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American League

2018 Season Preview: AL West

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Houston Astros
2017 record: 101-61, first in AL West

It’s only appropriate to begin with the champions. Fresh off their first ever World Series win, the Astros are an energetic, young team with a phenomenal lineup and solid pitching. Their 101 regular season wins last year beat the second-place Angels by 21 games as Houston remained largely unthreatened for most of the season. For these reasons, the Astros are the overwhelming favorites to run away with the West once again in 2018. As for the other four teams competing against Houston, they finished within five games of each other in 2017. Those look to be close races once again; however, they’re no match against the Astros as they look to repeat in 2018.

Biggest asset: Offense

In 2017, the Astros led MLB in runs (896), batting average (.282), OBP (.346), and SLG % (.478) en route to their first title, as they promise to put up huge numbers once again this year. Their dynamic offense will once again be led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer- all home-grown talent, and all between 24-28 years old. The Astros have come a long way since three straight 100+ loss seasons (2011-13), but it’s their offense that has rebuilt them into a contender, and it starts with the three I mentioned- all developed by the organization. With solid offensive contributors surrounding them, there’s no telling how many runs the Astros will plate this year.

Biggest weakness: Bullpen

During Houston’s postseason run, the Astros used starters Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock in extended bullpen roles more often as October progressed. This was due to the ineffectiveness of Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, and Joe Musgrove- the three of whom finished with a combined 9.26 ERA in 24 postseason games out of the pen. The Astros have since improved their bullpen after adding relievers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon; but if there’s one thing holding the Astros back, it’s the pen. They’ve acquired Gerrit Cole as a starter, so they’re in good shape there as far as the rotation goes- the pen is ultimately Houston’s biggest question.

2018 prediction: AL West champs

Los Angeles Angels
2017 record: 80-82, second in AL West

Mike Trout missed 48 games in 2017, so you know had he stayed healthy, the Angels would’ve finished above .500. The team had a busy offseason, acquiring infielders Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler; however, there was nothing bigger than the signing of two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani. The Angels have a new-look lineup with potential; still, their rotation remains questionable come 2018.

Biggest asset: Mike Trout

When healthy, Trout is the best player in the game- the type of player any team wants to build around. A thumb injury forced Trout out of the lineup for nearly two months in 2017, his first ever trip to the disabled list. When he was healthy though, he performed; and he’s healthy now. With some new-look offense surrounding Trout (in addition to Albert Pujols and Justin Upton), expect him to rake as usual and be the best overall hitter on the Angels in 2018 assuming he remains healthy.

Biggest weakness: Rotation

You just don’t know with the Angels’ rotation in my opinion. Six pitchers made at least four starts in spring training, and only one pitched well (Garrett Richards). Even Ohtani, who made two starts in March, looked awful- he will take some time to adjust to facing Major League hitters. So there’s several questions surrounding the staff- again, mainly the rotation. To me, it’s filled with several pitchers who haven’t proven themselves yet, or have shown an inability to remain consistent and healthy.

2018 prediction: second in AL West

Seattle Mariners
2017 record: 78-84, third in AL West

With a solid lineup heading into 2018, the Mariners have plenty to be excited about. Ichiro is back with the club (his presence should make positive differences), Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon were added over the offseason, and slugging youngster Daniel Vogelbach made the Opening Day roster after a monster spring. So there’s promise as far as the lineup goes. The rotation does have its questions though, as ace Felix Hernandez looks to come back strong after an injury-plagued 2017.

Biggest asset: Offense

Before their busy offseason, the Mariners already had a solid core of hitters- Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager. Catcher Mike Zunino had his best overall year in 2017 and followed it up with a huge spring, so add him to that core. Seattle finished 15th in MLB with 750 runs scored in 2017; and this year, I think they’ll score at least 775.

Biggest weakness: Rotation

Seattle’s bullpen looks promising, as several have impressed in the spring- including newcoming veteran Juan Nicasio. The rotation though doesn’t have much depth. Felix Hernandez has struggled to stay healthy the last two years while seeing a rise in ERA. He’s the team’s most important starter; and if he goes down, that’s a huge blow to the rest of the rotation. Mike Leake, James Paxton, Ariel Miranda, and Marco Gonzales (2.08 ERA in seven spring starts) look to round out the Opening Day rotation. Beyond them and King Felix, there’s not many trusted options, which makes Hernandez remaining healthy that much more important for the Mariners.

2018 prediction: third in AL West

Texas Rangers
2017 record: 78-84, fourth in AL West

After two straight postseason appearances (and ALDS defeats), the Rangers missed out on the playoffs in 2017. This offseason, they’ve added Doug Fister, Matt Moore, and Mike Minor to their rotation. Minus the departures of Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez, Texas’s lineup looks very familiar approaching the season.

Biggest asset: Joey Gallo

Don’t let his .209 batting average last year fool you, Joey Gallo still slugged .537, and was on base nearly one-third of the time in 2017. Gallo emerged as a big-time slugger with his 41 homers, so expect more power in 2018 from the 6’5’’ first baseman. Also, expect that average to climb. The more Gallo transitions and gets used to the majors, the better an overall hitter he will become. Texas has a good lineup (799 runs last year, ninth in MLB) and Gallo’s right in the middle of it, and he should produce this year.

Biggest weakness: Bullpen

Texas finished with a 4.76 bullpen ERA in 2017, the third worst mark in MLB.

2018 prediction: fourth in AL West

Oakland Athletics
2017 record: 75-87, last in AL West

Biggest asset: Farm System

Biggest weakness: Inexperience

2018 prediction: last in AL West

American League

2019 Trade Deadline Highlights

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In a shocking, last-minute deal, Zack Greinke has a new home (CBS Sports).

This year’s Trade Deadline in the MLB wasn’t as boisterous as previous seasons and might rank as one of the less-exciting ones in history. There was still a good number of high-profile moves, however, and a few big names went on to new homes. Here’s a look at the more notable acquisitions of July 31, 2019 and how they will impact the teams that got the big returns.

Blue Jays trade RHP Marcus Stroman to Mets in exchange for RHP Anthony Kay, RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson

The move that unofficially kicked off trading season was a bit of a head scratcher. It had long been rumored that Toronto was shopping ace Marcus Stroman, but the team he ended up with isn’t exactly a contender. The Mets are currently four games under .500 and may not be vying for the postseason in 2019. The move is likely another part of the Mets rebuilding process, and since Noah Syndergaard stayed put, New York may have a formidable rotation next season.

Indians acquire LHP Scott Moss, OF Yasiel Puig from Reds and OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen and IF Victor Nova from Padres, Padres acquire OF Taylor Trammell from Reds, Indians acquire Reds acquire RHP Trevor Bauer from Indians

The literal biggest trade of the day was a this three-team blockbuster. Trevor Bauer firing the ball over the center field wall on Sunday after he was pulled in the fifth inning ended up being the last pitch he threw in an Indians uniform. A day later the Tribe rid itself of his petulance and pulled off a massive trade with intrastate rival Cincinnati as well as San Diego that saw Bauer go to the Reds and Reds top prospect Taylor Tramell go to the Friars. Cleveland received a host of players from both teams, most namely Yasiel Puig, who is ironically also known as a prima donna.

Though Bauer is undeniably talented when he keeps his act together and bolsters the Reds attempts to trend upward, San Diego may have won the trade with Tramell, MLB’s no. 30 overall prospect.

Rays acquire 1B Jesus Aguilar from Brewers in exchange for RHP Jacob Faria

Milwaukee was certainly brewing before the Deadline and made a commendable effort to improve its pitching. GM David Stearns’ most notable move was a straight swap with the Rays that brought back righty Jacob Faria in exchange for power hitting 1B Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar is having a down year but has proven many times that he can be deadly. He gives the Rays the big bat they’ve been seeking in their hunt for a Wild Card berth.

It’s a good move for both sides because it clears Milwaukee’s infield logjam and gives the team another quality starter. Faria never quite broke out in Tampa Bay but a change of scenery always has potential to pay dividends. After having already gotten Jordan Lyles from Pittsburgh on Monday, the Brewers made another move and got Drew Pomeranz from San Fransisco later on Wednesday. Though none of the returns are big name guys, Milwaukee is serious about making another run after coming so close last year.

Cubs acquire OF Nicholas Castellanos from Tigers in exchange for RHP Alex Lange and RHP Paul Richan.

The Cubs made their chances of taking the NL Central back even better with this move. Nicholas Castellanos has been one of the MLB’s more underrated players in recent years, largely because he was on the Tigers after the team’s glory days of the early 2010s ended. Adding him to a lineup that already includes Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez gives the Cubbies even more firepower, especially given Castellanos success vs. lefty pitchers. It’s also a great move for him personally as he gets to join a contending team at last. The Cubs are vying to appear in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, and their chances look pretty good.

Astros acquire RHP Zack Greinke from Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Corbin Martin, RHP JB Bukauskas, IF Josh Rojas and IF Seth Beer

If Houston was scary good before this trade, they’re terrifyingly good now. The Astros just added Zack Greinke to a rotation that already includes Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in a last-minute deal that wasn’t announced until after the deadline officially passed. Arizona received a package of four minor leaguers in return as the team is now officially in the rebuilding process.

Like Verlander, Greinke is in the second half of his thirties but has not declined at all and owned a 10-4 record with a 2.90 on a sub-par Diamondbacks team at the time of his departure. The six-time All-Star’s presence gives Houston the best rotation in baseball by far and should get the knees of any upcoming opponent knocking. The MLB said it best on Instagram today, “Facing Houston? You have a problem.”

Notable non-moves:

  • After being heavily rumored as top targets, Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard and Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner are still members of their longtime teams.
  • The Boston Red Sox, whose bullpen has blown 18 saves, made no moves to improve its relief core, to the amazement of the team’s fanbase.
  • The New York Yankees were thought to be Syndergaard’s top suitor, but the team did not acquire any starting pitching to aid Aaron Boone’s struggling rotation.

What was the biggest move of the deadline this year? Be sure to let us know on Twitter @HomeRunDaily.

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American League

Athletics Acquire Tanner Roark

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Tanner Roark

The Oakland Athletics have acquired right hander Tanner Roark from the Cincinnati Reds, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

As part of the deal, outfielder Jamerson Hannah will be heading to Cincinnati, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, the Reds will pick up $2.1 million of Roark’s remaining salary.

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American League

Astros Acquire Martin Maldonado

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Martin Maldonado

The Houston Astros have acquired veteran catcher Martin Maldonado from the Chicago Cubs, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

As part of the deal, outfielder/second baseman Tony Kemp will be heading to the Cubs, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome.

Maldonado has posted a .217/.285/.349 slash line this season.

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