Gregg Hoffmann

Midwest Diamond Report - 1/3

One of my favorite things to do when Midwest Diamond Report was a free standing web site was to pick the Top 5 stories of the year. Why stop now? The Top 5 MDR Stories for 2014 are:

 
1. Cubs and White Sox off-season moves. Both Chicago teams have been among the most active clubs in the free agent and trade markets and could become contenders because of it. Look for more on this in the second section of this blog.
 
2. Managers Hired. The Twins fired longtime manager Ron Gardenhire and hired former Brewer and Twin star Paul Molitor. The Cubs let Rick Renteria go and hired veteran Joe Maddon.
 
3. Brewers Hot Start and Collapse. For the first several months of the season, the Brewers had the best record in baseball, but they collapsed and missed the post-season.
 
4. Abreu’s Rookie Season. Cuban exile Jose Abreu had a great season for the White Sox to earn the AL Rookie of the Year honor.
 
5. Braun’s Struggles. All eyes were on the Brewers’ Ryan Braun after he returned from his suspension for PED use. Braun struggled to much less than a MVP-caliber season, raising questions as to whether a hand injury slowed him or is this the type of player he will be without chemical help.
 
Major Moves
 
As listed at Nos. 1 and 2 among 2014 MDR stories, the Cubs and White Sox have made plenty of news with their off-season changes.
 
At the time of this writing, the Cubs had added pitchers Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Jason Matte and catchers Miguel Montero and David Ross. The Sox had added outfielder Melky Cabrera, first baseman Adam La Roche and pitchers Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Dan Jennings.
 
Indications are that the clubs might not be done yet. When you add the veteran players to the Cubs core of young, promising prospects, the club could become a contender in the NL Central.
 
The newcomers for the White Sox join a core that includes Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu and pitcher Chris Sale.
 
While not as active as the Chicago teams, the Twins added veteran Torii Hunter to the outfield and Ervin Santana to the starting rotation.
 
Then, there are the Brewers. They added Adam Lind to play first base early in the fall, but overall have been quiet. They also have indicated that they plan to continue to be so. Maybe the Brewers had less improvement to make than the other three MDR clubs. Their lack of activity could turn out to be justified, but they also could watch the Cubs, Sox and Twins zoom by them in 2015.
 
Updated Notes
(Some of these notes come from http://www.mlbtraderumors.com. Check out this excellent source of baseball information.)

Brewers
 
** This from the Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors site: “Another middling record won’t cut it in the increasingly-competitive NL Central, so it’s possible (GM Doug) Melvin could be on the hot seat if the Brewers aren’t in contention. That said, given Melvin’s history with the team, I’d guess he’ll receive a two- or three-year extension to give him a bit more time to get things on track.”
 
** The Brewers sent catcher Shawn Zarraga to Los Angeles in exchange for versatile outfielder Matt Long, who was actually traded twice Thursday, and left-hander Jarret Martin, a reliever who jumped right into MLB.com's list of theTop 20 Brewers prospects, at No. 18.
 
** The Brewers are on the lookout for outfield depth for their new Triple-A affiliate at Colorado Springs, Tom Haudricourt writes for Baseball AmericaJeremy Hermida is headed to Japan to play with the Nippon Ham Fighters, andCaleb Gindl and Eugenio Velez have departed as minor-league free agents. The Brewers also (intentionally) allowed Sean Halton and Kentrail Davis to leave in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. “We have to get to work and sign some free agents,” says assistant GM Gord Ash.
Cubs
 
** The Cubs have reportedly signed versatile free-agent outfielder Chris Denorfia to one-year deal.
 
** SS Starlin Castro has been cleared of any involvement in the shooting by the Dominican General of National Police, tweets Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Six people were injured in the shooting, which took place at a nightclub early Saturday morning. Kinzer says Castro went to the police station voluntarily to clear his name, but police told him they had video proof that he wasn’t involved.
 
** Anthony Carter‘s deal with the Cubs is a split contract, Steve Adams of MLBTR reports on Twitter. Carter will earn at a $575K rate for time spent at the big league level.
 
Twins
 
** RHP Phil Hughes received a three-year extension worth $42 million that brings his total contract value to $66 million over six years, including last season, when he made $8 million. Hughes, who was slated to make $8 million in both 2015 and '16, will now make $9.2 million each of those years before making $13.2 million per season from 2017-19.
 
** The Twins signed RHP Tim Stauffer to a one-year deal worth $2.2 million.
 
** The Twins outrighted both outfielder Chris Parmelee and catcher Eric Fryer to Triple-A Rochester. Parmelee was previously designated for assignment for the second time in his career on Dec. 13.
 
White Sox
 
** In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.” Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.
 
** The White Sox are still looking into trading outfielder Dayan Viciedowrites Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Needs include bullpen and bench depth.
 
** RHP Nate Jones plans on resuming throwing in January after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his elbow last July.
 
Immortalized in Bronze
 
If you didn’t see it when announced, the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame looks to be on track for revival, after the rights to it were purchased by Lammi Sports Management in Milwaukee.
 
Members of the Wisconsin Sports Legacy Group, who maintained the Revive the Hall Facebook page and conducted tours, etc. of the Hall, hope to remain involved as a support/auxiliary group.
 
Keep up on developments by going to the Revive the Hall Facebook page.
 
What’s Ahead
 
You could still see some moves by MDR teams in January, although traditionally this month slows down and teams wait to see how players perform in spring training before assessing what they need to do.
 
This month is one of promo tours and events. The Cubs Convention is Jan. 16-18. Soxfest is a week later, Jan. 23-25.
 
The Twins still hold a winter caravan, which will run Jan. 12-22. It’s followed by Twinsfest on Jan. 23-25. The Brewers hold their On Deck event on Jan. 25.
 
The next MDR Blog will be Feb. 8 and will preview the spring training camps for the four MDR teams. The Blog will go weekly again when those camps start.
 
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