The Rundown: The Offseason is Over, Fowler Likely to O’s, Cubs Named Least Confusing Team

Top Of The First

It’s officially not the offseason anymore. I woke up this morning feeling like I needed to do some stretching and outfield sprints. I switched my Blackhawks hat out for my Cubs hat. I had my personal clubhouse manager put my collection of jerseys in numerical order, separating the road jerseys from the home jerseys. I have my copy of “Baseball By The Numbers” handy. It’s getting intense around here. I eliminated all non-baseball channels from my remote control “favorites” rotation. See you in November, TBS reruns of Seinfeld, Family Guy, and The Big Bang Theory. Opening Day is 46 days away.

Orioles Expect To Land Dexter Fowler

Well, the Birds look like they are going to land Dexter Fowler, meaning the Cubs will re-acquire their second round draft choice, which, depending upon who you ask, is number 65, 67, or 68. The Orioles also appear to be on the verge of signing SP Yovanni Gallardo. Believe it or not, with those signings the Orioles would enter the 2016 season having been the biggest spenders this offseason. Right now, that title belongs to the Cubs, who forked over $276.3M for Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Trevor Cahill.

Look for Fowler to get $12-$13M on a three- or four-year deal. The Gallardo signing seems to be in the neighborhood of 3/$45M. That would put the Orioles offseason spendng total at just over $290M, with $161M going to slugger Chris Davis, $31M to relief pitcher Darren O’Day, and $15.8M going to catcher Matt Wieters, plus the Fowler and Gallardo contracts once they are official. The team also gave a 2/$7M deal to South Korean OF Hyun-soo Kim.

If Gallardo pitches like he did in 2014 rather than 2015, the Orioles will have had a pretty decent, under-the-radar offseason spending spree, provided Fowler and Davis don’t regress. I still think Baltimore is light years away from the Red Sox or Blue Jays in terms of overall talent, but anything can happen.

Meanwhile, the Cubs will now have two of the first 104 draft picks in this year’s minor league draft.

Parity In 2016

The American League now boasts three divisions in which, conceivably, any team could win. The playoff races should be pretty tight throughout the year so the probability exists that there will be quite a bit of player movement leading up to this year’s trade deadline.

In the National League, eleven teams start the season with a better-than-average chance of making this year’s playoffs. Then there’s the have-nots. Look for the Braves, Reds, Brewers and Philiies to leverage parity within both leagues to build more minor league depth by moving veterans.

Players these teams should make available before July 31:

  • Atlanta Braves – OF Nick Markakis, 1B Freddie Freeman, SS Erick Aybar, OF Michael Bourn, OF/1B Nick Swisher, SP Bud Norris, C A.J. Pierzynski
  • Cincinnati Reds – SS Zack Cozart, 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, OF Jay Bruce, SP Homer Bailey
  • Milwaukee Brewers – C Jonathan Lucroy, OF Ryan Braun, SP Matt Garza, 1B Chris Carter
  • Philadelphia Phillies – 1B Ryan Howard, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Charlie Morton, RP David Hernandez, RP Edward Mujica

The Braves could be building a youth-infused juggernaut. Their combination of draft picks, trade candidates, and the money the team is likely to spend in the next IFA signing period that begins July 2nd should boost what many already consider baseball’s best farm system.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, or Rumor

Grant Brisbee named the Cubs “Baseball’s Least Confusing Team of 2016.

The Texas Rangers are looking for an outfielder. CF Austin Jackson remains a speculative match.

With a 2016 salary of $9.75M, San Francisco Giants SP Madison Bumgarner represents the biggest bargain in baseball. Bumgarner will also receive $9.75M in 2017 and the Giants hold $12M options for 2018 and 2019. Kinda makes you wish the Cubs had locked up Jake Arrieta before last season’s breakout year.

Toronto Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman has his own brand — HDMH (Height Doesn’t Measure Heart) — with patents in two countries. No word on whether Hawk Harrelson plans to brand TWTW (The Will To Win). In other Blue Jays news, 3B Josh Donaldson makes his acting debut in tonight’s episode of “Vikings” airing at 9:00PM ET on the History Channel.

Billy Ripken also gets the Hollywood treatment in a short-form comedy film called “The Other Ripken” which premiers next month at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA. The six-minute short reveals the story behind Ripken’s 1989 Fleer baseball Card with “F### Face” Sharpied onto the knob.

Scott Miller offers 56 Reasons to Pay Attention in Spring Training.

Being Professor Obvious: pitchers and catchers started reporting to Spring Training yesterday. The official reporting date for position players is Sunday, with teams mandating all players be in camp by February 26th unless they have a team exemption. Spring Training Online has all reporting dates, Cactus and Grapefruit League schedules, ticket information and ballpark digests.

Bottom of The Ninth

I started doing my predictions for the 2016 season, even though I know it’s far too early in the game do so. I remain amused that so many publications confidently post their predictions before Spring Training’s first outfield sprint. That being said, when I look at the St. Louis Cardinals as their roster sits right now, I see a .500 team that will be slightly buoyed by very weak Cincinnati and Milwaukee teams. Adjusting for that, I would be surprised if the Cardinals win more than 86 games, and even more surprised if they make the playoffs this year. I don’t think they are quite as strong as everybody seems to think. I am sure that prediction will change, but I am not sure that necessarily means I will add to that predicted win total.

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