Monday, February 16, 2015

Biggest Winners in the 2015 Hot Stove Sweepstakes

Boston Red Sox
After trading away most of the players who led the club to a World Series title in 2013, the Sox have taken several positive steps toward rebuilding a winner. Coming off his best season ever, Rick Porcello is set to make his Boston debut this year. The right-hander attained several career-best marks with the Tigers in 2014, gathering 15 wins and 3 shutouts while posting a 3.43 ERA. He'll have the offense to back him up with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval playing behind him. Hampered on and off by injuries, Ramirez has posted a .308 batting average over the past two seasons with the Dodgers. Though he hasn't reached the 30-homer mark since 2008, the Green Monster should boost his power numbers considerably. The same goes for Sandoval, who has been one of the Giants most reliable players over the past five years. He has good range at third base and is a steady offensive presence.

San Diego Padres
The Padres took great strides toward respectability this offseason with the acquisition of  several high profile players. Right-hander James Shields will anchor their rotation in 2015. Shields was a major contributor to the Royals' remarkable turnaround last year and has kept his ERA in the mid to low-three's over the past four seasons. Other notable signings for the Padres include outfielders Justin Upton and Matt Kemp. Acquired from the Braves, Upton is coming off his first 100-RBI campaign. Among the most productive Dodger hitters in recent past, Kemp has a pair of Gold Gloves to his credit as well. 

Miami Marlins
After a disastrous 2014 campaign, the Marlins have made several useful upgrades. Though he's been slowing down a bit over the past few seasons, 41 year old Ichiro Suzuki may still be a viable presence in the lineup. Ichiro needs just 156 hits to reach the 3,000 mark and can still field his outfield position with the best of them. Other significant imports for Miami include infielder Dee Gordon and starting pitcher Dan Haren. Gordon led the NL last year with 12 triples and 64 stolen bases. Haren, who requested a trade from the Dodgers, is not as durable as he used to be. But he has put up double digit win totals for ten straight years. Last season, he was 13-11with a 4.02 ERA.

Washington Nationals
The Nationals have failed to live up to expectations over the past few seasons. This year's squad will feature the recently acquired Yunel Escobar. Entering his ninth season, Escobar has moderate power and hits for decent average. He has excellent range and good hands as well, having led AL shortstops in fielding percentage during the 2013 slate. The Nationals bolstered their pitching corps considerably with the signing of right-hander Max Scherzer--the AL wins leader for two seasons running. In 2013/'14, Scherzer posted a record of 39-8 with a cumulative ERA of 3.02 for the Tigers. Another move that may or may not pay off for Washington: slugging second baseman Dan Uggla was signed to a minor league contract. Uggla enjoyed his best years with the Phillies, but has been mired in a hitting funk over the past three seasons. If he can get back on track, it's good news for the Nationals.

Chicago White Sox
The Sox have been shut out of the playoffs for six years straight. In the offseason, they decided to do something about it, signing closer David Robertson and first baseman Adam LaRoche. Robertson saved 39 games for the Yankees last year while striking out 96 batters in 64.1 innings of work. LaRoche was Washington's top RBI man in 2014. Discounting an injury plagued 2011 season, he has averaged 25 homers per year since 2005. 

Other notable offseason signings include Atlanta's acquisition of Nick Markakis and Detroit's signing of Yoenis Cespedes. A reliable RBI producer at the beginning of his career, Markakis served as the Orioles' lead-off man last year. He has won Gold Gloves in two of the last four seasons and currently carries a .290 lifetime batting average. Entering his fourth season, Cespedes is a bit error prone in the outfield, but mixes power and speed at the plate. Appearing in the heart of the order for Oakland and Boston last year, he hit .309 with runners in scoring position. Though he has seldom been asked to, he can steal bases as well. In 2012 and 2014, he was successful in 23 of 29 attempts.

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