Log in Register

Login to your account

Username *
Password *
Remember Me

Create an account

Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.
Name *
Username *
Password *
Verify password *
Email *
Verify email *

fb mb tw mb

Sunday 28th May 2017

The football playoffs are winding down – we’ve gotten through the Wild Card and Divisional contests and are left with the Conference championships to determine the Super Bowl participants. That leaves us, at this date, about one month out from the start of Spring Training 2012. Teams are starting to get more geared up for pitchers and catchers reporting; trying to get rosters set before heading south for on-field activities.

To that end, general managers are working on writing and offering contracts as they put together rosters for the upcoming season. Many players either had one-year contracts for 2011 or are arbitration eligible, and we will see many of those issues dealt with in the next couple of weeks. The deadline for exchanging arbitration figures was January 17 with hearings scheduled between February 1 and February 21. Teams will be trying to avoid the sometimes contentious arbitration process and will try to get contracts in place before the hearing date.

There have been a flurry of signings over the past week and that will begin to escalate. Let’s take a look at some of the recent signings that have the biggest impact on playing situations.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Joe Saunders given a new contract for the 2012 season but he is just a placeholder for some of the D’Backs upcoming youngsters.

Atlanta Braves – Signed Jack Wilson to a one-year deal. Wilson’s starting days are done as his hitting and fielding have gone south. He will serve as Tyler Pastornicky’s backup at this point. Martin Prado also got a one-year deal and is slated to again be the left fielder although he has a lack of power you would want in a corner position. He doesn’t have second base/middle infield eligibility like he did in 2009 and 2010 which is where much of his value came from. Third base/corner is still there. Jair Jurrjens got a new one-year deal but his role is still up in the air as the Braves have quite a few options for their rotation. There are reports teams are interested in acquiring the right-hander (the Yankees were one but that is unlikely with the Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda moves) so Jurrjens is a pretty good candidate to be changing address. Speedster Michael Bourn also got a new one-year deal and will be back in center field and at the top of the batting order where Atlanta will let him go on the basepaths.

Chicago Cubs – Kerry Wood gets a new one-year deal for 2012 with a team option for 2013. He will be in the bullpen although it remains to be seen how many innings he’ll be able to put in following knee surgery. But who knows what may be in store with Carlos Marmol’s propensity to issue free passes to hitters and reduction in K/9 of almost 4.0 (although it is still about 12.0/9). Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Randy Wells all got new one-year deals. Baker and DeWitt will have backup roles. Soto will again be the primary backstop but is coming off a disappointing year in which he batted .228. But since we are in an even numbered year expect improvement (if you believe in those kind of trends or track records). Stewart is the heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez but has injury issues. Wells will be back in the rotation and Volstad will get his chance after being traded from the Miami Marlins for Carlos Zambrano.

Cincinnati Reds – Gave new one-year contracts to Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, and Paul Janish. Bailey is coming up on a crossroads as the Reds will most likely have to decide how much longer they’re willing to wait for him to become the starting pitcher they thought he would be. He will be in the rotation starting for Cincinnati in 2012 but for how long isn’t sure. Bray will be back in the bullpen where he did well. Janish stepped back from his 2010 production and is now the backup for Zack Cozart at shortstop.

Colorado Rockies – Signed Seth Smith to a one-year deal then turned around and traded him to the Oakland A’s for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman in a deal that, frankly doesn’t make sense from the Rockies’ standpoint. Moscoso gives up fly balls by the bushel full which won’t play well in Coors Field. Outman doesn’t fare well against right handed hitters which isn’t a good thing either. Center fielder Dexter Fowler got a one-year deal and will be given his chance to win the leadoff spot again.

Houston Astros – Gave a new one-year contract to J.A. Happ who will again be part of an Astros rotation that has a couple parts with potential but is not deep.

Los Angeles Dodgers – James Loney and Andre Ethier each get a new one-year contract. I have no use for Loney as a first baseman who has never hit more than 15 home runs but evidently the Dodgers do. Ethier was limited to 135 games last year and disappointed with only 11 home runs. Los Angeles and fantasy players will be hoping for a bounce back.

Miami Marlins – Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) and Edward Mujica get one year contracts. Both will work out of the bullpen for the Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers – Sign Carlos Gomez, Kameron Loe, Nyjer Morgan, Manny Parra, and Francisco Rodriguez to one-year contracts and Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal. Gomez and Morgan will again split the center field duties. Loe and Parra will be part of the bullpen mix again. Rodriguez comes back to Milwaukee for 2012 at a $3 million plus salary cut after which he could hit the open market in a more favorable year for free agent closers. His salary also makes him an attractive potential trade chip for a team looking for a closer later in the year. Aoki will primarily back up the corner outfield positions but could get full-time duty early on depending on what happens with Ryan Braun.

New York Mets – Manny Acosta, Ronny Cedeno, Mike Pelfrey, Ramon Ramirez, and Andres Torres all received one-year contracts from the club. Acosta will at least compete for the closer’s role while Ramirez will have a bullpen spot. Cedeno will serve as a backup to Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Pelfrey should be back in the rotation despite a poor 2011. Torres will be the everyday center fielder but doesn’t bring much to the table anymore, especially for fantasy players.

Philadelphia Phillies – Signed Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and Wilson Valdez to one-year contracts. Hamels, who was party to trade rumors earlier in the off-season, will slot back into the starting rotation. Kendrick will start out in the bullpen but will be the first to get a call to start if anything happens to the first five. Valdez will again fill a bench role and doesn’t have fantasy value even when he does play.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, and Chris Resop all got new one-year contracts. Hanrahan returns as the closer after saving 40 games in 2011. Karstens will return to the rotation and Morton, just off hip surgery, will be in the mix for starts. Meek at one point was considered a potential closer candidate but had a rough 2011 that included missed time from a shoulder injury. He’ll be back in the bullpen as will Resop.

San Diego Padres – Sign John Baker, Luke Gregerson, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley, Carlos Quentin, Tim Stauffer, Joe Thatcher, Will Venable, and Edinson Volquez all to one-year deals. Hundley will be back as the starting catcher with Baker as his replacement. Gregerson, who some thought would be the heir to close out games before Huston Street was acquired, will set up Street. Thatcher is a lefty back of the bullpen option. Volquez and Stauffer both have starting rotation spots and Petco should keep some of Volquez’s fly balls in the park. Headley is back at third base and, while not providing much power, has low teens stolen base output. Quentin mans left field but should see a drop in home run production playing in Petco. Venable figures to share time in right field.

San Francisco Giants – Melky Cabrera, Santiago Casilla, Angel Pagan, and Nate Schierholtz receive one-year contracts while Pablo Sandoval gets a three-year deal. Cabrera will man center field for the Giants after a breakout 2011 for the Kansas City Royals. He figures to see a drop in HR and SB playing in San Francisco. Pagan will be the starting right fielder and figures to get pretty good SB totals. Schierholtz will back up the corner outfield spots. Sandoval gets rewarded for a bounce back 2011 at third base and Casilla is a good middle relief option.

St. Louis Cardinals – Only move of note the past week was to sign Kyle McClellan to a one-year deal. He will be back in a swing role for the Cards out of the bullpen.

Washington Nationals – Tyler Clippard, Jesus Flores, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jordan Zimmerman are all signed to one-year contracts. Clippard and Gorzelanny will man the bullpen with Gorzelanny being an option to start if needed. Zimmerman and Gonzalez are starting pitchers with good fantasy value. Flores will be a backup backstop.

As far back as I can remember, the Masters of Mastersball have been preaching “bully hitting and manage pitching”. To be honest, that’s how most owners I know play it. There are some who try to go against the grain and go big on starting pitching. Others try to get an ace or two and fill in the rest with lower tiered targets. Still others eschew the higher priced pitchers altogether and try to cobble together a bargain basement staff, counting on winning all the hitting categories.

Whichever way an owner chooses to do it, the fact remains that 50% of the available points in most every fantasy league (I’ve seen some strange combinations of 7 X 6, 8 X 5, etc) can be gotten from the pitching categories. Sure, there have been times when an extremely low or extremely high pitching budget has won a league, but, for the most part, winning teams’ pitching budgets are in the 30 – 35% range and feature some sort of mix from the upper and lower tiers.

It’s early and there’s likely to be some more personnel changing teams and possibly leaving the league but here’s my first ranked look at the top 25 National League starting pitchers.

Roy Halladay, Phillies

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Cliff Lee, Phillies

Tim Lincecum, Giants

Cole Hamels, Phillies

Matt Cain, Giants

Zack Greinke, Brewers

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Josh Johnson, Marlins

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Tommy Hanson, Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Mat Latos, Reds

Brandon Beachy, Braves

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks

Matt Garza, Cubs

Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Cory Luebke, Padres

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals

Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

It’s always fun to put together your own personal rankings and compare them to others. Look at enough of them and you can even glean something tantamount to an ADP. As I stated, this is an early ranking and there have been rumors surrounding Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cole Hamels, to name a few. More will shake out in the weeks and months to come and I will re-visit this in the future when things are much more firmed up.

As far back as I can remember, the Masters of Mastersball have been preaching “bully hitting and manage pitching”. To be honest, that’s how most owners I know play it. There are some who try to go against the grain and go big on starting pitching. Others try to get an ace or two and fill in the rest with lower tiered targets. Still others eschew the higher priced pitchers altogether and try to cobble together a bargain basement staff, counting on winning all the hitting categories.

Whichever way an owner chooses to do it, the fact remains that 50% of the available points in most every fantasy league (I’ve seen some strange combinations of 7 X 6, 8 X 5, etc) can be gotten from the pitching categories. Sure, there have been times when an extremely low or extremely high pitching budget has won a league, but, for the most part, winning teams’ pitching budgets are in the 30 – 35% range and feature some sort of mix from the upper and lower tiers.

It’s early and there’s likely to be some more personnel changing teams and possibly leaving the league but here’s my first ranked look at the top 25 National League starting pitchers.

Roy Halladay, Phillies

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Cliff Lee, Phillies

Tim Lincecum, Giants

Cole Hamels, Phillies

Matt Cain, Giants

Zack Greinke, Brewers

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Josh Johnson, Marlins

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Tommy Hanson, Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Jordan Zimmerman, Nationals

Mat Latos, Reds

Brandon Beachy, Braves

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks

Matt Garza, Cubs

Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Cory Luebke, Padres

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals

Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

It’s always fun to put together your own personal rankings and compare them to others. Look at enough of them and you can even glean something tantamount to an ADP. As I stated, this is an early ranking and there have been rumors surrounding Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cole Hamels, to name a few. More will shake out in the weeks and months to come and I will re-visit this in the future when things are much more firmed up.

The Los Angeles Angels’ and American League’s gain has, obviously, been the loss for the St. Louis Cardinals and the National League, with Albert Pujols bolting the Senior Circuit for the California sun and Arte Moreno’s money. What has been the near consensus top pick in NL fantasy leagues for the past decade is no longer available. Pujols’ departure is one of a few things that could provide the perfect storm for the top of NL draft lists. Right now, St. Louis has Lance Berkman penciled in as Albert’s replacement at first base and that doesn’t seem likely to change.

The second part of this storm is the uncertainty surrounding Ryan Braun and his potential 50-game ban. There has surprisingly been nothing said about this story since it first broke. The three possible scenarios – a full 50-game ban, a full pardon, partial pardon and partial ban – is causing grief for any leagues that are drafting early. If a ban becomes reality, fantasy owners then have to decide how far to drop Braun down their boards. Nyjer Morgan stands to get a bump at the start of the season if Braun is sidelined, with Taylor Green being factored in a bit.

The third part of this perfect storm could be the bolting of Prince Fielder for the American League. Fielder is reportedly being linked closely to the Washington Nationals recently, but there could be three things preventing that – they have to think about tending a long term contract to Ryan Zimmerman not too far down the road, the need to find a home for Adam LaRoche and his $9M contract, the possibility of Scott Boras seeking an opt-out clause in a contract for Prince (Miami might do this but I don't see it happening with the Nationals). Any one of these could derail the Fielder to Washington train. While the Chicago Cubs are also interested in the rotund first baseman, there are at least four American League teams kicking the tires - the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays. So he just might wind up in the AL where he could at least DH part of the time or near the end of his contract. Mat Gamel would be the likely replacement at first base at least for the near term if Prince doesn't return to Milwaukee.

 With two-thirds of this storm directly affecting the first base position in the NL, I’m going to rank my top ten first base options, assuming the worst and the storm hits.

Joey Votto, CIN – Now the only legitimate 40 HR threat entering 2012. Combine that with a BA over .300 and 100+ runs scored and RBI as well as a sprinkling of double-digit SBs and he stands head and shoulders above all the others at the position.

Mike Morse, WAS – A breakout season in 2011 but at 29 years old, he’s not nearly as young as some might think. But without a no-brainer standout for this spot, he gets it on the strength of last year’s performance. He is a legitimate 30 HR threat, but at his age there isn’t going to be much more growth.

Michael Cuddyer, COL – He will play in left field for the Rox but I’m including him here because he will still have eligibility. While I like Cuddyer and think he could up his performance a bit in Denver, his inclusion here shows the lack of options at the upper tier of the position entering 2012.

Paul Goldschmidt, ARI – The BA will be middling in the .200’s but he does have the capability of knocking 30 dingers in the desert as well as stealing a handful of bases – possibly even double digits.

Ike Davis, NYM – Ike had an eye-opening 2010 and a hot start to 2011 before being injured and missing all but 36 games of the season. His seven HR extrapolated out to a 30 HR season, albeit not likely. Still, he has mid 20’s potential with upper 20’s a possibility thanks to the drawn in fences at Citi Field.

Freddie Freeman, ATL – If it wasn’t for Craig Kimbrel and his 46 saves, Freddie would have been your NL Rookie of the Year in 2011. He hit 21 HR with a .282 BA last year but has the size for mid-20’s power. His 76 RBI is an indictment of how offensively challenged the Braves were.

Gaby Sanchez, MIA – Back-to-back 19 HR seasons and Sanchez seems to have found his niche. I’m counting on an uptick into the low 20’s range with a little more power output. Not exciting but that defines this point in the rankings.

Lance Berkman, STL – I don’t see anything even approaching his 2011 results. He’s the best of what’s left at the position. Hope for low 20’s HR production and be happy.

Mat Gamel, MIL – Needs to learn how to hit left-handers better. If he does, he’ll get more playing time and mid-teens home runs will turn into low 20’s power. Still has to prove he can do it at the major league level but I think he can.

Brandon Belt, SFG – I believe he’ll put his 2011 troubles aside and take a step towards becoming the player everyone thought he could be. Aubrey Huff and Nate Schierholtz won’t stand in his way in the long run. Could very well hit 20 HR.

Some guys I just don’t believe in for 2012 for various reasons – Carlos Lee, James Loney, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Howard.

I’m going to take a break from baseball this week to lament one of my fantasy football teams. This is a league I joined a few years back on an invitation from a good buddy of mine who had also just recently joined. I looked at the team I would be taking over and realized this was going to be a project of at least a couple of years since it was an auction keeper league with contracts and I didn’t have much to work with. Teams have a 20-man roster with $150 salary cap. There are also two injured reserve spots per team that don’t count towards the cap. Weekly active rosters have nine players – QB, 1 – 3 RB, 1 – 4 WR, 1 – 2 TE, K, and DEF. There is a rookie draft and afterwards an auction to fill out the teams.

The first couple years, my team languished near the bottom of the league. This league plays two head-to-head games per week and my first year I finished with an 11-15 record. I didn’t fare any better in my second season in the league and finished with an identical 11-15 record. Both years, this was good for ninth out of twelve teams.

In 2010, my record fell to a disappointing 7-19 in a year I felt I could make a move up the standings. Instead, I finished eleventh out of the twelve teams. That was the bad news. But the good news was I won the losers bracket in the playoffs – the one bright spot in a frustrating season. Frustrating because I thought I had done well enough in the rookie draft and the auction to show some improvement over the previous two campaigns.

I went back to work to prepare for the 2011 season. Players coming back for my team were Josh Freeman, Marshawn Lynch, Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Steve Slaton, Dez Bryant, Wes Welker, Steve Breaston, Eric Decker, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Due to trades, I had four picks in the two-round rookie draft. The new season started off with Daniel Thomas, Jonathan Baldwin, Delone Carter, and Titus Young added to my roster.

Prior to the auction, I moved Jonathan Baldwin to an injured reserve spot and this left me with seven roster acquisitions to finalize my team entering the season. In the auction, I picked up Cedric Benson, Michael Bush, Fred Jackson, Antonio Gates, Matt Cassel, Shaun Suisham, and the Philadelphia Eagles defense.

I knew going in that the quarterback position was going to be my weakest link but didn’t want to spend the kind of money that the few upper echelon QBs were going for. Hence, I wound up with Matt Cassel to back up Josh Freeman who I (and quite a few others) thought would take a step forward after a decent 2010 season. Little did I know at the time how much of a weak link my quarterbacks would be.

I started off the year with Josh Freeman in my active lineup and kept him there for six weeks. My team was doing well, so I was willing to accept the roller coaster performance I was getting from him. Come Week 7, I decided to drop Freeman and replace him with Matt Cassel, who I thought had the better matchup against the San Diego Chargers. Freeman was playing the Chicago Bears and would have a bye in Week 8. My over-analysis didn’t cost me too much as I managed to split the week’s games despite a meager 2.24 points from Cassel.

Two more sub-par weeks from Cassel and I was still in a very good position to make the playoffs, but I knew I had to make a deal for a better quarterback if I wanted to make any noise in the post-season. I had someone willing to trade me Eli Manning or Drew Brees but I didn’t have the salary room for either of them without dismantling a major portion of my team. So I ended up making a deal for Matt Schaub and felt I was in a good position heading into the home stretch and then the playoffs. Little did I know at the time that the fantasy gods would not be kind to me.

Schaub spent two weeks in my lineup before succumbing to the season-ending injury he suffered. This left me with no other choice but to troll the waiver wire for the quarterback that would take me through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. The first pickup I made was John Skelton who proceeded to give me negative 2.04 points for the week. Amazingly, I won both games that week by the strength of the rest of my roster as I still managed to score 145.04 points. But I knew Skelton had to go.

Next up was Matt Leinart who was a little better and gave me 8.28 points on the week. At least it wasn’t a negative number. I scored 171.96 points and split the week – losing to a team who scored a whopping 196.2 points. But Leinart had to go as well.

I picked up Kyle Orton and Matt Hasselbeck. Orton scored 0 points while Hasselbeck scored 5.50 but was on my bench. The rest of my squad wound up with 152.8 points and I added another two victories to my record. Next up was the playoffs.

Week 1 of the playoffs came with Matt Hasselbeck getting the nod for my starting QB. He gave me an anemic 1.76 points but I still managed to win my first playoff game with a total of 142.04 points. This despite a big fat zero from Kevin Smith (who I picked up on waivers earlier in the season) as well. I knew the following week was going to be my toughest test to date as I would be facing the team with the best record in the league courtesy of the post-season seedings. I wasn’t willing to roll with Hasselbeck so I picked up Taylor Yates to start the next game.

Yates gave me 5.98 points and my winning ways were over as I dropped a 136.12–109.86 decision to my opponent. He got 26.96 points out of Matt Ryan while I got lackluster performances from Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Antonio Gates when I needed them the most. It was back to Kyle Orton for the third-place game the following week, which I proceeded to lose by 13 points.

All told, I had ten different quarterbacks on this team throughout the year, including Alex Smith and Tarvaris Jackson, who didn’t see my active lineup at all. It was a tough year playing the wire and trying to time the best weekly matchup. You can bet next year I’ll start off with better QBs as the big salaries of Welker and Gates will be coming off the books. And hopefully, the fantasy gods will pour out their wrath on someone else.

There are almost as many strategies in playing fantasy baseball as the number of people playing the game. One position where it seems there is a plethora of strategies, or at least very divergent opinions on what should be done, is the closer. Some players say not to chase saves – many become available during the season on the waiver wire or through FAAB. Others, on the other hand, say to get one or two of the elite at the position. Some even say to punt the category altogether depending on what kind of league you are in. Whatever strategy you choose to employ, here is a rundown of the closer situations in the National League.

Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel became part of the bridge to Billy Wagner in 2010, striking out 40 hitters in 20 innings as a 22 year-old. In fact, he did well enough to be considered the forerunner to replacing the retiring Wagner in 2011. Craig was given the closing job and proceeded to rack up 46 saves and was overpowering while doing it with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings. Craig was so impressive he went on to win the Rookie of the Year in the National League and the job is his entering 2012.

Arizona Diamondbacks – J.J. Putz had a bounce back season in 2010 after an injury-riddled stint with the New York Mets. He pitched well enough to be given a chance to close by the Diamondbacks in 2011 and came through with 45 saves and better than a strikeout per inning. Putz is safely ensconced in the closer role again in 2012.

Chicago Cubs – 2010 was a breakout year for Carlos Marmol as the 27-year old went on to save 38 games for the Cubs with slightly over 16.0 strikeouts per nine. His Achilles Heel was allowing bases on balls at the rate of 6.0/9! Marmol followed up 2010 with a 34 save 2011. His strikeout rate decreased to 12.0/9 in the process and he still allowed walks at a 5.8/9 rate. He enters 2012 as the closer once again, but the bases on balls will keep him from entering the ranks of the elite when speaking of closers.

Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati declined to pick up the option for Francisco Cordero after he closed out 150 games in four seasons and are looking for a closer for the 2012 season. Internal candidates are Nick Masset (who struck out just under eight batters per nine but also walked about four batters per nine) and Aroldis Chapman. The 24-year old struck out 71 hitters in 50 innings but also walked 41. The Reds would like him to crack the starting rotation at some point so chances are good their 2012 closer isn’t even on the team yet.

Colorado Rockies – With the trade of 2011 closer Huston Street to the San Diego Padres, the Rockies are going to run with Rafael Betancourt as closer at this time. He did save eight games for Colorado in 2011 and struck out 73 and walked eight in just over 62 innings of work.

Houston Astros – With the trade of Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox, the Astros need to find a replacement for their 20-save 2011 closer. Their internal options to finish off games in 2012 include Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Juan Abreu, and Wilton Lopez with Carpenter having the inside track at the moment.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 2011 saw Javy Guerra save 21 games for the Dodgers but Kenley Jansen was arguably the better hurler – especially down the stretch. Jansen is better suited to finish games as he struck out 16.0/9 and walked 4.3/9 while Guerra had a strikeout rate of 7.3/9 while walking 3.5/9. If no one is brought in through trade or free agency the two will compete for the job.

Miami Marlins – Miami solved their Leo Nunez problem by signing Heath Bell to a three-year contract to save games for the Marlins. Bell successfully finished 132 over the past three years for the San Diego Padres and should continue this trend in South Florida. There is some concern his strikeout rate dropped from double digits to 7.3/9 last year.

Milwaukee Brewers – With 46 saves and better than a strikeout per inning, the Brewers are set with John Axford as their closer once again. He has 70 saves to his credit over the last two years and had an ERA under 2.00 in 2011.

New York Mets – The Mets needed a new closer after trading Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers last July. They first signed Jon Rauch as a free agent and it was thought he would be the closer entering 2012. But the team further revamped their bullpen by signing Frank Francisco shortly thereafter. Francisco is the favorite to start the season as the team’s closer.

Philadelphia Phillies – Philadelphia made the biggest splash in the free agent closer market by signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year contract worth $50 million. Thus they parted ways with free agents Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson for the more established Papelbon. In six seasons as the closer for the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon has 188 saves to his credit.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan acquitted himself well as the closer in Pittsburgh with 40 saves in 2011 and will be the one called upon to save games in 2012. He struck out less than a batter per inning but kept the ball in the park, allowing only one home run in all of 2011. Not sexy but gets the job done.

San Diego Padres – With the departure of Heath Bell to free agency and ultimately the Miami Marlins, the Padres needed a new closer for 2012. Rather than go with Luke Gregerson, the team acquired Huston Street from the Colorado Rockies to finish off games. Street saved 29 games for the Rockies in 2011 and will benefit from the trade to Petco Park since, as a fly-ball pitcher, he allowed 10 home runs in 58 innings last year.

San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson has been the team’s closer for the past four seasons but was shut down at the end of 2011 with elbow issues. If there isn’t any recurring problem, he will be the closer again for 2012. If Wilson is unavailable, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt could be in the picture for saves.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Motte enters 2012 as the closer after being announced as such by new manager Mike Matheny. He pitched well at the end of the 2011 regular season and into the playoffs and World Series and is being rewarded with the first shot at finishing games this coming year.

Washington Nationals – Drew Storen gave a glimpse of what he could do in 2010 and wowed in 2011 with 43 saves and just under a strikeout per inning. He will once again take the mound at the end of games in 2012.

  Closers still available on the free agent market include Kerry Wood, Francisco Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero.

It’s been a busy offseason week. As we discussed, the Miami Marlins signed Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle to free agent contracts. There were rumors of the team next going after Albert Pujols and, if that failed, Prince Fielder, along with C.J. Wilson. It was as if the Steinbrenners got lost and wound up in South Florida instead of Tampa.

Things didn’t quite work out the way the Marlins planned as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the most ridiculous team name in sports) swooped in, stole Miami’s thunder, and signed both Pujols and Wilson. That effectively wiped the Marlins off the back page of every newspaper in America (leaving everyone saying Miami who?) and replacing them with the Angels’ halo. Los Angeles was now basking in the light of being the most talked about team in baseball and was very pleased with themselves for changing the competitive balance in the American League West.

As big a story as the Wilson and Pujols signings were, the Angels were about to go the same way as the Marlins as far as the back page goes. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be from a blockbuster trade or another big free agent signing. As we all know by now, the big news was that performance-enhancing drugs have raised their ugly head once again. This time they weren’t associated with a marginal or mediocre player as has been the case most often since Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, et al. Rather, it was none other than the National League Most Valuable Player – Ryan Braun.

The good news is that when the story broke everyone was surprised if not totally shocked. Surprised because PED use has pretty much been a non-story since Clemens and Brian McNamee started dragging each other through the courts, a good sign that the drug policy put in place through an agreement between the players, their union and the Commissioner’s office is working. That the game we love is getting back to a more innocent time. That might sound cliché or pie in the sky in this age of drug engineering and masking agents, but I doubt there’s anyone who wasn’t hoping for that deep down inside.

The bad news being that the reality of PED's are still here even if they are lurking in the shadows and not the news they were in the early 2000’s. The fact that our game is still haunted by the dark cloud that caused so many of us to question the integrity of our heroes and the validity of the Holy Grail of our sport – the record book. That someone who we wanted to believe came from a new generation that was free from the stain of PED’s was now caught in the maelstrom of banned substances. That the reigning NL MVP is now facing a 50-game suspension. That the game we love isn’t as clean as it should be no matter how much we want it to be – no matter how much the powers that be tell us it is.

Instead, we are again thrust back in time when the whole mess of PED’s and the circus that surrounded them became the story instead of the game on the field being the story. Players Association executive director Michael Weiner has said we shouldn’t rush to judgment. A Ryan Braun spokesman said there are “highly unusual circumstances” concerning the positive test result. Braun himself has called the test results “B.S.” With such a high profile case, MLB requested the World Anti-Doping Agency to perform a second test to confirm the results of the first test. They did and it did.

Braun, obviously, is proclaiming his innocence and MLB is yet to issue a final verdict in the case. So this will drag out who knows how long before a decision is made and appeal or arbitration. In the meantime, we, the fans, are again left to wonder how clean the game is and if we can trust anyone – no matter how squeaky clean we think they are.

I, for one, am hoping Ryan Braun is vindicated and there is found to be extremely extenuating circumstances surrounding this case. Hoping that baseball really can be as innocent and pie in the sky as a one-time little boy growing up wishing he could be one of his heroes thought it was.

Every year, interested bystanders and team rooters eagerly await the first big signing that will set the bar so to speak and open the doors for the rest of the big names to ink their names on a contract. Every fan hopes their team makes the big splash that will assure them of a playoff berth. Who would it be this year - the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? The usual names are always thrown out there and assumed they would get the big haul.

The 2011 free agent period started off slowly enough in the National League. The Washington Nationals signed Chien-Ming Wang; the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas; the Chicago Cubs signed David DeJesus; the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Chris Capuano and Jerry Hairston Jr.; the New York Mets signed Jon Rauch; among others. Interesting signings – all baseball news is interesting – but certainly not anything earth shattering. So who was going to break the ice with a big signing this free agent season? Enter the Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia convinced Jonathan Papelbon to put his name on a four-year $50M contract. In doing so, they turned their backs on Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson – both of whom would have been cheaper. But the Phils obviously tired of Lidge and didn’t trust Madson enough to give him the closer’s role even after he performed so well at it in 2011. As big a signing as Papelbon was, Philadelphia hasn’t made the biggest free agent splash. And neither have the Yankees, Red Sox, or Angels.

The Florida Marlins were in need of a closer after the Leo Nunez fiasco when they sort of became the laughing stock of the baseball world. This wasn’t the kind of news the team needed as they moved into a brand new ballpark on part of the property of the Orange Bowl near downtown Miami. Jeffrey Loria, Larry Beinfest, and Michael Hill were looking for much more positive news to put fannies into the seats of Marlins Stadium.

The Marlins started off with a ceremony on November 11 where they unveiled the Marlins new name, logo, and uniform. The Miami Marlins were now ready to get down to business. The first order of business would be to find a new closer. Miami did that by signing Heath Bell to a three-year deal at $9M per year on December 5. Since they draft in the first half of the 2012 draft, they won’t lose their first-round pick by signing Bell and while they certainly could have gone cheaper, the Marlins sent a message by signing a bona fide Type ‘A’ player.

This was a good start for a team not known to throw money around to free agents and came as somewhat of a surprise given there were cheaper alternatives still out there. Guys like Dan Wheeler, George Sherrill, Jon Rauch, Chad Qualls, and Mike Gonzalez. None of them are as good as Heath Bell but all of them have some experience closing out games and are the kind of free agents you would normally expect the Marlins to sign. Even with bringing Bell into the fold, Miami wasn’t done yet.

The next move would be even more out of character for the Marlins. Two days later on December 7 they made an even bigger splash by signing free agent shortstop Jose Reyes to a six-year $106M deal. Certainly not a move Miami would have been expected to make, especially when they already have Hanley Ramirez manning shortstop. One would figure they’d keep the money they gave Reyes and go all out for the big fish in the free agent market – Albert Pujols. As much as a surprise both of these moves were, there was more in store.

After giving a collective $27M per year to Bell and Reyes, the Marlins were still making news by being linked to reports of a ten-year $200M+ deal for the aforementioned Pujols which would include the first baseman staying with the team after his playing days were done. That would commit a minimum of $37M for at least the next three years to just three players. The team has eclipsed that mark only six out of the last 12 years for their entire team’s opening day payroll!

Even with all this, there were rumors floating around that even if the team did the unimaginable by signing Bell, Reyes, and Pujols they were still going to look to add a free agent pitcher the likes of C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle. That would add well over $10M more to the $37M previously mentioned, which would ensure the team would easily surpass the $60M in payroll from 2005 – the highest they have had in the last dozen seasons.

While this is refreshing news for those who complain only the Yankees, Red Sox and a few others get the top players, there are also those who are pessimistic and say the Marlins are only going to try this for a few years and if it doesn’t work out clean house and dump all the payroll. As a Yankee fan, I certainly like getting Christmas gifts from the team every year but as a baseball fan, I like the fact that the Marlins are actually spending some money and not just collecting it from the Bronx. Now only if teams like Tampa, Kansas City and Pittsburgh would follow suit.

EDIT – The Marlins have signed Mark Buehrle to a four-year $58M contract and have reportedly withdrawn their offer from Albert Pujols. Supposedly, they still have a six-year deal outstanding for C.J. Wilson. If they sign both, the team would have over $50M in committed salary for four players. Additionally, Hanley Ramirez is rumored to be upset at having to move to third base ala Alex Rodriguez some years back, and Miami is looking to trade him with the additional rumor that if they do, they will look to sign Prince Fielder. Rumors or not, all of this is nowhere near the kind of talk we have grown to expect from the Florida, er, Miami Marlins.

Every boy has a dream of what they are going to be when they grow up. There were the aspiring firemen, astronauts, doctors, lawyers, and police officers. I wanted to be a veterinarian. Many of those aspirations – like mine – didn’t work out. Those were the real professions we dreamt about. Then there were the play professions. Who was going to be the next Sandy Koufax or Bart Starr? Me? I was going to be the next great New York Yankees centerfielder. But, as it turned out, I was a better rugby player than baseball player. The problem was no one was getting rich playing rugby when I was younger. Certainly not to the extent baseball players eventually wound up.

Even though I’m older (and all of us are), I still find time to dream a little. Only my dreams have moved on from being that fleet-footed outfielder to the General Manager of the Bombers. After all, that’s what we’re all doing playing fantasy games. We’re all the GM of our favorite baseball or football team. So I’m going to put on my GM hat and sign the best free agents available to form my team. Since they are free agents, I can obviously sign any of them without limiting myself to National League players only. And if they’re already signed, their contract will be voided so they can play for me. So here is my franchise of free agents for the 2012 MLB season.

C – Ryan Doumit – The catcher ranks are not deep and Doumit is the youngest of the bunch. He has fewer than 800 AB over the past three years wearing the tools of ignorance and slightly over 600 games played in his career. The 30-year old is hitting .271 for his career so he won’t be a total drag on the batting order and has occasional pop in his bat. I locked him up at two years for $5.5M.

1B – Albert Pujols – The crown jewel of this year’s free agent class and the cornerstone of my franchise for most of the next decade. I could have gone with the younger and more rotund Prince Fielder but decided to make a statement and have Phat Albert’s quiet professionalism leading my team. Albert may be starting to show just a tint of tarnish in the armor but still was near the top of the league in most offensive categories in 2011 after a slow start and will be fine for the majority of his contract. It seems like he’s been around so much longer than Prince but he’s only slightly over four years older than the second best first baseman on the market and draws more walks while striking out nearly half as much. Signed for eight years at $180M.

2B – Kelly Johnson – A second sacker who’s already had his career year and is coming off a down campaign so I got to save some dough. I don’t expect he’ll ever hit .284 with 26 HR again but will be happy with a career matching .260 BA and 14–18 dingers even though they will come with a gang of strikeouts. Three years and $12M.

3B – Wilson Betemit – No overpaying on Aramis Ramirez here. The money saved will be well spent in other areas. Betemit will be locked up early while my competition fights over the ex-Cub. Not a sexy pick but he’ll be competent enough at the hot corner. Now gets the opportunity at a full-time job. One year $1.5M with a team option for a second year.

SS – Jose Reyes – The second biggest signing after Pujols. This is my leadoff hitter and I want young legs at the top. No Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera for me. He’ll set the table for the rest of the lineup and cause chaos on the basepaths. Another solid BA to anchor the lineup while pitching in the occasional home run. I’ll also have a top notch medical staff to make sure he stays on the field. Inked for six years and $117M.

LF – Josh Willingham – Not much to choose from for left field but Josh will fit the bill. Can get on base and hit for power decently enough with a career OPS of .836 and will come at a fraction of the cost of a Matt Holliday type. I don’t want a star at every position and Willingham certainly serves my needs for one year and $7.5M.

CF – Grady Sizemore – Briefly considered going with Coco Crisp due to the injury issues with Grady but in a long negotiation period the ex-Cleveland Indian convinced me he was healthy. Offered a great combination of power and speed before the injuries but I told him I want him to play a good outfield and hit for power – no running. We came to a one year contract with an option plus incentives for a base of $6M to lure him away from Cleveland.

RF – Michael Cuddyer – A blue-collar sort who can play multiple positions adequately enough while giving the team some flexibility. Can hit the long ball to the tune of mid 20’s and doesn’t strike out excessively. Two years and $23M is what it cost.

SP – C.J. Wilson, Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Erik Bedard, Paul Maholm – A mix of three southpaws and two righties with some good experience. Not the youngest staff around but you’re not going to get that with entirely free agents and no trades or farm promotions. Skilled and competent enough to provide a WHIP south of 1.30 and ERA lower than 3.50 while striking out a good amount of batters. Got a package deal for $46M.

CL – Ryan Madson – Certainly not one of the premier "names" on the market in the closer ranks but who can argue with the results – 32 out of 34 save chances converted while striking out better than a hitter per inning. Was successful in keeping the ball in the park, especially in a bandbox like Citizens Bank Park. Earned a raise to $7.5M.

RP – Octavio Dotel, George Sherrill – One lefty and one righty. Not sexy but they’ll get the job done for $7M between them.

This team certainly will compete with whatever Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman throws out there. Now to find someone to hire me and provide the bankroll.

The offseason is in its infancy and we have had a few signings and a few rumors of signings. We’ll continue with our look at the finances of the National League teams.

Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee did well capturing the Central Division title in 2011 and had $83.59M in payroll to help it achieve the top spot. That amount included $.05M for Nyjer Morgan as well as $2.0M that Kansas City paid towards Yuniesky Betancourt’s contract. The Brewers have $57.37M in salary committed so far for 2012 to Zack Greinke (13.5M), Rickie Weeks (11.0M), Randy Wolf (9.5M), Corey Hart (9.33M), Ryan Braun (6.29M), and Yovani Gallardo (5.75M). They also owe Yuniesky Betancourt $2.0M since they declined his option and bought out his contract. The team has a slew of players eligible for arbitration – Shaun Marcum, Kameron Loe, Carlos Gomez, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed, Wil Nieves, Manny Parra, Casey McGehee, Nyjer Morgan, Mitch Stetter, and George Kottaras.  Besides Betancourt, free agents include Prince Fielder, Takashi Saito, Craig Counsell, Mark Kotsay, LaTroy Hawkins, and Jerry Hairston Jr. Francisco Rodriguez also became a free agent after Milwaukee declined his option.

New York Mets – The Metropolitans had salaries totaling $142.80M in 2011. That amount included $12.0M for Oliver Perez, $6.25M for Luis Castillo, $1.75M for Ryota Igarashi, and $1.0M for Gary Matthews Jr. The team has $66.83M tied up in salary for 2012 so far including $24.0M for Johan Santana, $18.13M for Jason Bay, $15.25M for David Wright, $4.75M for R.A. Dickey, and $1.2M for D.J. Carrasco. Also included is $3.5M owed to Francisco Rodriguez but a new contract (amount undisclosed) for Tim Byrdak is not included. Players who are eligible for arbitration are Angel Pagan, Taylor Buchholz, Ronny Paulino, Blaine Boyer, Mike Pelfrey, and Bobby Parnell. Free agents include Jose Reyes, Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, and Miguel Batista.

Philadelphia Phillies – Philadelphia had a disappointing year as they were the odds on favorites to win the World Series but, obviously, came up short. The Phillies had the highest payroll in the National League at $165.98M which included $7.0M from the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt. The payroll commitment for 2012 sits at $125.15M with $21.5M for Cliff Lee, $20.0M each for Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, $15.29 for Chase Utley, $11.0M for Jonathan Papelbon, $10.5M for Joe Blanton, $9.5M for Shane Victorino, $6.42M for Placido Polanco, $3.7M for Carlos Ruiz, $2.5M for Jose Contreras, $1.25M for Jim Thome and a $1.5M buyout for Brad Lidge as the team declined his option. Players who are arbitration eligible include Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Ben Francisco, Pete Orr, and Wilson Valdez.  Free Agents are Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, Brian Schneider, and Ross Gload.

Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates had the lowest payroll in 2011 at $42.05M which included a $3M contribution from the Arizona Diamondbacks towards the contract of Chris Snyder. Pittsburgh has salaries of $14.63M after signing free agent Rod Barajas for a reported $4.0M. The rest of the total breaks down with $4.0M for Kevin Correia, $2.2M for Pedro Alvarez, $2.13M for Matt Diaz, $0.75M each for Paul Maholm and Chris Snyder, $0.5M for Ryan Doumit, $0.2M for Ronny Cedeno, and $0.1M for Scott Olsen. Pirates who have become free agents are Lyle Overbay, Derrek Lee, and Ryan Ludwick. Pirates who are eligible for arbitration are Ross Ohlendorf, Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, John Bowker, Garrett Olson, Chris Resop, Steve Pearce, Jason Jaramillo, and Jose Ascanio.

San Diego Padres – The Padres $45.87M in 2011 salary didn’t take them very far. The team has $13.55M of salary commitment on the books so far including buyouts of $1.05M for Chad Qualls, $1.0M for Brad Hawpe, and $0.5M for Aaron Harang. San Diego declined the options on Hawpe and Qualls while Harang turned down his $5.0M option. The rest of the salaries for 2012 are $5.5M each for Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson. Yes, that’s it. Players who are eligible for arbitration are Pat Neshek, Mike Adams, Chase Headley, Tim Stouffer, Dustin Moseley, Chris Denorfia, Alberto Gonzalez, Wil Venable, Nick Hundley, Eric Patterson, Luke Gregerson, Clayton Richard, Joe Thatcher, and Rob Johnson. Other free agents are Heath Bell and Jorge Cantu who was released late in June.

San Francisco Giants – San Francisco’s $118.2M in 2011 salary was near the top of the National League but, obviously, didn’t get them another World Series title. At this point only the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL have more money in salaries committed for 2012 than the Giants’ $81.68M which is earmarked for Barry Zito (19.0M), Matt Cain (15.33M), Aaron Rowand (13.6M), Aubrey Huff (10.0M), Brian Wilson (8.5M), Freddy Sanchez (6.0M), Jeremy Affeldt (5.0M), and Javier Lopez (4.25M). Arbitration eligible players include Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Mike Fontenot, Andres Torres, Eli Whiteside, Nate Schierholtz, Sergio Romo, and Pablo Sandoval. The San Francisco free agents are Carlos Beltran, Miguel Tejada, Cody Ross, Mark DeRosa, Pat Burrell, and Guillermo Mota.

St. Louis Cardinals – The 2011 World Series winners had $109.05M in salary for their championship push and have $78.79M committed for 2012 to Matt Holliday (17.0M), Kyle Lohse (12.19M), Lance Berkman (12.0M), Chris Carpenter (10.5M), Adam Wainwright (9.0M), Jake Westbrook (8.5M), Yadier Molina (7.0M), and Zack Cox (0.85M). The players eligible for arbitration include Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker, Jaime Garcia, Kyle McClellan, Colby Rasmus, Jason Motte, and Mitchell Boggs. Cardinals free agents are Ryan Franklin, Gerald Laird, Octavio Dotel (team declined $3.5M option), Rafael Furcal (team declined $12.0M option), Edwin Jackson, Gerald Laird, Corey Patterson (team declined $1.1M option), Nick Punto, Arthur Rhodes, and the biggest prize on the open market, Albert Pujols.

Washington Nationals – Washington had $68.31M in 2011 salary including $0.05M from the Milwaukee Brewers towards the contract of Nyjer Morgan. Their salary commitment for 2012 so far is $44.6M which is divided amongst Jayson Werth (13.57M), Ryan Zimmerman (12.10M), Adam LaRoche (8.0M), Stephen Strasburg (4.88M), Sean Burnett (2.3M), Yunesky Maya, (2.0M), Bryce Harper (1.75M) and, an as yet undisclosed amount for Chien-Ming Wang. Players eligible for arbitration include Tom Gorzelanny, Jesus Flores, Doug Slaten, John Lannan, Michael Morse, and Tyler Clippard. The Nats’ free agents are Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel, Todd Coffey, Livan Hernandez, Alex Cora, Matt Stairs, Laynce Nix, and Jonny Gomes.

Clubhouses are empty; ballparks have gone into hibernation; daylight savings time has ended; most players are back home. Yes, the 2012 Major League baseball season has begun. While the casual fan might be saying “Huh?” fantasy players know full well next year has, in fact, started. The signs are all around us. The free agency period has started, the general managers’ meeting is one week away, the deadline for offering arbitration is only two weeks away, and the winter meetings are only four weeks away. So while front offices all across baseball are in full swing for 2012, now’s as good a time as any to assess where each team is at heading into this all important planning phase. (And as important as it is for real teams, it is equally important for fantasy players).

Arizona Diamondbacks – Arizona had a payroll of $56M in 2011 and has $30.5M committed so far for 2012 with Justin Upton (6.75M), Stephen Drew (7.75M), Chris Young (7.0M), J.J. Putz (4.5M), John McDonald (1.5M), Henry Blanco (1.2M), and Geoff Blum (1.35M). Ian Kennedy, Miguel Montero, Ryan Roberts, Joe Saunders, and Brad Ziegler are all arbitration eligible. Kennedy, in particular, should see a hefty raise from last year’s $423,000 salary. Willie Bloomquist opted out of his contract while Aaron Hill and Zach Duke had their options declined. Jason Marquis, Lyle Overbay, and Xavier Nady opted for free agency.

Atlanta Braves – The Braves have $60M in salary already for 2012 after a $91M 2011 payroll with Dan Uggla (13.0M), Chipper Jones (13.0M), Brian McCann (8.5M), Matt Diaz (2.0M), Eric Hinske (1.5M), David Ross (1.62M), and Tim Hudson (9.0M) still under contract. Included in that number is $10M owed to recently traded Derek Lowe. Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty and Peter Moylan are all arbitration eligible while Alex Gonzalez, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill, and Jack Wilson have become free agents. Atlanta declined the option on Nate McLouth and he too hits the open market.

Chicago Cubs – After spending $134M in salaries in 2011, the Cubs enter the Theo Epstein era with $70.6M already earmarked to Alfonso Soriano (19.0M), Carlos Zambrano (19.0M), Ryan Dempster (14.0M), Carlos Marmol (7.0M), Marlon Byrd (6.5M), Sean Marshall (3.1M), and 2.0M towards Carlos Silva. Matt Garza and Geovany Soto lead the list for those eligible for arbitration with Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill, Blake DeWitt, and Randy Wells also eligible. Jeff Samardzija had his option declined as did Aramis Ramirez. Becoming free agents are John Grabow, Reed Johnson, Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Pena, and Kerry Wood.

Cincinnati Reds - Cincinnati spent $80.8M in 2011 on player salaries and has $62.7M on the books already for 2012. This includes contracts for Brandon Phillips (12.25M), Bronson Arroyo (12M), Joey Votto (11.5M), Scott Rolen (8.17M), Johnny Cueto (5.4M), Jay Bruce (5.04M), Aroldis Chapman (4.71M), Yonder Alonso (1.4M), Ryan Hanigan (1.3M), and Miguel Cairo (1.0M). Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Paul Janish, Jose Arredondo, Bill Bray, and Nick Masset are in their arbitration years. Ramon Hernandez, Edgar Renteria, and Dontrelle Willis have become free agents while the Reds have declined their option on Francisco Cordero.

Colorado Rockies – The Rockies have $62.08M so far in 2012 salaries after spending $82.3M in 2011. This includes the likes of Jorge de la Rosa (10.5M), Troy Tulowitzki, (8.25M), Huston Street (7.5M), Carlos Gonzalez (5.43M), Todd Helton (4.9M), Jason Hammel (4.75M), Rafael Betancourt (4.0M), Ty Wigginton (4.0M), Matt Belisle (3.77M), Chris Iannetta (3.63M), Matt Lindstrom (3.6M), and Jason Giambi (1.0M). They also owe $0.25M to Manny Corpas and that is included in the total so far. Ian Stewart, Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, and Ryan Spilborghs are eligible for arbitration. Colorado declined to pick up the option for Aaron Cook and Mark Ellis, Kevin Millwood, and J.C. Romero have become free agents.

Florida Marlins – Florida had salaries of $57.695M in 2011 and already have $49.75M on the books for 2012 with $15.0M going to Hanley Ramirez, $13.75M to Josh Johnson, $9.0M to Ricky Nolasco, $6.5M to John Buck, $4.0M to Omar Infante, and $1.5M to Randy Choate. Anibal Sanchez, Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley, Burke Badenhop, Edward Mujica, Chris Volstad, Chris Coghlan, John Baker, Emilio Bonifacio, and Donnie Murphy are all eligible for salary arbitration. Javier Vazquez, Greg Dobbs, and Jose Lopez have filed to become free agents.

Houston Astros – The Astros had a payroll of $76.97M in 2011 which included $3.0M they owed to Bill Hall and $7.0M they were responsible for Roy Oswalt. Their 2012 payroll is at $47.25M which includes $0.025M still owed to Bill Hall. On top of that they are on the hook for Carlos Lee (19.0M), Brett Myers (12.0M), Wandy Rodriguez (10.5M), and Brandon Lyon (4.0M). Humberto Quintero, J.A. Happ, and Angel Sanchez are arbitration eligible while Jason Michaels and Clint Barmes have become free agents.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Los Angeles had a hefty $119.78 salary commitment in 2011 – especially considering the mess with the McCourt situation. This included $8.33M still due Manny Ramirez, $3.5M due Juan Pierre, $3.2M for Andruw Jones, and $1.2M for Lance Cormier. 2012 payroll commitments are $50.2M which still includes $8.33M for Manny Ramirez and $3.2M for Andruw Jones. Actual players under contract are Ted Lilly (11.67M), Chad Billingsley (9.0M), Juan Uribe (8.0M), Matt Guerrier (4.75M), and Juan Rivera (4.0M). Eligible for salary arbitration are Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Tony Gwynn Jr., Clayton Kershaw, and Hong-Chih Kuo. The Dodgers declined their options on Casey Blake and Jon Garland while Rod Barajas, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hiroki Kuroda, Mike MacDougal, Aaron Miles, and Vicente Padilla have all hit the open market.

It’s clear to see that there are some not so good contracts still out there that teams are responsible for and could hurt them as they try to fill out their 2012 rosters. Next week I will finish looking at the rest of the National League teams.

Latest Tweets

ToutWars 420x318911

 

LABRLOGO

xfl

toutwarslogo-new

Our Authors