of people wondering if the Giants can possibly repeat their World Series run of last year, doing so with a suboptimal offense and squeaking into the playoffs by the skin of their nose.

However, the offense should be much improved with Buster Posey behind the dish for a full year, Aaron Rowand squarely on the bench and Miguel Tejada replacing Edgar Renteria. While Tejada may have his issues, especially on defense, he should be able to improve on what Renteria gave the Giants last season. In addition, prospect Brandon Belt should be in the majors by June at the latest and will add another dimension to the club.

The rotation is one of concern, even if it's ridiculously deep given how young everyone is sans Barry Zito and the load they shouldered last year to win a ring. Fortunately, the Giants are cognizant of this and plan to give starters a lighter load to start the year. Plus, even if one or two starting pitchers fall flat on their face, there's still plenty of quality starters. One concern is the depth behind the front five, which is extremely thin.

5. Yankees trade for starting pitcher

There's simply no way the Yankees don't strike for a starting pitcher this season, but it may not be Francisco Liriano. The lefty is the hot name in trade circles and while Liriano still stands a good chance of being dealt, it probably won't be until after the year.

But the Yankees need help now. They had enough trouble filling the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, so imagine what the depth behind them is like once injuries strike -- and they will. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have a solid farm system and a top prospect in Jesus Montero they can dangle for the right pitcher.

Even if the right pitcher doesn't come along to whisk Montero away, there will be no shortage of candidates as the year goes on for the Yankees to grab. What bears watching is who they grab. While acquiring a No. 4 starter would certainly deepen the rotation, it's more important for New York to get a frontline pitcher. Does anyone feel confident with A.J. Burnett following CC Sabathia in the playoffs? Didn't think so, and it would be presumptuous to project Phil Hughes' emergence into that pitcher even if the talent is there.

6. Strasburg recovering from Tommy John surgery

StrasburgStrasburg underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on September 9, and recovery from such surgeries these days tends to take 9-12 months. Edinson Volquez returned to the majors 11 months after such a surgery. While the Nationals may play it cautious, Strasburg is right on schedule, and given his tremendous work ethic and young age, should have no problem meeting the conservative 12-month estimate.

That means Strasmas could be back just in time to close the season out, where he'll certainly dominate headlines once more. Strasburg would certainly need minor-league rehab starts first, but his timeline should assure him of the ability to get into games before the minor-league regular season ends in early September. Given the club will have expanded to 40 players at that point and will likely be out of the division race, it won't be difficult to get Strasburg back on the roster and in a major-league game.

Could the Nationals play it conservative and hold him back until 2012? Sure, it all depends how Strasburg progresses. But even if they hold him back, Strasburg certainly would play Winterball to get his footing under him. Most pitchers returning from T.J. surgery tend to struggle with command upon return, and the only way to address that is to get on a mound and pitch.

7. Bonds, Rocket dominate headlines

BondsThe trial of Barry Bonds has already started, but is still ongoing. It should be wrapped up before long, but that doesn't mean that Bonds will exit the headlines -- whatever the ruling on Bonds' perjury trial, it will have long-lasting ramifications on the game.

If Bonds is found guilty, many ink will be spilled on how this cements Bonds' exclusion from the Hall of Fame, plus articles on how Bonds is finally getting his comeuppance.

In addition, Roger Clemens will be put on high alert, given the Rocket will be undergoing his own perjury trial in the summer. If Bonds is found innocent, there will be a hot debate once more on whether to vote Bonds into the Hall. You will find those writers who believe that, despite the acquittal of Bonds, he knowingly abused steroids. There will be those who concede that while Bonds likely knew exactly what was going on, the law has deemed him innocent, and thus should be elected. And of course, a broad spectrum of opinions therein.

The Clemens trial, meanwhile, will dominate headlines even more than Bonds given the salacious details that have leaked out about Clemens' career, plus the off-putting way in how Clemens has fought the rumors he used steroids.

Much like the Bonds trial, the verdict will spark debate amid wide-ranging opinions. If both are convicted, there will be those who consider the steroid mess closed thanks to triumphing over perhaps the best hitter and pitcher of the steroid era. If both are innocent, it may open the door for those to wonder openly if they are not truly innocent, that the problem may lie with the system itself if it allows Bonds and Clemens to walk free.

Either way, the Bonds and Clemens trial will spark plenty of discussion that will last for years as they attempt to get into the Hall of Fame.

8. Questioning if Mets stay solvent

WilponsThe Mets are hoping to close a deal to bring in a new investor by the close of July. While it is not yet known what percentage of the team these investors will hold, it is expected to be in the 20-25 percent range, although the Wilpons are focused on acquiring a certain price over selling a certain percentage.

Why? 

They need the money. The Mets have debt to pay off, a $1 billion lawsuit staring them in the face (thanks, Irving Picard) and a ticking clock in which to stay solvent. If the Mets aren't able to bring in a new investor by that time, they will likely need a loan from MLB. At that point commissioner Bud Selig would likely have free rein to do what he wants with the Mets, including telling the Wilpons to sell the entire club.

That's incredibly unlikely, especially since the Wilpons (Jeff pictured on the left, Fred right) and Selig have a long, good relationship, but it bears mentioning.

Most investors are requesting majority control of the Mets -- which won't happen, unless the Wilpons' hands are forced -- or right of first refusal if the Wilpons eventually have to cough up the team. This should be an acceptable compromise to the Wilpons, who need to worry about money more than they do any possible future owner of the club.

9. New wave of prospects arriving

At the beginning of March, CBS Sports revealed its top 100 prospects, and along with the list came information on which prospects could make an impact this season.

Topping the list was No. 3 prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to start in right field for the Phillies and attempt to replace Werth. Unfortunately, the team is now left scrambling after Brown fractured the hamate bone in his hand. He shouldn't be out terribly long, but may struggle with his power stroke upon returning. Philly may have to wait until 2012 to extract real value from the kid.

Meanwhile. No. 6's Jeremy Hellickson will open the season as a member of Tampa Bay's rotation and could easily replace the statistics Matt Garza tossed up. He's that good, that ready for the major leagues and has to be considered the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

A fellow pitcher in Kyle Drabek (No. 16) appears on the verge of cracking Toronto's rotation after a successful late-season stint with the Blue Jays. Across the border in Ohio, Aroldis Chapman (No. 9) is readying for a full year in the bullpen and could wrest the closer's job away from Francisco Cordero by year's end.

The prospects keep on coming, as the Braves boast three in No. 19's Freddie Freeman, No. 29 Mike Minor and No. 85 Craig Kimbrel. Freeman should provide a steady presence at first base even if he lacks high-end ceiling. Minor figures to open the year in Triple-A, but should make an appearance before long and have a nice career in the middle of the rotation. Kimbrel is considered by many to be the Braves closer of the future.

There are plenty of other projected starters who will infuse baseball with youth, such as No. 33's Chris Sale, who will relieve for the White Sox; No. 66's Matt Dominguez who is on pace to play third for Florida -- ditto the same for No. 96's Brent Morel for the White Sox; No. 71's J.P. Arencibia is readying for a season as Toronto's backstop; No. 86's Danny Espinosa rocketing through two years of the minors to open the year as the starting second baseman for Washington; and No. 95 Jake McGee's apparent future as Tampa Bay's closer. You also can't discount No. 18 Brandon Belt, who could easily take home the NL Rookie of the Year honors provided he logs enough time for the Giants. Starting pitchers Zach Britton (No. 14, Orioles), Simon Castro (No. 52, Padres) and Kyle Gibson (No. 37, Twins) are on the verge of the bigs as well.

10. Philly thankful Blanton stayed

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the consensus was that Philadelphia would trade Joe Blanton. After all, who needs a No. 5 starter due $17 miliion over the next two years when you have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels?

Philly couldn't find a fit, however, and will now head into the season with Blanton on the roster. This is a good thing. Just because Blanton is the No. 5 starter doesn't mean he doesn't hold value, and being able to trot Blanton out against the back of the rotation for other teams will give Philadelphia an edge -- one it needs after losing Brown and Chase Utley.

Will Blanton stay with the team for the remainder of the year? Who can say, but even trading Blanton in July for pieces Philly knows it needs for a World Series run -- and to teams who will be increasingly desperate for pitchers once injuries and attrition hit -- is far more valuable than any deal of Blanton in January would have accomplished.

11. Firings

There's no question some managers and GMs will be shown the door in 2011. But who?

Skippers on the hot seat are covered here, so let's take a look at some GMs that could get the axe.

CollettiNed Colletti, Dodgers: Granted, Colletti has been hamstrung by the financial woes of owner Frank McCourt, but Colletti hasn't exactly done a good job with what he's been given. He appears to have learned from his mistakes in signing disasters like Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and giving away Carlos Santana, but he also hasn't improved the team significantly. This team is simply muddling along, and Colletti looks like the classic "change for change's sake" for McCourt to try to improve morale. Of course, nothing will improve morale more than McCourt taking a hike.

Jim Hendry, Cubs: Hendry has been an up-and-down GM with the Cubs. While he made a bold gamble in trading for Garza and the Cubs may be a mild sleeper, if the team missteps yet again it's difficult to fathom the Ricketts family holding still. Hendry is a holdover from the previous ownership regime and is signed through 2012, but that wouldn't give the ownership pause in firing him. If the Cubs slip, Hendry is highly likely to be given his walking papers, especially since he stuck his neck out by hiring Mike Quade.

Tony Reagins, Angels: Reagins has done nothing but take steps back since taking over for Bill Stoneman, all the more curious given Stoneman was promoted and oversees Reagins. But the moves Reagins has made, such as (obviously) Vernon Wells are head scratching. Similar moves for Scott Kazmir and insisting on playing Jeff Mathis have followed. Manager Mike Scioscia loves Mathis, but it's up to Reagins to tell Scioscia no and take Mathis away if need be. Unfortunately, this team looks lined up to disappoint again and hover around .500. Will that fly for a second consecutive year in L.A.? Doubt it, and Scioscia won't be the first candidate on the chopping block.

Ed Wade, Astros: It's possible Wade could be on the chopping block in his third season with Houston. The Astros are widely expected to slide back and simply aren't successful at the major- or minor-league level when it comes tom talent. That may speak more to the owner than GM, but the owner doesn't get fired. Also, McLane is thought to be interested in selling the team and is reportedly close to selling to Jim Crane, who previously attempted to buy Houston and lost out on the Rangers last season. Should that happen, new ownership would absolutely want to bring in its own leader.

Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Jack Z's leash is likely long enough to give him at least one more year, but in Year 3, the Mariners simply don't seem to have improved from his tenure. Yes, they surprised many in 2009, and part of it was probably flukish, but Zduriencik took a historically anemic lineup from 2010 and added ... Jack Cust. If he can get a strong season from Justin Smoak and impressive debuts from Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda, he should be safe.

12. Surprise teams

It happens every year. There's always that one team that takes a big step forward and contends for the postseason. Last year was especially notable in this regard, with the Reds, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays all performing better than expected. The one team to keep an eye on for 2011 is Colorado.

The Rockies finished with 83 wins last year, which is a surprise given the talent. Everyone knows the name Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Carlos Gonzalez, but the rest of the team aren't scrubs either. Colorado has been in the national consciousness the last few years given its Rocktober run in 2007 and another postseason appearance in 2009, but it hasn't been able to sustain that excellence.

TulowitzkiThat could be changing now that Gonzalez has fully matured into a middle-of-the-order hitter and have built out a rotation that should keep Colorado in the game. The Rockies are counting a bit on production from Ian Stewart at third and Chris Iannetta at catcher, but when you look at this team, it's a playoff-caliber club that should challenge the Giants in the NL West.

Unlike Colorado, however, there will also be those teams that crash and burn despite expectations. San Diego is widely expected to slide back, but expectations have also been adjusted due to trading Adrian Gonzalez. The one team that may not be able to live up to its billing is the Brewers.

Like Colorado, the star players are obvious -- Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder are the star names, but Ryan Braun and Shaun Marcum are no lightweights, either. The one area of concern in Milwaukee is the utter lack of depth which will end up a real problem if and when injuries strike. Look at what's happened to the rotation -- without Greinke to start the season, the club is going to have to trot out what will effectively be slop in the No. 5 spot. There's similar stories on offense with little help ready to step in and a complete punting of shortstop defense and center field offense.

The Brewers should finish .500, but they are a popular pick to win the World Series and it's difficult to envision them even making the playoffs unless everything goes right. The odds of that happening are as slim as Greinke accepting a trade back to the Royals.

13. Suffering in K.C ... plus optimism

"The day is darkest before dawn," or so goes the saying. That's certainly true in Kansas City, which will throw out a team capable of losing 100 games. But boasting the game's best farm system in a very long time is just the salve to ease the pain Royals fans will enjoy  watching Luke Hochevar function as the team's "ace."

The Royals have pared payroll, knowing it's pointless to try to pretend they can contend, plus the necessity to keep certain positions open for prospects that are nearing the majors. While Alcides Escobar will start the season in the majors, that won't be enough to excite the masses until the first wave of prospects hit, with Mike Moustakas likely to join the club in June or July.

Fans are going to have to sit through Jeff Francoeur flailing at pitches, Alex Gordon trying desperately to reverse his "bust" label and Jason Kendall struggling to take corporeal form ... but the picture only gets rosier, starting with 2012 where it's possible three of the most heralded prospects could break the year with the club, then an additional three hitting the majors at some point over the summer.

While watching the Royals, at least in the outset, will be an exercise in futility, by September, they may become the hot team to watch for the baseball fanatic.

14. Pirates finish last -- or will they?

The Pirates are poised to register their 19th consecutive losing season, but there is some optimism in Pittsburgh. The first wave of position player prospects have hit, and the club can point to Andrew McCutchen in center field, Jose Tabata in left, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at third as reasons to be optimistic with the offense. There are some other intriguing pieces down on the farm offensively that could make an impact such as catcher Tony Sanchez, and with a strong year, outfielder Starling Marte could be knocking on the door.

The club is also building solid pitching depth, with Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris perhaps making their big-league debuts this season, although the cream of the crop in Jameson Taillon (the No. 2 overall pick behind Harper in last season's draft) and Stetson Allie are further away. While the team waits for Taillon and Allie, however, it could pluck Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in June. Cole has been called by some as the "next Stephen Strasburg." Lofty expectations to be sure, but if Cole is picked and advances quickly, the Pirates could start doing some damage in several years.

In 2011, finishing under .500 is a virtual certainty. But will the Bucs finish in last place? It's possible they could pull out a fourth-place finish. It all depends how well the rotation performs and Alvarez, Tabata and Walker all adjust to a full year in the majors. The Astros may just have enough solid major-league talent to grab a fourth-place finish, but that's in doubt. Hey, any type of progress will be welcome in Pittsburgh.

15. Wild (card) about the postseason?

There seems to be overwhelming momentum toward expanding the playoffs with another wild card likely being added to the fray to battle the other wild-card winner in a best-of-3 series. That means that for the first time since 1995, the postseason would take on an entirely different complexion.

In 2010, the Yankees would have taken on the Chicago White Sox, while the Braves would have had to stave off the San Diego Padres, who lost the division by one game to the Giants.

The year prior, the Red Sox would battle the Rangers, giving the national audience a hint of what was to come in Texas while the NL would have pitted Colorado against the division-rival Giants. Assuming two wild cards can't come out of the same division, the Marlins would have drawn the honor.

Sounds like fun, right? Except that there would be no Game 163s anymore, so knock out the epic Tigers/Twins battle for the division in 2009. Likewise, the Rockies and Padres would never have played Game 163 in 2007.

Should the second wild card be added to the game, an NFL-style tiebreaker will most likely be used to determine outcomes when two teams tie for the wild card or division. On one hand, that's a bit disappointing, because Game 163s are tremendous fun. But on the other hand, that fun would simply be extended to the new wild-card playoff format and happen every year instead of having to wait for the occasional Game 163 scenario to roll around.

Either way, it would be a shocker if there wasn't a new playoff system in place for 2012.

And here's five more things that could happen this season ... 

Ramirez1. In the first game between the Red Sox and Rays, Manny Ramirez forgets he's on the Tampa Bay squad and runs on the field with the Red Sox to begin the game. He asks Crawford what he's doing in left field and why they are wearing opposite uniforms. Crawford tries to explain the situation, but ManRam simply shrugs and heads into the Green Monster.

2. Ozzie Guillen surprisingly releases a book about Jenks (remember when he said he could "write a book on the kid" in the offseason?), full of salacious details about Jenks' time in Chicago, including the revelation that Jenks ate a middle reliever during one game. In his first game against the White Sox in 2011, an enraged Jenks throws at the head of the first two batters, hitting them before Guillen comes out on the field to complain. Jenks then beans Guillen and the two brawl on the field, which leads to a multi-million dollar match between the two in UFC in which Jenks, who hired Mike Tyson as trainer, attempts to bite Guillen's ear off.

3. During one particularly heated Cincinnati-St. Louis matchup, the benches clear, and Johnny Gomes comes face to face with Adam Wainwright. Without a word exchanged, Gomes promptly delivers a crane kick to Waino. "First learn stand, then learn fly," Dusty Baker sagely observes.

4. Joe Maddon, who is already known for using uncommon words, takes things to a whole new level. Witness this quote: "David Price can unequivocally bung. How dexterous is the swain? He's as recherché as Sandy Koufax in his diurnal course." Good luck deciphering that.

5. Pujols announces the team he has chosen to sign with during the last homestand of the season -- against the Cubs on Sept. 25. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, down three runs with a full count and the division title in the balance for the Cardinals, Pujols watches strike three right down the middle. As the crowd groans, Pujols rips open his jersey, revealing a Cubs home jersey underneath and dropkicks Tony La Russa as the announcers scream "NOOOOOOO!" And fade to black.

OK, so these five things won't happen, but one can dream. The rest you can expect.

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Posted on: October 19, 2010 10:52 pm
 

Dodgers' budget increases for 2011

The more important news in the official signing of Ted Lilly by the Dodgers (three year, $33 million, by the way), is that general manager Ned Colletti has gotten his 2011 budget from owner Frank McCourt.

"We know where we're going," Colletti told the Los Angeles Times ' Steve Dilbeck . "It's up from a year ago, but that's all I want to tell you."

Last year the Dodgers' payroll was $95.3 million.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: August 5, 2010 12:02 am
 

Dodgers stuck with Martin injury

Russell Martin The Los Angeles Dodgers today got bad news when learning that Russell Martin tore the labrum in his left hip. The injury plants him on the 15-day disabled list and may wipe him out for the season.

This makes Brad Ausmus the de facto starter, even though the club also recalled A.J. Ellis. Ellis has a tremendous eye, but is also 29 and has yet to nail down even a backup job in the majors. If the Dodgers were more concerned with getting its internal, viable options playing time, Ellis might be able to step into the breach. Instead, he's working on a .204/.286/.224 line in 58 plate appearances during an earlier stint. That comprises 82 percent of Ellis' major-league experience.

Ellis also has minimal time at Triple-A this season in the amount of 10 games, so it will be difficult for the Dodgers to justify putting him in the starting lineup, even if he is their best option. (As good as Ausmus has been defensively over his career, he's made just four appearances on the year prior to Wednesday's game thanks to injury and hit .218/.303/.296 in his last extended time at the plate for the Padres in 2008.)

Due to the ill-advised trading of Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in the 2008 season, the Dodgers suddenly find themselves with minimal depth at the catching position. (One can't assume Santana would have been barrelled over by the NL version of Ryan Kalish and been placed on the disabled list as well.)

The Santana-Blake deal was derided from Day One even though Blake has been a solid contributor for the Dodgers as Santana has morphed into one of the best prospects in the game. Compounding things is a deal the Dodgers made with the Royals, shipping Lucas May and an additional prospect for Scott Podsednik. Good job, Ned Colletti!

The Dodgers could, of course, strike to deepen their catching through a waiver trade, although it's unclear who would be on the block. Even the rebuilding teams don't have much flexibility in this area, so Mr. Ned has his work cut out for him. Given his track record, don't bet on a smart solution.

-- Evan Brunell

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com