Charlotte Observer: What the Charlotte Bobcats Need to Do to Get Better

The Charlotte Bobcats are the worst team in the whole-entire-NBA. Not the CP3-less Hornets. Not the rookie-led Cavaliers and not the “wait, who’s on their team?”Raptors.

What I’m saying is that the Bobcats are pretty bad. They aren’t going to get better overnight and certainly aren’t going to have a huge rebirth next season. But if the Bobcats want to contend or even win more games than a person has fingers, they need to do some things:

Let DJ Augustin Walk…To a Degree.

The Bobcats should probably let the former lottery pick walk in order to let Kemba run the show on a full-time basis. This is going to speed up his development more than if he were coming off the bench or playing the 2. I say to a degree because they should probably work out a sign and trade so Augustin isn’t lost without compensation. And to be honest, the Bobcats should be happy to get any pieces, however they get them, because they need them.

Get Tyrus Thomas’s Contract off the Books.

This could come by amnesty. This could come by trade. This could come by who knows what, but the Bobcats need to move Thomas’ money. The Former LSU Tiger struggled in the Carolinas this year, putting up almost identical point-age and rebounding numbers to his rookie year.

Here is one that a lot of people aren’t going to be overly jazzed about: TRADE BISMACK BIYOMBO.

Let’s say the Bobcats do end up with the top pick in the draft, and the once-in-a-long-while talent that comes with it: Anthony Davis. You’d have a frontcourt of Davis and Biyombo, pretty intimidating defensively and almost the opposite offensively. That’s fine if you’re the Miami Heat or Denver Nuggets with oodles of wing-scoring options. But the Bobcats don’t have any big time scorers at the present time and Kemba needs more time to develop into one. The point here is that Biyombo might be a big commodity for some lottery teams who aren’t overly thrilled with the Sullingers and Joneses of the world. Last season’s lottery pick could fetch a decent return. Like say moving Biyombo to the Hornets for Gustavo Ayon, Xavier Henry and a future first-round pick. The Bobcats get a solid post player to team with Davis while also picking up a running mate for Walker. The Hornets meanwhile would get a strong defensive presence to pair with Thomas Robinson (should he fall to them) to form a strong, youthful frontcourt tandem.

Get Someone to Pay Corey Maggette.

Maggette is in the same boat as Thomas and needs to be shipped out to save the Bobcats money. Surprisingly, the Bobcats have less than a million in cap space. Generally bad teams don’t have a lot of cap room. You might as well throw in Desagana Diop in the same boat.

Go After it in Free Agency.

I’m not saying that they need to sign Steve Nash, but the ‘Cats could use some new blood, guys who could use a change of scenery or larger paycheck like Goran Dragic, Craig Brackens, James Anderson, Ersan Ilyasova, Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton. All of whom could make sense for a young Charlotte team.

Charlotte needs some youth and talent. Maybe this is the offseason when they get it.

PS- We’d like an NBA team back  in Seattle sometime, David Stern. (Sorry had to get that in there, my standard Stern jab.)

Kurt Suzuki’s Value

Kurt Suzuki is only 28. An age that most would think would be part of a player’s prime. So, despite an underwhelming offensive season last year, it’s safe to assume that Kurt Suzuki is in his prime.

There are a few things that are wrong with this. Perhaps not wrong, but they certainly work against Suzuki staying in Oakland.

One: He is a solid offensive option at a position that is mainly derived of offensive threats (catcher).

Two: As stated, he is in somewhat of his prime, meaning he still has prime years of his career. (Duh.)

Three: He plays for a rebuilding Oakland team.

Let’s start with one. Despite the aforementioned underwhelming seasons, Suzuki is still a very good option at catcher. In his breakout year in 2008 he posted a WAR of 3.3., which was the same WAR posted by Mark Teixeira and was a higher WAR than those of Miguel Cabrera (3.1) and Robinson Cano (1.2). Position-wise, his WAR blew those of Jason Varitek (0.2) and AJ Pierzynski (0.6) out of the water. (All according to baseballreference.com, mind you.)

Two, he’s in his prime. If I had a nickel for every time I said that in this piece, well let’s just say I’d be in the prestigious 15 cent club.

And now we get to the fact that he plays for…Oakland (buh, buh…. buh.) So now that you’ve taken in that Kurt Suzuki is not only in his prime (20 cents!) and is an offensive threat at an offensively depleted position, take into account that he plays for Oakland. The A’s are in the midst of another Billy Beane rebuilding phase and are currently siphoning out their current talent for younger, future talent. (Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahil were all quietly dealt for an intriguing hull of prospects.)

In one of those deals, Beane acquired former Nationals top-five prospect Derek Norris: a catcher who can do a lot of things. He hits for power and draws a lot of walks (now it’s starting to make sense as to why Beane acquired him) and is a good defensive catcher. Basically everything but hitting for average.

Norris is presently at AAA and should be with the A’s in the next season or two. Meaning Suzuki’s time in the Bay Area could be short.

Because of his offensive ability at a position where contenders might look to upgrade (Boston, Tampa Bay) or if an injury strikes, Kurt Suzuki might very well be a big draw on the trade market.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em: American League

(Disclaimer: You can live without these players, it certainly doable.)

Injuries happen. Trades happen. Prolonged, bench-worthy stints occur. Players might not be there.

Whether that player is your everyday superstar or fourth outfielder, the loss means something. But in the case of the superstar, it can sometimes mean a lot.

Teams and the Players They Can’t Live Without:

(Starting in the AL West and moving east through the AL, I’ll have another one coming soon on the NL.)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: None. Not kidding in the slightest. Even if their big, new-fangled signing Albert Pujols breaks down at some point, either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo will be there to step in. Rotation-wise, I might say Jered Weaver simply because his replacement won’t likely come close to his production.

Texas Rangers- Joe Nathan. Again, not what you’d think. If the Rangers lose any one of their infielders Michael Young will step in more than adequately. The outfield is a little more in question, but Craig Gentry usually gets the job done. I say Nathan because, while Texas has depth in the bullpen, it isn’t necessarily closer depth. Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando only have 18 saves combined in their careers, and 13 of them are Uehara’s. (Just a quick aside, Mike Adams is an almost-less-than pedestrian 4-20 in save opportunities in his career. If you’re doing the math at home, yes Ogando only has one career save.) All that is basically blogspeak for: The Rangers might go into a colossal bullpen-tailspin if Nathan can’t hold it down.

Oakland A’s- Yoenis Cespedes or Jemile Weeks. It’s not as if the Athletics can’t live without them, or play for that matter. It’s that they probably wouldn’t like to stunt the players growth/developments (whatever term lights your fire).

Seattle Mariners- Chone Figgins. I’d say Jesus Montero for reasons listed above, but the M’s need the Figgy Pudding to maintain his trade value by playing well.

 

Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander. The Tigers, like the Angels, have good depth. Also like the Angels, the potential loss of the reigning MVP would only hurt Detroit from the standpoint that the replacement couldn’t put up Verlander’s numbers unless his name is Felix Hernandez.

Kansas City Royals- Either of the Corner Infielders. Just as with Oakland, KC needs their young players to get time under their respective belts. The loss of a potential trade candidate like a Mitch Maier or Jeff Francoeur could also endanger those players’ trade values.

Chicago White Sox- Adam Dunn. The Sox need Dunn to stay healthy so he can prove that his signing wasn’t a complete-and-utter waste. The potential loss of Paul Konerko could send this team into the cellar after the way they played last year. Dayan Viciedo could benefit from getting a good deal of playing time as well.

Cleveland Indians- Asdrubal Cabrera and Ubaldo Jimenez. Cabrera is at the center of everything the team does on both sides of the box score. Jimenez, meanwhile, needs to prove that the Rockies didn’t straight-up rob the Indians’ entire store of prospects.

(Weird side note, have you noticed that a lot of the Indians players previously played in Seattle? Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Casey Kotchman, Derek Lowe, Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez all donned Mariners uniforms. Weird.)

Minnesota Twins- Whoever is Producing Well at the Time. The Twins have been ransacked by injuries in recent years. They have gone from division champ and perennial sacrifice to the Yankees in the ALDS to basement dweller. To give you more of an idea of how far the Twins have fallen, when you type in “Minnesota” and then a “t” to start the word “twins” you get “Minnesota Timberwolves” as your top suggestion. That’s right, the Twins have fallen past the T-Wolves.

 

New York Yankees- CC Sabathia. The Yankees acquired pitching in the offseason. I’ll give them that, but the loss of their ace could be detrimental. As it is the Yankees seem like they will be a playoff team, whether that is as a wild card or a division winner remains to be seen. Here’s a quick rundown of the AL East as it is for me. Tampa and these Yankees are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Boston and a not-so-far-behind Toronto are in the next tier that seems to be fighting for a wild card berth. Obviously that leaves Baltimore at the bottom, but we’re moving on. The potential loss of Sabathia drops New York more towards the Sox and Blue Jays than Tampa.

Tampa Bay Rays- Carl Crawford Matt Garza Jason Bartlett. The Rays have shown in the past that when an injury hits, or they lose a player to free agency or trade, they recover. Honestly, Evan Longoria would probably sting the most to lose, but the Rays will probably find a way to replace him. Cause that’s how they roll (as the kids say).

Boston Red Sox- Adrian Gonzalez. Yes, Boston would still have Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but the rest of the offense simply isn’t there. Carl Crawford is on the shelf due to injury, leading to outfield woes that also prompted the acquisition of Marlon Byrd. Losing a player like this in the past wouldn’t have been as serious, seeing as Boston’s outfield and rotation were both much stronger than they are now. But because of those weaker factions of the team, the Red Sox might not get by if A-Gon is gone. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Toronto Blue Jays- Jose Bautista. The Jays are going to need their MVP candidate if they want to even have the smallest of smallest shots at contending. Other candidates include Adam Lind and Ricky Romero.

Baltimore Orioles- Anyone who has trade value. The Birds need some pieces, and lots of them. The rotation is a very young group, but the players in the field could use a youth infusion. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are nice pieces, but something has to give. The O’s need to make some changes to even try to win in God knows when.

Everything Went Right For The Celtics… In the Regular Season

Boston recently clinched their fifth straight division title with a win over Orlando. If you have lived under a rock for the last few months, then yes, the 76ers are in the midst of tanking.

Boston had a ton of questions going into the season, questions that probably needed to be answered more than adequately for them to be successful.

The first question was probably along the lines of: “Is Jermaine O’Neal enough at center?”

And the answer is a big resounding,”NO”. O’Neal wasn’t enough, and Boston has been playing their best basketball without him. The C’s have been using an altered and/or smaller lineup with Kevin Garnett at center and Brandon Bass at the four. This has worked out beautifully because, as stated, the Celtics are playing their best basketball.

The next question was probably as follows: “Is the Celtics’ bench deep enough to be successful?”

Yes AND no. Greg Stiemsma has been a solid defensive center off the bench, and Avery Bradley has stepped up as of late, but the rest of the bench hasn’t been stellar. Keyon Dooling hasn’t been amazing, JaJuan Johnson has shown flashes but has been inconsistent like most rookies. Brandon Bass doesn’t really count because he’s starting right now. What I’m getting to is that the bench could use some help.

The third question was probably something like: “Can Rondo and the Big 3 stay healthy?”

Injuries are going to be a factor, it’s a part of the game. The Celtics to this point have spread the wealth as far as managing injuries. Because of this, the Celtics could be a dangerous playoff squad.

And lastly: “Can Boston win in the playoffs?”

Again, another yes and no. With Boston’s division title they clinch no worse than a fourth seed. Meaning they get home court advantage in at least the first round. This could be a huge advantage for the Celtics. Hypothetical situation time- let’s say Boston plays Atlanta in the first round. Boston has home court and rides their aforementioned momentum to a win in six. Then they run into a Chicago (presumably, not ruling out Philly, or Milwaukee for that matter) in the next round. If the Celtics can clamp down on Derrick Rose, well let’s just say they might get a shot at the Super Friends Miami Chapter in the Eastern Finals.

Who really knows what the Celtics will do the rest of the season, but one thing’s for sure, they’ll be one scary team in the playoffs.

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.

Miguel Cabrera is Generally Raking In Detroit and Miami….

(I say “generally” only because he just broke out of a 0-22 slump.)

Miguel Cabrera went to the Tigers in a much ballyhooed trade back in late 2007. Dontrelle Willis went with him to Detroit and Miami (Florida at the time), supposedly receiving the “king’s ransom” or “everything but the kitchen sink”. Honestly whatever term lights your fire.

The Marlins got another chunk of players intended to add to their growing nucleus of youth.

Dave Dombrowski shipped starting pitchers Andrew Miller, Dallas Trahern and Eulogio De La Cruz, outfielder Cameron Maybin, catcher Mike Rabelo and reliever Burke Badenhop to his former employers. The return was Cabrera and some curious starts out of Willis.

When the trade first happened the Marlins came away with a potential frontline starter (Miller), a super athletic outfielder (Maybin), a useful relief arm/rotation/swing-man type (Badenhop), a solid catching option (Rabelo) and two more potential rotation arms (De La Cruz and Trahern). The seventh asset the Marlins got, or rather got out of, was Willis’ contract, which to put it plainly, was a mess.

The Marlins have almost fully moved on from this trade. Miller didn’t work out as a starter or reliever and was unceremoniously shipped to Boston for reliever Dustin Richardson. Richardson has since been designated for assignment and isn’t with the team.

Maybin enjoyed some success in the sunshine state before being moved to San Diego for bullpen arms Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Webb and Mujica, it should be noted, are currently integral parts of the Fish’s new-look pen and serve as former Padres teammate Heath Bell’s setup men.

Badenhop also enjoyed success in Florida/Miami as he provided a key part to their bullpen. He only allowed six homers in over 120 innings of work for the Fish in 2010 and 2011. But as with Miller and Maybin, Badenhop’s time was at its end with the team as he was shipped in state to the Rays for minor leaguer Jake Jeffries.

Rabelo, incidentally, is back with the Tigers in a coaching position as the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Tigers. Before that the Marlins let him walk via free agency.

De La Cruz was moved to the Padres, for a PTBNL or cash. After that he spent 2010 in Japan before having a brief stint in Milwaukee last season.

Trahern, last but not least, put up an ERA of almost 8 for Miami’s AAA affiliate New Orleans in 2011. He is currently a free agent.

Willis’s contract meanwhile was a huge plus to get rid of. Maybe not at Cabrera’s expense, but the Tigers shelled out a little under 30 (that’s right, thirty) million dollars to have him on payroll for three years. There were witnesses to Willis sightings in a Diamondbacks and Reds uniform, respectively, in the last two years, so he’s still kicking around.

Cabrera meanwhile has gone on a rabid hitting spree in Detroit, consistently hitting 30 homers, driving in 100 runs and having a batting average hover at or above .300 while creating a reputation as possibly the best hitter in the game.

The perception out there is that the Tigers won this trade hands down…which they did, to a degree. Florida hasn’t been completely horrible after losing one of the better players in the league. And as it stands, the current Marlins would have a hard time fitting him into the lineup without stepping on other people’s feet to get him there. Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez currently man Cabrera’s former and current positions. And it isn’t as if the Marlins are short on power without the long departed Cabrera. Giancarlo Stanton and Sanchez provide Miami with quite the middle of the order.

Not to mention the fact that they probably would have had issues building the current team over the last couple years with Willis’ salary weighing them down.

The Miguel Cabrera trade, not as lopsided as you think.

The Good Old What If Game: Felix Hernandez’s Lack of Run Support

Felix Hernandez might be the best pitcher in baseball not to win an MVP and Cy Young in the same season.

For a prime example of his skill look at the 2010 season when he won only 13 games to 12 losses and still won the Cy. But to be fair, Hernandez not only led the league in ERA, but also pitched the most innings, faced the most batters and had the fewest hits per 9 innings pitched of any pitcher in the league.

It should be noted that the Mariners offense was a complete juggernaut, ranked at an un-godly 28th in the league.

(Sarcasm, sarcasm and sarcasm)

But to be honest, ranking 28th is probably juggernaut-like for the Mariners, who have ranked last in the league in offense the past two seasons.

During those seasons, Hernandez won the aforementioned Cy Young and then followed it up with a 14-14 year in which he had an almost identical campaign to the Cy Year, but allowed 19 more runs in one less start.

I was talking with a friend about why Justin Verlander was the best in baseball from a pitching standpoint. I started with his 24 wins mainly because that’s what you see on the stat line. I got a response somewhere along the lines of “that’s talking like a kindergartener.”

That is how far the concept of wins has fallen. And to a degree I agree that winning games isn’t everything, but winning 24 is completely ridiculous. We haven’t seen a ton of twenty winners in the past couple years, and the one that we have seen have been along the lines of 20 or 21. Barely scratching the surface, barely getting across the line.

Wins are on the way out in baseball people’s eyes

But here’s my take on it, if you have 13-17 wins like Felix Hernandez, and then do so much more statistically that it blows people away, then the win total certainly doesn’t bear as much weight.

On the other hand, if you have do have the number of wins like a Verlander, and do everything else, then it’s no contest.

Back to King Felix, let’s not forget that in the past three years, he has not only pitched on a horrendous team (’09 is an outlier), but has received historically, maybe the worst run support ever.

Even in the Mariners best season of those three years (’09), the teeth of their lineup included Russell Branyan (another use of the word “outlier” as Branyan had his best years in Seattle and hasn’t been the same sense – who knew Safeco could do that to a hitter?), Jose Lopez, a struggling Adrian Beltre and a declining Ken Griffey Jr.

Their certainly were other attempts to get the King run support, Milton Bradley was one, Jack Cust another. But the future does look a bit brighter in the Emerald City with youngsters Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero ready to hit their primes in Mariners uniforms.

The point here is that Felix Hernandez was spectacular, even winning a Cy Young without a steady supply of run support. He has established himself as a top-3 pitcher in the entire-freaking-league without it.

Now what if he gets run support?

Who is the Best First Baseman in the American League?

Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Possibly the NL’s finest pair of first basemen last season now find themselves in the AL, who were already rich with first basemen.

The Candidates-

  • Albert  Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe the best of his generation, the all-around threat has switched leagues and will look to unleash his at and stellar glove work on the already down Mariners and A’s among others.
  • Prince  Fielder, Detroit Tigers. What some call the biggest free agent signing of      the offseason, he teams with Miguel Cabrera to form one of the best 3-4      combos since Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Yes, I just went there.
  • Paul  Konerko, Chicago White Sox. The near player-manager is the symbol of      consistency on a White Sox team that is shaky, and that’s putting it      nicely.
  • Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers first      baseman might arguably be the best defensive in the game. Hitting for 30      homers and 100 runs batted in a year doesn’t hurt either.
  • Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox. It’s hard to call him the third best hitter in      the AL since he’s Adrian Gonzalez for pity’s sake, but sadly it’s true. In      terms of the whole package at the plate, A-Gon is third behind Pujols and      Cabrera.

(It should be noted that Cabrera should be here, but he is currently at third base because of Fielder.)

The Displaced Options-

  • Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A very good first baseman, after his recovery from injury, he is at DH while the team welcomes Albert      Pujols into the fold for the next decade.
  • Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If Trumbo is here, Cabrera probably should be as well, but given the Angels ability to move one of Trumbo or Morales and put the other at DH, it seems he could be back at first base      soon.
  • Matt Laporta, Cleveland Indians. The centerpiece to the CC Sabathia trade is      currently raking at AAA and could be back in Cleveland or in somewhere else if the Tribe feels Casey Kotchman satisfactory.

Former Super Stars Who Have Had Injury Issues-

  • Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins. The formerly stated superstar has had his fair share of issues with the injury bug. A return to prominence would benefit      him greatly.
  • Morales.

Young, Former Top Prospects Yet to Carve out a Niche-

  • Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners. The other big mover in one of the many Cliff Lee trades, Smoak is currently starting at first for the Mariners, but could lose the occasional start to Jesus Montero.
  • LaPorta.

Out of Position Players Moved to First Due to Injury or Other Reasons-

  • Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners. The trade equivlent of Michael Pineda, or at      least from the M’s and Yankees point of view, could move around the middle      of the lineup at either first, DH or behind the dish.
  • Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. Mauer is one of the better 20 players in the league when healthy. I’ll emphasize healthy because he hasn’t been that as of late. Moving to first takes away some of the wear and tear behind the plate.

The Dark Horses-

  • Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays. Pena is back in Tampa and if he can hit for average, he could be a bigger force than he already is.
  • Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians. Kotchman is a wiz defensively. He proved he can hit for average. If the power comes, watch out.

Do you go with the all-around package in Pujols? The Power of Fielder? Who knows? All I know is we are going to have one hell of a vote for the All Star Game.

Potential Big Name Trades

The playoffs are almost on us. Some teams are jockeying for playoff seeds while others are eagerly looking toward next year. The waiver-wire/buyout players have landed on their new teams.

So naturally the next big trading time in the NBA is the off-season.

Now the word “off-season” means a couple things: One is that the draft is coming up, and the other is free agency. Of course the one constant with those two events is trading. Which also incidentally happens to be one of the subjects I enjoy writing about most.

The draft always brings surprises. A few years back, the Celtics went from cellar dweller to contender. They traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the latter of which they picked up by trading their top five pick to Seattle.

(Incidentally the player taken with that pick, Jeff Green, Boston owns the rights to, but that’s a whole different story.)

Last season we saw a mix up of slasher/streaky scorers during the draft. Stephen Jackson went to Milwaukee and Corey Maggette went to Charlotte. Both former Warriors were involved in the same trade as well as draft picks that included Tobias Harris, Jimmer Freddette and Bismack Biyombo.

All three were taken in the top 20.

The trading of draft picks is inevitable, with a particularly strong-ish draft this year, there could be a lot of moving and shaking.

This all ties into big name trades because the new trend that teams are going after is young and relatively cheap. For example, if you’re the Lakers, wouldn’t you love to move Pau Gasol for Anthony Davis and another young piece? You get a terrifying duo of Davis and Andrew Bynum, plus another piece. Davis saves you a ton of money instead of Gasol that can be used on other pieces. Now, that’s all theoretical, but it would be pretty bad for the rest of the league.

Now if the Lakers had a first-round pick, then they could use Gasol to shoot up the draft order, or Bynum even. But they don’t, and so we’ll move on to a team that does.

Portland is set up for a huge off-season. After moving Gerald Wallace for a potential top ten pick, they add that to their already probable top twenty pick as well as a gargantuan amount of cap space.

Portland doesn’t have a ton of assets for trading up, but say they move their pick. That will probably be somewhere in the range of 18 or 19 for say a player to add to their nucleus.

Another plus of having salary cap space is that you have cap room to absorb players. Before the Heat went after their Big 3, they moved Daequan Cook and their first rounder to Oklahoma City for their early second rounder.

OKC added a sharpshooter to help out KD and company while also moving up the draft order. And all because they had the salary cap to take advantage of the situation.

Look out for some big names to be moved this off season, one way or another.

(And-an-NBA-team-in-Seattle cough, cough, David Stern cough, cough)