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Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Playoffs Round 1

My 165-74-13 record during the regular season earned me the number one overall seed in the playoffs and matched me up against the eighth overall seed (Tug Z’Nuff) in the first round. Tug Z’Nuff and I met in Week 6 of the regular season, with me prevailing 7-4-1 but that matchup was long history. Only four hitters that were on my team in Week 6 are currently on my roster. Six have since been dropped and two others have departed via trade.

The results changed slightly the second time we danced, and I used a weekend surge to survived a mid-week slump and moved into the semifinals with a 10-2 victory. Nothing too unusual as my team stuck to the plan they used all season and rode to the regular season crown—dominant pitching and just-enough scrappy hitting.

Logan Morrison put up a big week

I lost home runs and stolen bases this week, won average and on-base percentage and barely hung on to runs and RBI. I made a couple of managerial moves that paid off big time this week, and enjoyed solid weeks from multiple players rather than a huge week from one guy. In a week where Dan Uggla was limited to three games with a groin injury and hit only .083 I managed only three homers, one each from Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Ben Zobrist. I made up for the lack of power by having seven hitter post OBPs of .385 or better and had nine players score multiple runs—seven had three or more. New pick-up Logan Morrison scored seven runs for me in his first week and Nick Swisher led my squad with five RBI. I won runs by one and RBI by two. Kosuke Fukudome stole my only base and Scott Rolen rebounded from some bad weeks with a .412/.545 performance this week. His power is still way down (only 2 HR since June) but he remains a run producer.

Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher both enjoyed nice weeks as the Yankees won eight straight games. They combined to hit .395/.444 while scoring seven runs and driving in eight with two home runs. Travis Hafner has a second nice week for me, hitting .300/.391 with two runs and three RBI. I knew his counting numbers wouldn’t account to much in Cleveland’s lineup, but his ratio stats have been well above average since I picked him up. Apart from Uggla, the only player to disappoint me this week was Lorenzo Cain who put up a .182/.250 line, scored one run and failed to steal a base.
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King Felix truly is royal

After going 4-2 in the hitting categories, I needed only to split the pitching ones to advance. My pitchers did more than split, they swept them 6-0. They recorded four wins, a whopping seven saves, 63 strikeouts and seven quality starts while posting a 2.80 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. All of those numbers were enough to win each category rather comfortably. Wins, quality starts and strikeouts looked surpassable when Tug Z’Nuff picked up three starters to throw on Sunday, but only one recorded a quality start, none picked up a victory and they managed only seven strikeouts in over 16 innings.

Josh Johnson had a nice start this week in which he struck out 12 in six innings and Jaime Garcia and Barry Enright both won their starts this week, but the star was once again Felix Hernandez. He made two quality starts with a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 17 strikeouts. In fact, he’s allowed just one earned run in his last 45 innings. He’s more than fulfilled the expectations I had when I used my second round draft pick on him. Not to be outdone by King Felix, my closers had themselves quite a week too. Feliz and Franklin each saved a pair of games while Aardsma picked up three. None of them allowed a run and I ran away with saves 7-0.

I activated IF Jeff Keppinger midway through the week and to make room for him I parted ways with my seventh-round pick, Nyjer Morgan. Morgan disappointed all year, experiencing a considerable offensive drop-off from 2009. I took him mostly for his stolen base potential (42 in 2009) and he had 33 for me this year, but was also caught 15 times, likely costing me runs. His batting average and OBP dropped over 50 points from his 2009 numbers and with him looking at being suspended for up to 15 games, I was finally done with him – leaving me with just 10 of the 22 players I drafted.

I also made one more move late Sunday night, picking up Cleveland OF Michael Brantley and dropping Mike Minor. Logan Morrison took a foul ball off his face and Nick Swisher is dealing with a balky knee, leaving me an outfielder short. I anticipate both guys will be fine in a few days at which point I’ll bring back Minor, but until then, I needed a bat to keep the spot warm.

The semifinals will feature matchups between division rivals. Murderer’s Row and Honey Nut Ichiros (both from Division 3) will face off as the second and third seeds while I get Division 4 rival and fifth-seed Whipple23. Whipple23 finished fifth overall with a 133-96-23 record and knocked off the fourth-seed, Angel Dust n Hoffman 8-4 in the first round of the playoffs.

We met just the once time in the regular season, a 9-3 win for me in Week 9. That week we split the offensive categories and I swept all six of the pitching ones. He’s since cut some hitters in exchange for starters so I’m looking at a disadvantage again in regards to number of starts. I have just one pitcher making two starts, and it’s a rather unspectacular one in Jake Westbrook, while Whipple23 has five pitchers scheduled to make two starts. I’m going to need Adam Wainwright, who has lost four starts in a row to bounce back this week while my other starters continue their good work.

With the 10-2 win, I moved my overall record to 175-76-13, nearly 100 games over .500. The first round win also assured me of a Top 4 finish in the league which qualifies me to move up a level next year to a higher-ranked league. But I’m focused on getting through the next two weeks first!

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 20

For the second time this season, I wrapped up a week with a clean 12-0 sweep. Combining a solid week for my team with a subpar week from my opponent led to me doing plenty to clinch the number one overall seed in the playoffs.

No one particular hitter had an amazing week, but several guys had pretty good ones. Gaby Sanchez homered twice and drove in seven runs. Jorge Posada homered twice and drove in five. Dan Uggla hit .320/.379 with a homer and five RBI. Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain each scored four runs. The big news of the week was six different players stole a base, with Cain swiping two. In a week that my opponent got five steals from Jose Reyes, all my hitters picking up the slack was important. For the week I scored 27 runs, hit six homers, drove in 30 runs, swiped seven bases and hit .288/.367 which were all good enough numbers to win each category. After trailing stolen bases most of the week, I got three on Saturday and one on Sunday to pull ahead by one and sweep the week.

8 IP and 11 K vs. the Yankees

My pitching was also more than solid and I had the numbers advantage this week, with my guys scheduled to make more starts than my opponent. By the time Friday’s games were over I had leads in each of the six pitching categories. With my opponent’s starters done for the week, I decided to keep Barry Enright, Jaime Garcia and Mike Minor on the bench for their weekend starts, to guarantee I kept all my leads. All three pitched extremely well and either way I would have swept all six categories. Felix Hernandez was the big stud this week, hurling eight shutout innings against the Yankees striking out eleven and picking up a win. Josh Johnson picked up his first win in over a month with an eight-inning, two-run performance. Jake Westbrook, Tim Hudson, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright all recorded quality starts but failed to pick up wins. Neftali Feliz and David Aardsma picked up a save apiece to win me saves in a week when my opponent had no closers. My pitching is looking spectacular heading into the season’s final week. With the playoffs being single-elimination, one crappy week can kill you.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit the disabled list a few days after I picked him up and with no enviable catching replacements available, I went with Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to take his place. Fukudome hit .429/.500 with a stolen base in his first two games with me. I also made another change, replacing Joel Hanrahan who had only one save since taking over closing duties with Travis Hafner. Adding Hafner gives me a little more pop and some OBP skills. Last transaction was strictly procedural as Jeff Keppinger hit the DL and to replace him, I simply activated Nyjer Morgan, who swiped a base in his first game back.

The perfect 12-0 week pushed my overall record to 160-67-13 and clinched the regular season title. It also gave me a 23-0-1 record against Brandon’s Bombers this season. I bet he’s glad to be done with me. The last week of the regular season matches me up with Albany Diamond Dogs, who I beat 10-1-1 in Week two, but has played his way to 7th place overall. The Diamond Dogs are coming of an 8-2-2 week that improved their record to 124-98-18. Depending on how Week 21 plays out, it’s possible that I’ll match up with Albany Diamond Dogs in the first round of the playoffs.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 19

Fresh off my first defeat of the season, my team bounced back in fine fashion. Matched up against the sixteenth ranked team in the league, I handled them fairly easily and enjoyed a comfortable lead all week long.

Uggla homers vs. STL

My offense struggled for a second consecutive week and heading into the home stretch, that’s beginning to become worrisome. I lost four of the six categories winning only runs and RBI. Dan Uggla was a big reason why, scoring six times and driving in seven while hitting .391/.481 with a pair of homers. Denard Span (.316) was the only other player to crack the .300 mark while Ben Zobrist (.062) and Jorge Posada (.154) really contributed to my .214 average for the week. I lost stolen bases 2-to-1 with my one steal coming from the unlikeliest of players – Jorge Posada. It was actually his second steal of the year, and puts him one behind his career high of three.

My pitchers saved the week by sweeping all six pitching categories with relative ease. Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson and Felix Hernandez combined for four quality starts, three wins and an ERA of zero. Hernandez and Wainwright each threw two-hit shutouts while Hudson went eight scoreless in his only start this week. Josh Johnson was bombed in his start, but after the season he’s had, one bad start is excusable, especially when the rest of my staff picked him up. David Aardsma had three saves in three perfect innings and Ryan Franklin picked up a pair of saves.

Nyjer Morgan hit the DL this week with a hip problem, so I had to scramble to find a replacement outfielder – not an enviable proposition when your offense has been slumping for several weeks now. I grabbed Chris Heisey from Cincinnati, but his everyday job was gone when the Reds traded for Jim Edmonds a day later. So I replaced him with Jarrod Saltalamacchia when Boston called him up so I’m back to carrying a caddy for days Posada gets off – which should be several in the August heat.

After a bad loss last week, an 8-4 win was a nice bounceback, even if it was against a bad team. The week pushed my record to 148-67-13 on the year and kept me in first place, although a half a game was shaved off my lead, cutting it down to 8.5 games with two weeks to play. Up next for me is Brandon’s Bombers who I beat 11-0 in the season’s first week. Brandon’s Bombers are 74-131-23 for the season and coming off a 11-1 loss this week. Hopefully my offense starts to heat up and my pitchers continue to bring the heat.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 12

Twice this season has a team finished a week without losing a single category. The first time was the first week of the season, when I beat Brandon’s Bombers 11-0. The second instance was this week, as I swept every stat and won 12-0. Neither my hitters or my pitchers had particularly strong weeks, but I lucked out and matched up against a bad team that performed very badly.

Boesch had 7RBI in Week 12

For the third week in a row, Brennan Boesch was my featured offensive star. He hit .348/.423 for the week with two home runs, seven RBI and four runs scored. Scott Rolen hit a pair of home runs and Gaby Sanchez hit .414 with four runs batted in. Ben Zobrist hit a whopping .067, but also posted a .391 on-base percentage which put him on the bases enough to swipe three bases, helping me win that category 4-3. For the week I hit six homers, scored twenty-three runs and drove in thirty. I got by with those good-not-great numbers because my opponent struggled offensively, hitting three home runs while scoring twelve run and driving in seventeen. My offense was rolling along, batting .313 after Thursday’s games, but had a horrific weekend and ended the week at .274, nearly a forty-point drop in three days. My on-base percentage dropped as well due to the falloff in average, though not as drastically going from .391 to .365.

Felix tossed 9 innings for a ND

My pitchers had an off week by their lofty standards. They posted a 4.50 ERA, which technically is a quality start, but is also double their usual number. Felix Hernandez and Josh Johnson were brilliant in their only starts this week, but both failed to get wins due to a lack of run support. King Felix tossed nine innings of two-run ball in a game the Mariners would eventually lose in extra innings. Johnson struck out nine in eight innings of two-run ball, but the Florida offense managed only one run and lost 2-1. Matt Garza bounced back from his one-inning, seven run debacle last week with a quality start and a win, but Tim Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Jamie Garcia were pounded throughout the week. Tyler Clippard ran into another bad outing, but my closers saved four games without allowing a run. I recorded only two wins, but I got lucky and my opponent managed only one. My 39 strikeouts almost doubled his 22 and it’s easy to win with four quality starts when your opponent doesn’t get any. My team’s 4.50 ERA and 1.19 WHIP weren’t in line with their usual standards, but were plenty good enough to top 7.36 and 1.68.

The only move I made this week was activating Edgar Renteria from the disabled list. Since dropping Reid Brignac, I had three players for second base, shortstop and third base. I like having flexibility across the board, and getting Renteria back from the DL helped increase my flexibility. I cut loose Ivan Rodriguez to make room for Renteria, as I felt comfortable with Posada’s return to semi-regular playing time. Renteria is no longer the everyday shortstop for the Giants, but with Ben Zobrist and Jeff Keppinger eligible at both 2B and SS, I can fill both spots and work Renteria in with favorable matchups.

My team is very solid and I don’t anticipate making any more major moves. I would like to add another starting pitcher, but am content to wait until Scott Olsen comes back from the DL. Olsen has started throwing again, but has no timetable for a return. Hopefully I’ll get him back in action in a month or so.

My 12-0 sweep improved my record to 98-38-8 and obviously kept me in first place overall. Up next for me is Monty’s Millionaire’s who I have some history with. They picked up Reid Brignac when I dropped him and when I offered Ivan Rodriguez to get him back, Monty countered with Brignac-for-Tim Hudson. Or, a part-time middle infielder for a top-of-the rotation starter. Monty’s Millionaire’s is coming off a 2-9-0 showing in Week 12, putting their overall record at 63-74-6, good for 13th place overall.

Identifying Each Team’s Best Offseason Move

The completion of the World Series each year brings a time of reflection and planning for MLB front offices. They must assess the state of their team and determine a course of action to follow.

What follows is a compilation of what I believe to be each team’s best move of the offseason thus far. This list may be somewhat premature with players like Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Erik Bedard and Felipe Lopez still unsigned.

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Atlanta Braves – Reconfiguring their bullpen

The two pitchers that shut down the last two innings for the Braves in 2009 were quickly gone from Atlanta, Mike Gonzalez as a free agent to Baltimore and Rafael Soriano traded to Tampa Bay. Naturally, the Braves needed to reload the back end of their bullpen to continue their attempts to return to October baseball.

Both Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito are coming off impressive returns from injury with Boston and will handle the eighth and ninth innings for Atlanta after serving as more of middle relief options in 2009.

Florida Marlins – Locking Up SP Josh Johnson

Two weeks after the new year, the Marlins quieted any and all trade rumors about their young ace by locking him up to a 4-year, $39 million deal.

Following Tommy John surgery in 2007, Johnson has established himself in the same class as fellow young hurlers Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke. With the Marlins loaded with young talent and Johnson leading the way, the Marlins should be considered as serious playoff contenders.

New York Mets – Signing LF Jason Bay

For a team that ranked dead last in home runs in 2009 and bottom five in slugging percentage, adding a big bat was the Mets number one priority this offseason. Bay is coming off a big season with the Red Sox in which he put up 24 more homers and 47 more RBIs than the Mets leaders.

New York’s pitching must perform well for the Mets to make a run at the playoffs in 2010, but Bay must also spark a moribund offense that just replaced their best hitter (Carlos Beltran) with the league’s most overpaid fourth outfielder (Gary Matthews Jr.)

Philadelphia Phillies – Trading for SP Roy Halladay

The Phillies traded the ace they rented for six months and eventually turned that into arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Regardless of what else you do in any given offseason, if you can obtain the one of the game’s five best pitchers without surrendering your top prospect, that’s your best move.

Halladay moves from a division that contained three of the top seven offenses in baseball, to one that had only one in the top twelve offenses – and that one is the one that now supports him. Expect Halladay to tear through the National League and expect the Phillies to once again, be a title contender.

Washington Nationals – Signing RP Matt Capps

The Nationals, owner’s of the game’s worst record in 2009 had a lot of problem areas to address and the bullpen was arguably the most glaring. They signed relievers Eddie Guardado, Tyler Walker and traded for Brian Bruney early in the offseason, but saved their best acquisition for last.

After the Pirates surprisingly didn’t tender Matt Capps a contract, the Nationals swooped in and handed the reliever a one-year deal in which he’ll be the favorite for saves in the nation’s capital.

Chicago Cubs – Signing OF Xavier Nady

Signing Nady, who’s coming off a second Tommy John surgery, carries with it a good deal of risk but, being only a one-year deal for low money alleviates some of that risk.

When healthy, Nady has proven to be a more than adequate bat and his power should play well in Wrigley Field, although to be fair, Rafael Belliard’s power would have played well in Wrigley with the wind blowing out.

Cincinnati Reds – Signing LHP Aroldis Chapman

While the risk with the Cuban phenom may have been too high for a big spender, the middle-market Reds needed to take a chance on Chapman.
Talent like his doesn’t grow on trees, and usually it has to go through the amateur draft.

Free to negotiate with whichever team he chose, Chapman landed himself a pretty impressive deal for a player who’s never thrown a pitch for an American team at any level.

Houston Astros – Trading for RP Matt Lindstrom

Realizing that stud closer Jose Valverde was most likely on his way out of Houston, the Astros addressed their vacancy at closer by trading for Marlin reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Lindstrom, who’s production has never quite matched up with his talent, is an excellent project for the Astros to experiment with. They should overlook the ridiculous deal that they gave to Brandon Lyon and let Lindstrom close out their games.

Milwaukee Brewers – Signing SP Randy Wolf

Milwaukee needed pitching, and Randy Wold was one of the better options on the open market for the Brewers to go get. They might have slightly overpaid, in dollars and years, but with Los Angeles declining to offer the hurler arbitration, the Brewers were able to keep their first round pick.

The Brewers have lost some high-end pitching talent in the last few years, and outside of Yovani Gallardo, haven’t been able to adequately replace it using their own farm system. Wolf provides a veteran presence and a strong arm to a young Milwaukee rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Trading for 2B Akinori Iwamura

Iwamura was an inadvertent casualty of Ben Zobrist’s breakout campaign in 2009, but finds himself with an opportunity for playing time in Pittsburgh. All the Pirates forfeited to gain Iwamura was Jesse Chavez, who wasn’t anything more than bullpen fodder.

Iwamura gives the Pirates an able bat that can handle just about any spot in the batting order in addition to a very quality glove at second base.

St. Louis Cardinals – Resigning Matt Holliday

The Cardinals bid against themselves to keep their postseason goat, but Matt Holliday is a good fit for this team. He provides the Cardinals with a dangerous bat not named Albert Pujols.

He lengthens a lineup that without him, doesn’t seem all that imposing. He’s a smart ballplayer and seemed to fit in well in his few months in St. Louis. One fielding gaffe does not a player make, and Matt Holliday’s first 63 games with St. Louis are more indicative of his talent level than his second to last.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Three Way Trade With Tigers, Yankees

Arizona certainly gave up some promising young talent, but got back enough to validate the trade. Edwin Jackson remains under team control for two more years and is coming off quite an impressive season with Detroit.

Ian Kennedy never really found his niche in New York, battling injuries and unfair expectations. But he’ll be given an opportunity to compete for a regular starting job in Arizona and he should lock that job up and perform well at the back end of what promises to be an impressive Diamondback rotation.

Colorado Rockies – Extending RP Huston Street

Huston Street performed well for Colorado after being obtained from Oakland, converting 35-of-37 save opportunities in the regular season. A Division Series meltdown did little to dissuade Colorado from locking up their stud bullpen arm.

Street gives Colorado some stability at the back of the bullpen, something they’ve lacked in recent years. He should provide quality value over the course of the deal if he stays healthy.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Trading OF Juan Pierre

The Dodgers had been looking to unload Juan Pierre almost immediately after they signed him to that ill-advised 5-year, $44 million contract back before the 2007 season.

Shipping off to the White Sox, who seem perfectly content taking on big money, freed up some cash for the Dodgers to extend some of their younger players, like Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton.

San Diego Padres – Collecting Hairstons

The Padres brought back Scott Hairston in a trade that saw Kevin Kouzmanoff head north to Oakland and then signed brother Jerry to come in and play jack-of-all-trades.

Both Hairston brothers are solid, fundamental ballplayers that play hard and produce. They’ll offer versatility and flexibility for San Diego as the Padres try and turn their franchise back around.

San Francisco Giants – Signing UT Mark DeRosa

The Giants have some of the more impressive pitching in the National League, but the offense needed several upgrades to become respectable. DeRosa doesn’t solve the entire problem, but it’s a start.

But the DeRosa signing is trumped for this type of list if the Giants are able to come to a long-term agreement with double Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum.

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Baltimore Orioles – Trading for SP Kevin Millwood

In a classic salary dump, the Orioles brought in Millwood from Texas for disappointing reliever Chris Ray. Millwood will front a young rotation and eat innings.

For a team that’s loaded with some impressive young positional talent, but short on major league ready pitchers, Millwood makes for a nice stopgap until young guns like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman are ready to take on larger roles.

Boston Red Sox – Replacing Jason Varitek

Boston has had a very impressive offseason, making a handful of smart moves to improve their already impressive club. But their biggest improvement and offseason decision is internal. Moving on from Jason Varitek will do wonders for the offense.

Victor Martinez is an elite offensive player who plays an premium defensive position. While the additions of Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and John Lackey will undoubtedly improve the club, replacing Jason Varitek with Victor Martinez is the biggest upgrade and smartest move.

New York Yankees – Trading for SP Javier Vazquez

Replacing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui with Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson was an important focus this offseason, but the addition of Javier Vazquez is the biggest reason that the 2010 Yankees might be better than the 2009 Yankees.

Vazquez strengthens a rotation that didn’t have a fourth member that Joe Girardi trusted enough to start a playoff game. Vazquez gives them that arm, and allows the Yankees to continue to carefully monitor young guns Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.

Tampa Bay Rays – Trading for Rafael Soriano

Tampa Bay had an unsettled closer situation in 2009, with twelve different pitchers receiving save opportunities, tops in the league. Using Jesse Chavez, the pitcher they received from Pittsburgh for Iwamura, the Rays brought Rafael Soriano south from Atlanta.

Soriano was lights-out for the Braves saving games in 2009 and should receive the majority of opportunities in Tampa Bay. He’ll be joined by former Atlanta teammate and new Baltimore closer Mike Gonzalez in the AL East.

Toronto Blue Jays – Trading for SP Brandon Morrow

The Blue Jays swapped proven reliever Brandon League for the potentially great Brandon Morrow. Pitchers of League’s quality are fairly easy to find, but Brandon Morrow has the potential to be something special.

Mishandled in Seattle, Morrow was shuffled back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and was never given an opportunity to properly develop. If the Blue Jays give Morrow the chance to develop as a starter, this deal could end up becoming highway robbery.

Chicago White Sox – TBD

The White Sox made most of their moves during the 2009 season, bringing aboard Alex Rios from Toronto and Jake Peavy from San Diego. Those two players will earn just a shade under $25 million between them in 2010, which has somewhat hindered the White Sox ability to make any major moves this offseason.

They made some minor moves, trading for KC’s Mark Teahen and signing outfielder Andruw Jones, but nothing that I’d label as a great move for them. But they’re certainly in the right division to withstand the inability to make great moves.

Cleveland Indians – Signing Shelley Duncan

Much like the White Sox, the Indians have avoided making any major moves this offseason, but the January 5 signing of former Yankee farmhand Shelley Duncan is a smart move. Duncan has shown immense minor league talent, amassing 55 home runs and 178 RBIs over the past two minor league seasons.

He’s flashed some power in his brief stint with the Yankees in 2007, slugging .554 in 36 games. For a Cleveland team that has a wide-open outfield position alongside Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo, Duncan makes sense as a low-cost, high-reward option.

Detroit Tigers – Signing Jose Valverde

Valverde was excellent as Houston’s closer last season, and with the departure of Fernando Rodney and the unreliability of Joel Zumaya, Detroit had to upgrade. Rodney was shaky but serviceable during his tenure as Detroit’s closer, so Valverde will represent a considerable upgrade for the end of games.

They cut some costs by trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, but also used those savings to bring in some good replacement talent. The Tigers have been hamstrung by some poor financial and personnel decisions, but have made some smart decisions regarding the future of the club.

Kansas City Royals – Trading Mark Teahen

Mark Teahen was what he was. An versatile fielder who brings a little bit of pop to the table, but not much else. Moving him for the more promising Josh Fields and useful Chris Getz was a sensible move for a franchise not known for recent sense-making.

The move is somewhat canceled out by the questionable signings of Rick Ankiel, Brian Anderson and Jason Kendall. The Royals are going to have an uphill battle, but Fields and Getz should help.

Minnesota Twins – Trading for SS J.J. Hardy

The Twins swapped underachieving outfielder Carlos Gomez straight up for the underachieving JJ Hardy. I like this move for the Twins because I believe the probability of Hardy bouncing back is greater than that of Gomez.

Both are outstanding defensive players, but Hardy offers more upside with the bat than Gomez.

Los Angeles Angels – Trading Gary Matthews Jr

GMJ2 parlayed his one good season and one fantastic catch into a 5-year, $50 million jackpot following the 2006 season. When the Angels learned that he wasn’t a very good player, they quickly replaced him with better talent, and he went largely unused on the LA bench.

They were able to move him when the Mets lost Carlos Beltran and the Angels agreed to pay a large chunk of his remaining salary. Moving Matthews Jr. allows the Angels to move forward playing their best players and not worry about a cumbersome contract.

Oakland Athletics – Signing SP Ben Sheets

The Athletics have been historically good at determining pitching talent, and the year off may very well have done Sheets a world of good. On his A-game he’s a dominating ace, but there is the huge injury risk still at play.

Best case scenario, Ben Sheets heads a promising rotation and the team rides that momentum into competing for a division crown. Worst case, Sheets injures himself early and becomes a non-factor. Somewhere in the middle lies the scenario where Sheets pitches decently, but Billy Beane spins him for prospects when the A’s fall too far out of the race.

Seattle Mariners – Extending SP Felix Hernandez

Not much trumps trading for a Cy Young winner and playoff hero. Extending a better and younger pitcher on a team-friendly contract is one of them. Felix Hernandez has established himself as one of the premiere arms in all of Major League Baseball and he’s still just 23.

He’ll make just $6.5 million this year and $10 million the next and is coming off a Cy Young caliber year. In each season since his first full season in the majors (at age 20) he’s started at least 30 games and significantly lowered his ERA each year.

Hernandez is already one of the game’s best, and he’s yet to enter his prime.

Texas Rangers – Signing SP Colby Lewis

Lewis may be an unfamiliar name to even some of the more die-hard baseball fans, and that’s certainly understandable. Lewis was drafter 38th overall in the 1999 draft and eventually made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2002.

He moved to Japan in 2008 after dealing with obscurity, mediocrity and injuries on his way to playing for five different MLB teams. He posted two extremely successful seasons in the land of the rising sun and signed back on with the Rangers.

For two years and around $5 million, it’s a pretty decent risk for Texas to take.