Best Day Ever – The Eleventh Annual Fantasy Baseball Autodraft

Fantasy baseball draft cheat sheets?

Throw ’em away.

All your research on position scarcity?

Don’t need it.

Projections, sleepers, busts, and breakout players?

Burn ’em.

If you are a hardcore fantasy baseball fan, stay away.  This is not the draft for you.

But if you are a man (or woman) who enjoys heavy drinking, chicken wings, disgusting shots, and watching a tiny computer screen automatically select baseball players for your team, then get ready.  Buckle up.

Tomorrow brings one of the greatest days on the baseball calendar – the 11th annual PEGS fantasy baseball league autodraft.

What makes this league so unique from others?  Why is this league, the one that I play in each year that requires no draft strategy, my ultimate favourite?  Please, join me in the ultimate guide to the autodraft to find out.

The History

It all started in 2008 when a group of 10 friends decided to set up a fantasy baseball league.  The draft was set for 5 pm on a Wednesday.  Each member of the league planned to stay in the office late in order to draft from work.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the majority of the league was blocked from running Java, meaning they couldn’t access Yahoo’s live draft.

So, instead of drafting, the members of the league convened at a pub and drank multiple pitchers of beer, logged into a laptop, and watched as Yahoo automatically filled our rosters.  The amount of fun, joy, and hilarity that ensued was unexpected, but amazing.

The autodraft was born.

The Draft

From that point on, it was decided that the league would continue each year, and the autodraft would continue as well.  In order to keep the draft standard each year, the following rules were established:

– Only one member of the league is allowed to log in, and only one laptop can be used

– No member of the league is allowed to alter his pre-draft rankings.  Doing so results in his execution (figuratively).

– Every pick must be made by Yahoo.

– The draft must take place at a pub.  Every member of the league must either be there in person, or at least be there in spirit (via text).

– Each member of the league who is at the bar must drink a least three beers, though the commissioner (me) would prefer to see everybody have at least twelve.

The League

Believe it or not, it takes some very shrewd managing to win the league.  Since all teams are essentially random, the GM who makes the best free agent pickups and trades will rise to the top.

In addition, the man who comes in last place faces one of two punishments:

1. He must purchase a round of rye shots for the entire league at the next year’s draft, or

2. He is ruthlessly cut from the league, tarred and feathered and paraded through the streets.

The Penalty Shots

Before the draft the league nominates several players, debates them, and ultimately confirms a final list.  Whenever any of those pre-determined players are drafted, the owner who is stuck with that player must drink a pre-determined shot.  In 2011, there were a total of six penalty shots.  In every year since the number has been expanding.  This year we are up to a minimum of 11.  Meet this year’s penalty shot nominees:

– Bryce Harper

– Miguel Sano

– Giancarlo Stanton

– Shohei Ohtani

– Eric Hosmer

– Todd Frazier

– Miguel Cabrera

– Justin Verlander

– Josh Donaldson

– Joey Votto

– Any Asian Player

The list of potential shots is endless, but will definitely include Rye, Jack Daniels, Tequila, Captain Morgan, Jagermeister, Goldschlager, Hawaiian Lion, and a Bear Fight (made of an Irish Car Bomb immediately followed by a Jagr bomb, as shown below).  This year there has also been an ask for an Angry Balls, which is a shot of Fireball cinnamon whiskey dropped into an Angry Orchard cider.  Good luck gents.

bear fight

The Trades

As mentioned, it is important to be active in the trade market to win this league.  Trading, especially at the draft, and especially before the draft is over, is highly encouraged.

Each year at least one trade has been made during the draft.  Generally these trades are completely random, such as a 21st rounder and a 24th rounder for a 22nd  rounder and a 23rd rounder.  Generally these trades turn out to be ill-advised, including a few years back when a meaningless swap of 23rd rounders ended up not being so meaningless when Mike Trout exploded onto the scene.  Or last year, when one member of the league, a die-hard Detroit Tiger fan, unknowingly traded away Miguel Cabrera, and spend the next 90 minutes wiping away tears streaming down his cheeks.  Or the infamous “longest last name” trade, resulting in a Kevin Quackenbush for Edwin Encarnacion swap.  Brilliant.  Other recent beauties include “First Player over 200 lbs”, “Latest  Alphabetically”, “Same First Name”, and “I give you my 10th pick for your 6th pick if I can get this waitress to sit at our table and drink a beer with us”.  Classic.

The Final Words

Tomorrow’s draft takes place at the beautiful Gabby’s on King East in Toronto.  The fun gets going at 6:00.

Who will be this year’s champion and join this exclusive list, which last year included our first 3-time champion?

2008 – The Forward Claps

2009 – ionionionionionion

2010 – Bear Fights

2011 – The Five Holers

2012 – Dad’s Magic Wiener

2013 – Pupusa Power

2014 – GOD

2015 – Monumental Dog

2016 – Two Enormous UECs

2017 – SUPERCOLLIDER

We’ll find out soon enough.

To all my competitors in the league – get ready.  It’s time.

2018 Division Previews – American League East

Welcome to the final edition of 500 Level Fan’s divisional preview series.  As usual, we saved the best for last – the AL East.

Defending Champion

Boston Red Sox

Past Five Champions

2017 – Boston

2016 – Boston

2015 – Toronto

2014 – Baltimore

2013 – Boston

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 94.4

Best Player

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

There is a lot of talent (as always) in the AL East but the nod for best player goes to the man who has yet to play single game as a member of the division.  When the Yankees stole acquired Stanton from old friend Derek Jeter in December they added the defending NL MVP and home run champion to an already loaded lineup.  After five straight seasons battling injury, Stanton finally stayed healthy in 2017 and his awesome potential finally became reality.  He popped 59 HR, drove in 132 runs, and posted a .281 / .376 / .631 / 1.007 slash line, with a 7.6 WAR.  Now, plopped into the middle of a modern day murderers row and playing in a Little League-type stadium, the sky’s the limit.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mookie Betts, Red Sox

Best Pitcher

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Sale made quite the first impression in Boston last season, coming out of the gates firing and putting up an epic debut season with the Red Sox.  The left-hander led the AL with 214.1 IP, 308 K, a 2.45 FIP, and 12.9 K/9 ratio, and posted a 17-8 record, 2.90 ERA, and 0.97 WHIP.  He was rewarded with an All-Star appearance, a runner-up finish in Cy voting, and a 12th place finish in AL MVP balloting.  If there was once concern it’s that  Sale noticeably tired down the stretch, going 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA in August and September and went 0-2 with an ugly 8.38 ERA against Houston in the ALDS.  With question marks continuing to surround David Price, Rick Porcello, and Drew Pomeranz, the Red Sox will once again be relying rather heavily on Sale’s left arm.

Honourable Mention: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays; Chris Archer, Rays

Three Storylines For 2018

1. Just Like Old Times

From the mid ’90’s through to 2010, except for a few outlier seasons, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox finished first and second in the AL East.  Fans of the Rays, Jays, and Orioles often lost interest in the baseball season by June when it was clear the best they could do was a distant third.  After a few years of change from 2011-2016, when the division crown was actually passed around between those three, we appear to be back to the old days.  Boston and New York finished 1-2 last season and then spent the offseason adding star players to supplement their young and dynamic cores.  The Yankees brought in Giancarlo Stanton to team up with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorious, while Boston signed J.D. Martinez to slot alongside Betts, Benintendi, Bogaerts, and Pedroia.  With Chapman and Kimbrel, each team also has one of baseball’s best closers, and both have rotations loaded with both solid and spectacular arms.  If there is any potential hindrance it’s that both teams are employing rookie managers, but otherwise, to the nightmares of the rest of the East, both look to be set for years.

2. Is the Window Still Open in Toronto?

After back-to-back postseason appearances in 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays were once again picked by many to reach the playoffs last year.  But 2017 was a nightmare.  They were decimated by injury (Donaldson, Tulo, Martin, Travis, Sanchez, Osuna, and Happ all missed time), Bautista fell off a cliff, and Morales failed to replace Encarnacion.  Now one of the older teams in baseball is another year older, begging the question: is this still a playoff contending team?  The front office added a lot of nice pieces over the winter giving Toronto significantly more depth and versatility than a year ago.  But the season will likely rest on the health of key players.  Can Aaron Sanchez make a regular rotation turn?  Can Devon Travis finally stay in the lineup every day?  Can Russell Martin still handle a full season behind the plate?  If the answer to those question is yes, the Jays should be in the mix come September.  If not?  Donaldson might be wearing a new uniform in August.

3. Infielders for Sale?

As it stands right now, baseball is set to experience the greatest crop of free agents in history at the conclusion of this season.  The biggest names that may potentially be available are Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw, but two of the AL East’s greatest infielders are also potential free agents: Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado.  With the Yankees and Red Sox firmly entrenched at the top of the division, there seemingly is only one playoff spot left to play for and both Baltimore and Toronto will be in tough.  By all accounts the Jays are ahead of the Orioles in the pecking order, but a slow start by either club will set the rumour mills buzzing.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of (or both) players gone before the calendar flips to September.

Interesting Stat

115

In 1961, Yankee teammates Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) combined to hit 115 home runs, a record for most HR by teammates.  After bringing Giancarlo to New York over the winter, the 2018 version of the Yankees boasts the reigning AL HR champ AND the reigning NL HR champ in their lineup.  Last season Stanton and Aaron Judge combined to hit 111 bombs, which would have been the second highest total if they shared a uniform.  Judge took full advantage of the short porch in Yankee Stadium, but Stanton called Marlins Park – a notorious pitchers park – home.  Now that he can also take aim at the tiny RF fence in New York we may very well see Maris and Mantle’s record fall.

Who Should Win

New York

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March

2018 Division Previews – American League Central

Welcome to part five of 500 Level Fan’s season preview series. Today’s focus is on the AL Central.

Defending Champion

Cleveland Indians

Past Five Champions

2017 – Cleveland

2016 – Cleveland

2015 – Kansas City

2014 – Detroit

2013 – Detroit

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 94.8

Best Player

Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

Lindor seemingly reinvented himself last season.  It was as if he took a look around baseball, saw home runs flying out of ballparks at record rates and decided that he wanted to hit some too.  The Indians SS more than doubled his career high with 33 HR, and also set career highs with 89 RBI, 44 2B, a .505 SLG, and a .842 OPS.  While his batting average dipped to a .273 mark, Lindor was able to add power to his game without sacrificing his speed (15 SB and an 83% success rate) or his defense (1.4 dWAR, 6th best among shortstops).  He was a key part of Cleveland’s 102 win season, and earned a top-5 finish in MVP voting.  He also just turned 24, so the best is yet to come.

Honourable Mention: Jose Ramirez, Indians; Byron Buxton, Twins

Best Pitcher

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

Cleveland had baseball’s best pitching staff last season, and Kluber was the best pitcher on that staff.  He topped the AL in pretty much every meaningful category with a 8.2 WAR, 2.25 ERA, 18 W, 0.869 WHIP, 6.23 H/9, 1.59 BB/9, 5 CG, 3 SO, and a 7.36 K/BB.  He also finished second in strikeouts with 265, posted his fourth straight 200 inning season, and won his second Cy Young award.  After a rough start that culminated with a trip to the DL in May, Kluber returned on June 1 and in his final 23 starts posted a 1.62 ERA and only allowed more than three runs in a game once.  They don’t call him Klubot for nothing….

Honourable Mention: Carlos Carrasco, Indians; Ervin Santana, Twins

Three Storylines For 2018

1. Top Heavy Division

The Cleveland Indians won 102 games in 2017 and despite losing a few members of the team during the offseason are still expected to win north of 95 games in 2018.  The Twins surprised many last season by capturing the second Wild Card slot and made a bevy of moves to ensure they will be very competitive again.  And then comes the rest.  Kansas City somehow managed to retain Mike Moustakas but bid adieu to Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer and should be much worse off in 2018.  Detroit and Chicago are both rebuilding and while neither are expected to be as bad as Miami, 90 – 95 losses are surely within reason.  All of which should make for another very noncompetitive division (see NL East and AL West).

2. Minnesota’s Rotation

The Twins came from seemingly out of nowhere last year to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and they did so largely on the shoulders of their position players.  Former top prospects Byron Buxton (5.2 WAR) and Miguel Sano (28 HR in only 114 games) finally broke through, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier remained offensive threats, and lesser known players like Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco had big seasons.  So runs shouldn’t be a huge problem in 2018.  Starting pitching, on the other hand, is another story.  Ervin Santana was outstanding last year, but he will be out until May after undergoing finger surgery.  Jose Berrios was solid in his age-23 season, but wore down noticeably in September.  Minnesota tried (and failed) to bring in big names like Arrieta, Darvish, and Ohtani, and instead settled on Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Pineda.  Will they be enough?

3. Miguel Cabrera

Once considered the best overall and most consistent player in all of baseball, Miguel Cabrera took a step back in 2017.  His numbers plummeted (16 HR, 60 RBI) and he set career lows in batting average (.249), OPS (.728), and OPS+ (92).  He battled a variety of ailments (groin and back trouble), missed over 30 games, and saw virtually all of his longtime teammates traded away.  Now, as he approaches the age of 35, comes a question: what happens next?  Will he rebound and become the player who finished in the top-15 in MVP voting every season from 2005-2016?  Or will his dropoff continue?  With $184 million and six years still outstanding on his contract, the rebuilding Tigers are likely stuck with him regardless.  But a slugging and smiling Miggy makes for a much more entertaining baseball season, no matter how many losses pile up in Detroit.

Interesting Stat

.464

Virtually all baseball pundits, writers, and even fans agree that there are four elite teams in the American League: Houston, New York, Cleveland, and Boston.  Fangraphs projects each of them to win over 90 games, meaning in all likelihood four of the AL’s five playoff spots are spoken for.  That leaves the remaining 11 franchises to conceivably battle for the second Wild Card spot.  Of those, the top three projected teams are the Blue Jays, Angels, and Twins.  With not much separating those teams, a playoff spot might all boil down to strength of schedule, giving Minnesota a decided advantage.  Using Fangraphs projected win totals, the Blue Jays have an expected divisional opponents winning percentage of .522, the Angels are at .514, with Minnesota bringing up the rear at .464. While Toronto has to face the elite Yankees and Red Sox 38 times and LA gets the Astros 19 times, Minnesota has the privilege of facing Kansas City, Detroit, and Chicago – the projected three worst teams in the AL – a whopping 57 times.  That might just make all the difference in a tight playoff race.

Who Should Win

Cleveland

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March

2018 Division Previews – American League West

Welcome to part four of 500 Level Fan’s season preview series.  Today’s focus is on the AL West.

Defending Champion

Houston Astros

Past Five Champions

2017 – Houston

2016 – Texas

2015 – Texas

2014 – Los Angeles

2013 – Oakland

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 95.6

Best Player

Mike Trout, LA Angels

Last season Trout led the AL with a .442 OBP, .629 Slugging Percentage, and 1.071 OPS, finished in the top-10 in WAR, Offensive WAR, Batting Average, and Walks, and for good measure hit 33 HR and stole 22 bases.  It was enough to earn his sixth straight All-Star appearance and a fourth place finish in MVP balloting.  And do you want to know what’s so crazy about those stats?  He accomplished all of that in only 114 games!  That’s right – Trout missed over a quarter of the season after tearing a ligament in his thumb in late May, yet still put up numbers that were better than most players over the course of a full season.  The legend grows.

Honourable Mention: Jose Altuve, Astros; Carlos Correa, Astros

Best Pitcher

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Talk about making an impact.  Verlander was acquired by the Astros at literally the last second before the August 31 trade deadline last season, and wasted no time laying waste to the AL West.  He made five starts down the stretch and went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA, 0.647 WHIP, and a 43:5 K:BB ratio.  Then in the playoffs he pitched 36.2 innings over five starts and one relief appearance and went 4-1 with a 2.24 ERA, 0.829 WHIP, and 38:8 K:BB ratio.  For his efforts he was awarded the ALCS MVP, a 5th place finish in AL Cy Young voting, and his first World Series victory.  Remember when everybody thought he was slowing down?  Yeah, me neither.

Honourable Mention: Dallas Keuchel, Astros; James Paxton, Mariners

Three Storylines For 2018

1. Houston – As Elite As They Come

So what does a team that won its first World Series championship, won 101 games, took the division by a mind-boggling 21 games, and essentially had a playoff spot clinched by the All-Star break do for an encore?  If you answered “somehow get better” you win!  Houston already possessed one of the best lineups and rotations in all of baseball, then they went out and acquired Pirate ace Gerrit Cole to slot in as their #3 starter.  You read that right – the #3 starter!  Add to that a full season from Verlander, a fully healthy Carlos Correa (he missed two months in 2017), a fully healthy Lance McCullers (as a #5 man!), and a fortified bullpen with the shifting of Brad Peacock back to relief.  Oh – they also have the reigning MVP in Jose Altuve, and a bevy of potential future MVPs (Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer).  Talk about stacked.

2. Ohtani and the Angels

When he was declared eligible for posting in late November, Shohei Ohtani instantly became perhaps the most intriguing free agent that baseball had ever seen.  Whereas most Japanese players are surrounded by mystery as fans and scouts wonder how their numbers from the Japanese league will translate to MLB, Ohtani was at another level.  This is a guy who posted a .942 OPS last season as a hitter (on par with Josh Donaldson and Carlos Correa) AND a 3.20 ERA as a starter (on par with Carlos Carrasco).  While he was linked with all the usual suspects (Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers) in a somewhat surprising move Ohtani chose to sign with the LA Angels.  That signing marked the beginning of a big offseason for LA, with Ohtani joining Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart as new recruits.  Long been accused of wasting this generation’s greatest talent (Trout has only made the playoffs once in six seasons), the Angels are hoping that a full year of Trout and Justin Upton, combined with their new players, will finally lead to October baseball.

3. Last Chance for Seattle and Texas

One team hasn’t tasted the postseason since 2001, baseball’s longest drought, while the other has reached October five times since 2010.  Despite those recent differences, the Mariners and Rangers find themselves in eerily similar situations heading into 2018.  Both had identical 78-84 records last year, and both have rosters littered with question marks.  Seattle has an aging core led by Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez, and durability concerns in their new staff ace James Paxton.  Texas also has several key players on the wrong side of 30 (Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Tim Lincecum, Bartolo Colon), and an offense that suffered badly in ’17 (hello Rougned Odor).  At the same time, however, both rosters have exciting players that could help push towards the playoffs (Dee Gordon, Jean Segura, Edwin Diaz i n Seattle; Nomar Mazara, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo in Texas).  Will either team break through?

Interesting Stat

103

The 2017 Los Angeles Angels scored 710 runs, the fifth lowest total in the AL and only 17 more than last place Toronto.  Nowhere was their offensive ineptitude more apparent than at second and third base.  LA’s second basemen (predominantly Cliff Pennington and Danny Espinosa) posted an OPS of .601, the worst mark in the AL.  Their third basemen (Yunel Escobar and Luis Valbuena) weren’t much better with a .713 OPS, second worst in the AL.  Combined, the Angels 2B and 3B put up a .660 OPS, 103 points below the American League average of .763.  In an attempt to rectify that, LA acquired Ian Kinsler (.725 OPS in ’17) to play second and Zack Cozart (.933 OPS in ’17) to play third.  That is a combined OPS of .818, a whopping 158 point improvement.  Add that to full years from Trout and Upton, along with whatever Ohtani brings, and the Angels should be much improved offensively.

Who Should Win

Houston

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March.

2018 Division Previews – National League East

Welcome to part three of 500 Level Fan’s season preview series. Today’s focus is on the NL East.

Defending Champion

Washington Nationals

Past Five Champions

2017 – Washington

2016 – Washington

2015 – New York

2014 – Washington

2013 – Atlanta

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 94.8

Best Player

Bryce Harper, Nationals

Harper has now completed six major league seasons and he remains one baseball’s biggest enigmas.  He has gone from superstar rookie, to injury plagued, to the greatest player of his generation, to mild disappointment.  After a down year in 2016 he rebounded slightly last year but still dealt with injury, missing 51 games.  His WAR improved from 1.5 to 4.7, he hit 29 HR (second most of his career), and posted a 1.008 OPS and .319 batting average, but because he put up an outrageous 2015 campaign those numbers leave us wanting more.  Perhaps his walk year will provide sufficient motivation to increase his numbers back to MVP-levels.  After all, the largest contract in the history of professional sports might be just around the corner….

Honourable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Braves; Anthony Rendon, Nationals

Best Pitcher

Max Scherzer, Nationals

Although Clayton Kershaw still generally receives the praise of most pundits as the unofficial best pitcher in baseball, Scherzer has proven that he should own that label.  Last season was quite possibly the best year of the All-Star’s entire career.  He led the NL with 268 strikeouts,  a .902 WHIP, and a miniscule 5.7 hits per 9 innings, en route to winning his second consecutive Cy Young award.  Unlike Kershaw, he once again proved his durability by eclipsing the 200 IP plateau for the fifth straight year . If there is one flaw in his resume, it is his performance in the playoffs.  In the last two seasons with Washington, Scherzer has made four playoff starts and posted a record of 0-2 as the Nationals have failed to advance past the NLDS.  With the Nats looking loaded once again, he might get another shot to prove his doubters wrong.

Honourable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals; Jacob deGrom, Mets

Three Storylines For 2018

1. Why Bother Playing?

It is a question that has to be asked considering the state of the division.  Unless something incredibly unforeseen happens, the only reason the 2018 regular season needs to be played is to determine if the Washington Nationals will have home field advantage in the NLDS and onwards.  The Nats won 97 games last year all while losing Harper for 51 games, Adam Eaton for 138, Trea Turner for 63, and possessing one of baseball’s worst late-inning bullpens for half a year.  Now they get Harper in his walk-year, and presumably full health from Eaton and Turner.  To make things worse (or better) the rest of the division is soft.  The Mets continue to believe that New York is a small market, Atlanta and Philadelphia look promising but at least a year away, and Miami…..well….more on them later.  If Washington does not win the division in 2018 it will go down as a massive surprise.

2. Welcome Back Anthopoulos

The last time we saw Alex Anthopoulos in a General Manager’s role was 2015, a year that Jays fans remember fondly.  A series of bold trades and signings broke Toronto’s 22 year playoff drought and had fans dreaming of a dynasty.  Instead, AA shockingly resigned after the playoffs, joined the front office of the Dodgers and waited for another GM spot to open.  One finally did in Atlanta.  With the Braves, Anthopoulos will inherit a team that might be on the cusp of greatness.  Atlanta may have averaged 90+ losses in each of the past four years, but that losing has allowed them to stockpile one of baseball’s best farm systems.  Led by future superstar Ronald Acuna the Braves have eight players ranked in the top-100 and the #2 overall farm system according to MLB Pipeline.  The future is bright.  Of course, AA has a track record of reaching into the minors to make trades, so if Atlanta is hanging around in July will the Ninja strike again?

3. Disgrace in Miami

While there are high expectations in Washington, and fresh hope in Atlanta and Philadelphia, there are a variety words one can use to describe the situation in Miami.  Disgraceful, disgusting, embarrassing, pathetic, and insulting are a few that come to mind.  Marlins fans are used to their team being dismantled but this time it feels different.  Miami finished 77-85 in 2017, but seemed on the verge of contending.  They had a dynamic sparkplug in Dee Gordon, perhaps the greatest outfield in the game with NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, and two highly underrated offensive studs in J.T. Realmuto and Justin Bour.  Sure their pitching was suspect, but they appeared to be on the rise.  Then along came a new ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter with a mandate to slash payroll, and slash they did.  Gordon went to Seattle, Stanton to New York, Ozuna to St. Louis, and Yelich to Milwaukee.  The remaining roster is full of reclamation projects, longshot rookies, and old veterans, a mix that looks certain to lose 100 games – if not more.  Poor, poor Marlins fans.

Interesting Stat

76.4%

Based on the names alone, the latest Marlins firesale was devastating enough.  But based on actual statistics?  Yikes.  The 2017 Marlins accumulated a total WAR (baseball reference version) of 26.7: 28.3 by the players and -1.6 by the pitchers.  Derek Jeter and company spent the offseason trading away players who were responsible for 20.4 of those wins.  In other words, Miami dealt away 76.4% of it’s 2017 WAR in one winter.  Without Stanton (7.6 WAR), Ozuna (5.8), Yelich (3.9), and Gordon (3.1) on the roster, it will be up to holdovers Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto, and Miguel Rojas, along with the newly acquired Starlin Castro and Cameron Maybin to prevent the Marlins from dropping over 100 games.  Good luck with that.

Who Should Win

Washington

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March

2018 Division Previews – National League Central

Welcome to part two of 500 Level Fan’s season preview series. Today we focus on the National League Central.

Defending Champion

Chicago Cubs

Past Five Champions

2017 – Chicago

2016 – Chicago

2015 – St. Louis

2014 – St. Louis

2013 – St. Louis

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 96.4

Best Player

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

The division might be loaded with more exciting players on more exciting teams, but it’s impossible to deny the baseball genius of Joey Votto.  After he missed most of 2014 and went through a prolonged slump at the beginning of 2016, many were tempted to write him off.  Boy were they wrong.  Last year, in his age 33 season, he was flat out dominating.  He topped the NL with a .454 OBP, 1.032 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 134 BB, and finished second in both WAR (7.5) and MVP voting.  Perhaps the most staggering stat?  He appeared in all 162 games and only failed to reach base via hit or walk in 13 of them.  As he ages he somehow gets better.

Honourable Mention: Kris Bryant, Cubs; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Best Pitcher

Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs

In a division with several high quality teams, there is a surprising lack of true aces in the Central.  Yu Darvish hopes to emerge as one in 2018.  After spending his entire career with the Texas Rangers, Darvish was shipped to the Dodgers at the trade deadline and was highly effective down the stretch, pitching to a 3.44 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  However, two disastrous appearances in the World Series (including a devastating outing in Game 7) have raised doubts as to whether he can pitch under pressure.  With Chicago once again poised to contend he will definitely be faced with a lot of pressure.  He’s not far removed from a top-5 Cy Young finish, and the Cubs hope that he rekindles his past success this season.

Honourable Mention: Jon Lester, Cub; Jose Quintana, Cubs

Three Storylines For 2018

1. A Good Old Fashioned Arms Race

In an offseason dominated by negative headlines about collusion, lack of spending, and tanking, it was both refreshing and exciting to watch the three top teams in the NL Central load up and go for it.  In Chicago, the defending champs lost Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis to free agency but added one of the top starters available in Yu Darvish, one of last year’s most dominating relievers in Brandon Morrow, and brought in the underrated Tyler Chatwood for rotation depth.  The Cardinals were heavily rumoured to be a possible landing spot for Josh Donaldson, and ended up taking advantage of the Marlins to acquire Marcell Ozuna.  The Brewers followed suit by snagging Christian Yelich, then signed Lorenzo Cain to give them one of the best outfields in the game.  All of it could make for a crowded view at the top.

2. Can Any Team Hang With the Cubs? 

Despite the arms race within the division, let’s be honest with ourselves: this division is the Cubs’ to lose.  Milwaukee should be much improved, but they have some serious questions.  Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton, all project as 1B/OF types, but there are only four spots to go around.  Depth is a good thing, but lack of playing time could be an issue.  Further, the starting rotation leaves much to be desired, especially with presumed #1 Jimmy Nelson out until July.  With the loss of Lance Lynn, the Cardinals’ rotation also lacks depth and will be depending on rebound years from Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright.  When you compare those starters to the rotation in Chicago (Darvish / Lester / Hendricks / Quintana / Chatwood), it’s clear who is in the best shape.  And we haven’t even talked about their still loaded offense….

3. Battle for the Basement

Last season the Reds and Pirates combined for 181 losses, firmly cementing them in the basement of the division.  Pittsburgh had a seven game age on Cincinnati, but looks intent on sinking lower in 2018.  A tumultuous offseason saw them trade away the face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco and staff ace Gerrit Cole to Houston, fans start a petition to force the removal of ownership, and threats that other players (Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, etc.) might be next.  The Pirates will be depending on a lot of former top prospects to finally make good on their promise (Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte) but things look bleak.  Cincinnati’s winter saw them lose long time SS Zack Cozart and resist the urge to bring in anybody of note, meaning a very young rotation will try to lead a promising but inexperienced lineup.  But hey – they have Votto, so advantage Cincy.

Interesting Stat

230

Between Opening Day 2017 and June 21st, Kyle Schwarber appeared in 64 games for the Cubs, and was really bad.  His line of .171 / .295 / .378 / .673 (with 12 HR and a -0.089 WPA) earned him a demotion to the minors to figure things out.  Well, whatever he did seemed to work, because in 65 appearances from July 6th to the end of the season Schwarber’s line was .255 / .338 / .565 / .903 (with 18 HR and a 0.226 WPA), an OPS improvement of 230 points.  From Opening Day to June 21st the Cubs went 36-35 and sat 1.5 games back in the Central, only to go 50-28 after Schwarber was recalled.  With Milwaukee and St .Louis both poised to be better, the Cubs need a much better start from Schwarber in 2018.

Who Should Win

Chicago

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March

2018 Division Previews – National League West

It’s that time of year again, time for 500 Level Fan to start embarrassing myself with futile, sad, and mind-blowingly awful predictions.  Before we get to my annual predictions, let’s go division by division to get a glimpse of what is in store for baseball fans in 2018.  These preview posts should be seen as a division primer, so we can get to know the best players and teams, along with some interesting storylines, in each.  These won’t have my actual predicted order of finish – just a quick snapshot.  The predictions come later.

We’ll begin today with the NL West.

Defending Champion

Los Angeles Dodgers

Past Five Champions

2017 – Los Angeles

2016 – Los Angeles

2015 – Los Angeles

2014 – Los Angeles

2013 – Los Angeles

Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 94.6

Best Player

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

There is very little separating Arenado and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt.  Both are supreme talents who put up eerily similar numbers in 2017 (check it out: Arenado 37 HR, 130 RBI, .959 OPS, 7.2 WAR; Goldschmidt 36 HR, 120 RBI, .966 OPS, 5.8 WAR).  Both led their respective teams to relatively surprising playoff positions. Both won a Gold Glove award for exceptional defensive play.  The nod here goes to Arenado because he plays a premium position and he plays it incredibly well.  No matter the defensive metric, Arenado is ranked right near the top of the game.  He scores a 2.3 in Baseball Reference’s dWAR (6th overall), a 9.0 in Fangraphs’ Def (20th overall), and a 6.7 in UZR (15th overall).  Combine that with his bat and you have a perennial MVP candidate.

Honourable Mention: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks,; Justin Turner, Dodgers

Best Pitcher

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Another year, another dominant performance by Kershaw.  He led the NL with a 2.31 ERA, 18 wins, a 180 ERA+, and a 6.73 K/BB ratio, was second with a 0.95 WHIP,  and eclipsed the 200 strikeout plateau for the seventh time in his career.  To top it all off, he finally got the monkey off his back by delivering in the playoffs, leading the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time since 1988.  It wasn’t all roses for him, however.  For the second straight year injuries limited him (he missed all of August), and despite his dominant performance in relief in Game 7, the Dodgers lost to Houston.  With redemption on his mind (not to mention the possibility of opting out of his contract) Kershaw could be in line for a historic 2018.

Honourable Mention: Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks; Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Three Storylines For 2018

1. Can Los Angeles Recover?

Since 1923 the World Series has lasted the full seven games 37 times.  Only six times in baseball history has a team rebounded from losing Game 7 to win the World Series the following year, and only once has it happened since 1961 (the 2015 Kansas City Royals).  Last year the Dodgers had a 4-0 lead in Game 5, Clayton Kershaw on the mound, and the prospect of going to LA with a 3-2 lead.  But it all slipped away.  Now they have to figure out a way to get the taste of losing out of their mouths, and try to do what the Royals did a few years ago.  With a rotation that might be questionable after Kershaw (no more Darvish), and a bullpen now without Brandon Morrow, the Dodgers might have a tougher time holding off the revamped Giants and still loaded D-Backs and Rockies.  Their lineup is one of the deepest and most talented in the game, but how much does 2017 stick in their minds?

2. Back to the Future in San Fran

2017 was a year from Hell for San Francisco.  They were decimated by injuries (Bumgarner, Pence, Posey, Panik, Belt, Melancon), and underperformance, all of which led to a 98 loss season, tied for the second highest number of losses in franchise history.  But instead of blowing it all up, the Giants revamped in a big way by bringing in Austin Jackson, Tony Watson, and the faces of two other franchises: long-time Pirate Andrew McCutchen and long-time Ray Evan Longoria.  On the surface it seems odd for a terrible and old team to bring in four guys in the latter stages of their careers (the average age of the new guys is about 32).  But it offers a glimpse into the mindset of SF’s front office that last year was more of a fluke than a trend.  A full return to health by their core plus the acquisition of two former studs should make the Giants competitive in the West once again.

3. Who Comes Second?

On paper, the Dodgers remain the class of the division, but there is the potential for a real battle for second place.  Last year the NL West produced both Wild Card teams so the runner-up slot could mean a postseason appearance.  Arizona claimed that position last year, and will enter 2018 with a great rotation but without slugger J.D. Martinez.  Colorado added Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw to their bullpen, but questions exist (as always) about the rotation.  The Giants should be better, and though the Padres may be a year or two away, their stocked farm system and the addition of Eric Hosmer make them a potential sleeper candidate.  Buckle up!

Interesting Stat

152 and 159

Coors Field has always been a paradise for hitters with the thin air of Colorado inflating the stats of Rockies players at home.  That was more evident than ever last year.  Colorado scored 152 more runs at home than on the road (488 to 336) and posted an OPS 159 points higher at home (.862 to .703) the biggest home/road splits in all of baseball.  While their pitching staff also experienced huge splits (4.93 home ERA to 4.09 road ERA;  .273 home BAA to .255 road BAA) the overall spread does not break even.  Essentially at home the Rockies have the best offense in baseball with a bottom-5 pitching staff, while on the road they are middle-of-the-pack in both.  Last season the Rockies were forced to play on the road in the Wild Card game and lost.  Unless they somehow win the division ahead of LA, a 2018 playoff spot will bring more road games.  They will need to narrow those home/road splits in order to stand a chance to progress.

Who Should Win

Los Angeles

Who Will Win

Find out in my season prediction column at the end of March.

Toronto Blue Jays and the Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2018 class on Wednesday night, with a whopping four members elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Thome will join Alan Trammell and Jack Morris (previously elected by the Modern Baseball Era committee) in Cooperstown later this year.

With talk of the Hall of Fame taking over the internet the past month, it got me thinking about how the Blue Jays fit in to this process.  Normally at this time of year, the baseball world discusses, debates, considers, and ultimately celebrates great baseball players, who mostly had nothing to do with the Blue Jays during their careers.  Roberto Alomar is the only player enshrined in Cooperstown with a Blue Jays cap, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.

But what about the other players in Toronto’s past?  The Hall of Fame is – quite rightly – a difficult place to enter.  Only the best of the best get in.  But just being listed on the ballot is an impressive feat, even if you are one of the dozens each year that fall short.  So to give this time of year a bit more of a Blue Jay tint, I took a look back at HOF voting history to see how the Jays have fared, and what the future might hold.

To my surprise, there have been 69 different players on the Hall of Fame ballot to make an appearance for the Blue Jays.  Some are well known (Devon White, Jimmy Key, David Wells).  Some are not (Jeff Burroughs (86 games in 1985) or Bill Singer (12 starts in 1977)). Alomar is the only one to be elected and represent Toronto, but six other ex-Jays currently reside in Cooperstown:

  • Rickey Henderson – member of the Jays in 1993, elected to the Hall in 2009
  • Paul Molitor – member of the Jays from 1993 – 1995, elected to the Hall in 2004
  • Jack Morris – member of the Jays from 1993 – 1994, elected to the Hall this year
  • Phil Niekro – pitched 12 innings for the Jays in 1987, elected to the Hall in 1997
  • Frank Thomas – member of the Jays from 2007 – 2008, elected to the Hall in 2014
  • Dave Winfield – member of the Jays in 1992, elected to the Hall in 2001

Of the remaining 63, only six managed to remain on the ballot for more than one year: Ron Fairly (on the original 1977 team), Dave Parker (36 AB for Toronto in 1991), Dave Stewart, and Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens, and Fred McGriff, all still currently on the ballot.

Two other players with Blue Jay ties debuted on the ballot this year and survived the 5% cutoff: Scott Rolen (10.2%) and Omar Vizquel (37.5).

So that leaves a total of 54 one-and-done players, guys who didn’t received 5% of the ballot and thus dropped off.  Some of the names were pretty obvious: Woody Williams, Royce Clayton, Orlando Hudson, Matt Stairs, Mike Timlin, etc.  But there are some players who I thought were deserving of more love from the voters.  These guys don’t belong in the Hall of Fame necessarily, but should have at least received greater recognition.  I’m thinking specifically of:

  • Carlos Delgado – 473 career HR, 4 top-10 MVP finishes, 2-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger winner, 44.3 career WAR.  Only 3.8% of the vote in 2015.
  • David Cone – 5-time All-Star, Cy Young winner, 5-time World Series champion, 61.7 career WAR.  Only 3.9% of the vote in 2009.
  • Dave Stieb – perhaps the best pitcher of the entire 1980’s, yet only received 1.4% of the vote in 2004.
  • John Olerud – batting title, .295 career average, 58.0 career WAR.  Only 0.7% of the vote (4 votes total) in 2011.
  • Tony Fernandez – 5-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, only 0.7% of the vote (4 votes total) in 2007.

So what lies ahead for the Blue Jays?  Who might be the next player enshrined or seriously considered for Cooperstown?

My best guess is that as of right now (the end of the 2017 season), we might see eight Jays listed on the HOF ballot when eligible.

Roy Halladay will be on the ballot next year and should be a lock for the Hall.  Whether he gets in on the first ballot, and whether he goes in as a Jay or a Phillie is another story.

Mark Buehrle had a great MLB career – 214 wins, sub-4.00 ERA, 14 straight 200 IP seasons, World Series, perfect game – but falls short based on JAWS.  I would imagine him to have a strong enough candidacy to survive one ballot.

David Price and Troy Tulowitzki will forever be linked as mid-season acquisitions in the magical 2015 season.  Both looked like HOF locks in their early days, but both have tailed off significantly.  I don’t know if either garners enough support to make it past one ballot.

Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin have both had long and solid careers (they have combined for 7 All-Star teams and 6 top-20 MVP finishes) but will have a hard time exceeding 5%.

Josh Donaldson was a late bloomer – he didn’t become a major league regular until he was 27 – but the five full seasons he has played have been outstanding.  He has collected three All-Star nods, two Silver Sluggers, one MVP, and three additional top-5 MVP finishes.  His 37.3 WAR is two-thirds of the way to meeting the JAWS standard for third baseman, so if he can put together four or five more great seasons he might be pushing for HOF contention.

Finally, we get to the Blue Jay most near and dear to our hearts.  Jose Bautista will be a member of the Level of Excellence.  He will likely be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  If there was a Hall of Fame for best individual moments, or most important home runs, or best late career surge, he would lead the way.  Unfortunately his peak was too short and his fall to steep to be considered for the Hall.  But hopefully he did enough during those years for at least 5% of the BBWAA to recognize him.

Looking Back at My 2017 MLB Predictions

December is here.  A season of reflection, a time to look back at the year that was.  For Jays fans…..it…..wasn’t good.  But why reminisce on bad times when you can have a laugh at my expense?

May I present a look back at my 2017 MLB predictions.

Spoiler alert: they were terrible.

Nailed two of the three division champs, but whiffed baaaaaaadly on the Jays.  New York and Minnesota surprised most people (not just me) so I don’t feel too badly there.  60% of the playoff teams right?  I’ll take it.

Accurate predictions: Rick Porcello drops back to earth….Baltimore relies too heavily on the bullpen….White Sox trade Quintana early…..Astros avoid a terrible start….Don’t trust Texas to stay healthy…..Another playoff-less year for Mike Trout.

Terrible predictions:  Morales adequately replaces Edwin….Bautista has a huge bounce-back year…..Sale has a rough transition to the AL East…..Yankees are a year away…..Detroit remains competitive for one more year…..Royals will sell in July…..Mariners are the real deal.

Completely nailed the division winners, though that really wasn’t too challenging.  Flat out blew the Wild Card teams.  Oops.  I loved the Mets and hated Arizona.  What an idiot.

Accurate predictions: Scherzer continues to dominate…..Miami is a confusing team…..St. Louis falls just short…..Cincinnati could be the worst team in baseball…..The Giants are on the way down.

Terrible predictions: Wild Card is the best bet for the Mets…..This is the season Ryan Braun is traded…..Arizona is a mess.

Two for eight and not that far off on Dyson and Archer.  I put way too much faith in Chris Davis and Miggy, and didn’t foresee the injuries to Britton.

Syndergaard was injured so you can’t fault me there.  But other than that, this was a legit great year for NL predictions!  Nailed the Wins and Saves categories, and all of the other predicted winners finished in the top-10, with four out of five finishing top-4.  Hey hey!

Oh.  Oh my.  I invite you all to ignore the World Series prediction and feast your eyes upon my NLCS prediction of the Dodgers to beat the Cubs.  I am a genius!

In the American League I was way, way off on Gibbons winning Manager of the Year.  But Mike Trout finished 4th in MVP voting and very well might have won if he remained healthy, I nailed Kluber as Cy, and Benintendi finished second to Judge (albeit a distant second) in ROY voting.  Bautista as Bounceback Player was a terrible pick, but you could make a case that Price was the most disappointing.  However, his teammate Rick Porcello was healthy and sucked, and Odor was just plain out bad.

In the National League, Harper finished 12th in MVP voting, Kershaw finished second in Cy voting, Dave Roberts finished second in MOY voting, and Swanson…..well, let’s not talk about Dansby Swanson.  McCutchen did have a very nice season, but was eclipsed by Greg Holland for the Comeback Player of the year.  And I’m giving myself credit for Mark Melancon, who was an absolute bust in San Francisco.

A Dream Offseason Plan

When Corey Seager grounded out to Jose Altuve on November 1st, the 2017 MLB season officially ended.  The final out brought delirium to Houston fans, but also brought happiness to fans of 28 other teams (sorry Dodger fans), because suddenly baseball’s offseason was upon us.  Every franchise was now tied for first again.

Normally the offseason is loaded with speculation and predictions, often-times outlandish.  The past few weeks have proven to be no exception.  Rumours are flying left, right, and centre involving what seems to be over half the players in the league.  The Blue Jays are in for an interesting few months as they try to do the impossible – stay in contention with an aging core, while at the same time bridge the gap to the next wave of elite prospects .

So how can they do that?  It’s easy to say things like “trade for Stanton” and “sign Jake Arrieta“, but those things are clearly easier said than done.

However, with Toronto continuing to pack in the fans and operating in a massive market, nothing should be deemed impossible.  With that said, may I present 500 Level Fan’s “completely unlikely yet not fully ridiculous” Dream Offseason plan for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Move 1 – Sign Chris Iannetta

Backup catcher has been a black hole in Toronto for a few years now.  It wasn’t as much of a concern the last few seasons when Russell Martin was catching 130+ games a year, but injuries limited Martin to just 91 games last year, only 83 of which were behind the plate.  The backup brigade of Montero, Saltalamacchia, Lopez, Maile, and Ohlman were worse than bad and prospect Dan Jansen is still a year or two away.

The answer?  Why not Chris Iannetta?  He has been linked to the Jays for a number of years now, and proved last year that he still has some pop in his bat (17 HR, .865 OPS) and some prowess defensively (+2 defensive runs saved, 24% caught stealing).  Plus he’ll be 35 this year so no longer should demand a ton of playing time, he can slot in an DH if need be, and at $1.5 million last year he is relatively cheap.

Likelihood of happening:  I thought this was happening in each of the last four winters.  It never has.  So….40%.

Move 2 – Sign Tony Watson

Below are the ERA’s for each of Toronto’s LH relievers in 2017:

Aaron Loup – 3.75

Matt Dermody – 4.43

Tim Mayza – 6.88

Jeff Beliveau – 7.47

J.P. Howell – 7.36

Loup was the best of the bunch and he is the rare lefty who can’t retire left-handed batters.  That is….not good.

After several incredible years in a row, Tony Watson took a step back last season, but still finished the year with a 3.38 ERA split between Pittsburgh and LA.  Better yet, LHB posted a .691 OPS against him, better than Loup’s .721.  He would be a nice fit.

Likelihood of Happening:  The market for relievers is always inflated so while he would be a great fit I can’t see the Jays getting into a bidding war for his services.  35%.

Move 3 – Sign Shohei Otani

This is easy to fit in the “keep dreaming” category, and I know there are issues with MLBPA trying to hold up his posting, but just hear me out.

Every single MLB team would love to have Otani in its lineup.  He can hit.  He can pitch.  He is a legitimate dual threat.  But a lot of MLB teams are…how to put this….cowardly.  The thought of allowing a pitcher to slot in at DH on his off days would be a non-starter.

But Toronto, with their “high-performance” team and supposed devotion to recovery and health, could be a different story.  He would be a legitimate number two starter behind Stroman, and could suit up as DH at least two of the four days he doesn’t pitch (not to mention a nice bat off the bench late in games).

NL teams can’t offer the duality as well as AL teams. Toronto is a diverse city that will give him a piece of home he craves.  Why not?

Likelihood of Happening:  Makes too much sense to happen.  Good things like this rarely happen to Jays fans….  2%

Move 4 – Trade Kendrys Morales

It goes without saying that one of the big flaws in the plan to sign Otani and DH him several times a week is that the Jays already have a DH.  Unless, that is, they trade him.

Look, I get it.  Trading Morales won’t be easy.  He’s old.  He’s slow.  He can’t play defense.  But that’s focusing on what he can’t do.  Let’s talk about what he can do.  He can still hit, despite everybody labeling him a free agent bust.  Morales popped 28 HR with a .753 OPS last year – not elite, but definitely not bad.

A quick glance around the American League shows three teams – three would be contenders mind you – that had awful DH production last year: the Angels (24 HR, ..677 OPS), Twins (17 HR, .711 OPS), and Rangers (15 HR, .686 OPS).  With Pujols on board adding Morales doesn’t make a lot of sense for LA, and I’m not sure he really fits with Minnesota.  But what’s wrong with Texas?  They made the postseason in 2015 and 2016 and were in the Wild Card race for a spell last year.  More DH production would suit them.

In return, Toronto should have the balls to ask for Jurickson Profar.  Despite being anointed the next big thing since 2011 Profar is still only 24, is very versatile, and his value has never been lower.  Toronto could use him in LF, RF, or even as insurance for Tulo and Travis in the middle infield.  They would have to offer more than just Morales (bullpen depth?) and maybe eat some salary, but it would be a sweet deal.

Likelihood of Happening: You never know, but I think we’re stuck with him.  4%

Move 5 – Trade Kevin Pillar

I lobbied for this in a previous post.  I know it would be a very unpopular move, but Pillar’s value will never be higher.  He is featured on highlight shows seemingly nightly and is becoming known across the league – not only Toronto – as Superman.

Toronto should reach out to the Marlins and offer up Pillar.  Sure Stanton would be nice, but I think Christian Yelich would be a much better fit.  He’ll only be 26 next season, he offers passable defense, and is a solid bat (.807 OPS).  Plus he’s under team control through 2021 with about $42-million owing on his deal.  He would give the Jays a nice looking outfield with himself, Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Zeke, and possibly Profar.

Pillar would offer the Marlins huge money savings (arbitration eligible, coming off a $550,000 salary in 2017, and not FA eligible until 2021).  Plus, on a fully rebuilding team, he would still give the fans a reason to come to the park.  You never know when the next Superman catch will happen.

Likelihood of Happening: A man can dream.  1%

Final Verdict: Each of the above moves makes at least a little bit of sense, both on and off the field.  Make all of them and the Jays would be set up for contention in 2018 and possibly beyond, regardless of what happens with Donaldson.  Make one or two of them, 2018 is still in play.

What do you think?

A View From the Cheap Seats