AL wild-card race

The Rays and Red Sox are duking it out for the American League wild card.

<p>Eric Hosmer is the player most indelibly linked to the Royals&#39; surprise 2014 AL pennant and 2015 championship, but Lorenzo Cain may have done more to help those teams achieve glory. Taking advantage of his outstanding speed and athleticism, the fleet-footed centerfielder coupled above-average offense with elite defense during the Royals’ pennant runs, and he&#39;s more or less continued to do so in the two seasons since. Now a free agent, the going-on-32-year-old centerfielder ranked fifth in <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/05/mlb-best-free-agents-martinez-darvish-arrieta" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Reiter 50" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Reiter 50</a>, but as with Hosmer and 15 of the other top 20 from among that group, he remains unsigned at this writing.</p><p>To date, several teams have shown interest in Cain, with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers doing so most recently and the Giants and Mets checking in earlier this winter. No dollar figures have been tossed around, at least publicly, but we can get an idea of the range of possibilities via my <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/01/05/whats-he-really-worth-yoenis-cespedes-free-agency" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:What&#39;s He Really Worth" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">What&#39;s He Really Worth</a> system, a model that incorporates a player&#39;s last three years of performance, a projection of his future value, and estimates of the market cost for a win, the rate of inflation and an age-related decline.</p><p>Though he&#39;s played in the majors for parts of eight seasons, it&#39;s fair to call Cain a late bloomer. Drafted out of a Florida high school by the Brewers in 2004, he was slowed by a strain of his posterior collateral ligament in 2009 and didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, when he was 24 years old. Traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke blockbuster in December 2010, he played just 67 major league games over the next two seasons due to the unexpected hot play of Melky Cabrera (2011) and further lower-body injuries (2011–12). He led all MLB outfielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, but hit for just an 80 OPS+ in 2013 (.251/301/.348)—his age-27 season—and looked like a bottom-of-the-lineup type who could be useful, but hardly a championship-caliber player.</p><p>Cain made dramatic improvements at the plate in 2014 (109 OPS+) and again in &#39;15 (125 OPS+), becoming less pull happy but generating more hard contact and swiping 28 bases in each season. In 2015, he set career highs with 140 games, 16 homers—as many as he&#39;d managed in the previous three seasons—and 7.2 WAR (Baseball-Reference version), the league&#39;s fourth-highest total. That same year, he made his lone All-Star team, dashed home with the pennant-winning run in the ALCS against the Blue Jays (he&#39;d won ALCS MVP honors the year before) and helped the Royals to their first championship in 30 years.</p><p>Unfortunately, a left hamstring strain and a left wrist sprain each cost Cain about a month of the 2016 season. He played in just 103 games overall, and just 30 after June 28, shifting to rightfield—a position where he&#39;d split time for most of his Kansas City career, generally with Jarrod Dyson coming off the bench late to take over center—due to the hamstring injury. Even with just a league average offensive contribution (100 OPS+), he produced a respectable 2.9 WAR thanks to his outstanding defense (+11 DRS).. Fully healthy, he rebounded in 2017, setting new career highs with 155 games, 175 hits and 54 walks and providing his typical blend of speed (26 steals in 28 attempts) and modest power (15 homers). He hit .300/.363/.440 for a 112 OPS+, nearly identical to the .300/.347/.436/113 OPS+ he&#39;d hit in the previous three seasons combined.</p><p>Defensively, the good news is that Cain proved durable enough to play 151 games in centerfield. The bad news is that his +5 DRS was his lowest total since 2012, marking him merely as a good fielder instead of a great one; his +2 UZR is in the same ballpark. Interestingly enough, he did rank fifth among all outfielders in Statcast&#39;s newfangled <a href="https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/outs_above_average" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Outs Above Average" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Outs Above Average</a>, which <a href="http://m.mlb.com/glossary/statcast/outs-above-average" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:accounts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">accounts</a> for the probability of an outfielder making a play by taking into account the distance and direction he has to travel and the time to get there, all based on the direction, launch angle and exit velocity each batted ball. Cain&#39;s 15 Outs Above Average trailed only Byron Buxton, Ender Inciarte, Mookie Betts and Adam Engel. Meanwhile, Statcast&#39;s assessment of Cain’s <a href="https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/sprint_speed_leaderboard" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:sprint speed" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">sprint speed</a> (top four percentile) jibes with his +8 baserunning runs, which ranked third in the majors behind only Buxton and Betts (both +9). All of which suggests that his legs (and baserunning smarts) are still in excellent shape going forward, an important consideration given that facet’s centrality to his value.</p><p>Cain’s 5.3 WAR in 2017 was good for 10th in the league, and even given his 2016 absences, his 15.4 WAR over the past three seasons is <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/Ys1mu" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:tied for 16th in the majors" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">tied for 16th in the majors</a>, fifth among all outfielders. Again, he&#39;s made just one All-Star team and hasn&#39;t won a Gold Glove, though he did win three straight (2012–14) spots on <a href="https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/wilson_def_player.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Wilson&#39;s Defensive Players of the Year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Wilson&#39;s Defensive Players of the Year</a> teams. Based on the metrics, one can&#39;t begrudge the hardware of the Rays&#39; two-time Gold Glove winner, Kevin Kiermaier (2015–16), but it&#39;s rather galling that Cain went home empty-handed in 2013–14 while outdoing the Orioles&#39; Adam Jones in both DRS (+45 to 0) and UZR (+38 to +2) by wide margins. Even with a minimum of accolades, he&#39;s easily the best centerfielder in a free agent market where the alternatives (Dyson, Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, Jon Jay, Cameron Maybin) profile as part-time players or incomplete solutions.</p><p>Unlike <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/04/eric-hosmer-free-agency-kansas-city-royals-san-diego-padres" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hosmer</a> and <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/05/jd-martinez-free-agency-arizona-diamondbacks-boston-red-sox" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:J.D. Martinez" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">J.D. Martinez</a>, Cain doesn’t have agent Scott Boras bandying about $200 million contract demands, but via the WHRW, he’s got a better case for being paid big bucks (if not that stratospheric figure). In estimating Cain&#39;s value going forward, the WHRW model uses Tom Tango&#39;s <a href="http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/comments/war-marcels-warcels" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Marcel the Monkey" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Marcel the Monkey</a> forecasting system (&quot;the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible&quot;) to establish a baseline based upon a 6/3/1 weighting of WAR; that is, six times his 2017 WAR plus three times his 2016 WAR plus his 2015 WAR, divided by 10. Tango&#39;s model also includes regression and an aging curve, specifically:</p><p>• 20% regression in the first year (0.8 times that weighted WAR)</p><p>• A baseline loss of 0.4 WAR per year thereafter, adjusted for age: gaining 0.1 WAR for each year under 30 and losing 0.1 per year over 30 (so -0.2 for Cain&#39;s age-32 season).</p><p>For the cost of a win this winter&#39;s series, I&#39;ve extrapolated from the results of two studies of last winter&#39;s market, a low-end estimate of $9 million per win for 2017 based upon <a href="https://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2017/2/27/14748912/cardinals-price-of-win-war-dexter-fowler-brett-cecil" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ben Markham" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ben Markham</a>&#39;s study of 101 free agent deals from last winter, and a high-end estimate of $10.5 million via <a href="https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-recent-history-of-free-agent-pricing/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Matt Swartz" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Matt Swartz</a>’s longer-range study. I&#39;m applying the latter&#39;s 5.9% estimate for annual inflation to both. All of these figures represent a jump from last winter&#39;s series; despite the slow pace of free agent signings this winter, the industry is awash in cash, having set <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/11/22/mlb-sets-record-for-revenues-in-2017-increasing-more-than-500-million-since-2015/#15bfd02e7880" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a revenue record" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a revenue record</a> for the 15th year in a row despite an attendance dip. What&#39;s more, each team is about to reap <a href="http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2017/12/15/each-owner-will-get-at-least-50-million-in-early-2018-from-he-sale-of-bamtech/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a $50 million windfall" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a $50 million windfall</a> from the sale of a majority stake in MLB Advanced Media (now BAMTech) to the Disney Corporation.</p><p>While no reports of actual offers to Cain have been made public, it&#39;s safe to assume he&#39;ll be getting ones in the three-to-five year range given his age (all dollar figures in millions).</p><p>Five years and $102.9 million does seem to be a big jump beyond the five years and $82.5 million Dexter Fowler received from the Cardinals last winter for his age-31 to 35 seasons, but then Cain has been far more valuable than Fowler thanks largely to his defense. Fowler&#39;s -31 DRS from 2014–16—nearly the inverse of Cain’s +34 DRS from 2015–17—limited his WAR to 8.2 in that span, and he had considerably less value on the bases than Cain as well.</p><p>At the $10.5 million per win figure, Cain&#39;s five-year forecast produces a valuation of $120 million; at $24 million per year, that would be <a href="http://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/highest-paid-players/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the sixth-highest average annual value" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the sixth-highest average annual value</a> of any outfielder&#39;s contract, fitting in between Mike Trout ($24.083 million and Jason Heyward ($23 million). Again, timing is everything, including the fact that Trout&#39;s AAV includes salaries from his three years of arbitration eligibility. It’s hardly a guarantee that Cain’s deal will go that high, but it could.</p><p>Unlike the cases of Hosmer and Martinez, where charitable assumptions regarding shaky defensive metrics, injuries and intangibles are necessary to justify valuations that still don&#39;t match Boras’ asking price, Cain&#39;s case seems fairly straightforward. His age, injury history, likelihood of regression—all of those are incorporated into the model to some extent, and none of that needs to be waved off to justify a nine-figure deal.</p><p>That said, one thing that shouldn&#39;t be taken for granted is the possibility that Cain is moved out of centerfield, either because of the presence of a superior gloveman (the Blue Jays&#39; Kevin Pillar, for example) or the desire to keep Cain healthy as he ages. The <a href="https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained_position.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:positional adjustments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">positional adjustments</a> in Baseball-Reference&#39;s version of WAR are such that a full season in righfield is about 9.5 runs less valuable than one in center; currently, a centerfielder is valued at +2.5 runs per 1,350 innings (about 150 games) while a rightfielder is valued at -7 runs. Translated from stathead to English, the defensive demands of centerfielder are such that teams can sacrifice a bit of offense, playing a below average hitter there. It’s much easier to find a player who’s a good enough hitter and competent fielder to play rightifeld.</p><p>On a prorated basis, Cain&#39;s DRS in rightfield (+33 per 1,350 innings), has actually been higher than in center (+20 per 1,350 innings), but he has just 977 1/3 innings under his belt there, which amounts to about two-thirds of a season. If we apply a bit of regression, assuming he&#39;d be &quot;only&quot; +24 over a full complement of innings, we can tweak the above projection by docking him an extra 0.45 wins per year—a gain of four runs relative to the average fielder at each position, coupled with the 9.5 run loss in value for the position shift—at some point. Referring to the valuations in the table above, let’s suppose that the shift kicks in for 2021 (0.8 WAR, instead of 1.2) and &#39;22 -0.3 WAR instead of 0.2). Via the revised numbers, Cain would produce 9.1 WAR over the life of a five-year deal, worth $92.4 million in the low estimate and $107.8 million in the high one. That’s still more than the first-cut five-year valuation for Martinez ($84.4 million) as well as last year’s contract for Fowler.</p><p>Chances are that a team moving him before that isn’t thinking in terms of five years; at the low end, a four-year deal with a move to rightfield for 2020 yields 8.5 WAR and a valuation of $85.3 million, while at the high end, the valuation would be back up to $99.5 million.</p><p>Given the number of teams who’ve expressed interest in the multitalented Cain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring home a five-year deal. I think he’ll do more to live up to whatever contract he lands than either Hosmer or Martinez. </p>
What Is Lorenzo Cain Really Worth? More Than You May Think

Eric Hosmer is the player most indelibly linked to the Royals' surprise 2014 AL pennant and 2015 championship, but Lorenzo Cain may have done more to help those teams achieve glory. Taking advantage of his outstanding speed and athleticism, the fleet-footed centerfielder coupled above-average offense with elite defense during the Royals’ pennant runs, and he's more or less continued to do so in the two seasons since. Now a free agent, the going-on-32-year-old centerfielder ranked fifth in The Reiter 50, but as with Hosmer and 15 of the other top 20 from among that group, he remains unsigned at this writing.

To date, several teams have shown interest in Cain, with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers doing so most recently and the Giants and Mets checking in earlier this winter. No dollar figures have been tossed around, at least publicly, but we can get an idea of the range of possibilities via my What's He Really Worth system, a model that incorporates a player's last three years of performance, a projection of his future value, and estimates of the market cost for a win, the rate of inflation and an age-related decline.

Though he's played in the majors for parts of eight seasons, it's fair to call Cain a late bloomer. Drafted out of a Florida high school by the Brewers in 2004, he was slowed by a strain of his posterior collateral ligament in 2009 and didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, when he was 24 years old. Traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke blockbuster in December 2010, he played just 67 major league games over the next two seasons due to the unexpected hot play of Melky Cabrera (2011) and further lower-body injuries (2011–12). He led all MLB outfielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, but hit for just an 80 OPS+ in 2013 (.251/301/.348)—his age-27 season—and looked like a bottom-of-the-lineup type who could be useful, but hardly a championship-caliber player.

Cain made dramatic improvements at the plate in 2014 (109 OPS+) and again in '15 (125 OPS+), becoming less pull happy but generating more hard contact and swiping 28 bases in each season. In 2015, he set career highs with 140 games, 16 homers—as many as he'd managed in the previous three seasons—and 7.2 WAR (Baseball-Reference version), the league's fourth-highest total. That same year, he made his lone All-Star team, dashed home with the pennant-winning run in the ALCS against the Blue Jays (he'd won ALCS MVP honors the year before) and helped the Royals to their first championship in 30 years.

Unfortunately, a left hamstring strain and a left wrist sprain each cost Cain about a month of the 2016 season. He played in just 103 games overall, and just 30 after June 28, shifting to rightfield—a position where he'd split time for most of his Kansas City career, generally with Jarrod Dyson coming off the bench late to take over center—due to the hamstring injury. Even with just a league average offensive contribution (100 OPS+), he produced a respectable 2.9 WAR thanks to his outstanding defense (+11 DRS).. Fully healthy, he rebounded in 2017, setting new career highs with 155 games, 175 hits and 54 walks and providing his typical blend of speed (26 steals in 28 attempts) and modest power (15 homers). He hit .300/.363/.440 for a 112 OPS+, nearly identical to the .300/.347/.436/113 OPS+ he'd hit in the previous three seasons combined.

Defensively, the good news is that Cain proved durable enough to play 151 games in centerfield. The bad news is that his +5 DRS was his lowest total since 2012, marking him merely as a good fielder instead of a great one; his +2 UZR is in the same ballpark. Interestingly enough, he did rank fifth among all outfielders in Statcast's newfangled Outs Above Average, which accounts for the probability of an outfielder making a play by taking into account the distance and direction he has to travel and the time to get there, all based on the direction, launch angle and exit velocity each batted ball. Cain's 15 Outs Above Average trailed only Byron Buxton, Ender Inciarte, Mookie Betts and Adam Engel. Meanwhile, Statcast's assessment of Cain’s sprint speed (top four percentile) jibes with his +8 baserunning runs, which ranked third in the majors behind only Buxton and Betts (both +9). All of which suggests that his legs (and baserunning smarts) are still in excellent shape going forward, an important consideration given that facet’s centrality to his value.

Cain’s 5.3 WAR in 2017 was good for 10th in the league, and even given his 2016 absences, his 15.4 WAR over the past three seasons is tied for 16th in the majors, fifth among all outfielders. Again, he's made just one All-Star team and hasn't won a Gold Glove, though he did win three straight (2012–14) spots on Wilson's Defensive Players of the Year teams. Based on the metrics, one can't begrudge the hardware of the Rays' two-time Gold Glove winner, Kevin Kiermaier (2015–16), but it's rather galling that Cain went home empty-handed in 2013–14 while outdoing the Orioles' Adam Jones in both DRS (+45 to 0) and UZR (+38 to +2) by wide margins. Even with a minimum of accolades, he's easily the best centerfielder in a free agent market where the alternatives (Dyson, Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, Jon Jay, Cameron Maybin) profile as part-time players or incomplete solutions.

Unlike Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, Cain doesn’t have agent Scott Boras bandying about $200 million contract demands, but via the WHRW, he’s got a better case for being paid big bucks (if not that stratospheric figure). In estimating Cain's value going forward, the WHRW model uses Tom Tango's Marcel the Monkey forecasting system ("the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible") to establish a baseline based upon a 6/3/1 weighting of WAR; that is, six times his 2017 WAR plus three times his 2016 WAR plus his 2015 WAR, divided by 10. Tango's model also includes regression and an aging curve, specifically:

• 20% regression in the first year (0.8 times that weighted WAR)

• A baseline loss of 0.4 WAR per year thereafter, adjusted for age: gaining 0.1 WAR for each year under 30 and losing 0.1 per year over 30 (so -0.2 for Cain's age-32 season).

For the cost of a win this winter's series, I've extrapolated from the results of two studies of last winter's market, a low-end estimate of $9 million per win for 2017 based upon Ben Markham's study of 101 free agent deals from last winter, and a high-end estimate of $10.5 million via Matt Swartz’s longer-range study. I'm applying the latter's 5.9% estimate for annual inflation to both. All of these figures represent a jump from last winter's series; despite the slow pace of free agent signings this winter, the industry is awash in cash, having set a revenue record for the 15th year in a row despite an attendance dip. What's more, each team is about to reap a $50 million windfall from the sale of a majority stake in MLB Advanced Media (now BAMTech) to the Disney Corporation.

While no reports of actual offers to Cain have been made public, it's safe to assume he'll be getting ones in the three-to-five year range given his age (all dollar figures in millions).

Five years and $102.9 million does seem to be a big jump beyond the five years and $82.5 million Dexter Fowler received from the Cardinals last winter for his age-31 to 35 seasons, but then Cain has been far more valuable than Fowler thanks largely to his defense. Fowler's -31 DRS from 2014–16—nearly the inverse of Cain’s +34 DRS from 2015–17—limited his WAR to 8.2 in that span, and he had considerably less value on the bases than Cain as well.

At the $10.5 million per win figure, Cain's five-year forecast produces a valuation of $120 million; at $24 million per year, that would be the sixth-highest average annual value of any outfielder's contract, fitting in between Mike Trout ($24.083 million and Jason Heyward ($23 million). Again, timing is everything, including the fact that Trout's AAV includes salaries from his three years of arbitration eligibility. It’s hardly a guarantee that Cain’s deal will go that high, but it could.

Unlike the cases of Hosmer and Martinez, where charitable assumptions regarding shaky defensive metrics, injuries and intangibles are necessary to justify valuations that still don't match Boras’ asking price, Cain's case seems fairly straightforward. His age, injury history, likelihood of regression—all of those are incorporated into the model to some extent, and none of that needs to be waved off to justify a nine-figure deal.

That said, one thing that shouldn't be taken for granted is the possibility that Cain is moved out of centerfield, either because of the presence of a superior gloveman (the Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar, for example) or the desire to keep Cain healthy as he ages. The positional adjustments in Baseball-Reference's version of WAR are such that a full season in righfield is about 9.5 runs less valuable than one in center; currently, a centerfielder is valued at +2.5 runs per 1,350 innings (about 150 games) while a rightfielder is valued at -7 runs. Translated from stathead to English, the defensive demands of centerfielder are such that teams can sacrifice a bit of offense, playing a below average hitter there. It’s much easier to find a player who’s a good enough hitter and competent fielder to play rightifeld.

On a prorated basis, Cain's DRS in rightfield (+33 per 1,350 innings), has actually been higher than in center (+20 per 1,350 innings), but he has just 977 1/3 innings under his belt there, which amounts to about two-thirds of a season. If we apply a bit of regression, assuming he'd be "only" +24 over a full complement of innings, we can tweak the above projection by docking him an extra 0.45 wins per year—a gain of four runs relative to the average fielder at each position, coupled with the 9.5 run loss in value for the position shift—at some point. Referring to the valuations in the table above, let’s suppose that the shift kicks in for 2021 (0.8 WAR, instead of 1.2) and '22 -0.3 WAR instead of 0.2). Via the revised numbers, Cain would produce 9.1 WAR over the life of a five-year deal, worth $92.4 million in the low estimate and $107.8 million in the high one. That’s still more than the first-cut five-year valuation for Martinez ($84.4 million) as well as last year’s contract for Fowler.

Chances are that a team moving him before that isn’t thinking in terms of five years; at the low end, a four-year deal with a move to rightfield for 2020 yields 8.5 WAR and a valuation of $85.3 million, while at the high end, the valuation would be back up to $99.5 million.

Given the number of teams who’ve expressed interest in the multitalented Cain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring home a five-year deal. I think he’ll do more to live up to whatever contract he lands than either Hosmer or Martinez.

<p>Eric Hosmer is the player most indelibly linked to the Royals&#39; surprise 2014 AL pennant and 2015 championship, but Lorenzo Cain may have done more to help those teams achieve glory. Taking advantage of his outstanding speed and athleticism, the fleet-footed centerfielder coupled above-average offense with elite defense during the Royals’ pennant runs, and he&#39;s more or less continued to do so in the two seasons since. Now a free agent, the going-on-32-year-old centerfielder ranked fifth in <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/05/mlb-best-free-agents-martinez-darvish-arrieta" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Reiter 50" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Reiter 50</a>, but as with Hosmer and 15 of the other top 20 from among that group, he remains unsigned at this writing.</p><p>To date, several teams have shown interest in Cain, with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers doing so most recently and the Giants and Mets checking in earlier this winter. No dollar figures have been tossed around, at least publicly, but we can get an idea of the range of possibilities via my <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/01/05/whats-he-really-worth-yoenis-cespedes-free-agency" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:What&#39;s He Really Worth" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">What&#39;s He Really Worth</a> system, a model that incorporates a player&#39;s last three years of performance, a projection of his future value, and estimates of the market cost for a win, the rate of inflation and an age-related decline.</p><p>Though he&#39;s played in the majors for parts of eight seasons, it&#39;s fair to call Cain a late bloomer. Drafted out of a Florida high school by the Brewers in 2004, he was slowed by a strain of his posterior collateral ligament in 2009 and didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, when he was 24 years old. Traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke blockbuster in December 2010, he played just 67 major league games over the next two seasons due to the unexpected hot play of Melky Cabrera (2011) and further lower-body injuries (2011–12). He led all MLB outfielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, but hit for just an 80 OPS+ in 2013 (.251/301/.348)—his age-27 season—and looked like a bottom-of-the-lineup type who could be useful, but hardly a championship-caliber player.</p><p>Cain made dramatic improvements at the plate in 2014 (109 OPS+) and again in &#39;15 (125 OPS+), becoming less pull happy but generating more hard contact and swiping 28 bases in each season. In 2015, he set career highs with 140 games, 16 homers—as many as he&#39;d managed in the previous three seasons—and 7.2 WAR (Baseball-Reference version), the league&#39;s fourth-highest total. That same year, he made his lone All-Star team, dashed home with the pennant-winning run in the ALCS against the Blue Jays (he&#39;d won ALCS MVP honors the year before) and helped the Royals to their first championship in 30 years.</p><p>Unfortunately, a left hamstring strain and a left wrist sprain each cost Cain about a month of the 2016 season. He played in just 103 games overall, and just 30 after June 28, shifting to rightfield—a position where he&#39;d split time for most of his Kansas City career, generally with Jarrod Dyson coming off the bench late to take over center—due to the hamstring injury. Even with just a league average offensive contribution (100 OPS+), he produced a respectable 2.9 WAR thanks to his outstanding defense (+11 DRS).. Fully healthy, he rebounded in 2017, setting new career highs with 155 games, 175 hits and 54 walks and providing his typical blend of speed (26 steals in 28 attempts) and modest power (15 homers). He hit .300/.363/.440 for a 112 OPS+, nearly identical to the .300/.347/.436/113 OPS+ he&#39;d hit in the previous three seasons combined.</p><p>Defensively, the good news is that Cain proved durable enough to play 151 games in centerfield. The bad news is that his +5 DRS was his lowest total since 2012, marking him merely as a good fielder instead of a great one; his +2 UZR is in the same ballpark. Interestingly enough, he did rank fifth among all outfielders in Statcast&#39;s newfangled <a href="https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/outs_above_average" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Outs Above Average" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Outs Above Average</a>, which <a href="http://m.mlb.com/glossary/statcast/outs-above-average" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:accounts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">accounts</a> for the probability of an outfielder making a play by taking into account the distance and direction he has to travel and the time to get there, all based on the direction, launch angle and exit velocity each batted ball. Cain&#39;s 15 Outs Above Average trailed only Byron Buxton, Ender Inciarte, Mookie Betts and Adam Engel. Meanwhile, Statcast&#39;s assessment of Cain’s <a href="https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/sprint_speed_leaderboard" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:sprint speed" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">sprint speed</a> (top four percentile) jibes with his +8 baserunning runs, which ranked third in the majors behind only Buxton and Betts (both +9). All of which suggests that his legs (and baserunning smarts) are still in excellent shape going forward, an important consideration given that facet’s centrality to his value.</p><p>Cain’s 5.3 WAR in 2017 was good for 10th in the league, and even given his 2016 absences, his 15.4 WAR over the past three seasons is <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/Ys1mu" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:tied for 16th in the majors" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">tied for 16th in the majors</a>, fifth among all outfielders. Again, he&#39;s made just one All-Star team and hasn&#39;t won a Gold Glove, though he did win three straight (2012–14) spots on <a href="https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/wilson_def_player.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Wilson&#39;s Defensive Players of the Year" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Wilson&#39;s Defensive Players of the Year</a> teams. Based on the metrics, one can&#39;t begrudge the hardware of the Rays&#39; two-time Gold Glove winner, Kevin Kiermaier (2015–16), but it&#39;s rather galling that Cain went home empty-handed in 2013–14 while outdoing the Orioles&#39; Adam Jones in both DRS (+45 to 0) and UZR (+38 to +2) by wide margins. Even with a minimum of accolades, he&#39;s easily the best centerfielder in a free agent market where the alternatives (Dyson, Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, Jon Jay, Cameron Maybin) profile as part-time players or incomplete solutions.</p><p>Unlike <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/04/eric-hosmer-free-agency-kansas-city-royals-san-diego-padres" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hosmer</a> and <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/05/jd-martinez-free-agency-arizona-diamondbacks-boston-red-sox" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:J.D. Martinez" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">J.D. Martinez</a>, Cain doesn’t have agent Scott Boras bandying about $200 million contract demands, but via the WHRW, he’s got a better case for being paid big bucks (if not that stratospheric figure). In estimating Cain&#39;s value going forward, the WHRW model uses Tom Tango&#39;s <a href="http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/comments/war-marcels-warcels" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Marcel the Monkey" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Marcel the Monkey</a> forecasting system (&quot;the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible&quot;) to establish a baseline based upon a 6/3/1 weighting of WAR; that is, six times his 2017 WAR plus three times his 2016 WAR plus his 2015 WAR, divided by 10. Tango&#39;s model also includes regression and an aging curve, specifically:</p><p>• 20% regression in the first year (0.8 times that weighted WAR)</p><p>• A baseline loss of 0.4 WAR per year thereafter, adjusted for age: gaining 0.1 WAR for each year under 30 and losing 0.1 per year over 30 (so -0.2 for Cain&#39;s age-32 season).</p><p>For the cost of a win this winter&#39;s series, I&#39;ve extrapolated from the results of two studies of last winter&#39;s market, a low-end estimate of $9 million per win for 2017 based upon <a href="https://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2017/2/27/14748912/cardinals-price-of-win-war-dexter-fowler-brett-cecil" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ben Markham" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ben Markham</a>&#39;s study of 101 free agent deals from last winter, and a high-end estimate of $10.5 million via <a href="https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-recent-history-of-free-agent-pricing/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Matt Swartz" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Matt Swartz</a>’s longer-range study. I&#39;m applying the latter&#39;s 5.9% estimate for annual inflation to both. All of these figures represent a jump from last winter&#39;s series; despite the slow pace of free agent signings this winter, the industry is awash in cash, having set <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/11/22/mlb-sets-record-for-revenues-in-2017-increasing-more-than-500-million-since-2015/#15bfd02e7880" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a revenue record" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a revenue record</a> for the 15th year in a row despite an attendance dip. What&#39;s more, each team is about to reap <a href="http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2017/12/15/each-owner-will-get-at-least-50-million-in-early-2018-from-he-sale-of-bamtech/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a $50 million windfall" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a $50 million windfall</a> from the sale of a majority stake in MLB Advanced Media (now BAMTech) to the Disney Corporation.</p><p>While no reports of actual offers to Cain have been made public, it&#39;s safe to assume he&#39;ll be getting ones in the three-to-five year range given his age (all dollar figures in millions).</p><p>Five years and $102.9 million does seem to be a big jump beyond the five years and $82.5 million Dexter Fowler received from the Cardinals last winter for his age-31 to 35 seasons, but then Cain has been far more valuable than Fowler thanks largely to his defense. Fowler&#39;s -31 DRS from 2014–16—nearly the inverse of Cain’s +34 DRS from 2015–17—limited his WAR to 8.2 in that span, and he had considerably less value on the bases than Cain as well.</p><p>At the $10.5 million per win figure, Cain&#39;s five-year forecast produces a valuation of $120 million; at $24 million per year, that would be <a href="http://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/league-info/highest-paid-players/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the sixth-highest average annual value" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the sixth-highest average annual value</a> of any outfielder&#39;s contract, fitting in between Mike Trout ($24.083 million and Jason Heyward ($23 million). Again, timing is everything, including the fact that Trout&#39;s AAV includes salaries from his three years of arbitration eligibility. It’s hardly a guarantee that Cain’s deal will go that high, but it could.</p><p>Unlike the cases of Hosmer and Martinez, where charitable assumptions regarding shaky defensive metrics, injuries and intangibles are necessary to justify valuations that still don&#39;t match Boras’ asking price, Cain&#39;s case seems fairly straightforward. His age, injury history, likelihood of regression—all of those are incorporated into the model to some extent, and none of that needs to be waved off to justify a nine-figure deal.</p><p>That said, one thing that shouldn&#39;t be taken for granted is the possibility that Cain is moved out of centerfield, either because of the presence of a superior gloveman (the Blue Jays&#39; Kevin Pillar, for example) or the desire to keep Cain healthy as he ages. The <a href="https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained_position.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:positional adjustments" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">positional adjustments</a> in Baseball-Reference&#39;s version of WAR are such that a full season in righfield is about 9.5 runs less valuable than one in center; currently, a centerfielder is valued at +2.5 runs per 1,350 innings (about 150 games) while a rightfielder is valued at -7 runs. Translated from stathead to English, the defensive demands of centerfielder are such that teams can sacrifice a bit of offense, playing a below average hitter there. It’s much easier to find a player who’s a good enough hitter and competent fielder to play rightifeld.</p><p>On a prorated basis, Cain&#39;s DRS in rightfield (+33 per 1,350 innings), has actually been higher than in center (+20 per 1,350 innings), but he has just 977 1/3 innings under his belt there, which amounts to about two-thirds of a season. If we apply a bit of regression, assuming he&#39;d be &quot;only&quot; +24 over a full complement of innings, we can tweak the above projection by docking him an extra 0.45 wins per year—a gain of four runs relative to the average fielder at each position, coupled with the 9.5 run loss in value for the position shift—at some point. Referring to the valuations in the table above, let’s suppose that the shift kicks in for 2021 (0.8 WAR, instead of 1.2) and &#39;22 -0.3 WAR instead of 0.2). Via the revised numbers, Cain would produce 9.1 WAR over the life of a five-year deal, worth $92.4 million in the low estimate and $107.8 million in the high one. That’s still more than the first-cut five-year valuation for Martinez ($84.4 million) as well as last year’s contract for Fowler.</p><p>Chances are that a team moving him before that isn’t thinking in terms of five years; at the low end, a four-year deal with a move to rightfield for 2020 yields 8.5 WAR and a valuation of $85.3 million, while at the high end, the valuation would be back up to $99.5 million.</p><p>Given the number of teams who’ve expressed interest in the multitalented Cain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring home a five-year deal. I think he’ll do more to live up to whatever contract he lands than either Hosmer or Martinez. </p>
What Is Lorenzo Cain Really Worth? More Than You May Think

Eric Hosmer is the player most indelibly linked to the Royals' surprise 2014 AL pennant and 2015 championship, but Lorenzo Cain may have done more to help those teams achieve glory. Taking advantage of his outstanding speed and athleticism, the fleet-footed centerfielder coupled above-average offense with elite defense during the Royals’ pennant runs, and he's more or less continued to do so in the two seasons since. Now a free agent, the going-on-32-year-old centerfielder ranked fifth in The Reiter 50, but as with Hosmer and 15 of the other top 20 from among that group, he remains unsigned at this writing.

To date, several teams have shown interest in Cain, with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers doing so most recently and the Giants and Mets checking in earlier this winter. No dollar figures have been tossed around, at least publicly, but we can get an idea of the range of possibilities via my What's He Really Worth system, a model that incorporates a player's last three years of performance, a projection of his future value, and estimates of the market cost for a win, the rate of inflation and an age-related decline.

Though he's played in the majors for parts of eight seasons, it's fair to call Cain a late bloomer. Drafted out of a Florida high school by the Brewers in 2004, he was slowed by a strain of his posterior collateral ligament in 2009 and didn’t make his major league debut until 2010, when he was 24 years old. Traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke blockbuster in December 2010, he played just 67 major league games over the next two seasons due to the unexpected hot play of Melky Cabrera (2011) and further lower-body injuries (2011–12). He led all MLB outfielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, but hit for just an 80 OPS+ in 2013 (.251/301/.348)—his age-27 season—and looked like a bottom-of-the-lineup type who could be useful, but hardly a championship-caliber player.

Cain made dramatic improvements at the plate in 2014 (109 OPS+) and again in '15 (125 OPS+), becoming less pull happy but generating more hard contact and swiping 28 bases in each season. In 2015, he set career highs with 140 games, 16 homers—as many as he'd managed in the previous three seasons—and 7.2 WAR (Baseball-Reference version), the league's fourth-highest total. That same year, he made his lone All-Star team, dashed home with the pennant-winning run in the ALCS against the Blue Jays (he'd won ALCS MVP honors the year before) and helped the Royals to their first championship in 30 years.

Unfortunately, a left hamstring strain and a left wrist sprain each cost Cain about a month of the 2016 season. He played in just 103 games overall, and just 30 after June 28, shifting to rightfield—a position where he'd split time for most of his Kansas City career, generally with Jarrod Dyson coming off the bench late to take over center—due to the hamstring injury. Even with just a league average offensive contribution (100 OPS+), he produced a respectable 2.9 WAR thanks to his outstanding defense (+11 DRS).. Fully healthy, he rebounded in 2017, setting new career highs with 155 games, 175 hits and 54 walks and providing his typical blend of speed (26 steals in 28 attempts) and modest power (15 homers). He hit .300/.363/.440 for a 112 OPS+, nearly identical to the .300/.347/.436/113 OPS+ he'd hit in the previous three seasons combined.

Defensively, the good news is that Cain proved durable enough to play 151 games in centerfield. The bad news is that his +5 DRS was his lowest total since 2012, marking him merely as a good fielder instead of a great one; his +2 UZR is in the same ballpark. Interestingly enough, he did rank fifth among all outfielders in Statcast's newfangled Outs Above Average, which accounts for the probability of an outfielder making a play by taking into account the distance and direction he has to travel and the time to get there, all based on the direction, launch angle and exit velocity each batted ball. Cain's 15 Outs Above Average trailed only Byron Buxton, Ender Inciarte, Mookie Betts and Adam Engel. Meanwhile, Statcast's assessment of Cain’s sprint speed (top four percentile) jibes with his +8 baserunning runs, which ranked third in the majors behind only Buxton and Betts (both +9). All of which suggests that his legs (and baserunning smarts) are still in excellent shape going forward, an important consideration given that facet’s centrality to his value.

Cain’s 5.3 WAR in 2017 was good for 10th in the league, and even given his 2016 absences, his 15.4 WAR over the past three seasons is tied for 16th in the majors, fifth among all outfielders. Again, he's made just one All-Star team and hasn't won a Gold Glove, though he did win three straight (2012–14) spots on Wilson's Defensive Players of the Year teams. Based on the metrics, one can't begrudge the hardware of the Rays' two-time Gold Glove winner, Kevin Kiermaier (2015–16), but it's rather galling that Cain went home empty-handed in 2013–14 while outdoing the Orioles' Adam Jones in both DRS (+45 to 0) and UZR (+38 to +2) by wide margins. Even with a minimum of accolades, he's easily the best centerfielder in a free agent market where the alternatives (Dyson, Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, Jon Jay, Cameron Maybin) profile as part-time players or incomplete solutions.

Unlike Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, Cain doesn’t have agent Scott Boras bandying about $200 million contract demands, but via the WHRW, he’s got a better case for being paid big bucks (if not that stratospheric figure). In estimating Cain's value going forward, the WHRW model uses Tom Tango's Marcel the Monkey forecasting system ("the most basic forecasting system you can have, that uses as little intelligence as possible") to establish a baseline based upon a 6/3/1 weighting of WAR; that is, six times his 2017 WAR plus three times his 2016 WAR plus his 2015 WAR, divided by 10. Tango's model also includes regression and an aging curve, specifically:

• 20% regression in the first year (0.8 times that weighted WAR)

• A baseline loss of 0.4 WAR per year thereafter, adjusted for age: gaining 0.1 WAR for each year under 30 and losing 0.1 per year over 30 (so -0.2 for Cain's age-32 season).

For the cost of a win this winter's series, I've extrapolated from the results of two studies of last winter's market, a low-end estimate of $9 million per win for 2017 based upon Ben Markham's study of 101 free agent deals from last winter, and a high-end estimate of $10.5 million via Matt Swartz’s longer-range study. I'm applying the latter's 5.9% estimate for annual inflation to both. All of these figures represent a jump from last winter's series; despite the slow pace of free agent signings this winter, the industry is awash in cash, having set a revenue record for the 15th year in a row despite an attendance dip. What's more, each team is about to reap a $50 million windfall from the sale of a majority stake in MLB Advanced Media (now BAMTech) to the Disney Corporation.

While no reports of actual offers to Cain have been made public, it's safe to assume he'll be getting ones in the three-to-five year range given his age (all dollar figures in millions).

Five years and $102.9 million does seem to be a big jump beyond the five years and $82.5 million Dexter Fowler received from the Cardinals last winter for his age-31 to 35 seasons, but then Cain has been far more valuable than Fowler thanks largely to his defense. Fowler's -31 DRS from 2014–16—nearly the inverse of Cain’s +34 DRS from 2015–17—limited his WAR to 8.2 in that span, and he had considerably less value on the bases than Cain as well.

At the $10.5 million per win figure, Cain's five-year forecast produces a valuation of $120 million; at $24 million per year, that would be the sixth-highest average annual value of any outfielder's contract, fitting in between Mike Trout ($24.083 million and Jason Heyward ($23 million). Again, timing is everything, including the fact that Trout's AAV includes salaries from his three years of arbitration eligibility. It’s hardly a guarantee that Cain’s deal will go that high, but it could.

Unlike the cases of Hosmer and Martinez, where charitable assumptions regarding shaky defensive metrics, injuries and intangibles are necessary to justify valuations that still don't match Boras’ asking price, Cain's case seems fairly straightforward. His age, injury history, likelihood of regression—all of those are incorporated into the model to some extent, and none of that needs to be waved off to justify a nine-figure deal.

That said, one thing that shouldn't be taken for granted is the possibility that Cain is moved out of centerfield, either because of the presence of a superior gloveman (the Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar, for example) or the desire to keep Cain healthy as he ages. The positional adjustments in Baseball-Reference's version of WAR are such that a full season in righfield is about 9.5 runs less valuable than one in center; currently, a centerfielder is valued at +2.5 runs per 1,350 innings (about 150 games) while a rightfielder is valued at -7 runs. Translated from stathead to English, the defensive demands of centerfielder are such that teams can sacrifice a bit of offense, playing a below average hitter there. It’s much easier to find a player who’s a good enough hitter and competent fielder to play rightifeld.

On a prorated basis, Cain's DRS in rightfield (+33 per 1,350 innings), has actually been higher than in center (+20 per 1,350 innings), but he has just 977 1/3 innings under his belt there, which amounts to about two-thirds of a season. If we apply a bit of regression, assuming he'd be "only" +24 over a full complement of innings, we can tweak the above projection by docking him an extra 0.45 wins per year—a gain of four runs relative to the average fielder at each position, coupled with the 9.5 run loss in value for the position shift—at some point. Referring to the valuations in the table above, let’s suppose that the shift kicks in for 2021 (0.8 WAR, instead of 1.2) and '22 -0.3 WAR instead of 0.2). Via the revised numbers, Cain would produce 9.1 WAR over the life of a five-year deal, worth $92.4 million in the low estimate and $107.8 million in the high one. That’s still more than the first-cut five-year valuation for Martinez ($84.4 million) as well as last year’s contract for Fowler.

Chances are that a team moving him before that isn’t thinking in terms of five years; at the low end, a four-year deal with a move to rightfield for 2020 yields 8.5 WAR and a valuation of $85.3 million, while at the high end, the valuation would be back up to $99.5 million.

Given the number of teams who’ve expressed interest in the multitalented Cain, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring home a five-year deal. I think he’ll do more to live up to whatever contract he lands than either Hosmer or Martinez.

<p>It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.</p><p><strong>Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado</strong></p><p>For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.</p><p><strong>Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez</strong></p><p>At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.</p><p><strong>Chicago White Sox: Stay the course</strong></p><p>As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.</p><p><strong>Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender</strong></p><p>The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.</p><p><strong>Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera</strong></p><p>There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.</p><p><strong>Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions</strong></p><p>As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.</p><p><strong>Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation</strong></p><p>The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/03/kansas-city-royals-eric-hosmer-offer" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer</a>. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.</p><p><strong>Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul</strong></p><p>Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.</p><p><strong>Minnesota Twins: Get an ace</strong></p><p>Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.</p><p><strong>New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury</strong></p><p>It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.</p><p><strong>Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)</strong></p><p>Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?</p><p><strong>Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation</strong></p><p>A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.</p><p><strong>Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild</strong></p><p>Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen</strong></p><p>The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.</p><p><strong>Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018</strong></p><p>There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.</p>
What Every AL Team Should Do in This Painfully Slow Offseason

It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.

Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado

For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.

Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez

At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox: Stay the course

As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.

Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender

The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.

Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera

There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.

Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions

As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.

Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation

The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.

Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul

Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.

Minnesota Twins: Get an ace

Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.

New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury

It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.

Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)

Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?

Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation

A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.

Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild

Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.

Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen

The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.

Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018

There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.

<p>It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.</p><p><strong>Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado</strong></p><p>For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.</p><p><strong>Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez</strong></p><p>At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.</p><p><strong>Chicago White Sox: Stay the course</strong></p><p>As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.</p><p><strong>Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender</strong></p><p>The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.</p><p><strong>Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera</strong></p><p>There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.</p><p><strong>Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions</strong></p><p>As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.</p><p><strong>Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation</strong></p><p>The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2018/01/03/kansas-city-royals-eric-hosmer-offer" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer</a>. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.</p><p><strong>Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul</strong></p><p>Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.</p><p><strong>Minnesota Twins: Get an ace</strong></p><p>Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.</p><p><strong>New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury</strong></p><p>It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.</p><p><strong>Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)</strong></p><p>Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?</p><p><strong>Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation</strong></p><p>A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.</p><p><strong>Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild</strong></p><p>Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen</strong></p><p>The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.</p><p><strong>Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018</strong></p><p>There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.</p>
What Every AL Team Should Do in This Painfully Slow Offseason

It’s 2018, which means it’s time for folks all around the globe to take stock and make resolutions for how to do better in the year to come. The same can be said for all 30 MLB teams, even in an offseason that has seen frightfully little action. From the strongest contender to the dedicated rebuilder, every club has something to strive for over the rest of the winter. But what moves need to be made to make sure the 2018 season is the best it can possibly be? Here are my picks for what each American League team should do before the offseason is out so that, come Dec. 31, they’re not looking back at the year that was and wishing they’d taken a different course.

Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado

For a brief few weeks in December, the moribund Orioles were the center of the baseball world as the team’s front office weighed a question that could reshape the playoff race in either league: Should Baltimore deal away Manny Machado? The cons are stark. No Machado, who will be a free agent at season’s end, effectively means no chance of competing in the AL East for the O’s, and it will not be met well by the fans. But the hard choice here is the right one. Baltimore already has no shot in the division thanks to its horrible starting rotation and uneven lineup, and the team has equally little chance to bring Machado back as a free agent. Move him now and get the most you can for him in prospects. It’ll hurt, but that’s the pain of being pragmatic.

Boston Red Sox: Sign J.D. Martinez

At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, there is no better match between team and player this winter than Boston and Martinez. The former desperately needs power in the lineup and at the designated hitter spot; the latter is a home run machine whose glove is best left at home. The Red Sox reportedly have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, who is said to be looking for a seven-season commitment, but that feels like a gap that can be bridged—and one that should be in Boston’s case, as the team needs to try to close the enormous power deficit between it and the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox: Stay the course

As Machado’s name floated on the trade market, the White Sox—this time last year stripping their roster down to the screws—were frequently and surprisingly mentioned as a contender for his services. How real that interest was is unknown, as the Machado talk has died down in the last few weeks. But it’s a move that Chicago should avoid. Yes, Machado would provide a sorely needed big bat in the lineup, but even at his best, he takes the South Siders from rebuilding team to the fringes of contention. Is that worth the top prospects he would cost? Maybe general manager Rick Hahn figures he can flip Machado at the deadline if things go sour, but that’s a risky bet. Better to stay out of it and keep banking on internal improvement via a superb farm system, or use that prospect stash to improve a weak rotation or bullpen instead.

Cleveland Indians: Spend like a contender

The Indians’ biggest move of the winter has been to let Carlos Santana walk, as the burly first baseman signed a three-year, $60 million pact with the Phillies. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, and while Santana has his downsides (namely his age), it’s odd that a 102-win team wouldn’t shell out reasonable dollars to keep an important high-floor bat. Instead, Cleveland replaced him with a discount option, signing Yonder Alonso to a one-year deal. He’s a fine player, but for a team with real World Series hopes, it’s a disappointing choice. The Indians aren’t the Dodgers, but they’re still worlds away from the luxury tax limit and have barely any big long-term deals on the books. Now is the time to spend and bolster a championship-caliber core.

Detroit Tigers: Find a way to trade Miguel Cabrera

There’s just about no reason to tune in to Tigers baseball in 2018, as the team set about tearing down the roster in the second half as part of a long-delayed rebuild. But while Detroit has successfully dealt away J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera remains, sucking up a gigantic chunk of the Tigers’ payroll as a veteran bat on a team of nobodies. Given the money he’s owed (another $184 million guaranteed over the next six years) and age (35 in April), there’s zero chance the Tigers will get anything of value for him in a trade. But should that matter? There are no half-measures in rebuilds. Get what you can, eat what money you have to, and finish the job. And it would be a gift to Cabrera to let him play his sunset years for a team that won’t be bottoming out for the next few seasons.

Houston Astros: Start handing out extensions

As the defending World Series champions, there’s not a whole lot—if anything—the Astros need to do before next season begins; their roster is already strong and secure across the board. Instead, it would behoove Houston to take the windfall of cash that comes with winning a title and invest it into long-term deals for the team’s young core. In particular, buying out the arbitration years of Carlos Correa and George Springer would be a good start. The former won’t get expensive for some time, but it would be both economically prudent and a show of good faith to get him locked up to bigger dollars at the first chance.

Kansas City Royals: Resist the reunion temptation

The frozen free-agent market has left dozens of stars in the cold, including the Royals’ title-winning trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. They looked set to cash in this winter after strong 2017 seasons, but with teams refusing to open their checkbooks, each is looking at a weaker-than-expected market (except perhaps Hosmer, who reportedly has been offered a seven-year deal by the Padres). For the small-market Royals, who looked set to lose all three, the lack of interest elsewhere could be a chance to bring one or more of them back; rumors abound that they have a seven-year offer of their own out for Hosmer. But it seems smarter for Kansas City to make a clean break and get started on building the next great Royals team instead of investing lots of years and money in trying to recapture the past.

Los Angeles Angels: Keep adding to the haul

Few teams have been busier than the Angels, who have signed Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart and traded for Ian Kinsler, at once acquiring a new ace and improving a terrible infield. But Los Angeles can’t stop there. A team that was destroyed by pitcher injuries last year should keep building rotation depth, and the bullpen also needs attention. If the Angels are finally serious about building around Mike Trout, then they need to do everything they can to shore up their weak spots instead of hoping for the best from what they already have.

Minnesota Twins: Get an ace

Minnesota surprised everyone last year with its unlikely wild-card berth, and the team is poised for perhaps better in 2018 as its young stars develop. But what is currently separating the Twins from being real contenders is the state of their rotation, which is full of question marks and mediocre arms. Luckily for them, the market has plenty of good options who may be willing to sign below-market deals given the league-wide reluctance to spend. Minnesota should take its chance to make a real splash.

New York Yankees: Dump Jacoby Ellsbury

It’s been a magical offseason for Brian Cashman, who landed Giancarlo Stanton for a song, brought back CC Sabathia on a reasonable one-year pact, and got out from under the $13 million owed to the declining Chase Headley. Now, he has two months or so left to pull off his greatest trick yet: convincing an outfielder-needy team to take Ellsbury—and the $68 million still owed to him over the next four seasons—off his hands. That won’t be easy in a day and age when every franchise is tightening its belt, but getting rid of as much of Ellsbury’s salary as possible would be a huge boost to the Yankees in their quest to get under the luxury tax limit and set themselves up even better for next year’s free-agent spending spree. And while Ellsbury is a marginal hitter, his speed and defense can still help the right squad. If Cashman can make that move happen, his winter will have been a total success.

Oakland Athletics: Find a direction (?)

Squint hard enough at the Athletics’ roster, and you can see the faint outline of a .500 team with a small chance at being a dark horse contender. But that takes a lot of wishcasting and optimism, particularly with a rotation and bullpen that don’t have much high-upside talent. The A’s are a perpetual enigma, seemingly always rebuilding with an eye on a future that refuses to arrive, but the team as it exists now doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Not every franchise has to be either a contender or a bottom-feeder, but what Oakland has is amorphous at best. An 80-win team isn’t worth much these days, so why not make a move in either direction of that?

Seattle Mariners: Fix the rotation

A healthy James Paxton would go a long way toward making the Mariners a better bet for 2018, but Seattle should still aim for adding arms behind him if contention is what it seeks. The old Felix Hernandez is gone and likely never coming back, and the rest of the rotation is a fright. If Jerry Dipoto can tear himself away from trading a minor leaguer every hour, his attention should go toward one of the better pitchers still available in free agency, like Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb.

Tampa Bay Rays: Continue the rebuild

Evan Longoria is gone, but he shouldn’t be the only player the Rays send out of town this winter. Always at a disadvantage in the luxury neighborhood that is the AL East, Tampa isn’t a good bet to compete with either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or to make much noise in the wild-card race. Now is as good a time as any to look toward the future, and that begins with moving Alex Colome and Chris Archer.

Texas Rangers: Figure out the bullpen

The Rangers have plenty of issues still to address on the roster, from more rotation depth to whether or not top prospect Willie Calhoun is the answer in leftfield. But especially pressing is the relief corps, which was flat-out awful in 2017: a 4.76 ERA, third-worst in the majors, and only 29 saves converted in 50 opportunities. The current closer is soft-tossing lefty Alex Claudio, whose poor strikeout-per-nine ratio (6.1 last year) doesn’t inspire much confidence going forward. But with hard-throwing Matt Bush gearing up to be a starter, where is the heat in the late innings going to come from? With not much left in terms of bullpen help on the market, GM Jon Daniels would be better off keeping Bush in relief and seeing if any of his minor leaguers have what it takes to throw strikes in short bursts.

Toronto Blue Jays: Get realistic about 2018

There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Blue Jays in 2017. Thanks to injuries and forgettable seasons across the roster, Toronto slumped to 76 wins and a fourth-place finish. And while there’s reason to be more optimistic this year, it’s hard to see where the big improvement needed to catch the Yankees and Red Sox comes from without some sizable changes. So is it time to throw in the towel? The future is bright, as the Jays’ farm system is full of excellent young talent; a small step back in the present might help make it even brighter. Dealing away free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson, who would bring back a king’s ransom in prospects, would be the right way to go.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><p>Wrapping up the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the third installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players&#39; careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.</p><p>My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. After covering four pitchers in the <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/26/chris-carpenter-livan-hernandez-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:first" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">first</a> <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/27/jamie-moyer-kerry-wood-carlos-zambrano-hall-fame-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:two" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">two</a> installments, it’s time to run through the position players.</p><p><strong>Aubrey Huff</strong></p><p>From a sub-replacement level Devil Ray to a down-ballot MVP vote recipient for the world champion Giants, Aubrey Huff ran the gamut during a 13-year career as a four-corner player—first and third base, left and rightfield—for five different teams. Though he never made an All-Star team, he did win the 2008 Edgar Martinez award as the AL&#39;s top designated hitter, and had some big moments in the 2010 World Series against the Rangers. After his career ended, he offered some harrowing insights into his ups and downs—alcohol and Adderall abuse, gambling, marital woes, anxiety and depression—via his 2017 autobiography, <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/03/aubrey-huffs-twisted-tale-from-giants-world-series-to-rock-bottom-to-one-horribly-wrong-turn-on-twitter/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Baseball Junkie" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Baseball Junkie</em></a>.</p><p>A fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami in 1998, Huff was 23 years old when he debuted with the Devil Rays on August 2, 2000, playing 39 games for the third-year expansion team. Still a rookie in 2001, he hit an anemic .248/.288/.372 with eight homers, a 75 OPS+ and -0.8 WAR for a 100-loss team, a performance that returned him to Triple A to start 2002. He returned a much-improved hitter, batting combined .307/.364/.524 for a 135 OPS+ while averaging 29 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002–04. After a downturn in 2005 and a rebound in &#39;06, he was traded to the Astros, freeing him from a team that averaged 98 losses during his five full seasons. Though the Astros fell short of winning the NL Central, Huff&#39;s solid .267/.344/.469 showing with 21 homers netted him a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orioles.</p><p>Huff sandwiched one very good season (.304/.360/.552 with 32 homers and 4.1 WAR) amid two lousy ones (a combined -0.7 WAR) in Baltimore, and did even worse after being traded to the Tigers in August 2009. In his autobiography, he <a href="http://www.masnsports.com/school-of-roch/2016/11/aubrey-huff-on-his-new-book-and-the-issues-that-almost-killed-him.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:admitted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">admitted</a> that during his time with the Orioles, he became hooked on Adderall (a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, classified by MLB as a banned substance without a therapeutic use exemption, which is apparently easy to obtain) and drank excessively. Amid the mess of his personal life, he caught on with the Giants in 2010; splitting time between first base and both outfield corners, &quot;Huff Daddy&quot; emerged as one of the team&#39;s most popular players, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 homers and career highs in OPS+ (142) and WAR (5.7). He ranked ninth in the league in the latter category, placed seventh in the MVP voting and gained a level of notoriety for <a href="http://blogs.mercurynews.com/giants/2010/10/19/postgame-notes-aubrey-huff-gets-into-the-thong-distribution-business-posey-studies-up-warm-moments-for-rowand-and-renteria-etc/?doing_wp_cron=1514399055.2214410305023193359375" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wearing his lucky red &quot;rally thong&quot;" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wearing his lucky red &quot;rally thong&quot;</a> in September and October. Unexceptional in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he went 5-for-17 with three extra-base hits in the World Series, going 3-for-4 in Game 1 and hitting a two-run homer in Game 4.</p><p>Though Huff entered a drug and alcohol rehab clinic following the World Series, and netted a two-year, $22 million deal with the Giants, he <a href="https://www.mlb.com/news/aubrey-huff-reveals-personal-struggles-in-book/c-209765948" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:struggled" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">struggled</a> both on and off the field in 2011, continuing his Adderall abuse and dealing with marital issues. While he was able to quit the drug and save his marriage, in April 2012, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Between that and a right knee sprain suffered while tripping over the dugout rail following the final out of Matt Cain&#39;s perfect game, he homered just once in 52 games for the Giants that year while batting .192/.326/.282. Nonetheless, he made the postseason roster as a reserve as the Giants beat the Tigers in the World Series. He never did play again, though after continuing to battle his demons and even <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/03/aubrey-huffs-twisted-tale-from-giants-world-series-to-rock-bottom-to-one-horribly-wrong-turn-on-twitter/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:contemplating suicide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">contemplating suicide</a> in 2014, he mulled a comeback attempt for 2016.</p><p><strong>Orlando Hudson</strong></p><p>Before he&#39;d ever played a major league game, Orlando Hudson gained notoriety for <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/04/sports/la-sp-sn-orlando-hudson-demoted-20120404" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:referring" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">referring</a> to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi as a &quot;smooth looking cat [who] looks like a pimp back in his day.&quot; Despite that inauspicious beginning, the slick-fielding &quot;O-Dog&quot; spent more than half a decade as one of the game&#39;s top second basemen, winning four Gold Gloves and making two All-Star teams.</p><p>A 43rd-round draft-and-follow out of Spartanburg Methodist College in 1997, Hudson was one of four players battling for the Blue Jays&#39; second base job in the spring of 2002, having risen to No. 81 on <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list. It was his hitless spring, not his comment about Ricciardi, that got him sent out. He debuted on July 24 of that year and hit .276/.319/.443 in 54 games. Over the next three years, he held down the Jays&#39; second base job, hitting a combined .269/.335/.416 for a modest 93 OPS+ accompanied by 21 Defensive Runs Saved per year, a package with an average of 4.0 WAR. His career high of 5.2 in 2004 ranked eighth in the AL, and he won his first Gold Glove in 2005. That winter, he was traded to the Diamondbacks as part of a four-player deal that sent Troy Glaus to Toronto.</p><p>Perhaps it was the hitter-friendly environment, but Hudson&#39;s bat perked up in Arizona, as he topped a 100 OPS+ in all three seasons with Arizona, hitting a combined .294/365/.448 for a 105 OPS+ while averaging 11 homers and eight steals. He won Gold Gloves in 2006 and &#39;07 and made his first All-Star team in the latter year while helping the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. Unfortunately, both his 2007 and &#39;08 seasons ended on the operating table, the former in early September due to a torn ligament in his left thumb, the latter in early August due to a left wrist fracture and dislocation. The Diamondbacks let him depart via free agency, and he initially sought a five-year, $50 million deal, but his Type A status—which meant that the signing team lost a draft pick—crushed his market; in late February, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers, worth $3.6 million plus another $4.6 million in incentives. He earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors while hitting .283/.357/.417 with 4.1 WAR for a team that got as far as the NLCS, though he spent the postseason coming off the bench while hot-hitting August 31 acquisition Ronnie Belliard started.</p><p>In a move that perfectly encapsulated the cheapskate tenure of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the team <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/9959/prospectus-hit-and-run-to-live-and-die-in-la/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:didn&#39;t offer Hudson arbitration" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">didn&#39;t offer Hudson arbitration</a> out of fear he would accept, and couldn&#39;t recoup the draft pick when he signed elsewhere. He got just a one-year, $5 million deal from the Twins—a meager payday for a player whose 26.5 WAR from 2003-09 <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/3x4eH" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ranked fourth" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ranked fourth</a> among all second basemen—whom he helped to a division title, though his OPS+ slipped from 109 to 96. He signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Padres; battling a hamstring injury, his decline on both sides of the ball continued to the point that he was released in May 2012, having produced just 0.6 WAR in 154 games. Though he caught on with the White Sox, his .197/.262/.307 showing in 54 games effectively ended his career at age 34; winter 2013–14 stints in Mexico and the Dominican Republic failed to drum up further interest.</p><p><strong>Carlos Lee</strong></p><p>Panamanian Carlos Lee spent more than a decade as one of the majors&#39; big boppers, mashing 331 homers from 1999–2010 (14th in MLB) while tipping the scales at 270 pounds or more, to the point that his contract included a weight clause. &quot;El Caballo&quot; drove in more than 100 runs six times and made three All-Star teams, but only once did he make a trip to the postseason.</p><p>Lee signed with the White Sox as a 17-year-old in 1994. Showing good power in the minors, he cracked <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list in 1998 and &#39;99 (number 28), and after just 25 games at Triple A, joined the White Sox on May 7, 1999, homering off A&#39;s knuckleballer Tom Candiotti in his first major league plate appearance. Lee hit .293/.312/.463 with 16 homers but a ghastly 72/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a 23-year-old rookie. He showed much better plate discipline the following year, hitting .301/345/.484 with 24 homers, 13 steals and a 94/38 K/BB ratio while helping the White Sox win the AL Central.</p><p>That kicked off a five-year span in which Lee averaged 27 homers, 12 steals, 3.0 WAR and a 114 OPS+ (.287/.344/.493); he hit 31 homers apiece in 2003 and &#39;04, with a career best 5.0 WAR in the latter season. In a sense, he peaked too early, because that winter, the White Sox traded him to the Brewers in a four-player deal that brought back Scott Podsednik, whose (overrated) combination of speed and defense overshadowed the power that helped the team win its first World Series in 88 years.</p><p>Lee hit 32 homers and made his first All-Star team in 2005, then, after having his $8.5 million club option picked up, added 28 more homers in 102 games in &#39;06 before being dealt to the Rangers on July 28 in a six-player swap that also included his understudy, Nelson Cruz. Though the Rangers fell short of winning the AL West, his nine homers helped him set a new career high with 37 to go with a .300/.355/.540 line and 3.1 WAR. The 31-year-old Lee parlayed that performance into a six-year, $100 million deal with the Astros, who were already one of the league&#39;s oldest teams. Though he hit very well through his first three seasons in Houston (.305/.354/.524 for a 128 OPS+) while averaging 29 homers, declining defense and baserunning limited him to 2.3 WAR per year.</p><p>The 34-year-old Lee&#39;s performance took a huge tumble in 2010, all the way to -2.2 WAR thanks to a 91 OPS+ and -17 Defensive Runs Saved. His downward spiral continued into the early months of 2011, but he rebounded, aided by a midseason move to first base. He finished with 4.0 WAR thanks to a 117 OPS+ (albeit with just 18 homers, his lowest total since 1999) and a surprising +14 DRS. Alas, his performance plunged back to replacement level in 2012; dealt to the Marlins on July 4, he slugged .325 in his final half season of major league play.</p><p><strong>Hideki Matsui</strong></p><p>Just the second Japanese position player to become an All-Star—Ichiro Suzuki was the first—Hideki Matsui arrived stateside to much fanfare in 2003, accompanied by a memorable nickname (&quot;Godzilla&quot;) and a three-year, $21 million deal with the Yankees. He made the AL All-Star team in each of his first two seasons, helped the Bronx Bomber to a pair of pennants and a championship, and won World Series MVP honors in 2009 before departing for free agency. His 175 homers are the most of any Japanese-born player in MLB. </p><p>Matsui&#39;s size (6&#39; 2&quot;, 210 pounds) and power (332 homers with a high of 50) earned him the &quot;Godzilla&quot; nickname during his decade with the Yomiuri Giants (1993–2002), during which he made nine straight All-Star teams, led the Central League in homers three times and won three MVP awards. After turning down a six-year, $64 million deal from the Giants in 2001, he left Japan to sign with the Yankees, heading into his age-29 season. He quickly endeared himself to fans by hitting a grand slam in the team&#39;s home opener, and drove in 106 runs while batting .287/.353/435 with 2.2 WAR. He made the AL All-Star team, helped the Yankees win the AL East, and hit .281/.347/.438 with 11 RBIs during the team&#39;s postseason run, delivering decisive homers in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Twins and Game 2 of the World Series against the Marlins.</p><p>Matsui had his best season in 2004, hitting .298/.390/.522 with highs in homers (31), OPS+ (137) and WAR (5.0) that he would never surpass. Red-hot during the postseason, he hit .412/.456/.765 with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBI in the postseason; he drove in five runs apiece in Games 1 and three of the ALCS against the Red Sox, though the Yankees ultimately squandered their three-games-to-none advantage.</p><p>After a strong 2005 (23 HR, 130 OPS+, 4.5 WAR) that netted him a four-year, $52 million extension, Matsui lost four months of the 2006 season to a broken left wrist suffered while diving for a ball on May 11. The injury, which required surgery, ended an iron man streak of 1,768 games dating back to his rookie season in Japan, when he was 19. A return to form in 2007 (25 HR, 123 OPS+, 4.1 WAR) was followed by a season battling an arthritic left knee that limited him to 93 games (just 23 in the outfield) and ended on the operating table in late September. As a full-time DH, he returned to club 28 homers and hit for a typical 123 OPS+ (.274/.367/.509) in 2009. His two-run homer off the Twins’ Francisco Liriano broke open the Division Series opener, and he went 8-for-13 with three homers against the Phillies in the World Series, one was a pinch-hit shot in Game 3 and the other two were game-winners off Pedro Martinez in Games 2 and 6. For his career, he hit .312/.39/.541 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 235 postseason plate appearances.</p><p>With the Yankees only willing to bring back the going-on-36-year-old Matsui as a DH, he departed via free agency. He made good on a one-year, $6 million deal with the Angels (21 HR, 126 OPS+), but struggled on another one-year deal with the A&#39;s, slugging just .375 with 12 homers. Unable to find a major league deal for 2012, he signed a minor league deal with the Rays on April 30; he spent less than two months in the majors and retired that winter.</p><p>Between NPB and MLB, Matsui totaled 508 homers and 2,655 hits. While he won&#39;t make it to Cooperstown, he&#39;s considered <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/11/28/baseball/japanese-baseball/hideki-matsui-appears-japanese-baseball-hall-fame-ballot-first-time/#.WkP8FEv_oUE" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a good bet" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a good bet</a> to be elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility. Only four players, including NPB home run king Sadaharu Oh and NPB-to-MLB pioneer <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/strike-zone/2013/12/03/jaws-hall-of-fame-hideo-nomo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hideo Nomo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hideo Nomo</a> have been elected in their first year.</p><p><strong>Johnny Damon</strong></p><p>A charismatic centerfielder who won championships with the Red Sox and Yankees and reached the playoffs eight times with four teams from 1995 to 2012, Johnny Damon is the one player from among this year&#39;s 13 one-and-dones who probably deserved a full-length profile. Generally, my cutoff for non-relievers is for players within 20 points of the JAWS standard; Damon is 13.5 points below, but between the December holiday schedule and the unlikelihood of his election—he&#39;s received just one vote from <a href="http://bit.ly/hof18" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:among the first 117 ballots published" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">among the first 117 ballots published</a>—I chose the path of least resistance. Though well-regarded, Damon made just two All-Star teams, cracked the top 10 in WAR just once, and nearly wound up a test case for whether a player who reached 3,000 hits deserved automatic enshrinement. </p><p>A supplemental first-round pick by the Royals in 1992, Damon—who was chosen out of an Orlando, Florida high school—made <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list in each of the next three seasons, climbing to No. 9 in 1995. He debuted on August 12 of that season, hitting .282/.324/.441 with three homers and seven steals in 47 games as a 21-year-old. His progress over the next three seasons was uneven, as he averaged just 1.5 WAR due to subpar power and defense (his 18-homer, 10-triple, 26-steal season in 1998 was offset by -14 runs afield). Temporarily shifted to leftfield to accommodate the arrival of Carlos Beltran in 1999, the 25-year-old Damon put it all together, hitting .307/.379/.477 with 14 homers, 36 steals and 5.4 WAR, then improving across the board in 2000 (.327/.382/.495, 16 HR, 6.1 WAR), with a league-high 46 steals in just 55 attempts.</p><p>Painfully aware that they wouldn&#39;t be able to afford him once he reached free agency, the Royals, who hadn&#39;t finished above .500 since 1994, dealt him to the A&#39;s as part of a three-team blockbuster that also included the Devil Rays. Damon didn&#39;t hit well in Oakland, but he still turned in a 2.4 WAR season while helping the team to 102 wins and a playoff berth; he went 9-for-22 with three extra-base hits in a losing cause against the Yankees.</p><p>After the season, Damon signed a four-year, $31 million deal with the Red Sox. He made his first All-Star team and showed off his speed (31 steals and a league-best 11 triples) en route to 4.8 WAR in 2002, then helped Boston to three straight playoff appearances, averaging 3.9 WAR despite ups and downs at the plate and in the field. Growing his hair long, accompanied by a beard, he emerged as an iconic team leader in 2004; &quot;WWJDD: WHAT WOULD JOHNNY DAMON DO?&quot; <a href="http://archive.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/07_18_05_sox_gear?pg=13" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:t-shirts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">t-shirts</a> became popular at Fenway Park. Bestowing the nickname <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2004/10/31/red-sox-happy-idiots-route-championship/6WCI8pzrVNdF5f4XpAXUBK/story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:&quot;Idiots&quot;" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">&quot;Idiots&quot;</a> on the squad that overcame a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, he snapped out of a 3-for-29 slump in Game 7 with a game-breaking grand slam off Javier Vazquez, then following up with a two-run homer in his next plate appearance, driving in six of the team&#39;s 10 runs in the rout. He went 6-for-21 in the World Series, leading off the Game 4 clincher with a solo homer that set off a countdown to the Red Sox&#39;s first championship in 86 years.</p><p>After his second All-star season in 2005, Damon departed via free agency, and to the horror of Red Sox Nation, he agreed to shed his locks and beard to sign a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. He hit a career high 24 homers to go with 25 steals in 2006, and as in Boston, provided solid value for the Yankees in all four seasons, averaging 3.4 WAR and a 112 OPS+. Shifting to leftfield again, this time for Melky Cabrera, he had the two best seasons of his New York run in terms of WAR in 2008-09 (4.1 and 4.2). In the latter, he matched his career high in homers while batting .282/.365/.489 for the AL East champs.</p><p>After going 1-for-12 in the Division Series, he heated up, going 9-for-30 with a pair of homers and five RBI against the Angels in the ALCS, then 8-for-22 in the World Series against the Phillies. His <a href="https://vimeo.com/51965081" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:daring double steal" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">daring double steal</a> in the ninth inning of Game 4, scurrying to third when he saw it was uncovered, keyed a three-run game-winning rally and provided a pivotal moment in the Yankees&#39; championship run.</p><p>A free agent again at age 36, Damon entered the itinerant phase of his career, with single-season stops in Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, the first two of which were pretty good; DHing regularly, he totaled 5.5 WAR, 24 homers and 30 steals in 2010-11, helping the Rays to a wild card berth in the latter year. He finished the 2011 season with 2,723 hits; having averaged 151 hits over the previous three years, the milestone appeared attainable before his 40th birthday. However, he couldn&#39;t drum up a major league deal, didn&#39;t sign a minor league one until April 2012, and hit just .222/.281/.329 in 64 games with the Indians before drawing his release. Despite holding out hope for a return as late as December 2014, he never played again.</p><p>Had Damon managed to stick around long enough to reach 3,000 hits, he likely would have been elected to the Hall, but it wouldn&#39;t have been a very strong selection; his 56.0 WAR trails all but one of the 31 members of the 3,000 hit club, former single-season and all-time stolen base leader Lou Brock (45.2). As with Brock, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs and Dave Winfield, Damon might well have fallen below replacement level while chasing the milestone.</p><p>As it is, with just two All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no finish in the MVP voting higher than 13th, and a minimal presence both on traditional and advanced stat leaderboards—he had eight top ten seasons in steals and runs but just two in batting average, one in WAR and none in OBP, SLG or OPS+—Damon scores a modest 90 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor.</p><p>Thanks to some of the best baserunning (+77 runs) and double play avoidance (+49 runs) on record—only Rickey Henderson and Willie Wilson <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/GdpML" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:outdo his combined total" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">outdo his combined total</a> of 126 runs—he had 10 seasons where he was worth at least 3.0 WAR and seven worth at least 4.0. But he topped 5.0 just twice, and both his 56.0 career WAR and 32.9 peak WAR are far off the standards for centerfielders; he&#39;s a respectable 16th in the former but 37th in the latter. His 44.4 JAWS ranks 22nd at the position, ahead of just eight of the 19 enshrined centerfielders, only one of whom (Kirby Puckett) was elected by the BBWAA; he&#39;s ahead of Fred Lynn, Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams in <a href="http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_CF.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the JAWS rankings" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the JAWS rankings</a>, but behind Chet Lemon, Cesar Cedeno and Vada Pinson, with the lowest peak score of the bunch. He was a very good and very popular player for a long time, but not quite enough for Cooperstown.</p>
One-and-Dones Pt. 3: Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui Were Popular, but not Hall of Famers

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Wrapping up the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the third installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players' careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.

My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. After covering four pitchers in the first two installments, it’s time to run through the position players.

Aubrey Huff

From a sub-replacement level Devil Ray to a down-ballot MVP vote recipient for the world champion Giants, Aubrey Huff ran the gamut during a 13-year career as a four-corner player—first and third base, left and rightfield—for five different teams. Though he never made an All-Star team, he did win the 2008 Edgar Martinez award as the AL's top designated hitter, and had some big moments in the 2010 World Series against the Rangers. After his career ended, he offered some harrowing insights into his ups and downs—alcohol and Adderall abuse, gambling, marital woes, anxiety and depression—via his 2017 autobiography, Baseball Junkie.

A fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami in 1998, Huff was 23 years old when he debuted with the Devil Rays on August 2, 2000, playing 39 games for the third-year expansion team. Still a rookie in 2001, he hit an anemic .248/.288/.372 with eight homers, a 75 OPS+ and -0.8 WAR for a 100-loss team, a performance that returned him to Triple A to start 2002. He returned a much-improved hitter, batting combined .307/.364/.524 for a 135 OPS+ while averaging 29 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002–04. After a downturn in 2005 and a rebound in '06, he was traded to the Astros, freeing him from a team that averaged 98 losses during his five full seasons. Though the Astros fell short of winning the NL Central, Huff's solid .267/.344/.469 showing with 21 homers netted him a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orioles.

Huff sandwiched one very good season (.304/.360/.552 with 32 homers and 4.1 WAR) amid two lousy ones (a combined -0.7 WAR) in Baltimore, and did even worse after being traded to the Tigers in August 2009. In his autobiography, he admitted that during his time with the Orioles, he became hooked on Adderall (a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, classified by MLB as a banned substance without a therapeutic use exemption, which is apparently easy to obtain) and drank excessively. Amid the mess of his personal life, he caught on with the Giants in 2010; splitting time between first base and both outfield corners, "Huff Daddy" emerged as one of the team's most popular players, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 homers and career highs in OPS+ (142) and WAR (5.7). He ranked ninth in the league in the latter category, placed seventh in the MVP voting and gained a level of notoriety for wearing his lucky red "rally thong" in September and October. Unexceptional in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he went 5-for-17 with three extra-base hits in the World Series, going 3-for-4 in Game 1 and hitting a two-run homer in Game 4.

Though Huff entered a drug and alcohol rehab clinic following the World Series, and netted a two-year, $22 million deal with the Giants, he struggled both on and off the field in 2011, continuing his Adderall abuse and dealing with marital issues. While he was able to quit the drug and save his marriage, in April 2012, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Between that and a right knee sprain suffered while tripping over the dugout rail following the final out of Matt Cain's perfect game, he homered just once in 52 games for the Giants that year while batting .192/.326/.282. Nonetheless, he made the postseason roster as a reserve as the Giants beat the Tigers in the World Series. He never did play again, though after continuing to battle his demons and even contemplating suicide in 2014, he mulled a comeback attempt for 2016.

Orlando Hudson

Before he'd ever played a major league game, Orlando Hudson gained notoriety for referring to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi as a "smooth looking cat [who] looks like a pimp back in his day." Despite that inauspicious beginning, the slick-fielding "O-Dog" spent more than half a decade as one of the game's top second basemen, winning four Gold Gloves and making two All-Star teams.

A 43rd-round draft-and-follow out of Spartanburg Methodist College in 1997, Hudson was one of four players battling for the Blue Jays' second base job in the spring of 2002, having risen to No. 81 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. It was his hitless spring, not his comment about Ricciardi, that got him sent out. He debuted on July 24 of that year and hit .276/.319/.443 in 54 games. Over the next three years, he held down the Jays' second base job, hitting a combined .269/.335/.416 for a modest 93 OPS+ accompanied by 21 Defensive Runs Saved per year, a package with an average of 4.0 WAR. His career high of 5.2 in 2004 ranked eighth in the AL, and he won his first Gold Glove in 2005. That winter, he was traded to the Diamondbacks as part of a four-player deal that sent Troy Glaus to Toronto.

Perhaps it was the hitter-friendly environment, but Hudson's bat perked up in Arizona, as he topped a 100 OPS+ in all three seasons with Arizona, hitting a combined .294/365/.448 for a 105 OPS+ while averaging 11 homers and eight steals. He won Gold Gloves in 2006 and '07 and made his first All-Star team in the latter year while helping the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. Unfortunately, both his 2007 and '08 seasons ended on the operating table, the former in early September due to a torn ligament in his left thumb, the latter in early August due to a left wrist fracture and dislocation. The Diamondbacks let him depart via free agency, and he initially sought a five-year, $50 million deal, but his Type A status—which meant that the signing team lost a draft pick—crushed his market; in late February, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers, worth $3.6 million plus another $4.6 million in incentives. He earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors while hitting .283/.357/.417 with 4.1 WAR for a team that got as far as the NLCS, though he spent the postseason coming off the bench while hot-hitting August 31 acquisition Ronnie Belliard started.

In a move that perfectly encapsulated the cheapskate tenure of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the team didn't offer Hudson arbitration out of fear he would accept, and couldn't recoup the draft pick when he signed elsewhere. He got just a one-year, $5 million deal from the Twins—a meager payday for a player whose 26.5 WAR from 2003-09 ranked fourth among all second basemen—whom he helped to a division title, though his OPS+ slipped from 109 to 96. He signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Padres; battling a hamstring injury, his decline on both sides of the ball continued to the point that he was released in May 2012, having produced just 0.6 WAR in 154 games. Though he caught on with the White Sox, his .197/.262/.307 showing in 54 games effectively ended his career at age 34; winter 2013–14 stints in Mexico and the Dominican Republic failed to drum up further interest.

Carlos Lee

Panamanian Carlos Lee spent more than a decade as one of the majors' big boppers, mashing 331 homers from 1999–2010 (14th in MLB) while tipping the scales at 270 pounds or more, to the point that his contract included a weight clause. "El Caballo" drove in more than 100 runs six times and made three All-Star teams, but only once did he make a trip to the postseason.

Lee signed with the White Sox as a 17-year-old in 1994. Showing good power in the minors, he cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 1998 and '99 (number 28), and after just 25 games at Triple A, joined the White Sox on May 7, 1999, homering off A's knuckleballer Tom Candiotti in his first major league plate appearance. Lee hit .293/.312/.463 with 16 homers but a ghastly 72/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a 23-year-old rookie. He showed much better plate discipline the following year, hitting .301/345/.484 with 24 homers, 13 steals and a 94/38 K/BB ratio while helping the White Sox win the AL Central.

That kicked off a five-year span in which Lee averaged 27 homers, 12 steals, 3.0 WAR and a 114 OPS+ (.287/.344/.493); he hit 31 homers apiece in 2003 and '04, with a career best 5.0 WAR in the latter season. In a sense, he peaked too early, because that winter, the White Sox traded him to the Brewers in a four-player deal that brought back Scott Podsednik, whose (overrated) combination of speed and defense overshadowed the power that helped the team win its first World Series in 88 years.

Lee hit 32 homers and made his first All-Star team in 2005, then, after having his $8.5 million club option picked up, added 28 more homers in 102 games in '06 before being dealt to the Rangers on July 28 in a six-player swap that also included his understudy, Nelson Cruz. Though the Rangers fell short of winning the AL West, his nine homers helped him set a new career high with 37 to go with a .300/.355/.540 line and 3.1 WAR. The 31-year-old Lee parlayed that performance into a six-year, $100 million deal with the Astros, who were already one of the league's oldest teams. Though he hit very well through his first three seasons in Houston (.305/.354/.524 for a 128 OPS+) while averaging 29 homers, declining defense and baserunning limited him to 2.3 WAR per year.

The 34-year-old Lee's performance took a huge tumble in 2010, all the way to -2.2 WAR thanks to a 91 OPS+ and -17 Defensive Runs Saved. His downward spiral continued into the early months of 2011, but he rebounded, aided by a midseason move to first base. He finished with 4.0 WAR thanks to a 117 OPS+ (albeit with just 18 homers, his lowest total since 1999) and a surprising +14 DRS. Alas, his performance plunged back to replacement level in 2012; dealt to the Marlins on July 4, he slugged .325 in his final half season of major league play.

Hideki Matsui

Just the second Japanese position player to become an All-Star—Ichiro Suzuki was the first—Hideki Matsui arrived stateside to much fanfare in 2003, accompanied by a memorable nickname ("Godzilla") and a three-year, $21 million deal with the Yankees. He made the AL All-Star team in each of his first two seasons, helped the Bronx Bomber to a pair of pennants and a championship, and won World Series MVP honors in 2009 before departing for free agency. His 175 homers are the most of any Japanese-born player in MLB.

Matsui's size (6' 2", 210 pounds) and power (332 homers with a high of 50) earned him the "Godzilla" nickname during his decade with the Yomiuri Giants (1993–2002), during which he made nine straight All-Star teams, led the Central League in homers three times and won three MVP awards. After turning down a six-year, $64 million deal from the Giants in 2001, he left Japan to sign with the Yankees, heading into his age-29 season. He quickly endeared himself to fans by hitting a grand slam in the team's home opener, and drove in 106 runs while batting .287/.353/435 with 2.2 WAR. He made the AL All-Star team, helped the Yankees win the AL East, and hit .281/.347/.438 with 11 RBIs during the team's postseason run, delivering decisive homers in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Twins and Game 2 of the World Series against the Marlins.

Matsui had his best season in 2004, hitting .298/.390/.522 with highs in homers (31), OPS+ (137) and WAR (5.0) that he would never surpass. Red-hot during the postseason, he hit .412/.456/.765 with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBI in the postseason; he drove in five runs apiece in Games 1 and three of the ALCS against the Red Sox, though the Yankees ultimately squandered their three-games-to-none advantage.

After a strong 2005 (23 HR, 130 OPS+, 4.5 WAR) that netted him a four-year, $52 million extension, Matsui lost four months of the 2006 season to a broken left wrist suffered while diving for a ball on May 11. The injury, which required surgery, ended an iron man streak of 1,768 games dating back to his rookie season in Japan, when he was 19. A return to form in 2007 (25 HR, 123 OPS+, 4.1 WAR) was followed by a season battling an arthritic left knee that limited him to 93 games (just 23 in the outfield) and ended on the operating table in late September. As a full-time DH, he returned to club 28 homers and hit for a typical 123 OPS+ (.274/.367/.509) in 2009. His two-run homer off the Twins’ Francisco Liriano broke open the Division Series opener, and he went 8-for-13 with three homers against the Phillies in the World Series, one was a pinch-hit shot in Game 3 and the other two were game-winners off Pedro Martinez in Games 2 and 6. For his career, he hit .312/.39/.541 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 235 postseason plate appearances.

With the Yankees only willing to bring back the going-on-36-year-old Matsui as a DH, he departed via free agency. He made good on a one-year, $6 million deal with the Angels (21 HR, 126 OPS+), but struggled on another one-year deal with the A's, slugging just .375 with 12 homers. Unable to find a major league deal for 2012, he signed a minor league deal with the Rays on April 30; he spent less than two months in the majors and retired that winter.

Between NPB and MLB, Matsui totaled 508 homers and 2,655 hits. While he won't make it to Cooperstown, he's considered a good bet to be elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility. Only four players, including NPB home run king Sadaharu Oh and NPB-to-MLB pioneer Hideo Nomo have been elected in their first year.

Johnny Damon

A charismatic centerfielder who won championships with the Red Sox and Yankees and reached the playoffs eight times with four teams from 1995 to 2012, Johnny Damon is the one player from among this year's 13 one-and-dones who probably deserved a full-length profile. Generally, my cutoff for non-relievers is for players within 20 points of the JAWS standard; Damon is 13.5 points below, but between the December holiday schedule and the unlikelihood of his election—he's received just one vote from among the first 117 ballots published—I chose the path of least resistance. Though well-regarded, Damon made just two All-Star teams, cracked the top 10 in WAR just once, and nearly wound up a test case for whether a player who reached 3,000 hits deserved automatic enshrinement.

A supplemental first-round pick by the Royals in 1992, Damon—who was chosen out of an Orlando, Florida high school—made Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in each of the next three seasons, climbing to No. 9 in 1995. He debuted on August 12 of that season, hitting .282/.324/.441 with three homers and seven steals in 47 games as a 21-year-old. His progress over the next three seasons was uneven, as he averaged just 1.5 WAR due to subpar power and defense (his 18-homer, 10-triple, 26-steal season in 1998 was offset by -14 runs afield). Temporarily shifted to leftfield to accommodate the arrival of Carlos Beltran in 1999, the 25-year-old Damon put it all together, hitting .307/.379/.477 with 14 homers, 36 steals and 5.4 WAR, then improving across the board in 2000 (.327/.382/.495, 16 HR, 6.1 WAR), with a league-high 46 steals in just 55 attempts.

Painfully aware that they wouldn't be able to afford him once he reached free agency, the Royals, who hadn't finished above .500 since 1994, dealt him to the A's as part of a three-team blockbuster that also included the Devil Rays. Damon didn't hit well in Oakland, but he still turned in a 2.4 WAR season while helping the team to 102 wins and a playoff berth; he went 9-for-22 with three extra-base hits in a losing cause against the Yankees.

After the season, Damon signed a four-year, $31 million deal with the Red Sox. He made his first All-Star team and showed off his speed (31 steals and a league-best 11 triples) en route to 4.8 WAR in 2002, then helped Boston to three straight playoff appearances, averaging 3.9 WAR despite ups and downs at the plate and in the field. Growing his hair long, accompanied by a beard, he emerged as an iconic team leader in 2004; "WWJDD: WHAT WOULD JOHNNY DAMON DO?" t-shirts became popular at Fenway Park. Bestowing the nickname "Idiots" on the squad that overcame a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, he snapped out of a 3-for-29 slump in Game 7 with a game-breaking grand slam off Javier Vazquez, then following up with a two-run homer in his next plate appearance, driving in six of the team's 10 runs in the rout. He went 6-for-21 in the World Series, leading off the Game 4 clincher with a solo homer that set off a countdown to the Red Sox's first championship in 86 years.

After his second All-star season in 2005, Damon departed via free agency, and to the horror of Red Sox Nation, he agreed to shed his locks and beard to sign a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. He hit a career high 24 homers to go with 25 steals in 2006, and as in Boston, provided solid value for the Yankees in all four seasons, averaging 3.4 WAR and a 112 OPS+. Shifting to leftfield again, this time for Melky Cabrera, he had the two best seasons of his New York run in terms of WAR in 2008-09 (4.1 and 4.2). In the latter, he matched his career high in homers while batting .282/.365/.489 for the AL East champs.

After going 1-for-12 in the Division Series, he heated up, going 9-for-30 with a pair of homers and five RBI against the Angels in the ALCS, then 8-for-22 in the World Series against the Phillies. His daring double steal in the ninth inning of Game 4, scurrying to third when he saw it was uncovered, keyed a three-run game-winning rally and provided a pivotal moment in the Yankees' championship run.

A free agent again at age 36, Damon entered the itinerant phase of his career, with single-season stops in Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, the first two of which were pretty good; DHing regularly, he totaled 5.5 WAR, 24 homers and 30 steals in 2010-11, helping the Rays to a wild card berth in the latter year. He finished the 2011 season with 2,723 hits; having averaged 151 hits over the previous three years, the milestone appeared attainable before his 40th birthday. However, he couldn't drum up a major league deal, didn't sign a minor league one until April 2012, and hit just .222/.281/.329 in 64 games with the Indians before drawing his release. Despite holding out hope for a return as late as December 2014, he never played again.

Had Damon managed to stick around long enough to reach 3,000 hits, he likely would have been elected to the Hall, but it wouldn't have been a very strong selection; his 56.0 WAR trails all but one of the 31 members of the 3,000 hit club, former single-season and all-time stolen base leader Lou Brock (45.2). As with Brock, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs and Dave Winfield, Damon might well have fallen below replacement level while chasing the milestone.

As it is, with just two All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no finish in the MVP voting higher than 13th, and a minimal presence both on traditional and advanced stat leaderboards—he had eight top ten seasons in steals and runs but just two in batting average, one in WAR and none in OBP, SLG or OPS+—Damon scores a modest 90 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor.

Thanks to some of the best baserunning (+77 runs) and double play avoidance (+49 runs) on record—only Rickey Henderson and Willie Wilson outdo his combined total of 126 runs—he had 10 seasons where he was worth at least 3.0 WAR and seven worth at least 4.0. But he topped 5.0 just twice, and both his 56.0 career WAR and 32.9 peak WAR are far off the standards for centerfielders; he's a respectable 16th in the former but 37th in the latter. His 44.4 JAWS ranks 22nd at the position, ahead of just eight of the 19 enshrined centerfielders, only one of whom (Kirby Puckett) was elected by the BBWAA; he's ahead of Fred Lynn, Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams in the JAWS rankings, but behind Chet Lemon, Cesar Cedeno and Vada Pinson, with the lowest peak score of the bunch. He was a very good and very popular player for a long time, but not quite enough for Cooperstown.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><p>Wrapping up the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the third installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players&#39; careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.</p><p>My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. After covering four pitchers in the <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/26/chris-carpenter-livan-hernandez-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:first" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">first</a> <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/27/jamie-moyer-kerry-wood-carlos-zambrano-hall-fame-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:two" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">two</a> installments, it’s time to run through the position players.</p><p><strong>Aubrey Huff</strong></p><p>From a sub-replacement level Devil Ray to a down-ballot MVP vote recipient for the world champion Giants, Aubrey Huff ran the gamut during a 13-year career as a four-corner player—first and third base, left and rightfield—for five different teams. Though he never made an All-Star team, he did win the 2008 Edgar Martinez award as the AL&#39;s top designated hitter, and had some big moments in the 2010 World Series against the Rangers. After his career ended, he offered some harrowing insights into his ups and downs—alcohol and Adderall abuse, gambling, marital woes, anxiety and depression—via his 2017 autobiography, <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/03/aubrey-huffs-twisted-tale-from-giants-world-series-to-rock-bottom-to-one-horribly-wrong-turn-on-twitter/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Baseball Junkie" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>Baseball Junkie</em></a>.</p><p>A fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami in 1998, Huff was 23 years old when he debuted with the Devil Rays on August 2, 2000, playing 39 games for the third-year expansion team. Still a rookie in 2001, he hit an anemic .248/.288/.372 with eight homers, a 75 OPS+ and -0.8 WAR for a 100-loss team, a performance that returned him to Triple A to start 2002. He returned a much-improved hitter, batting combined .307/.364/.524 for a 135 OPS+ while averaging 29 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002–04. After a downturn in 2005 and a rebound in &#39;06, he was traded to the Astros, freeing him from a team that averaged 98 losses during his five full seasons. Though the Astros fell short of winning the NL Central, Huff&#39;s solid .267/.344/.469 showing with 21 homers netted him a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orioles.</p><p>Huff sandwiched one very good season (.304/.360/.552 with 32 homers and 4.1 WAR) amid two lousy ones (a combined -0.7 WAR) in Baltimore, and did even worse after being traded to the Tigers in August 2009. In his autobiography, he <a href="http://www.masnsports.com/school-of-roch/2016/11/aubrey-huff-on-his-new-book-and-the-issues-that-almost-killed-him.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:admitted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">admitted</a> that during his time with the Orioles, he became hooked on Adderall (a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, classified by MLB as a banned substance without a therapeutic use exemption, which is apparently easy to obtain) and drank excessively. Amid the mess of his personal life, he caught on with the Giants in 2010; splitting time between first base and both outfield corners, &quot;Huff Daddy&quot; emerged as one of the team&#39;s most popular players, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 homers and career highs in OPS+ (142) and WAR (5.7). He ranked ninth in the league in the latter category, placed seventh in the MVP voting and gained a level of notoriety for <a href="http://blogs.mercurynews.com/giants/2010/10/19/postgame-notes-aubrey-huff-gets-into-the-thong-distribution-business-posey-studies-up-warm-moments-for-rowand-and-renteria-etc/?doing_wp_cron=1514399055.2214410305023193359375" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wearing his lucky red &quot;rally thong&quot;" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wearing his lucky red &quot;rally thong&quot;</a> in September and October. Unexceptional in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he went 5-for-17 with three extra-base hits in the World Series, going 3-for-4 in Game 1 and hitting a two-run homer in Game 4.</p><p>Though Huff entered a drug and alcohol rehab clinic following the World Series, and netted a two-year, $22 million deal with the Giants, he <a href="https://www.mlb.com/news/aubrey-huff-reveals-personal-struggles-in-book/c-209765948" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:struggled" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">struggled</a> both on and off the field in 2011, continuing his Adderall abuse and dealing with marital issues. While he was able to quit the drug and save his marriage, in April 2012, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Between that and a right knee sprain suffered while tripping over the dugout rail following the final out of Matt Cain&#39;s perfect game, he homered just once in 52 games for the Giants that year while batting .192/.326/.282. Nonetheless, he made the postseason roster as a reserve as the Giants beat the Tigers in the World Series. He never did play again, though after continuing to battle his demons and even <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/03/aubrey-huffs-twisted-tale-from-giants-world-series-to-rock-bottom-to-one-horribly-wrong-turn-on-twitter/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:contemplating suicide" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">contemplating suicide</a> in 2014, he mulled a comeback attempt for 2016.</p><p><strong>Orlando Hudson</strong></p><p>Before he&#39;d ever played a major league game, Orlando Hudson gained notoriety for <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/04/sports/la-sp-sn-orlando-hudson-demoted-20120404" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:referring" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">referring</a> to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi as a &quot;smooth looking cat [who] looks like a pimp back in his day.&quot; Despite that inauspicious beginning, the slick-fielding &quot;O-Dog&quot; spent more than half a decade as one of the game&#39;s top second basemen, winning four Gold Gloves and making two All-Star teams.</p><p>A 43rd-round draft-and-follow out of Spartanburg Methodist College in 1997, Hudson was one of four players battling for the Blue Jays&#39; second base job in the spring of 2002, having risen to No. 81 on <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list. It was his hitless spring, not his comment about Ricciardi, that got him sent out. He debuted on July 24 of that year and hit .276/.319/.443 in 54 games. Over the next three years, he held down the Jays&#39; second base job, hitting a combined .269/.335/.416 for a modest 93 OPS+ accompanied by 21 Defensive Runs Saved per year, a package with an average of 4.0 WAR. His career high of 5.2 in 2004 ranked eighth in the AL, and he won his first Gold Glove in 2005. That winter, he was traded to the Diamondbacks as part of a four-player deal that sent Troy Glaus to Toronto.</p><p>Perhaps it was the hitter-friendly environment, but Hudson&#39;s bat perked up in Arizona, as he topped a 100 OPS+ in all three seasons with Arizona, hitting a combined .294/365/.448 for a 105 OPS+ while averaging 11 homers and eight steals. He won Gold Gloves in 2006 and &#39;07 and made his first All-Star team in the latter year while helping the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. Unfortunately, both his 2007 and &#39;08 seasons ended on the operating table, the former in early September due to a torn ligament in his left thumb, the latter in early August due to a left wrist fracture and dislocation. The Diamondbacks let him depart via free agency, and he initially sought a five-year, $50 million deal, but his Type A status—which meant that the signing team lost a draft pick—crushed his market; in late February, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers, worth $3.6 million plus another $4.6 million in incentives. He earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors while hitting .283/.357/.417 with 4.1 WAR for a team that got as far as the NLCS, though he spent the postseason coming off the bench while hot-hitting August 31 acquisition Ronnie Belliard started.</p><p>In a move that perfectly encapsulated the cheapskate tenure of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the team <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/9959/prospectus-hit-and-run-to-live-and-die-in-la/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:didn&#39;t offer Hudson arbitration" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">didn&#39;t offer Hudson arbitration</a> out of fear he would accept, and couldn&#39;t recoup the draft pick when he signed elsewhere. He got just a one-year, $5 million deal from the Twins—a meager payday for a player whose 26.5 WAR from 2003-09 <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/3x4eH" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ranked fourth" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ranked fourth</a> among all second basemen—whom he helped to a division title, though his OPS+ slipped from 109 to 96. He signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Padres; battling a hamstring injury, his decline on both sides of the ball continued to the point that he was released in May 2012, having produced just 0.6 WAR in 154 games. Though he caught on with the White Sox, his .197/.262/.307 showing in 54 games effectively ended his career at age 34; winter 2013–14 stints in Mexico and the Dominican Republic failed to drum up further interest.</p><p><strong>Carlos Lee</strong></p><p>Panamanian Carlos Lee spent more than a decade as one of the majors&#39; big boppers, mashing 331 homers from 1999–2010 (14th in MLB) while tipping the scales at 270 pounds or more, to the point that his contract included a weight clause. &quot;El Caballo&quot; drove in more than 100 runs six times and made three All-Star teams, but only once did he make a trip to the postseason.</p><p>Lee signed with the White Sox as a 17-year-old in 1994. Showing good power in the minors, he cracked <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list in 1998 and &#39;99 (number 28), and after just 25 games at Triple A, joined the White Sox on May 7, 1999, homering off A&#39;s knuckleballer Tom Candiotti in his first major league plate appearance. Lee hit .293/.312/.463 with 16 homers but a ghastly 72/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a 23-year-old rookie. He showed much better plate discipline the following year, hitting .301/345/.484 with 24 homers, 13 steals and a 94/38 K/BB ratio while helping the White Sox win the AL Central.</p><p>That kicked off a five-year span in which Lee averaged 27 homers, 12 steals, 3.0 WAR and a 114 OPS+ (.287/.344/.493); he hit 31 homers apiece in 2003 and &#39;04, with a career best 5.0 WAR in the latter season. In a sense, he peaked too early, because that winter, the White Sox traded him to the Brewers in a four-player deal that brought back Scott Podsednik, whose (overrated) combination of speed and defense overshadowed the power that helped the team win its first World Series in 88 years.</p><p>Lee hit 32 homers and made his first All-Star team in 2005, then, after having his $8.5 million club option picked up, added 28 more homers in 102 games in &#39;06 before being dealt to the Rangers on July 28 in a six-player swap that also included his understudy, Nelson Cruz. Though the Rangers fell short of winning the AL West, his nine homers helped him set a new career high with 37 to go with a .300/.355/.540 line and 3.1 WAR. The 31-year-old Lee parlayed that performance into a six-year, $100 million deal with the Astros, who were already one of the league&#39;s oldest teams. Though he hit very well through his first three seasons in Houston (.305/.354/.524 for a 128 OPS+) while averaging 29 homers, declining defense and baserunning limited him to 2.3 WAR per year.</p><p>The 34-year-old Lee&#39;s performance took a huge tumble in 2010, all the way to -2.2 WAR thanks to a 91 OPS+ and -17 Defensive Runs Saved. His downward spiral continued into the early months of 2011, but he rebounded, aided by a midseason move to first base. He finished with 4.0 WAR thanks to a 117 OPS+ (albeit with just 18 homers, his lowest total since 1999) and a surprising +14 DRS. Alas, his performance plunged back to replacement level in 2012; dealt to the Marlins on July 4, he slugged .325 in his final half season of major league play.</p><p><strong>Hideki Matsui</strong></p><p>Just the second Japanese position player to become an All-Star—Ichiro Suzuki was the first—Hideki Matsui arrived stateside to much fanfare in 2003, accompanied by a memorable nickname (&quot;Godzilla&quot;) and a three-year, $21 million deal with the Yankees. He made the AL All-Star team in each of his first two seasons, helped the Bronx Bomber to a pair of pennants and a championship, and won World Series MVP honors in 2009 before departing for free agency. His 175 homers are the most of any Japanese-born player in MLB. </p><p>Matsui&#39;s size (6&#39; 2&quot;, 210 pounds) and power (332 homers with a high of 50) earned him the &quot;Godzilla&quot; nickname during his decade with the Yomiuri Giants (1993–2002), during which he made nine straight All-Star teams, led the Central League in homers three times and won three MVP awards. After turning down a six-year, $64 million deal from the Giants in 2001, he left Japan to sign with the Yankees, heading into his age-29 season. He quickly endeared himself to fans by hitting a grand slam in the team&#39;s home opener, and drove in 106 runs while batting .287/.353/435 with 2.2 WAR. He made the AL All-Star team, helped the Yankees win the AL East, and hit .281/.347/.438 with 11 RBIs during the team&#39;s postseason run, delivering decisive homers in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Twins and Game 2 of the World Series against the Marlins.</p><p>Matsui had his best season in 2004, hitting .298/.390/.522 with highs in homers (31), OPS+ (137) and WAR (5.0) that he would never surpass. Red-hot during the postseason, he hit .412/.456/.765 with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBI in the postseason; he drove in five runs apiece in Games 1 and three of the ALCS against the Red Sox, though the Yankees ultimately squandered their three-games-to-none advantage.</p><p>After a strong 2005 (23 HR, 130 OPS+, 4.5 WAR) that netted him a four-year, $52 million extension, Matsui lost four months of the 2006 season to a broken left wrist suffered while diving for a ball on May 11. The injury, which required surgery, ended an iron man streak of 1,768 games dating back to his rookie season in Japan, when he was 19. A return to form in 2007 (25 HR, 123 OPS+, 4.1 WAR) was followed by a season battling an arthritic left knee that limited him to 93 games (just 23 in the outfield) and ended on the operating table in late September. As a full-time DH, he returned to club 28 homers and hit for a typical 123 OPS+ (.274/.367/.509) in 2009. His two-run homer off the Twins’ Francisco Liriano broke open the Division Series opener, and he went 8-for-13 with three homers against the Phillies in the World Series, one was a pinch-hit shot in Game 3 and the other two were game-winners off Pedro Martinez in Games 2 and 6. For his career, he hit .312/.39/.541 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 235 postseason plate appearances.</p><p>With the Yankees only willing to bring back the going-on-36-year-old Matsui as a DH, he departed via free agency. He made good on a one-year, $6 million deal with the Angels (21 HR, 126 OPS+), but struggled on another one-year deal with the A&#39;s, slugging just .375 with 12 homers. Unable to find a major league deal for 2012, he signed a minor league deal with the Rays on April 30; he spent less than two months in the majors and retired that winter.</p><p>Between NPB and MLB, Matsui totaled 508 homers and 2,655 hits. While he won&#39;t make it to Cooperstown, he&#39;s considered <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2017/11/28/baseball/japanese-baseball/hideki-matsui-appears-japanese-baseball-hall-fame-ballot-first-time/#.WkP8FEv_oUE" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a good bet" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a good bet</a> to be elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility. Only four players, including NPB home run king Sadaharu Oh and NPB-to-MLB pioneer <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/strike-zone/2013/12/03/jaws-hall-of-fame-hideo-nomo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hideo Nomo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hideo Nomo</a> have been elected in their first year.</p><p><strong>Johnny Damon</strong></p><p>A charismatic centerfielder who won championships with the Red Sox and Yankees and reached the playoffs eight times with four teams from 1995 to 2012, Johnny Damon is the one player from among this year&#39;s 13 one-and-dones who probably deserved a full-length profile. Generally, my cutoff for non-relievers is for players within 20 points of the JAWS standard; Damon is 13.5 points below, but between the December holiday schedule and the unlikelihood of his election—he&#39;s received just one vote from <a href="http://bit.ly/hof18" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:among the first 117 ballots published" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">among the first 117 ballots published</a>—I chose the path of least resistance. Though well-regarded, Damon made just two All-Star teams, cracked the top 10 in WAR just once, and nearly wound up a test case for whether a player who reached 3,000 hits deserved automatic enshrinement. </p><p>A supplemental first-round pick by the Royals in 1992, Damon—who was chosen out of an Orlando, Florida high school—made <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s Top 100 Prospects list in each of the next three seasons, climbing to No. 9 in 1995. He debuted on August 12 of that season, hitting .282/.324/.441 with three homers and seven steals in 47 games as a 21-year-old. His progress over the next three seasons was uneven, as he averaged just 1.5 WAR due to subpar power and defense (his 18-homer, 10-triple, 26-steal season in 1998 was offset by -14 runs afield). Temporarily shifted to leftfield to accommodate the arrival of Carlos Beltran in 1999, the 25-year-old Damon put it all together, hitting .307/.379/.477 with 14 homers, 36 steals and 5.4 WAR, then improving across the board in 2000 (.327/.382/.495, 16 HR, 6.1 WAR), with a league-high 46 steals in just 55 attempts.</p><p>Painfully aware that they wouldn&#39;t be able to afford him once he reached free agency, the Royals, who hadn&#39;t finished above .500 since 1994, dealt him to the A&#39;s as part of a three-team blockbuster that also included the Devil Rays. Damon didn&#39;t hit well in Oakland, but he still turned in a 2.4 WAR season while helping the team to 102 wins and a playoff berth; he went 9-for-22 with three extra-base hits in a losing cause against the Yankees.</p><p>After the season, Damon signed a four-year, $31 million deal with the Red Sox. He made his first All-Star team and showed off his speed (31 steals and a league-best 11 triples) en route to 4.8 WAR in 2002, then helped Boston to three straight playoff appearances, averaging 3.9 WAR despite ups and downs at the plate and in the field. Growing his hair long, accompanied by a beard, he emerged as an iconic team leader in 2004; &quot;WWJDD: WHAT WOULD JOHNNY DAMON DO?&quot; <a href="http://archive.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/07_18_05_sox_gear?pg=13" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:t-shirts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">t-shirts</a> became popular at Fenway Park. Bestowing the nickname <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2004/10/31/red-sox-happy-idiots-route-championship/6WCI8pzrVNdF5f4XpAXUBK/story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:&quot;Idiots&quot;" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">&quot;Idiots&quot;</a> on the squad that overcame a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, he snapped out of a 3-for-29 slump in Game 7 with a game-breaking grand slam off Javier Vazquez, then following up with a two-run homer in his next plate appearance, driving in six of the team&#39;s 10 runs in the rout. He went 6-for-21 in the World Series, leading off the Game 4 clincher with a solo homer that set off a countdown to the Red Sox&#39;s first championship in 86 years.</p><p>After his second All-star season in 2005, Damon departed via free agency, and to the horror of Red Sox Nation, he agreed to shed his locks and beard to sign a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. He hit a career high 24 homers to go with 25 steals in 2006, and as in Boston, provided solid value for the Yankees in all four seasons, averaging 3.4 WAR and a 112 OPS+. Shifting to leftfield again, this time for Melky Cabrera, he had the two best seasons of his New York run in terms of WAR in 2008-09 (4.1 and 4.2). In the latter, he matched his career high in homers while batting .282/.365/.489 for the AL East champs.</p><p>After going 1-for-12 in the Division Series, he heated up, going 9-for-30 with a pair of homers and five RBI against the Angels in the ALCS, then 8-for-22 in the World Series against the Phillies. His <a href="https://vimeo.com/51965081" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:daring double steal" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">daring double steal</a> in the ninth inning of Game 4, scurrying to third when he saw it was uncovered, keyed a three-run game-winning rally and provided a pivotal moment in the Yankees&#39; championship run.</p><p>A free agent again at age 36, Damon entered the itinerant phase of his career, with single-season stops in Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, the first two of which were pretty good; DHing regularly, he totaled 5.5 WAR, 24 homers and 30 steals in 2010-11, helping the Rays to a wild card berth in the latter year. He finished the 2011 season with 2,723 hits; having averaged 151 hits over the previous three years, the milestone appeared attainable before his 40th birthday. However, he couldn&#39;t drum up a major league deal, didn&#39;t sign a minor league one until April 2012, and hit just .222/.281/.329 in 64 games with the Indians before drawing his release. Despite holding out hope for a return as late as December 2014, he never played again.</p><p>Had Damon managed to stick around long enough to reach 3,000 hits, he likely would have been elected to the Hall, but it wouldn&#39;t have been a very strong selection; his 56.0 WAR trails all but one of the 31 members of the 3,000 hit club, former single-season and all-time stolen base leader Lou Brock (45.2). As with Brock, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs and Dave Winfield, Damon might well have fallen below replacement level while chasing the milestone.</p><p>As it is, with just two All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no finish in the MVP voting higher than 13th, and a minimal presence both on traditional and advanced stat leaderboards—he had eight top ten seasons in steals and runs but just two in batting average, one in WAR and none in OBP, SLG or OPS+—Damon scores a modest 90 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor.</p><p>Thanks to some of the best baserunning (+77 runs) and double play avoidance (+49 runs) on record—only Rickey Henderson and Willie Wilson <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/GdpML" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:outdo his combined total" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">outdo his combined total</a> of 126 runs—he had 10 seasons where he was worth at least 3.0 WAR and seven worth at least 4.0. But he topped 5.0 just twice, and both his 56.0 career WAR and 32.9 peak WAR are far off the standards for centerfielders; he&#39;s a respectable 16th in the former but 37th in the latter. His 44.4 JAWS ranks 22nd at the position, ahead of just eight of the 19 enshrined centerfielders, only one of whom (Kirby Puckett) was elected by the BBWAA; he&#39;s ahead of Fred Lynn, Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams in <a href="http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_CF.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the JAWS rankings" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the JAWS rankings</a>, but behind Chet Lemon, Cesar Cedeno and Vada Pinson, with the lowest peak score of the bunch. He was a very good and very popular player for a long time, but not quite enough for Cooperstown.</p>
One-and-Dones Pt. 3: Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui Were Popular, but not Hall of Famers

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Wrapping up the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the third installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players' careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.

My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. After covering four pitchers in the first two installments, it’s time to run through the position players.

Aubrey Huff

From a sub-replacement level Devil Ray to a down-ballot MVP vote recipient for the world champion Giants, Aubrey Huff ran the gamut during a 13-year career as a four-corner player—first and third base, left and rightfield—for five different teams. Though he never made an All-Star team, he did win the 2008 Edgar Martinez award as the AL's top designated hitter, and had some big moments in the 2010 World Series against the Rangers. After his career ended, he offered some harrowing insights into his ups and downs—alcohol and Adderall abuse, gambling, marital woes, anxiety and depression—via his 2017 autobiography, Baseball Junkie.

A fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami in 1998, Huff was 23 years old when he debuted with the Devil Rays on August 2, 2000, playing 39 games for the third-year expansion team. Still a rookie in 2001, he hit an anemic .248/.288/.372 with eight homers, a 75 OPS+ and -0.8 WAR for a 100-loss team, a performance that returned him to Triple A to start 2002. He returned a much-improved hitter, batting combined .307/.364/.524 for a 135 OPS+ while averaging 29 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002–04. After a downturn in 2005 and a rebound in '06, he was traded to the Astros, freeing him from a team that averaged 98 losses during his five full seasons. Though the Astros fell short of winning the NL Central, Huff's solid .267/.344/.469 showing with 21 homers netted him a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orioles.

Huff sandwiched one very good season (.304/.360/.552 with 32 homers and 4.1 WAR) amid two lousy ones (a combined -0.7 WAR) in Baltimore, and did even worse after being traded to the Tigers in August 2009. In his autobiography, he admitted that during his time with the Orioles, he became hooked on Adderall (a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, classified by MLB as a banned substance without a therapeutic use exemption, which is apparently easy to obtain) and drank excessively. Amid the mess of his personal life, he caught on with the Giants in 2010; splitting time between first base and both outfield corners, "Huff Daddy" emerged as one of the team's most popular players, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 homers and career highs in OPS+ (142) and WAR (5.7). He ranked ninth in the league in the latter category, placed seventh in the MVP voting and gained a level of notoriety for wearing his lucky red "rally thong" in September and October. Unexceptional in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he went 5-for-17 with three extra-base hits in the World Series, going 3-for-4 in Game 1 and hitting a two-run homer in Game 4.

Though Huff entered a drug and alcohol rehab clinic following the World Series, and netted a two-year, $22 million deal with the Giants, he struggled both on and off the field in 2011, continuing his Adderall abuse and dealing with marital issues. While he was able to quit the drug and save his marriage, in April 2012, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Between that and a right knee sprain suffered while tripping over the dugout rail following the final out of Matt Cain's perfect game, he homered just once in 52 games for the Giants that year while batting .192/.326/.282. Nonetheless, he made the postseason roster as a reserve as the Giants beat the Tigers in the World Series. He never did play again, though after continuing to battle his demons and even contemplating suicide in 2014, he mulled a comeback attempt for 2016.

Orlando Hudson

Before he'd ever played a major league game, Orlando Hudson gained notoriety for referring to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi as a "smooth looking cat [who] looks like a pimp back in his day." Despite that inauspicious beginning, the slick-fielding "O-Dog" spent more than half a decade as one of the game's top second basemen, winning four Gold Gloves and making two All-Star teams.

A 43rd-round draft-and-follow out of Spartanburg Methodist College in 1997, Hudson was one of four players battling for the Blue Jays' second base job in the spring of 2002, having risen to No. 81 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. It was his hitless spring, not his comment about Ricciardi, that got him sent out. He debuted on July 24 of that year and hit .276/.319/.443 in 54 games. Over the next three years, he held down the Jays' second base job, hitting a combined .269/.335/.416 for a modest 93 OPS+ accompanied by 21 Defensive Runs Saved per year, a package with an average of 4.0 WAR. His career high of 5.2 in 2004 ranked eighth in the AL, and he won his first Gold Glove in 2005. That winter, he was traded to the Diamondbacks as part of a four-player deal that sent Troy Glaus to Toronto.

Perhaps it was the hitter-friendly environment, but Hudson's bat perked up in Arizona, as he topped a 100 OPS+ in all three seasons with Arizona, hitting a combined .294/365/.448 for a 105 OPS+ while averaging 11 homers and eight steals. He won Gold Gloves in 2006 and '07 and made his first All-Star team in the latter year while helping the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. Unfortunately, both his 2007 and '08 seasons ended on the operating table, the former in early September due to a torn ligament in his left thumb, the latter in early August due to a left wrist fracture and dislocation. The Diamondbacks let him depart via free agency, and he initially sought a five-year, $50 million deal, but his Type A status—which meant that the signing team lost a draft pick—crushed his market; in late February, he agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers, worth $3.6 million plus another $4.6 million in incentives. He earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors while hitting .283/.357/.417 with 4.1 WAR for a team that got as far as the NLCS, though he spent the postseason coming off the bench while hot-hitting August 31 acquisition Ronnie Belliard started.

In a move that perfectly encapsulated the cheapskate tenure of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the team didn't offer Hudson arbitration out of fear he would accept, and couldn't recoup the draft pick when he signed elsewhere. He got just a one-year, $5 million deal from the Twins—a meager payday for a player whose 26.5 WAR from 2003-09 ranked fourth among all second basemen—whom he helped to a division title, though his OPS+ slipped from 109 to 96. He signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Padres; battling a hamstring injury, his decline on both sides of the ball continued to the point that he was released in May 2012, having produced just 0.6 WAR in 154 games. Though he caught on with the White Sox, his .197/.262/.307 showing in 54 games effectively ended his career at age 34; winter 2013–14 stints in Mexico and the Dominican Republic failed to drum up further interest.

Carlos Lee

Panamanian Carlos Lee spent more than a decade as one of the majors' big boppers, mashing 331 homers from 1999–2010 (14th in MLB) while tipping the scales at 270 pounds or more, to the point that his contract included a weight clause. "El Caballo" drove in more than 100 runs six times and made three All-Star teams, but only once did he make a trip to the postseason.

Lee signed with the White Sox as a 17-year-old in 1994. Showing good power in the minors, he cracked Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in 1998 and '99 (number 28), and after just 25 games at Triple A, joined the White Sox on May 7, 1999, homering off A's knuckleballer Tom Candiotti in his first major league plate appearance. Lee hit .293/.312/.463 with 16 homers but a ghastly 72/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a 23-year-old rookie. He showed much better plate discipline the following year, hitting .301/345/.484 with 24 homers, 13 steals and a 94/38 K/BB ratio while helping the White Sox win the AL Central.

That kicked off a five-year span in which Lee averaged 27 homers, 12 steals, 3.0 WAR and a 114 OPS+ (.287/.344/.493); he hit 31 homers apiece in 2003 and '04, with a career best 5.0 WAR in the latter season. In a sense, he peaked too early, because that winter, the White Sox traded him to the Brewers in a four-player deal that brought back Scott Podsednik, whose (overrated) combination of speed and defense overshadowed the power that helped the team win its first World Series in 88 years.

Lee hit 32 homers and made his first All-Star team in 2005, then, after having his $8.5 million club option picked up, added 28 more homers in 102 games in '06 before being dealt to the Rangers on July 28 in a six-player swap that also included his understudy, Nelson Cruz. Though the Rangers fell short of winning the AL West, his nine homers helped him set a new career high with 37 to go with a .300/.355/.540 line and 3.1 WAR. The 31-year-old Lee parlayed that performance into a six-year, $100 million deal with the Astros, who were already one of the league's oldest teams. Though he hit very well through his first three seasons in Houston (.305/.354/.524 for a 128 OPS+) while averaging 29 homers, declining defense and baserunning limited him to 2.3 WAR per year.

The 34-year-old Lee's performance took a huge tumble in 2010, all the way to -2.2 WAR thanks to a 91 OPS+ and -17 Defensive Runs Saved. His downward spiral continued into the early months of 2011, but he rebounded, aided by a midseason move to first base. He finished with 4.0 WAR thanks to a 117 OPS+ (albeit with just 18 homers, his lowest total since 1999) and a surprising +14 DRS. Alas, his performance plunged back to replacement level in 2012; dealt to the Marlins on July 4, he slugged .325 in his final half season of major league play.

Hideki Matsui

Just the second Japanese position player to become an All-Star—Ichiro Suzuki was the first—Hideki Matsui arrived stateside to much fanfare in 2003, accompanied by a memorable nickname ("Godzilla") and a three-year, $21 million deal with the Yankees. He made the AL All-Star team in each of his first two seasons, helped the Bronx Bomber to a pair of pennants and a championship, and won World Series MVP honors in 2009 before departing for free agency. His 175 homers are the most of any Japanese-born player in MLB.

Matsui's size (6' 2", 210 pounds) and power (332 homers with a high of 50) earned him the "Godzilla" nickname during his decade with the Yomiuri Giants (1993–2002), during which he made nine straight All-Star teams, led the Central League in homers three times and won three MVP awards. After turning down a six-year, $64 million deal from the Giants in 2001, he left Japan to sign with the Yankees, heading into his age-29 season. He quickly endeared himself to fans by hitting a grand slam in the team's home opener, and drove in 106 runs while batting .287/.353/435 with 2.2 WAR. He made the AL All-Star team, helped the Yankees win the AL East, and hit .281/.347/.438 with 11 RBIs during the team's postseason run, delivering decisive homers in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Twins and Game 2 of the World Series against the Marlins.

Matsui had his best season in 2004, hitting .298/.390/.522 with highs in homers (31), OPS+ (137) and WAR (5.0) that he would never surpass. Red-hot during the postseason, he hit .412/.456/.765 with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBI in the postseason; he drove in five runs apiece in Games 1 and three of the ALCS against the Red Sox, though the Yankees ultimately squandered their three-games-to-none advantage.

After a strong 2005 (23 HR, 130 OPS+, 4.5 WAR) that netted him a four-year, $52 million extension, Matsui lost four months of the 2006 season to a broken left wrist suffered while diving for a ball on May 11. The injury, which required surgery, ended an iron man streak of 1,768 games dating back to his rookie season in Japan, when he was 19. A return to form in 2007 (25 HR, 123 OPS+, 4.1 WAR) was followed by a season battling an arthritic left knee that limited him to 93 games (just 23 in the outfield) and ended on the operating table in late September. As a full-time DH, he returned to club 28 homers and hit for a typical 123 OPS+ (.274/.367/.509) in 2009. His two-run homer off the Twins’ Francisco Liriano broke open the Division Series opener, and he went 8-for-13 with three homers against the Phillies in the World Series, one was a pinch-hit shot in Game 3 and the other two were game-winners off Pedro Martinez in Games 2 and 6. For his career, he hit .312/.39/.541 with 10 homers and 39 RBI in 235 postseason plate appearances.

With the Yankees only willing to bring back the going-on-36-year-old Matsui as a DH, he departed via free agency. He made good on a one-year, $6 million deal with the Angels (21 HR, 126 OPS+), but struggled on another one-year deal with the A's, slugging just .375 with 12 homers. Unable to find a major league deal for 2012, he signed a minor league deal with the Rays on April 30; he spent less than two months in the majors and retired that winter.

Between NPB and MLB, Matsui totaled 508 homers and 2,655 hits. While he won't make it to Cooperstown, he's considered a good bet to be elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility. Only four players, including NPB home run king Sadaharu Oh and NPB-to-MLB pioneer Hideo Nomo have been elected in their first year.

Johnny Damon

A charismatic centerfielder who won championships with the Red Sox and Yankees and reached the playoffs eight times with four teams from 1995 to 2012, Johnny Damon is the one player from among this year's 13 one-and-dones who probably deserved a full-length profile. Generally, my cutoff for non-relievers is for players within 20 points of the JAWS standard; Damon is 13.5 points below, but between the December holiday schedule and the unlikelihood of his election—he's received just one vote from among the first 117 ballots published—I chose the path of least resistance. Though well-regarded, Damon made just two All-Star teams, cracked the top 10 in WAR just once, and nearly wound up a test case for whether a player who reached 3,000 hits deserved automatic enshrinement.

A supplemental first-round pick by the Royals in 1992, Damon—who was chosen out of an Orlando, Florida high school—made Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list in each of the next three seasons, climbing to No. 9 in 1995. He debuted on August 12 of that season, hitting .282/.324/.441 with three homers and seven steals in 47 games as a 21-year-old. His progress over the next three seasons was uneven, as he averaged just 1.5 WAR due to subpar power and defense (his 18-homer, 10-triple, 26-steal season in 1998 was offset by -14 runs afield). Temporarily shifted to leftfield to accommodate the arrival of Carlos Beltran in 1999, the 25-year-old Damon put it all together, hitting .307/.379/.477 with 14 homers, 36 steals and 5.4 WAR, then improving across the board in 2000 (.327/.382/.495, 16 HR, 6.1 WAR), with a league-high 46 steals in just 55 attempts.

Painfully aware that they wouldn't be able to afford him once he reached free agency, the Royals, who hadn't finished above .500 since 1994, dealt him to the A's as part of a three-team blockbuster that also included the Devil Rays. Damon didn't hit well in Oakland, but he still turned in a 2.4 WAR season while helping the team to 102 wins and a playoff berth; he went 9-for-22 with three extra-base hits in a losing cause against the Yankees.

After the season, Damon signed a four-year, $31 million deal with the Red Sox. He made his first All-Star team and showed off his speed (31 steals and a league-best 11 triples) en route to 4.8 WAR in 2002, then helped Boston to three straight playoff appearances, averaging 3.9 WAR despite ups and downs at the plate and in the field. Growing his hair long, accompanied by a beard, he emerged as an iconic team leader in 2004; "WWJDD: WHAT WOULD JOHNNY DAMON DO?" t-shirts became popular at Fenway Park. Bestowing the nickname "Idiots" on the squad that overcame a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, he snapped out of a 3-for-29 slump in Game 7 with a game-breaking grand slam off Javier Vazquez, then following up with a two-run homer in his next plate appearance, driving in six of the team's 10 runs in the rout. He went 6-for-21 in the World Series, leading off the Game 4 clincher with a solo homer that set off a countdown to the Red Sox's first championship in 86 years.

After his second All-star season in 2005, Damon departed via free agency, and to the horror of Red Sox Nation, he agreed to shed his locks and beard to sign a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees. He hit a career high 24 homers to go with 25 steals in 2006, and as in Boston, provided solid value for the Yankees in all four seasons, averaging 3.4 WAR and a 112 OPS+. Shifting to leftfield again, this time for Melky Cabrera, he had the two best seasons of his New York run in terms of WAR in 2008-09 (4.1 and 4.2). In the latter, he matched his career high in homers while batting .282/.365/.489 for the AL East champs.

After going 1-for-12 in the Division Series, he heated up, going 9-for-30 with a pair of homers and five RBI against the Angels in the ALCS, then 8-for-22 in the World Series against the Phillies. His daring double steal in the ninth inning of Game 4, scurrying to third when he saw it was uncovered, keyed a three-run game-winning rally and provided a pivotal moment in the Yankees' championship run.

A free agent again at age 36, Damon entered the itinerant phase of his career, with single-season stops in Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, the first two of which were pretty good; DHing regularly, he totaled 5.5 WAR, 24 homers and 30 steals in 2010-11, helping the Rays to a wild card berth in the latter year. He finished the 2011 season with 2,723 hits; having averaged 151 hits over the previous three years, the milestone appeared attainable before his 40th birthday. However, he couldn't drum up a major league deal, didn't sign a minor league one until April 2012, and hit just .222/.281/.329 in 64 games with the Indians before drawing his release. Despite holding out hope for a return as late as December 2014, he never played again.

Had Damon managed to stick around long enough to reach 3,000 hits, he likely would have been elected to the Hall, but it wouldn't have been a very strong selection; his 56.0 WAR trails all but one of the 31 members of the 3,000 hit club, former single-season and all-time stolen base leader Lou Brock (45.2). As with Brock, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs and Dave Winfield, Damon might well have fallen below replacement level while chasing the milestone.

As it is, with just two All-Star appearances, no Gold Gloves, no finish in the MVP voting higher than 13th, and a minimal presence both on traditional and advanced stat leaderboards—he had eight top ten seasons in steals and runs but just two in batting average, one in WAR and none in OBP, SLG or OPS+—Damon scores a modest 90 on the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor.

Thanks to some of the best baserunning (+77 runs) and double play avoidance (+49 runs) on record—only Rickey Henderson and Willie Wilson outdo his combined total of 126 runs—he had 10 seasons where he was worth at least 3.0 WAR and seven worth at least 4.0. But he topped 5.0 just twice, and both his 56.0 career WAR and 32.9 peak WAR are far off the standards for centerfielders; he's a respectable 16th in the former but 37th in the latter. His 44.4 JAWS ranks 22nd at the position, ahead of just eight of the 19 enshrined centerfielders, only one of whom (Kirby Puckett) was elected by the BBWAA; he's ahead of Fred Lynn, Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams in the JAWS rankings, but behind Chet Lemon, Cesar Cedeno and Vada Pinson, with the lowest peak score of the bunch. He was a very good and very popular player for a long time, but not quite enough for Cooperstown.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><p>Continuing the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the second installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players&#39; careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.</p><p>My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. In the first installment, I covered four pitchers; here are the next four, alphabetically, with the position players up next.</p><p><strong>Kevin Millwood</strong></p><p>While he wasn&#39;t the equal of Hall of Fame rotation-mates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Kevin Millwood was an important part of the turn-of-the-millennium Braves teams that dominated the NL East, and a solid starter for the better part of a decade after being traded away. Though he only made one All-Star team, he had some big seasons, won an ERA title, and joined some rare company by pitching a complete game no-hitter and part of a combined no-hitter.</p><p>An 11th-round 1993 pick out of a North Carolina high school, Millwood made his major league debut for the Braves on July 14, 1997 and started eight times that year. He entered the 1998 season as the fifth starter behind the Hall of Fame trio and Denny Neagle, who had won 20 games the year before, and thanks to strong offensive support went 17–8 with a 4.08 ERA for the 106-win team. His 1999 season was his best, as he trimmed his ERA to 2.68 while going 18–7, with 205 strikeouts and 6.1 WAR, good for fourth in the league, not to mention his lone All-Star selection. In his first taste of postseason action, he one-hit the Astros in Game 2 of the Division Series (Ken Caminiti&#39;s solo homer was the only blemish), notched a 12th-inning save in Game 3, and made a strong NLCS Game 2 start against the Mets, but he lasted just two innings in his World Series Game 2 start against the Yankees, who swept the Braves.</p><p>After a pair of mediocre seasons, the second one shortened by a shoulder injury, Millwood rebounded to go 18–8 with a 3.24 ERA in 2002, them made a pair of solid starts in the Division Series against the Giants, the second a Game 5 turn on three days&#39; rest. The Braves lost, however, and in a December cost-cutting move that sent shockwaves through <a href="http://www.futilityinfielder.com/wordpress/2002/12/brave-new-world.shtml%20if%20not%20the%20entire%20industry,%20the%20arbitration-eligible" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the blogosphere" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the blogosphere</a>, Millwood was traded to the division rival Phillies for 26-year-old backup catcher Johnny Estrada. On April 27, 2003, he no-hit the Giants, which was just the second no-hitter thrown by a Phillie at Veterans Stadium.</p><p>Millwood spent two seasons in Philadelphia, then a year in Cleveland, where his 2.86 ERA led the AL (despite a 9–11 record) and keyed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers. He spent four seasons in Arlington, two with ERAs above 5.00, then was traded to Baltimore, where he was pummeled for a 4–16 record and a 5.01 ERA in 2010. Unable to get a big league contract the following spring, he toiled in the minor league systems of the Yankees and Red Sox before re-emerging with the Rockies, then spent 2012 with the Mariners. On June 8, he threw six no-hit innings against the Dodgers before exiting with a groin strain; five relievers finished the job. He joined Vida Blue, Kent Mercker and Mike Witt as the only pitchers to throw a full no-hitter and part of another; Cole Hamels has since joined that group. Millwood retired the following winter.</p><p><strong>Jamie Moyer</strong></p><p>One of the majors&#39; great stories of survival and persistence, Jamie Moyer was the epitome of the ageless, crafty lefty. Moyer spent 25 seasons in the majors between 1986 and 2012, with eight different teams, peaking in his age 34–40 seasons with the Mariners and pitching until he was 49 years old. He&#39;s the oldest pitcher ever to start multiple games in a season.</p><p>A sixth-round pick by the Cubs out of St. Joseph&#39;s University in 1984, Moyer was 23 when he debuted on June 16, 1986 opposite a Phillies lineup that included Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. Roughed up for ERAs above 5.00 in his first two years, he was traded to the Rangers after his first solid season (9–15, 3.48 ERA, 3.4 WAR in 1988), part of a nine-player deal alongside Rafael Palmeiro. He struggled in Texas while battling shoulder inflammation, and after being released following the 1990 season, pitched so badly in ’91 (0–5, 5.74 ERA) that he spent most of that year and all of ’92 back in Triple A. To that point, he was a 29-year-old with a 34–54 record and a 4.56 ERA (87 ERA+). After beginning the 1993 season in the minors, he resurfaced with the Orioles and resurrected his career by going 12–9 with a 3.43 ERA (130 ERA+) and 3.0 WAR in 25 starts.</p><p>Moyer&#39;s next two years in Baltimore were forgettable, as was a half-season in Boston, but a July 30, 1996 trade to the Mariners (for outfielder Darren Bragg) turned out to be the break that the soft-tossing flyballer needed. Moyer spent parts of 11 seasons with the Mariners, helping them to AL West titles in 1997 and 2001. From 1997-2003, he averaged 16 wins, 202 innings, a 3.75 ERA (119 ERA+) and 4.2 WAR—<a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/Y11YV" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:only nine pitchers" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">only nine pitchers</a> were more valuable in that span—with five top ten finishes in ERA and four in WAR (his 6.6 was second in 1999). He won 20 games in 2001, his age-38 season, which made him the oldest first-timer until 39-year-old Mike Mussina did so in 2008; he won 21 in &#39;03 (age 40), the lone season in which he made an All-Star team. Though still a 200-inning workhorse, his performance in Seattle declined to around league average thereafter.</p><p>Traded to the Phillies in August 2006, Moyer continued to eat innings for a team that won four straight NL East titles; his best year came in 2008 (his age-45 season), when he went 16–7 with a 3.71 ERA for the world champions. Though his Division Series and NLCS starts were brief and unimpressive, he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 solid innings against the Rays in Philadelphia&#39;s World Series Game 3 victory, becoming the oldest pitcher to start a Series game since 47-year-old Jack Quinn in 1930. He missed the team&#39;s return to the World Series the following year due to a late-season groin injury that required surgery, and looked as though he might be done when he sprained his UCL in July 2010.</p><p>Nonetheless, Moyer underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks after his 48th birthday and in 2012 brought back his 80-ish mph fastball to start nine times for the Rockies, making him the oldest pitcher since Satchel Paige made a three-inning cameo start at age 58 (give or take) in 1965. Roughed up for a 5.70 ERA, he briefly toiled at Triple A stops for the Blue Jays and Orioles after being released by the Rockies. He won&#39;t make the Hall, but his 269 wins, 2,441 strikeouts and 50.2 WAR testify to his staying power, and the numerous awards for character and community service he earned along the way attest to his being an even better person than a pitcher.</p><p><strong>Kerry Wood</strong></p><p>Few pitchers in recent baseball history have had as much hope invested in them as Kerry Wood, who took the majors by storm in 1998, riding a fastball that could reach 100 mph to a record-tying 20-strikeout performance in just his fifth major league start. Even after enduring Tommy John surgery a year later, Wood—in tandem with fellow first-round pick Mark Prior—was viewed as a pitcher who could lead the Cubs to their long-sought championship. Bad luck and injuries prevented him from doing so, and while his perseverance helped him carve out a 14-year career, he’s one for the Hall of What Might Have Been.</p><p>Chosen with the fourth pick of the 1995 draft out of a suburban Dallas high school, Wood ranked among <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s top five prospects heading into both the 1997 and &#39;98 seasons. He made the Cubs as a 20-year-old, debuting on April 12, 1998, and while he was cuffed for an 8.74 ERA in his first three turns, he struck out nine in his fourth, and then on May 6, <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/05/18/243269/flame-thrower-the-cubs-kerry-wood-whos-only-20-used-a-searing-heater-and-sharp-breaking-balls-to-strike-out-20-astros-in-perhaps-the-most-dominant-pitching-performance-in-baseball-history" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:pitched a one-hit shutout" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">pitched a one-hit shutout</a> against the Astros in which he struck out 20 (tying Roger Clemens&#39; single-game high) and walked none; his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_score" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:game score of 105" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">game score of 105</a> is the highest ever for a nine-inning game. Wood threw 122 pitches that day, one of eight outings in which he topped 120—the second-highest total for a pitcher under the age of 22 in the Wild Card era, and a workload that inspired Baseball Prospectus co-founder Rany Jazayerli to <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/148/pitcher-abuse-points-a-new-way-to-measure-pitcher-abuse/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:launch" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">launch</a> an <a href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mystery-sabermetrics-still-cant-solve/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:industry-changing effort" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">industry-changing effort</a> to measure pitcher overuse. He finished third in the NL with 233 strikeouts to go with his 13–6, 3.40 ERA record, helped the Cubs reach the playoffs as the NL wild card and edged Todd Helton for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Alas, he tore his UCL in spring training the following year and underwent Tommy John surgery.</p><p>Wood scuffled in his 2000 return (8–7, 4.80 ERA in 23 starts) but struck out 217 in just 174 1/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA in ’01. He matched that strikeout total the following year, his first making more than 28 starts, and put it all together in 2003 with a league-high 266 whiffs in 211 innings, accompanied by a 3.20 ERA. His 6.2 WAR ranked fifth in the league, he made his first All-Star team, and helped the Cubs win the NL Central, though under manager Dusty Baker, the rotation&#39;s trio of youngsters—which also included Prior, the overall number two pick of the 2001 draft, and Carlos Zambrano (below)—set wild card-era standards for <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/oRFgK" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:high pitch counts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">high pitch counts</a>. Wood started and won Games 1 and 5 in the Division Series against the Braves, and made a solid turn in NLCS Game 3 against the Marlins. After the Steve Bartman incident led to the team blowing a three-run eighth-inning lead in Game 6, he started Game 7; while he became just the second pitcher to homer in a postseason rubber match (Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series was first), he was lit up for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs lost.</p><p>The overuse caught up. Wood was limited to 32 starts in 2004–05 due to shoulder tendinitis and a rotator cuff strain, and just four in ’06 due to meniscus surgery and another shoulder strain. The shoulder woes continued even after he was converted to the bullpen in 2007, but in ’08, he rebounded and saved 34 games as an All-Star closer. After the season, he signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Indians, but he saved just 20 in 2009, pitching badly enough to temporarily lose his job closing.</p><p>Beset by blisters and a lat strain, he was even worse (6.30 ERA in 20 innings) in 2010, but the Yankees traded for him on July 31, and he was dominant (0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings) down the stretch. He returned to the Cubs that winter and made 55 relief appearances in 2011, but continued shoulder problems led him to walk away after just 10 outings in 2012. In a memorable finale, he <a href="https://www.mlb.com/news/cubs-pitcher-kerry-wood-retires-after-final-outing/c-31622076" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:struck out" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">struck out</a> the White Sox&#39;s Dayan Viciedo on three pitches on May 18, then departed to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field.</p><p><strong>Carlos Zambrano</strong></p><p>Though he suffered by comparison to Wood and Prior, Carlos Zambrano did not have to endure their level of suffering at the big league level. The healthiest of the trio, he matched their combined total of All-Star appearances (three) while exceeding them in 200-inning seasons (five versus three), seasons among the league&#39;s top 10 in WAR (four versus three) and seasons receiving Cy Young votes (three versus one). Thanks to his durability, he received the largest payday of the trio, a five-year, $91.5 million extension signed in 2007, but due to his volatile temper, the 6&#39; 4&quot;, 275-pound Venezualan hurler wore out his welcome before the completion of the deal. </p><p>Signed out of Venezuela in 1997, when he was just 16, Zambrano debuted as a 20-year-old on August 20, 2001, but he was lit for 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings over six appearances. He spent the first three months of 2002 in the Cubs&#39; bullpen, then joined the rotation and made 16 starts, striking out 10 Astros in his fourth on July 20. He went just 4–8 with a 3.66 ERA that year, but improved to 13–11 with a 3.11 ERA (good for seventh in the league) in 214 innings in 2003, helping the Cubs get as far as Game 7 of the NLCS, though all three of his postseason starts were losses.</p><p>As a 23-year-old, he was even better in 2004, posting the NL’s fourth-best ERA (2.75) and WAR (6.7) and finishing third in the Cy Young voting while making his first All-Star team. He cracked the top 10 in both ERA and WAR in 2005 and &#39;06 as well while striking out over 200 hitters each season, with a league lead-tying 16 wins in the latter. He also clubbed six homers that year; an excellent hitter for a pitcher, he went long 24 times in 744 career plate appearances while batting .238/.248/388.</p><p>Though his 2007 season was marked by <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/cs-070601cubsgamer-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a dugout brawl" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a dugout brawl</a> with catcher Michael Barret on June 1—one that continued in the clubhouse—Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5 million extension in August, passing up a shot at an even bigger free agent deal. Even so, his 3.95 ERA that year was a career worst, though he did pitch well in his lone postseason turn against the Diamondbacks. He made his third All-Star team in 2008, carrying a 2.76 ERA through his first 22 starts before being pummeled for a 7.93 mark in his final eight, with a shoulder strain a factor. Hamstring and lower back injuries and a six-game suspension for <a href="http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-bbn-cubs-zambrano-suspended-052809-2009may28-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:an on-field tirade" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">an on-field tirade</a>—he nudged an umpire after a close play at home plate following his wild pitch, then fired a ball into leftfield—limited him to 28 turns in 2009.</p><p>Struggles in early 2010 led to an exile to the bullpen, and while he showed signs of coming around, he was still carrying a 5.66 ERA when another dugout altercation, this time with first baseman Derrek Lee, led to the team suspending him for three games and placing him on the restricted list for a month while he underwent <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-28/sports/ct-spt-0629-cubs-brite--20100628_1_barry-praver-general-manager-jim-hendry-carlos-zambrano" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:anger management counseling" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">anger management counseling</a>.</p><p>Though Zambrano returned and made a strong enough finish to lower his season ERA to 3.33, he couldn&#39;t keep his anger issues at bay. Ejected from an August 12, 2011 start after throwing a pair of brushback pitches to Chipper Jones and before that, serving up five homers, he cleaned out his locker, told teammates he was retiring, and left the clubhouse. He never pitched another game for the Cubs, who placed him on the disqualified list for the remainder of the season. In January 2012, the incoming Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime dumped him on the Miami Marlins, paying $15.5 million of his remaining $18 million.</p><p>While generally well-behaved with Miami, his performance deteriorated after a strong two months, and he finished with a 4.49 ERA in 132 1/3 innings. A free agent at season&#39;s end, he could only muster a minor league deal with the Phillies, but he made just four starts before a shoulder strain led to his release. Not surprisingly, he found no takers the following year after winding up <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/strike-zone/2014/01/27/carlos-zambrano-brawl-venezuela-winter-league" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in the middle of a brawl" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in the middle of a brawl</a> in Game 3 of the Venezuelan Winter League championship series.</p>
One-and-Dones Pt. 2: A Look Back at the Best Times of Kerry Wood, Jamie Moyer and More

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Continuing the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the second installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players' careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.

My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. In the first installment, I covered four pitchers; here are the next four, alphabetically, with the position players up next.

Kevin Millwood

While he wasn't the equal of Hall of Fame rotation-mates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Kevin Millwood was an important part of the turn-of-the-millennium Braves teams that dominated the NL East, and a solid starter for the better part of a decade after being traded away. Though he only made one All-Star team, he had some big seasons, won an ERA title, and joined some rare company by pitching a complete game no-hitter and part of a combined no-hitter.

An 11th-round 1993 pick out of a North Carolina high school, Millwood made his major league debut for the Braves on July 14, 1997 and started eight times that year. He entered the 1998 season as the fifth starter behind the Hall of Fame trio and Denny Neagle, who had won 20 games the year before, and thanks to strong offensive support went 17–8 with a 4.08 ERA for the 106-win team. His 1999 season was his best, as he trimmed his ERA to 2.68 while going 18–7, with 205 strikeouts and 6.1 WAR, good for fourth in the league, not to mention his lone All-Star selection. In his first taste of postseason action, he one-hit the Astros in Game 2 of the Division Series (Ken Caminiti's solo homer was the only blemish), notched a 12th-inning save in Game 3, and made a strong NLCS Game 2 start against the Mets, but he lasted just two innings in his World Series Game 2 start against the Yankees, who swept the Braves.

After a pair of mediocre seasons, the second one shortened by a shoulder injury, Millwood rebounded to go 18–8 with a 3.24 ERA in 2002, them made a pair of solid starts in the Division Series against the Giants, the second a Game 5 turn on three days' rest. The Braves lost, however, and in a December cost-cutting move that sent shockwaves through the blogosphere, Millwood was traded to the division rival Phillies for 26-year-old backup catcher Johnny Estrada. On April 27, 2003, he no-hit the Giants, which was just the second no-hitter thrown by a Phillie at Veterans Stadium.

Millwood spent two seasons in Philadelphia, then a year in Cleveland, where his 2.86 ERA led the AL (despite a 9–11 record) and keyed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers. He spent four seasons in Arlington, two with ERAs above 5.00, then was traded to Baltimore, where he was pummeled for a 4–16 record and a 5.01 ERA in 2010. Unable to get a big league contract the following spring, he toiled in the minor league systems of the Yankees and Red Sox before re-emerging with the Rockies, then spent 2012 with the Mariners. On June 8, he threw six no-hit innings against the Dodgers before exiting with a groin strain; five relievers finished the job. He joined Vida Blue, Kent Mercker and Mike Witt as the only pitchers to throw a full no-hitter and part of another; Cole Hamels has since joined that group. Millwood retired the following winter.

Jamie Moyer

One of the majors' great stories of survival and persistence, Jamie Moyer was the epitome of the ageless, crafty lefty. Moyer spent 25 seasons in the majors between 1986 and 2012, with eight different teams, peaking in his age 34–40 seasons with the Mariners and pitching until he was 49 years old. He's the oldest pitcher ever to start multiple games in a season.

A sixth-round pick by the Cubs out of St. Joseph's University in 1984, Moyer was 23 when he debuted on June 16, 1986 opposite a Phillies lineup that included Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. Roughed up for ERAs above 5.00 in his first two years, he was traded to the Rangers after his first solid season (9–15, 3.48 ERA, 3.4 WAR in 1988), part of a nine-player deal alongside Rafael Palmeiro. He struggled in Texas while battling shoulder inflammation, and after being released following the 1990 season, pitched so badly in ’91 (0–5, 5.74 ERA) that he spent most of that year and all of ’92 back in Triple A. To that point, he was a 29-year-old with a 34–54 record and a 4.56 ERA (87 ERA+). After beginning the 1993 season in the minors, he resurfaced with the Orioles and resurrected his career by going 12–9 with a 3.43 ERA (130 ERA+) and 3.0 WAR in 25 starts.

Moyer's next two years in Baltimore were forgettable, as was a half-season in Boston, but a July 30, 1996 trade to the Mariners (for outfielder Darren Bragg) turned out to be the break that the soft-tossing flyballer needed. Moyer spent parts of 11 seasons with the Mariners, helping them to AL West titles in 1997 and 2001. From 1997-2003, he averaged 16 wins, 202 innings, a 3.75 ERA (119 ERA+) and 4.2 WAR—only nine pitchers were more valuable in that span—with five top ten finishes in ERA and four in WAR (his 6.6 was second in 1999). He won 20 games in 2001, his age-38 season, which made him the oldest first-timer until 39-year-old Mike Mussina did so in 2008; he won 21 in '03 (age 40), the lone season in which he made an All-Star team. Though still a 200-inning workhorse, his performance in Seattle declined to around league average thereafter.

Traded to the Phillies in August 2006, Moyer continued to eat innings for a team that won four straight NL East titles; his best year came in 2008 (his age-45 season), when he went 16–7 with a 3.71 ERA for the world champions. Though his Division Series and NLCS starts were brief and unimpressive, he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 solid innings against the Rays in Philadelphia's World Series Game 3 victory, becoming the oldest pitcher to start a Series game since 47-year-old Jack Quinn in 1930. He missed the team's return to the World Series the following year due to a late-season groin injury that required surgery, and looked as though he might be done when he sprained his UCL in July 2010.

Nonetheless, Moyer underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks after his 48th birthday and in 2012 brought back his 80-ish mph fastball to start nine times for the Rockies, making him the oldest pitcher since Satchel Paige made a three-inning cameo start at age 58 (give or take) in 1965. Roughed up for a 5.70 ERA, he briefly toiled at Triple A stops for the Blue Jays and Orioles after being released by the Rockies. He won't make the Hall, but his 269 wins, 2,441 strikeouts and 50.2 WAR testify to his staying power, and the numerous awards for character and community service he earned along the way attest to his being an even better person than a pitcher.

Kerry Wood

Few pitchers in recent baseball history have had as much hope invested in them as Kerry Wood, who took the majors by storm in 1998, riding a fastball that could reach 100 mph to a record-tying 20-strikeout performance in just his fifth major league start. Even after enduring Tommy John surgery a year later, Wood—in tandem with fellow first-round pick Mark Prior—was viewed as a pitcher who could lead the Cubs to their long-sought championship. Bad luck and injuries prevented him from doing so, and while his perseverance helped him carve out a 14-year career, he’s one for the Hall of What Might Have Been.

Chosen with the fourth pick of the 1995 draft out of a suburban Dallas high school, Wood ranked among Baseball America's top five prospects heading into both the 1997 and '98 seasons. He made the Cubs as a 20-year-old, debuting on April 12, 1998, and while he was cuffed for an 8.74 ERA in his first three turns, he struck out nine in his fourth, and then on May 6, pitched a one-hit shutout against the Astros in which he struck out 20 (tying Roger Clemens' single-game high) and walked none; his game score of 105 is the highest ever for a nine-inning game. Wood threw 122 pitches that day, one of eight outings in which he topped 120—the second-highest total for a pitcher under the age of 22 in the Wild Card era, and a workload that inspired Baseball Prospectus co-founder Rany Jazayerli to launch an industry-changing effort to measure pitcher overuse. He finished third in the NL with 233 strikeouts to go with his 13–6, 3.40 ERA record, helped the Cubs reach the playoffs as the NL wild card and edged Todd Helton for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Alas, he tore his UCL in spring training the following year and underwent Tommy John surgery.

Wood scuffled in his 2000 return (8–7, 4.80 ERA in 23 starts) but struck out 217 in just 174 1/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA in ’01. He matched that strikeout total the following year, his first making more than 28 starts, and put it all together in 2003 with a league-high 266 whiffs in 211 innings, accompanied by a 3.20 ERA. His 6.2 WAR ranked fifth in the league, he made his first All-Star team, and helped the Cubs win the NL Central, though under manager Dusty Baker, the rotation's trio of youngsters—which also included Prior, the overall number two pick of the 2001 draft, and Carlos Zambrano (below)—set wild card-era standards for high pitch counts. Wood started and won Games 1 and 5 in the Division Series against the Braves, and made a solid turn in NLCS Game 3 against the Marlins. After the Steve Bartman incident led to the team blowing a three-run eighth-inning lead in Game 6, he started Game 7; while he became just the second pitcher to homer in a postseason rubber match (Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series was first), he was lit up for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs lost.

The overuse caught up. Wood was limited to 32 starts in 2004–05 due to shoulder tendinitis and a rotator cuff strain, and just four in ’06 due to meniscus surgery and another shoulder strain. The shoulder woes continued even after he was converted to the bullpen in 2007, but in ’08, he rebounded and saved 34 games as an All-Star closer. After the season, he signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Indians, but he saved just 20 in 2009, pitching badly enough to temporarily lose his job closing.

Beset by blisters and a lat strain, he was even worse (6.30 ERA in 20 innings) in 2010, but the Yankees traded for him on July 31, and he was dominant (0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings) down the stretch. He returned to the Cubs that winter and made 55 relief appearances in 2011, but continued shoulder problems led him to walk away after just 10 outings in 2012. In a memorable finale, he struck out the White Sox's Dayan Viciedo on three pitches on May 18, then departed to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field.

Carlos Zambrano

Though he suffered by comparison to Wood and Prior, Carlos Zambrano did not have to endure their level of suffering at the big league level. The healthiest of the trio, he matched their combined total of All-Star appearances (three) while exceeding them in 200-inning seasons (five versus three), seasons among the league's top 10 in WAR (four versus three) and seasons receiving Cy Young votes (three versus one). Thanks to his durability, he received the largest payday of the trio, a five-year, $91.5 million extension signed in 2007, but due to his volatile temper, the 6' 4", 275-pound Venezualan hurler wore out his welcome before the completion of the deal.

Signed out of Venezuela in 1997, when he was just 16, Zambrano debuted as a 20-year-old on August 20, 2001, but he was lit for 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings over six appearances. He spent the first three months of 2002 in the Cubs' bullpen, then joined the rotation and made 16 starts, striking out 10 Astros in his fourth on July 20. He went just 4–8 with a 3.66 ERA that year, but improved to 13–11 with a 3.11 ERA (good for seventh in the league) in 214 innings in 2003, helping the Cubs get as far as Game 7 of the NLCS, though all three of his postseason starts were losses.

As a 23-year-old, he was even better in 2004, posting the NL’s fourth-best ERA (2.75) and WAR (6.7) and finishing third in the Cy Young voting while making his first All-Star team. He cracked the top 10 in both ERA and WAR in 2005 and '06 as well while striking out over 200 hitters each season, with a league lead-tying 16 wins in the latter. He also clubbed six homers that year; an excellent hitter for a pitcher, he went long 24 times in 744 career plate appearances while batting .238/.248/388.

Though his 2007 season was marked by a dugout brawl with catcher Michael Barret on June 1—one that continued in the clubhouse—Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5 million extension in August, passing up a shot at an even bigger free agent deal. Even so, his 3.95 ERA that year was a career worst, though he did pitch well in his lone postseason turn against the Diamondbacks. He made his third All-Star team in 2008, carrying a 2.76 ERA through his first 22 starts before being pummeled for a 7.93 mark in his final eight, with a shoulder strain a factor. Hamstring and lower back injuries and a six-game suspension for an on-field tirade—he nudged an umpire after a close play at home plate following his wild pitch, then fired a ball into leftfield—limited him to 28 turns in 2009.

Struggles in early 2010 led to an exile to the bullpen, and while he showed signs of coming around, he was still carrying a 5.66 ERA when another dugout altercation, this time with first baseman Derrek Lee, led to the team suspending him for three games and placing him on the restricted list for a month while he underwent anger management counseling.

Though Zambrano returned and made a strong enough finish to lower his season ERA to 3.33, he couldn't keep his anger issues at bay. Ejected from an August 12, 2011 start after throwing a pair of brushback pitches to Chipper Jones and before that, serving up five homers, he cleaned out his locker, told teammates he was retiring, and left the clubhouse. He never pitched another game for the Cubs, who placed him on the disqualified list for the remainder of the season. In January 2012, the incoming Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime dumped him on the Miami Marlins, paying $15.5 million of his remaining $18 million.

While generally well-behaved with Miami, his performance deteriorated after a strong two months, and he finished with a 4.49 ERA in 132 1/3 innings. A free agent at season's end, he could only muster a minor league deal with the Phillies, but he made just four starts before a shoulder strain led to his release. Not surprisingly, he found no takers the following year after winding up in the middle of a brawl in Game 3 of the Venezuelan Winter League championship series.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><p>Continuing the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the second installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players&#39; careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.</p><p>My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. In the first installment, I covered four pitchers; here are the next four, alphabetically, with the position players up next.</p><p><strong>Kevin Millwood</strong></p><p>While he wasn&#39;t the equal of Hall of Fame rotation-mates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Kevin Millwood was an important part of the turn-of-the-millennium Braves teams that dominated the NL East, and a solid starter for the better part of a decade after being traded away. Though he only made one All-Star team, he had some big seasons, won an ERA title, and joined some rare company by pitching a complete game no-hitter and part of a combined no-hitter.</p><p>An 11th-round 1993 pick out of a North Carolina high school, Millwood made his major league debut for the Braves on July 14, 1997 and started eight times that year. He entered the 1998 season as the fifth starter behind the Hall of Fame trio and Denny Neagle, who had won 20 games the year before, and thanks to strong offensive support went 17–8 with a 4.08 ERA for the 106-win team. His 1999 season was his best, as he trimmed his ERA to 2.68 while going 18–7, with 205 strikeouts and 6.1 WAR, good for fourth in the league, not to mention his lone All-Star selection. In his first taste of postseason action, he one-hit the Astros in Game 2 of the Division Series (Ken Caminiti&#39;s solo homer was the only blemish), notched a 12th-inning save in Game 3, and made a strong NLCS Game 2 start against the Mets, but he lasted just two innings in his World Series Game 2 start against the Yankees, who swept the Braves.</p><p>After a pair of mediocre seasons, the second one shortened by a shoulder injury, Millwood rebounded to go 18–8 with a 3.24 ERA in 2002, them made a pair of solid starts in the Division Series against the Giants, the second a Game 5 turn on three days&#39; rest. The Braves lost, however, and in a December cost-cutting move that sent shockwaves through <a href="http://www.futilityinfielder.com/wordpress/2002/12/brave-new-world.shtml%20if%20not%20the%20entire%20industry,%20the%20arbitration-eligible" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the blogosphere" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the blogosphere</a>, Millwood was traded to the division rival Phillies for 26-year-old backup catcher Johnny Estrada. On April 27, 2003, he no-hit the Giants, which was just the second no-hitter thrown by a Phillie at Veterans Stadium.</p><p>Millwood spent two seasons in Philadelphia, then a year in Cleveland, where his 2.86 ERA led the AL (despite a 9–11 record) and keyed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers. He spent four seasons in Arlington, two with ERAs above 5.00, then was traded to Baltimore, where he was pummeled for a 4–16 record and a 5.01 ERA in 2010. Unable to get a big league contract the following spring, he toiled in the minor league systems of the Yankees and Red Sox before re-emerging with the Rockies, then spent 2012 with the Mariners. On June 8, he threw six no-hit innings against the Dodgers before exiting with a groin strain; five relievers finished the job. He joined Vida Blue, Kent Mercker and Mike Witt as the only pitchers to throw a full no-hitter and part of another; Cole Hamels has since joined that group. Millwood retired the following winter.</p><p><strong>Jamie Moyer</strong></p><p>One of the majors&#39; great stories of survival and persistence, Jamie Moyer was the epitome of the ageless, crafty lefty. Moyer spent 25 seasons in the majors between 1986 and 2012, with eight different teams, peaking in his age 34–40 seasons with the Mariners and pitching until he was 49 years old. He&#39;s the oldest pitcher ever to start multiple games in a season.</p><p>A sixth-round pick by the Cubs out of St. Joseph&#39;s University in 1984, Moyer was 23 when he debuted on June 16, 1986 opposite a Phillies lineup that included Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. Roughed up for ERAs above 5.00 in his first two years, he was traded to the Rangers after his first solid season (9–15, 3.48 ERA, 3.4 WAR in 1988), part of a nine-player deal alongside Rafael Palmeiro. He struggled in Texas while battling shoulder inflammation, and after being released following the 1990 season, pitched so badly in ’91 (0–5, 5.74 ERA) that he spent most of that year and all of ’92 back in Triple A. To that point, he was a 29-year-old with a 34–54 record and a 4.56 ERA (87 ERA+). After beginning the 1993 season in the minors, he resurfaced with the Orioles and resurrected his career by going 12–9 with a 3.43 ERA (130 ERA+) and 3.0 WAR in 25 starts.</p><p>Moyer&#39;s next two years in Baltimore were forgettable, as was a half-season in Boston, but a July 30, 1996 trade to the Mariners (for outfielder Darren Bragg) turned out to be the break that the soft-tossing flyballer needed. Moyer spent parts of 11 seasons with the Mariners, helping them to AL West titles in 1997 and 2001. From 1997-2003, he averaged 16 wins, 202 innings, a 3.75 ERA (119 ERA+) and 4.2 WAR—<a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/Y11YV" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:only nine pitchers" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">only nine pitchers</a> were more valuable in that span—with five top ten finishes in ERA and four in WAR (his 6.6 was second in 1999). He won 20 games in 2001, his age-38 season, which made him the oldest first-timer until 39-year-old Mike Mussina did so in 2008; he won 21 in &#39;03 (age 40), the lone season in which he made an All-Star team. Though still a 200-inning workhorse, his performance in Seattle declined to around league average thereafter.</p><p>Traded to the Phillies in August 2006, Moyer continued to eat innings for a team that won four straight NL East titles; his best year came in 2008 (his age-45 season), when he went 16–7 with a 3.71 ERA for the world champions. Though his Division Series and NLCS starts were brief and unimpressive, he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 solid innings against the Rays in Philadelphia&#39;s World Series Game 3 victory, becoming the oldest pitcher to start a Series game since 47-year-old Jack Quinn in 1930. He missed the team&#39;s return to the World Series the following year due to a late-season groin injury that required surgery, and looked as though he might be done when he sprained his UCL in July 2010.</p><p>Nonetheless, Moyer underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks after his 48th birthday and in 2012 brought back his 80-ish mph fastball to start nine times for the Rockies, making him the oldest pitcher since Satchel Paige made a three-inning cameo start at age 58 (give or take) in 1965. Roughed up for a 5.70 ERA, he briefly toiled at Triple A stops for the Blue Jays and Orioles after being released by the Rockies. He won&#39;t make the Hall, but his 269 wins, 2,441 strikeouts and 50.2 WAR testify to his staying power, and the numerous awards for character and community service he earned along the way attest to his being an even better person than a pitcher.</p><p><strong>Kerry Wood</strong></p><p>Few pitchers in recent baseball history have had as much hope invested in them as Kerry Wood, who took the majors by storm in 1998, riding a fastball that could reach 100 mph to a record-tying 20-strikeout performance in just his fifth major league start. Even after enduring Tommy John surgery a year later, Wood—in tandem with fellow first-round pick Mark Prior—was viewed as a pitcher who could lead the Cubs to their long-sought championship. Bad luck and injuries prevented him from doing so, and while his perseverance helped him carve out a 14-year career, he’s one for the Hall of What Might Have Been.</p><p>Chosen with the fourth pick of the 1995 draft out of a suburban Dallas high school, Wood ranked among <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s top five prospects heading into both the 1997 and &#39;98 seasons. He made the Cubs as a 20-year-old, debuting on April 12, 1998, and while he was cuffed for an 8.74 ERA in his first three turns, he struck out nine in his fourth, and then on May 6, <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/05/18/243269/flame-thrower-the-cubs-kerry-wood-whos-only-20-used-a-searing-heater-and-sharp-breaking-balls-to-strike-out-20-astros-in-perhaps-the-most-dominant-pitching-performance-in-baseball-history" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:pitched a one-hit shutout" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">pitched a one-hit shutout</a> against the Astros in which he struck out 20 (tying Roger Clemens&#39; single-game high) and walked none; his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_score" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:game score of 105" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">game score of 105</a> is the highest ever for a nine-inning game. Wood threw 122 pitches that day, one of eight outings in which he topped 120—the second-highest total for a pitcher under the age of 22 in the Wild Card era, and a workload that inspired Baseball Prospectus co-founder Rany Jazayerli to <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/148/pitcher-abuse-points-a-new-way-to-measure-pitcher-abuse/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:launch" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">launch</a> an <a href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mystery-sabermetrics-still-cant-solve/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:industry-changing effort" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">industry-changing effort</a> to measure pitcher overuse. He finished third in the NL with 233 strikeouts to go with his 13–6, 3.40 ERA record, helped the Cubs reach the playoffs as the NL wild card and edged Todd Helton for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Alas, he tore his UCL in spring training the following year and underwent Tommy John surgery.</p><p>Wood scuffled in his 2000 return (8–7, 4.80 ERA in 23 starts) but struck out 217 in just 174 1/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA in ’01. He matched that strikeout total the following year, his first making more than 28 starts, and put it all together in 2003 with a league-high 266 whiffs in 211 innings, accompanied by a 3.20 ERA. His 6.2 WAR ranked fifth in the league, he made his first All-Star team, and helped the Cubs win the NL Central, though under manager Dusty Baker, the rotation&#39;s trio of youngsters—which also included Prior, the overall number two pick of the 2001 draft, and Carlos Zambrano (below)—set wild card-era standards for <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/oRFgK" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:high pitch counts" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">high pitch counts</a>. Wood started and won Games 1 and 5 in the Division Series against the Braves, and made a solid turn in NLCS Game 3 against the Marlins. After the Steve Bartman incident led to the team blowing a three-run eighth-inning lead in Game 6, he started Game 7; while he became just the second pitcher to homer in a postseason rubber match (Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series was first), he was lit up for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs lost.</p><p>The overuse caught up. Wood was limited to 32 starts in 2004–05 due to shoulder tendinitis and a rotator cuff strain, and just four in ’06 due to meniscus surgery and another shoulder strain. The shoulder woes continued even after he was converted to the bullpen in 2007, but in ’08, he rebounded and saved 34 games as an All-Star closer. After the season, he signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Indians, but he saved just 20 in 2009, pitching badly enough to temporarily lose his job closing.</p><p>Beset by blisters and a lat strain, he was even worse (6.30 ERA in 20 innings) in 2010, but the Yankees traded for him on July 31, and he was dominant (0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings) down the stretch. He returned to the Cubs that winter and made 55 relief appearances in 2011, but continued shoulder problems led him to walk away after just 10 outings in 2012. In a memorable finale, he <a href="https://www.mlb.com/news/cubs-pitcher-kerry-wood-retires-after-final-outing/c-31622076" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:struck out" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">struck out</a> the White Sox&#39;s Dayan Viciedo on three pitches on May 18, then departed to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field.</p><p><strong>Carlos Zambrano</strong></p><p>Though he suffered by comparison to Wood and Prior, Carlos Zambrano did not have to endure their level of suffering at the big league level. The healthiest of the trio, he matched their combined total of All-Star appearances (three) while exceeding them in 200-inning seasons (five versus three), seasons among the league&#39;s top 10 in WAR (four versus three) and seasons receiving Cy Young votes (three versus one). Thanks to his durability, he received the largest payday of the trio, a five-year, $91.5 million extension signed in 2007, but due to his volatile temper, the 6&#39; 4&quot;, 275-pound Venezualan hurler wore out his welcome before the completion of the deal. </p><p>Signed out of Venezuela in 1997, when he was just 16, Zambrano debuted as a 20-year-old on August 20, 2001, but he was lit for 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings over six appearances. He spent the first three months of 2002 in the Cubs&#39; bullpen, then joined the rotation and made 16 starts, striking out 10 Astros in his fourth on July 20. He went just 4–8 with a 3.66 ERA that year, but improved to 13–11 with a 3.11 ERA (good for seventh in the league) in 214 innings in 2003, helping the Cubs get as far as Game 7 of the NLCS, though all three of his postseason starts were losses.</p><p>As a 23-year-old, he was even better in 2004, posting the NL’s fourth-best ERA (2.75) and WAR (6.7) and finishing third in the Cy Young voting while making his first All-Star team. He cracked the top 10 in both ERA and WAR in 2005 and &#39;06 as well while striking out over 200 hitters each season, with a league lead-tying 16 wins in the latter. He also clubbed six homers that year; an excellent hitter for a pitcher, he went long 24 times in 744 career plate appearances while batting .238/.248/388.</p><p>Though his 2007 season was marked by <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/cs-070601cubsgamer-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a dugout brawl" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a dugout brawl</a> with catcher Michael Barret on June 1—one that continued in the clubhouse—Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5 million extension in August, passing up a shot at an even bigger free agent deal. Even so, his 3.95 ERA that year was a career worst, though he did pitch well in his lone postseason turn against the Diamondbacks. He made his third All-Star team in 2008, carrying a 2.76 ERA through his first 22 starts before being pummeled for a 7.93 mark in his final eight, with a shoulder strain a factor. Hamstring and lower back injuries and a six-game suspension for <a href="http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-bbn-cubs-zambrano-suspended-052809-2009may28-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:an on-field tirade" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">an on-field tirade</a>—he nudged an umpire after a close play at home plate following his wild pitch, then fired a ball into leftfield—limited him to 28 turns in 2009.</p><p>Struggles in early 2010 led to an exile to the bullpen, and while he showed signs of coming around, he was still carrying a 5.66 ERA when another dugout altercation, this time with first baseman Derrek Lee, led to the team suspending him for three games and placing him on the restricted list for a month while he underwent <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-06-28/sports/ct-spt-0629-cubs-brite--20100628_1_barry-praver-general-manager-jim-hendry-carlos-zambrano" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:anger management counseling" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">anger management counseling</a>.</p><p>Though Zambrano returned and made a strong enough finish to lower his season ERA to 3.33, he couldn&#39;t keep his anger issues at bay. Ejected from an August 12, 2011 start after throwing a pair of brushback pitches to Chipper Jones and before that, serving up five homers, he cleaned out his locker, told teammates he was retiring, and left the clubhouse. He never pitched another game for the Cubs, who placed him on the disqualified list for the remainder of the season. In January 2012, the incoming Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime dumped him on the Miami Marlins, paying $15.5 million of his remaining $18 million.</p><p>While generally well-behaved with Miami, his performance deteriorated after a strong two months, and he finished with a 4.49 ERA in 132 1/3 innings. A free agent at season&#39;s end, he could only muster a minor league deal with the Phillies, but he made just four starts before a shoulder strain led to his release. Not surprisingly, he found no takers the following year after winding up <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/strike-zone/2014/01/27/carlos-zambrano-brawl-venezuela-winter-league" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in the middle of a brawl" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in the middle of a brawl</a> in Game 3 of the Venezuelan Winter League championship series.</p>
One-and-Dones Pt. 2: A Look Back at the Best Times of Kerry Wood, Jamie Moyer and More

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Continuing the final phase of my 2018 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot breakdown, here is the second installment of first-time candidates whose stays on the ballot will be short, as they won’t receive even the 5% of the vote necessary to retain eligibility. That’s no great injustice, given that with one exception—that’s one out of 13 one-and-done players, from among the 33 total on the ballot—their JAWS are at least 20 points below the standards at their positions. All the same, these players' careers are worth another look before they head into the sunset. Some were Hall of Fame-caliber talents whose bodies couldn’t hold together for long enough to make a serious bid for Cooperstown. Others were late-bloomers for whom reaching the 10-year minimum required to appear on the ballot was a triumph unto itself. Many of them will be most fondly remembered as part of championship teams.

My annual project would not be complete without including them. This is the 15th year I’ve evaluated candidates using JAWS (which didn’t acquire its catchy name until a little over a year in), and I’ve never let one go by. In the first installment, I covered four pitchers; here are the next four, alphabetically, with the position players up next.

Kevin Millwood

While he wasn't the equal of Hall of Fame rotation-mates Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Kevin Millwood was an important part of the turn-of-the-millennium Braves teams that dominated the NL East, and a solid starter for the better part of a decade after being traded away. Though he only made one All-Star team, he had some big seasons, won an ERA title, and joined some rare company by pitching a complete game no-hitter and part of a combined no-hitter.

An 11th-round 1993 pick out of a North Carolina high school, Millwood made his major league debut for the Braves on July 14, 1997 and started eight times that year. He entered the 1998 season as the fifth starter behind the Hall of Fame trio and Denny Neagle, who had won 20 games the year before, and thanks to strong offensive support went 17–8 with a 4.08 ERA for the 106-win team. His 1999 season was his best, as he trimmed his ERA to 2.68 while going 18–7, with 205 strikeouts and 6.1 WAR, good for fourth in the league, not to mention his lone All-Star selection. In his first taste of postseason action, he one-hit the Astros in Game 2 of the Division Series (Ken Caminiti's solo homer was the only blemish), notched a 12th-inning save in Game 3, and made a strong NLCS Game 2 start against the Mets, but he lasted just two innings in his World Series Game 2 start against the Yankees, who swept the Braves.

After a pair of mediocre seasons, the second one shortened by a shoulder injury, Millwood rebounded to go 18–8 with a 3.24 ERA in 2002, them made a pair of solid starts in the Division Series against the Giants, the second a Game 5 turn on three days' rest. The Braves lost, however, and in a December cost-cutting move that sent shockwaves through the blogosphere, Millwood was traded to the division rival Phillies for 26-year-old backup catcher Johnny Estrada. On April 27, 2003, he no-hit the Giants, which was just the second no-hitter thrown by a Phillie at Veterans Stadium.

Millwood spent two seasons in Philadelphia, then a year in Cleveland, where his 2.86 ERA led the AL (despite a 9–11 record) and keyed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers. He spent four seasons in Arlington, two with ERAs above 5.00, then was traded to Baltimore, where he was pummeled for a 4–16 record and a 5.01 ERA in 2010. Unable to get a big league contract the following spring, he toiled in the minor league systems of the Yankees and Red Sox before re-emerging with the Rockies, then spent 2012 with the Mariners. On June 8, he threw six no-hit innings against the Dodgers before exiting with a groin strain; five relievers finished the job. He joined Vida Blue, Kent Mercker and Mike Witt as the only pitchers to throw a full no-hitter and part of another; Cole Hamels has since joined that group. Millwood retired the following winter.

Jamie Moyer

One of the majors' great stories of survival and persistence, Jamie Moyer was the epitome of the ageless, crafty lefty. Moyer spent 25 seasons in the majors between 1986 and 2012, with eight different teams, peaking in his age 34–40 seasons with the Mariners and pitching until he was 49 years old. He's the oldest pitcher ever to start multiple games in a season.

A sixth-round pick by the Cubs out of St. Joseph's University in 1984, Moyer was 23 when he debuted on June 16, 1986 opposite a Phillies lineup that included Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. Roughed up for ERAs above 5.00 in his first two years, he was traded to the Rangers after his first solid season (9–15, 3.48 ERA, 3.4 WAR in 1988), part of a nine-player deal alongside Rafael Palmeiro. He struggled in Texas while battling shoulder inflammation, and after being released following the 1990 season, pitched so badly in ’91 (0–5, 5.74 ERA) that he spent most of that year and all of ’92 back in Triple A. To that point, he was a 29-year-old with a 34–54 record and a 4.56 ERA (87 ERA+). After beginning the 1993 season in the minors, he resurfaced with the Orioles and resurrected his career by going 12–9 with a 3.43 ERA (130 ERA+) and 3.0 WAR in 25 starts.

Moyer's next two years in Baltimore were forgettable, as was a half-season in Boston, but a July 30, 1996 trade to the Mariners (for outfielder Darren Bragg) turned out to be the break that the soft-tossing flyballer needed. Moyer spent parts of 11 seasons with the Mariners, helping them to AL West titles in 1997 and 2001. From 1997-2003, he averaged 16 wins, 202 innings, a 3.75 ERA (119 ERA+) and 4.2 WAR—only nine pitchers were more valuable in that span—with five top ten finishes in ERA and four in WAR (his 6.6 was second in 1999). He won 20 games in 2001, his age-38 season, which made him the oldest first-timer until 39-year-old Mike Mussina did so in 2008; he won 21 in '03 (age 40), the lone season in which he made an All-Star team. Though still a 200-inning workhorse, his performance in Seattle declined to around league average thereafter.

Traded to the Phillies in August 2006, Moyer continued to eat innings for a team that won four straight NL East titles; his best year came in 2008 (his age-45 season), when he went 16–7 with a 3.71 ERA for the world champions. Though his Division Series and NLCS starts were brief and unimpressive, he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 solid innings against the Rays in Philadelphia's World Series Game 3 victory, becoming the oldest pitcher to start a Series game since 47-year-old Jack Quinn in 1930. He missed the team's return to the World Series the following year due to a late-season groin injury that required surgery, and looked as though he might be done when he sprained his UCL in July 2010.

Nonetheless, Moyer underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks after his 48th birthday and in 2012 brought back his 80-ish mph fastball to start nine times for the Rockies, making him the oldest pitcher since Satchel Paige made a three-inning cameo start at age 58 (give or take) in 1965. Roughed up for a 5.70 ERA, he briefly toiled at Triple A stops for the Blue Jays and Orioles after being released by the Rockies. He won't make the Hall, but his 269 wins, 2,441 strikeouts and 50.2 WAR testify to his staying power, and the numerous awards for character and community service he earned along the way attest to his being an even better person than a pitcher.

Kerry Wood

Few pitchers in recent baseball history have had as much hope invested in them as Kerry Wood, who took the majors by storm in 1998, riding a fastball that could reach 100 mph to a record-tying 20-strikeout performance in just his fifth major league start. Even after enduring Tommy John surgery a year later, Wood—in tandem with fellow first-round pick Mark Prior—was viewed as a pitcher who could lead the Cubs to their long-sought championship. Bad luck and injuries prevented him from doing so, and while his perseverance helped him carve out a 14-year career, he’s one for the Hall of What Might Have Been.

Chosen with the fourth pick of the 1995 draft out of a suburban Dallas high school, Wood ranked among Baseball America's top five prospects heading into both the 1997 and '98 seasons. He made the Cubs as a 20-year-old, debuting on April 12, 1998, and while he was cuffed for an 8.74 ERA in his first three turns, he struck out nine in his fourth, and then on May 6, pitched a one-hit shutout against the Astros in which he struck out 20 (tying Roger Clemens' single-game high) and walked none; his game score of 105 is the highest ever for a nine-inning game. Wood threw 122 pitches that day, one of eight outings in which he topped 120—the second-highest total for a pitcher under the age of 22 in the Wild Card era, and a workload that inspired Baseball Prospectus co-founder Rany Jazayerli to launch an industry-changing effort to measure pitcher overuse. He finished third in the NL with 233 strikeouts to go with his 13–6, 3.40 ERA record, helped the Cubs reach the playoffs as the NL wild card and edged Todd Helton for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Alas, he tore his UCL in spring training the following year and underwent Tommy John surgery.

Wood scuffled in his 2000 return (8–7, 4.80 ERA in 23 starts) but struck out 217 in just 174 1/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA in ’01. He matched that strikeout total the following year, his first making more than 28 starts, and put it all together in 2003 with a league-high 266 whiffs in 211 innings, accompanied by a 3.20 ERA. His 6.2 WAR ranked fifth in the league, he made his first All-Star team, and helped the Cubs win the NL Central, though under manager Dusty Baker, the rotation's trio of youngsters—which also included Prior, the overall number two pick of the 2001 draft, and Carlos Zambrano (below)—set wild card-era standards for high pitch counts. Wood started and won Games 1 and 5 in the Division Series against the Braves, and made a solid turn in NLCS Game 3 against the Marlins. After the Steve Bartman incident led to the team blowing a three-run eighth-inning lead in Game 6, he started Game 7; while he became just the second pitcher to homer in a postseason rubber match (Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series was first), he was lit up for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs lost.

The overuse caught up. Wood was limited to 32 starts in 2004–05 due to shoulder tendinitis and a rotator cuff strain, and just four in ’06 due to meniscus surgery and another shoulder strain. The shoulder woes continued even after he was converted to the bullpen in 2007, but in ’08, he rebounded and saved 34 games as an All-Star closer. After the season, he signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with the Indians, but he saved just 20 in 2009, pitching badly enough to temporarily lose his job closing.

Beset by blisters and a lat strain, he was even worse (6.30 ERA in 20 innings) in 2010, but the Yankees traded for him on July 31, and he was dominant (0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 innings) down the stretch. He returned to the Cubs that winter and made 55 relief appearances in 2011, but continued shoulder problems led him to walk away after just 10 outings in 2012. In a memorable finale, he struck out the White Sox's Dayan Viciedo on three pitches on May 18, then departed to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field.

Carlos Zambrano

Though he suffered by comparison to Wood and Prior, Carlos Zambrano did not have to endure their level of suffering at the big league level. The healthiest of the trio, he matched their combined total of All-Star appearances (three) while exceeding them in 200-inning seasons (five versus three), seasons among the league's top 10 in WAR (four versus three) and seasons receiving Cy Young votes (three versus one). Thanks to his durability, he received the largest payday of the trio, a five-year, $91.5 million extension signed in 2007, but due to his volatile temper, the 6' 4", 275-pound Venezualan hurler wore out his welcome before the completion of the deal.

Signed out of Venezuela in 1997, when he was just 16, Zambrano debuted as a 20-year-old on August 20, 2001, but he was lit for 13 runs in 7 2/3 innings over six appearances. He spent the first three months of 2002 in the Cubs' bullpen, then joined the rotation and made 16 starts, striking out 10 Astros in his fourth on July 20. He went just 4–8 with a 3.66 ERA that year, but improved to 13–11 with a 3.11 ERA (good for seventh in the league) in 214 innings in 2003, helping the Cubs get as far as Game 7 of the NLCS, though all three of his postseason starts were losses.

As a 23-year-old, he was even better in 2004, posting the NL’s fourth-best ERA (2.75) and WAR (6.7) and finishing third in the Cy Young voting while making his first All-Star team. He cracked the top 10 in both ERA and WAR in 2005 and '06 as well while striking out over 200 hitters each season, with a league lead-tying 16 wins in the latter. He also clubbed six homers that year; an excellent hitter for a pitcher, he went long 24 times in 744 career plate appearances while batting .238/.248/388.

Though his 2007 season was marked by a dugout brawl with catcher Michael Barret on June 1—one that continued in the clubhouse—Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5 million extension in August, passing up a shot at an even bigger free agent deal. Even so, his 3.95 ERA that year was a career worst, though he did pitch well in his lone postseason turn against the Diamondbacks. He made his third All-Star team in 2008, carrying a 2.76 ERA through his first 22 starts before being pummeled for a 7.93 mark in his final eight, with a shoulder strain a factor. Hamstring and lower back injuries and a six-game suspension for an on-field tirade—he nudged an umpire after a close play at home plate following his wild pitch, then fired a ball into leftfield—limited him to 28 turns in 2009.

Struggles in early 2010 led to an exile to the bullpen, and while he showed signs of coming around, he was still carrying a 5.66 ERA when another dugout altercation, this time with first baseman Derrek Lee, led to the team suspending him for three games and placing him on the restricted list for a month while he underwent anger management counseling.

Though Zambrano returned and made a strong enough finish to lower his season ERA to 3.33, he couldn't keep his anger issues at bay. Ejected from an August 12, 2011 start after throwing a pair of brushback pitches to Chipper Jones and before that, serving up five homers, he cleaned out his locker, told teammates he was retiring, and left the clubhouse. He never pitched another game for the Cubs, who placed him on the disqualified list for the remainder of the season. In January 2012, the incoming Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime dumped him on the Miami Marlins, paying $15.5 million of his remaining $18 million.

While generally well-behaved with Miami, his performance deteriorated after a strong two months, and he finished with a 4.49 ERA in 132 1/3 innings. A free agent at season's end, he could only muster a minor league deal with the Phillies, but he made just four starts before a shoulder strain led to his release. Not surprisingly, he found no takers the following year after winding up in the middle of a brawl in Game 3 of the Venezuelan Winter League championship series.

<p>The Winter Meetings have come and gone, but the offseason has remained mostly quiet. That’s as true for the rebuilding teams as it is the contenders, some of whom have been busy and some of whom have yet to stir. But with Christmas coming and a new year on the horizon, all of those teams with World Series aspirations still have moves they can make to get better ahead for 2018. Here are the 14 teams who either won a playoff spot last year or are in good position to contend for one next season and the biggest holes they have yet to fill. (For those wondering where the Blue Jays, Royals, Mets, Pirates and Giants are: Those teams strike me as trending down, too cash-strapped, and/or with too much work to do to be labeled true contenders. The Angels get an initial pass because they are the one team to aggressively address their needs this offseason.)</p><h3>Yankees: Third base</h3><p>Like the second Death Star, the Yankees as currently constructed are a fully armed and operational team in need of some cosmetic patches. Case in point: third base, unoccupied thanks to the trade that sent Chase Headley to the Padres for salary relief. Rookie Miguel Andujar is atop the depth chart there, but New York would be wise to find some veteran help at the position. A reunion with Todd Frazier, who was only slightly above-average overall but provided some big hits in pinstripes upon coming over in a deadline deal, makes the most sense for a team already boasting a superweapon of a lineup.</p><h3>Red Sox: Designated hitter</h3><p>This spot might as well have J.D. Martinez’s name penciled into it, but be it him or someone else, the Red Sox have to do something to add another bat to their lineup. The perennially average Mitch Moreland—re-upped on a two-year deal—won’t cut it. And while Hanley Ramirez has shown the ability to be a David Ortiz-level thumper, his 2017 (a 95 OPS+ and -0.3 WAR) and propensity for the disabled list make him a bad bet. So, too, does Boston’s likely desire to limit his playing time given a $22 million vesting option for 2019 that’s based on his number of plate appearances. Martinez is the ideal fit, but the Red Sox shouldn’t care who gets the at-bats if they can swing a big stick.</p><h3>Indians: Outfield</h3><p>The Indians are reportedly set to replace Carlos Santana with Yonder Alonso, which is like trading in a Mercedes for a Toyota Corolla, but either way, consider the formerly vacant position of first base filled. Next on their list should be another corner outfielder to replace free agent Jay Bruce and provide backup for Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, both too injury prone to count on as starters. Cleveland can probably do better than in-house option Abraham Almonte, a slick defender with a noodle bat. Melky Cabrera would fit the bill, or the cost-conscious Indians could try to buy low on Jose Bautista or Carlos Gonzalez.</p><h3>Twins: Starting pitching</h3><p>Minnesota went from 103 losses in 2016 to a wild-card spot in ’17, but to have any hopes of repeating or improving upon that finish, the Twins need far more from their rotation then what they have at the moment. Ervin Santana is a stalwart presence, and Jose Berrios has the stuff to be an ace, but the rest of their starters are an uninspiring collection of mediocre arms with poor peripherals. Minnesota’s decision-makers <a href="https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2017/12/18/16792696/twins-yu-darvish-in-free-agency" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:have openly expressed their desire for an ace like Yu Darvish" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">have openly expressed their desire for an ace like Yu Darvish</a>, but for a small-market franchise, the Twins are better off aiming for a mid-rotation guy like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb who can eat up innings at better than league average. That would be a massive upgrade from what they already have.</p><h3>Astros: Bullpen</h3><p>Teams that win the World Series with a vaunted core of young stars don’t normally have a lot of needs in the offseason, and that’s true of Houston. The Astros’ lineup is the envy of baseball, and the rotation is blessed with high-impact arms. But it’s the bullpen that could use some reinforcements. The postseason exposed just how shaky a group that was, particularly from the left side, with Francisco Liriano called upon to get big October outs despite being, well, Francisco Liriano. Former Cubs closer Hector Rondon is a good start, but Houston shouldn’t stop there; as the defending champions with an eye on a repeat, there’s no reason to.</p><h3>Rangers: Starting pitching</h3><p>Texas briefly lit up Twitter on Tuesday night with news that general manager Jon Daniels <a href="http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/mlb/texas-rangers/article190681369.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:will be having a quiet, intimate dinner with Darvish" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">will be having a quiet, intimate dinner with Darvish</a>, late of the Rangers and now a free agent. But with the team insisting that, no, the two are just friends and there’s nothing serious going on, Daniels should turn his attention to a pitching market that still offers plenty of value. Texas has been active already, adding Doug Fister, Mike Minor and Matt Moore, but those arms aren’t exactly reliable, and the team’s depth has already taken a hit with the loss of Martin Perez to a broken elbow. More is needed; Daniels might consider texting Cobb to see which of Dallas-Fort Worth’s finest restaurants he hasn’t tried yet.</p><h3>Mariners: Starting pitching</h3><p>In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto will likely have completed at least one trade for a minor league reliever he probably previously dealt away. But for all his frenetic swaps, Dipoto has yet to address Seattle’s biggest issue this winter: a rotation that was ruined by injuries last year and is dangerously thin. If the Mariners hope to break their 16-year postseason drought, they can’t be caught again in a situation where someone like Ariel Miranda is their leader in innings pitched. Darvish would be a perfect fit here, but anyone competent and durable would do just fine.</p><h3>Nationals: Fifth starter</h3><p>On a team loaded with stars, there’s not much else to do but fill in at the margins. That’s been Washington’s offseason so far, with the signing of backup first baseman Matt Adams as the only notable transaction in the nation’s capitol (baseball-wise, anyway). There have been rumors that the Nationals <a href="https://www.mlb.com/news/nationals-interested-in-jake-arrieta/c-263333236" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:are interested in Jake Arrieta" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">are interested in Jake Arrieta</a>, but while he would create a monolithic rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, the Nats should save their money and aim instead to upgrade on the last spot in the starting five, one currently being held by rookie Erick Fedde. That should cost far less and be much easier to do than talking Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, into yet another deferred money deal from ownership.</p><h3>Cubs: Lefty setup</h3><p>Chicago won only 92 games last year in a drop from its World Series high, but all the pieces are in place for better in 2018, even with Arrieta likely gone for good. The offense remains young and stacked, and the rotation should be fine with new signing Tyler Chatwood slotting in at the back; likewise in the bullpen, where former Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow should help a unit that torched too many leads. One notable missing piece, though, is a reliable lefthander for that relief corps. Former Tigers closer Justin Wilson, acquired midseason, was a flop on the North Side, losing manager Joe Maddon’s trust so completely that he was left off the team’s NLCS roster. Maybe Chicago would have better luck with a veteran arm like Zach Duke, Boone Logan or Tony Watson.</p><h3>Cardinals: Closer</h3><p>The Cardinals’ biggest hole has already been addressed with the trade that landed them All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the fire-selling Marlins. But St. Louis would do well to bolster its ninth-inning options in the bullpen; last year saw nothing but struggle from Trevor Rosenthal (now injured) and Seung-hwan Oh (a free agent). Luke Gregerson is in the mix, but the 33-year-old righty is better suited to middle relief or setup. While the market is short on dominant closer types, the Cardinals reeling in Wade Davis or Greg Holland would go a long way toward shoring up a trouble spot.</p><h3>Brewers: No. 1 starter</h3><p>Surprise contenders last season, the Brewers have seen their window open unexpectedly early. Now, they have to take advantage of that opportunity by making a big splash at a position where they need the most help: the top of the rotation. Milwaukee’s initial forays into adding to a mediocre starting five have been mediocre themselves; Yovani Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin do not add up to a postseason place. Arrieta or Darvish would fit the bill, or the Brewers could use their enviable prospect stash to make a move for Rays ace Chris Archer. Either way, the time is right for Milwaukee to go big.</p><h3>Dodgers: Right-handed setup man</h3><p>Like the Astros, there’s not much you need to change about the Dodgers, whose biggest move so far has been to shed salary to better their financial outlook for next winter’s free-agent bonanza. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement for this offseason, though, and it starts in the bullpen, where the departure of Morrow has left a vacancy in the righthanded setup role ahead of closer Kenley Jansen. Whether Los Angeles goes with a premium option or tries the Morrow route again with a failed starter who boasts elite stuff isn’t important; what matters is adding depth to try to avoid a scenario like “eighth-inning man Pedro Baez.”</p><h3>Diamondbacks: Outfield (either right or left)</h3><p>As with the Red Sox, this position probably has J.D. Martinez’s name all over it. And like Boston, Arizona’s fallback option here—Yasmany Tomas, a bust since coming over from Cuba as one of the old front office’s costlier mistakes—isn’t very appealing. Luckily for the D-Backs, the free-agent market is rife with outfielders who shouldn’t cost too much; Bruce, Lorenzo Cain and Gonzalez all come to mind as reasonable options to replace Martinez if he moves elsewhere.</p><h3>Rockies: Rotation depth</h3><p>Assuming the Rockies decide to go with some kind of Ian Desmond/Ryan McMahon pairing at first base, the team should be set on offense. And a bullpen that was nothing special last year has been bolstered by the signings of Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, with Addison Reed, Davis and last year’s closer Holland also on their radar. So as always with Colorado, let’s put the emphasis on the rotation, which lost the unexciting but functional Chatwood and has little depth behind youngsters Jon Gray, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. The Rockies don’t need an ace; they just need some useful veterans who won’t mind pitching at altitude and can chip in five-to-six serviceable innings a turn. The market is full of those types, and while Jeremy Hellickson or Trevor Cahill is nowhere near a sexy signing, guys like that could make all the difference as the Rockies attempt to hold on to a wild-card spot.</p>
The Biggest Remaining Offseason Roster Need for 14 MLB Contenders

The Winter Meetings have come and gone, but the offseason has remained mostly quiet. That’s as true for the rebuilding teams as it is the contenders, some of whom have been busy and some of whom have yet to stir. But with Christmas coming and a new year on the horizon, all of those teams with World Series aspirations still have moves they can make to get better ahead for 2018. Here are the 14 teams who either won a playoff spot last year or are in good position to contend for one next season and the biggest holes they have yet to fill. (For those wondering where the Blue Jays, Royals, Mets, Pirates and Giants are: Those teams strike me as trending down, too cash-strapped, and/or with too much work to do to be labeled true contenders. The Angels get an initial pass because they are the one team to aggressively address their needs this offseason.)

Yankees: Third base

Like the second Death Star, the Yankees as currently constructed are a fully armed and operational team in need of some cosmetic patches. Case in point: third base, unoccupied thanks to the trade that sent Chase Headley to the Padres for salary relief. Rookie Miguel Andujar is atop the depth chart there, but New York would be wise to find some veteran help at the position. A reunion with Todd Frazier, who was only slightly above-average overall but provided some big hits in pinstripes upon coming over in a deadline deal, makes the most sense for a team already boasting a superweapon of a lineup.

Red Sox: Designated hitter

This spot might as well have J.D. Martinez’s name penciled into it, but be it him or someone else, the Red Sox have to do something to add another bat to their lineup. The perennially average Mitch Moreland—re-upped on a two-year deal—won’t cut it. And while Hanley Ramirez has shown the ability to be a David Ortiz-level thumper, his 2017 (a 95 OPS+ and -0.3 WAR) and propensity for the disabled list make him a bad bet. So, too, does Boston’s likely desire to limit his playing time given a $22 million vesting option for 2019 that’s based on his number of plate appearances. Martinez is the ideal fit, but the Red Sox shouldn’t care who gets the at-bats if they can swing a big stick.

Indians: Outfield

The Indians are reportedly set to replace Carlos Santana with Yonder Alonso, which is like trading in a Mercedes for a Toyota Corolla, but either way, consider the formerly vacant position of first base filled. Next on their list should be another corner outfielder to replace free agent Jay Bruce and provide backup for Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, both too injury prone to count on as starters. Cleveland can probably do better than in-house option Abraham Almonte, a slick defender with a noodle bat. Melky Cabrera would fit the bill, or the cost-conscious Indians could try to buy low on Jose Bautista or Carlos Gonzalez.

Twins: Starting pitching

Minnesota went from 103 losses in 2016 to a wild-card spot in ’17, but to have any hopes of repeating or improving upon that finish, the Twins need far more from their rotation then what they have at the moment. Ervin Santana is a stalwart presence, and Jose Berrios has the stuff to be an ace, but the rest of their starters are an uninspiring collection of mediocre arms with poor peripherals. Minnesota’s decision-makers have openly expressed their desire for an ace like Yu Darvish, but for a small-market franchise, the Twins are better off aiming for a mid-rotation guy like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb who can eat up innings at better than league average. That would be a massive upgrade from what they already have.

Astros: Bullpen

Teams that win the World Series with a vaunted core of young stars don’t normally have a lot of needs in the offseason, and that’s true of Houston. The Astros’ lineup is the envy of baseball, and the rotation is blessed with high-impact arms. But it’s the bullpen that could use some reinforcements. The postseason exposed just how shaky a group that was, particularly from the left side, with Francisco Liriano called upon to get big October outs despite being, well, Francisco Liriano. Former Cubs closer Hector Rondon is a good start, but Houston shouldn’t stop there; as the defending champions with an eye on a repeat, there’s no reason to.

Rangers: Starting pitching

Texas briefly lit up Twitter on Tuesday night with news that general manager Jon Daniels will be having a quiet, intimate dinner with Darvish, late of the Rangers and now a free agent. But with the team insisting that, no, the two are just friends and there’s nothing serious going on, Daniels should turn his attention to a pitching market that still offers plenty of value. Texas has been active already, adding Doug Fister, Mike Minor and Matt Moore, but those arms aren’t exactly reliable, and the team’s depth has already taken a hit with the loss of Martin Perez to a broken elbow. More is needed; Daniels might consider texting Cobb to see which of Dallas-Fort Worth’s finest restaurants he hasn’t tried yet.

Mariners: Starting pitching

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto will likely have completed at least one trade for a minor league reliever he probably previously dealt away. But for all his frenetic swaps, Dipoto has yet to address Seattle’s biggest issue this winter: a rotation that was ruined by injuries last year and is dangerously thin. If the Mariners hope to break their 16-year postseason drought, they can’t be caught again in a situation where someone like Ariel Miranda is their leader in innings pitched. Darvish would be a perfect fit here, but anyone competent and durable would do just fine.

Nationals: Fifth starter

On a team loaded with stars, there’s not much else to do but fill in at the margins. That’s been Washington’s offseason so far, with the signing of backup first baseman Matt Adams as the only notable transaction in the nation’s capitol (baseball-wise, anyway). There have been rumors that the Nationals are interested in Jake Arrieta, but while he would create a monolithic rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, the Nats should save their money and aim instead to upgrade on the last spot in the starting five, one currently being held by rookie Erick Fedde. That should cost far less and be much easier to do than talking Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, into yet another deferred money deal from ownership.

Cubs: Lefty setup

Chicago won only 92 games last year in a drop from its World Series high, but all the pieces are in place for better in 2018, even with Arrieta likely gone for good. The offense remains young and stacked, and the rotation should be fine with new signing Tyler Chatwood slotting in at the back; likewise in the bullpen, where former Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow should help a unit that torched too many leads. One notable missing piece, though, is a reliable lefthander for that relief corps. Former Tigers closer Justin Wilson, acquired midseason, was a flop on the North Side, losing manager Joe Maddon’s trust so completely that he was left off the team’s NLCS roster. Maybe Chicago would have better luck with a veteran arm like Zach Duke, Boone Logan or Tony Watson.

Cardinals: Closer

The Cardinals’ biggest hole has already been addressed with the trade that landed them All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the fire-selling Marlins. But St. Louis would do well to bolster its ninth-inning options in the bullpen; last year saw nothing but struggle from Trevor Rosenthal (now injured) and Seung-hwan Oh (a free agent). Luke Gregerson is in the mix, but the 33-year-old righty is better suited to middle relief or setup. While the market is short on dominant closer types, the Cardinals reeling in Wade Davis or Greg Holland would go a long way toward shoring up a trouble spot.

Brewers: No. 1 starter

Surprise contenders last season, the Brewers have seen their window open unexpectedly early. Now, they have to take advantage of that opportunity by making a big splash at a position where they need the most help: the top of the rotation. Milwaukee’s initial forays into adding to a mediocre starting five have been mediocre themselves; Yovani Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin do not add up to a postseason place. Arrieta or Darvish would fit the bill, or the Brewers could use their enviable prospect stash to make a move for Rays ace Chris Archer. Either way, the time is right for Milwaukee to go big.

Dodgers: Right-handed setup man

Like the Astros, there’s not much you need to change about the Dodgers, whose biggest move so far has been to shed salary to better their financial outlook for next winter’s free-agent bonanza. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement for this offseason, though, and it starts in the bullpen, where the departure of Morrow has left a vacancy in the righthanded setup role ahead of closer Kenley Jansen. Whether Los Angeles goes with a premium option or tries the Morrow route again with a failed starter who boasts elite stuff isn’t important; what matters is adding depth to try to avoid a scenario like “eighth-inning man Pedro Baez.”

Diamondbacks: Outfield (either right or left)

As with the Red Sox, this position probably has J.D. Martinez’s name all over it. And like Boston, Arizona’s fallback option here—Yasmany Tomas, a bust since coming over from Cuba as one of the old front office’s costlier mistakes—isn’t very appealing. Luckily for the D-Backs, the free-agent market is rife with outfielders who shouldn’t cost too much; Bruce, Lorenzo Cain and Gonzalez all come to mind as reasonable options to replace Martinez if he moves elsewhere.

Rockies: Rotation depth

Assuming the Rockies decide to go with some kind of Ian Desmond/Ryan McMahon pairing at first base, the team should be set on offense. And a bullpen that was nothing special last year has been bolstered by the signings of Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, with Addison Reed, Davis and last year’s closer Holland also on their radar. So as always with Colorado, let’s put the emphasis on the rotation, which lost the unexciting but functional Chatwood and has little depth behind youngsters Jon Gray, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. The Rockies don’t need an ace; they just need some useful veterans who won’t mind pitching at altitude and can chip in five-to-six serviceable innings a turn. The market is full of those types, and while Jeremy Hellickson or Trevor Cahill is nowhere near a sexy signing, guys like that could make all the difference as the Rockies attempt to hold on to a wild-card spot.

<p>Outside of the Yankees&#39; acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the Angels&#39; signing of Shohei Ohtani, it&#39;s been a pretty slow start to the baseball offseason. With a few moves made and many more to come, let&#39;s reset and take a look at where all 30 teams stand with plenty of signings awaiting.</p><p><strong>30. Miami Marlins</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record</strong>: <strong>77–85</strong></p><p>Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna combined for 96 homers, 13.4 WAR and a median OPS+ of 155 in 2017. The Marlins traded them for one big league regular (infielder Starlin Castro) and zero top-100 prospects. Selling was necessary, but the Marlins deal two of the game’s best players in their primes for Castro, somebody they’ll probably move before the 2018 season, and a host of lottery tickets. </p><p>The new ownership group can redeem itself by securing a large package of young talent for outfielder Christian Yelich (who is under team control for the next five years), but he is young, talented and relatively cheap. Targeted rebuilds are understandable; the new Miami ownership group is not doing that. It’s an insult to the fans who are surviving their third teardown since 2003. </p><p><strong>29. Detroit Tigers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 64–98</strong></p><p>By trading Ian Kinsler to the Angels, the Tigers have almost shed all of their veteran talent. They won’t be able to rid themselves of Miguel Cabrera’s behemoth contract (he’s owed $184 million through 2024), but they will float 2016 Rookie of the Year winner Michael Fulmer in trade talks if GM Al Avila can secure a significant package in return. The Tigers are going to be bad next season, but they’re carefully navigating a full teardown, unlike the Marlins.</p><p><strong>28. Cincinnati Reds</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 68–94</strong></p><p>The Reds are trapped, and it’s unclear how they’ll improve in 2018. The prospects they acquired for long-term stability (Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler) are talented but underwhelming. Their starting pitching is awful (only one starter with more than 14 starts, Luis Castillo, finished with an ERA under 4.45). They tried to make a pitch to Shohei Ohtani, who quickly rebuffed them. They could secure a strong package of prospects by trading closer Raisel Iglesias, but reports are that he’ll remain in Cincinnati.</p><p>General Manager Dick Williams will try to ship speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton before the season is over, but his low on-base percentage hardly makes him an attractive candidate. The best move the Reds can make right now is to float Adam Duvall, who has 64 homers over the last two seasons, in trade negotiations. Like Hamilton, however, Duvall has issues getting on base, and power is not coveted like it once was thanks to the juiced ball.</p><p><strong>27. San Diego Padres</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 71–91</strong></p><p>The Padres’ failure to acquire Ohtani will haunt them all offseason long; reports surfaced that GM A.J. Preller even learned conversational Japanese to try to impress Ohtani, who signed with the Angels. Instead, the Padres acquired Chase Headley and hard-throwing reliever Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees (and are reportedly shopping Headley). With Wil Myers protecting first base and young outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe returning, the Padres have some promise, but it’ll probably be another long season.</p><p><strong>26. San Francisco Giants</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 64–98</strong></p><p>It’s been a disappointing offseason for the Giants. They had a trade in place to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, but he vetoed it on the grounds that they weren’t close enough to competing for another title. Marcell Ozuna would have offered the power the team needs and been a perfect defensive fit in AT&#38;T Park’s spacious outfield, but he was dealt to the Cardinals. Their big move came on Wednesday, acquiring Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for one of their top prospects (Christian Arroyo) along with Denard Span and two lesser prospects. Longoria remains one of the game’s most consistent players, but is coming off of a career-worst season at age 32. The upside to the trade is Longoria remains a defensive stud and has played at least 156 games in each of the last five seasons.</p><p>Now, GM Bobby Evans will reportedly look to payroll-conscious options like Jay Bruce to try to bolster a lineup that finished last in home runs (128) and OPS+ (83). In the meantime, perhaps they should look to Ripped Tim Lincecum to stabilize their pitching staff or bullpen.</p><p><strong>25. Tampa Bay Rays</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>The Rays have started the rebuild by trading Evan Longoria. The next move is to ship Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and (maybe) Chris Archer. They’ve gotten Christian Arroyo, one of the Giants’ top prospects, in exchange for Longoria. They can compile a host of young talent by continuing to sell, and they should.</p><p><strong>24. Chicago White Sox</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 67–95</strong></p><p>The White Sox are happy to remain quiet this offseason after their enormous sale during last year’s Winter Meetings. General manager Rick Hahn has an enviable collection of young talent with little reason to move any of it. As Tom Verducci noted in his Winter Meetings Notebook,<a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/winter-meetings-notebook-boston-red-sox-jose-abreu" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu</a>, and there are rumors that Hahn envies Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. They may not win much in 2018, but the White Sox will trip up plenty of teams next season.</p><p><strong>23. Oakland A&#39;s</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>It’s the A’s. Who knows?</p><p>Stephen Piscotty is a nice addition who could enjoy a turnaround season in new surroundings. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are breakout players who can anchor the middle of the order. Khris Davis is one of the game’s most reliable power hitters. Jharel Cotton is a potential front-line starter, but he lacked consistency in 2017. Perhaps Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto will have big seasons to finally redeem the Josh Donaldson trade.</p><p>Maybe they’ll surprise people. Maybe they won’t. Predicting this team has long been a fool’s errand, but they’ll be intriguing as always.?</p><p><strong>22. Philadelphia Phillies</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 66–96</strong></p><p>The Phillies haven’t made any significant moves yet, but they have a chunk of money and a host of promising young players for 2018. General manager Matt Klentak shipped shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres, which allows J.P. Crawford to inherit the starting shortstop position, and then signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal. Santana might be the most consistent bat in the entire free agent class, but it blocks either Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Altherr, both of whom enjoyed great second halves in 2017.</p><p>Klentak is also reportedly shopping infielder Cesar Hernandez (the Mets would be a good fit), but he&#39;s seeking a healthy package in return for a player who finished 2017 with a strong .293/.373/.421 slash line. Hernandez may start the season at second; if he doesn’t, it will be touted minor-league infielder Scott Kingery.</p><p>Expect the Phillies to engage the Orioles on Manny Machado, who is the perfect candidate to replace the underwhelming Maikel Franco at third base. Otherwise, they&#39;re a prime candidate to spend on a front-line starter (Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish) to bolster an otherwise bad starting rotation.</p><p><strong>21. Baltimore Orioles</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>Like the Reds, the Orioles don’t have the assets to compete in 2018. As Tom Verducci noted, <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/14/baltimore-orioles-manny-machado-trade-rumors-winter-meetings" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado</a> before he hits free agency after the season, but there’s fear that any team that acquires him could flip him to the prospect-rich Yankees.</p><p>Even with the 2017 emergence of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles don’t have the starting rotation to compete in the AL East and probably don’t have the money to sign Machado to a long-term deal. Life has never been easy as an Orioles fan, and it appears that they missed their window to compete for a title with Machado anchoring third base. With closer Zach Britton rupturing his Achilles and due to miss six months, the hope for any success in 2018 got even dimmer.</p><p><strong>20. Toronto Blue Jays</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 76–86</strong></p><p>Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays must decide if they want to make one more run at the playoffs with a star player who will probably skip town during next winter’s free-agent period. Josh Donaldson is at the back end of his prime, but the 2015 AL MVP is still one of the most reliable power bats in baseball; he’s exceeded a 144 OPS+ in four of the last five seasons. The question is whether his presence is enough to lift the struggling Blue Jays, who crashed from the 2016 ALCS to just 76 wins in &#39;17, back into the postseason. The Cardinals have long been enamored with Donaldson and will keep calling the Jays if they’re unable to land Machado from Baltimore.</p><p>Toronto started seven regulars over 30 years old last year and will need another huge season from the unlikely Justin Smoak if it expects to keep pace in the AL East. If GM Ross Atkins pursued a rebuild, he’d be smart to float Marcus Stroman, who has four more years of team control, to a prospect-rich team like the Yankees or Dodgers.</p><p><strong>19. Atlanta Braves</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 72–90</strong></p><p>By removing the onerous Matt Kemp contract from the books in a trade with the Dodgers, the Braves created a lane to promote top prospect Ronald Acuña, the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and one of the game&#39;s top prospects. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to win top AFL honors after slashing .325/.414/.639 with seven home runs in 23 games.</p><p>By adding Brandon McCarthy to the rotation and taking a flyer on the oft-injured Scott Kazmir, Atlanta might be able to stabilize its creaky rotation. With an intriguing blend of youth and veteran leadership, the Braves aren’t far from competing for a playoff spot.</p><p><strong>18. Pittsburgh Pirates</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>Like the Orioles, the Pirates feel like a team that missed their window. Their future hinges on whether they trade Andrew McCutchen, who saved his 2017 season with a .305/.391/.533 and 19 home runs over his final 102 games, and Gerrit Cole, the staff ace who stumbled to a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2017. The Giants could use a player of McCutchen’s dynamism, but may not have an attractive enough trade package. The Yankees want Cole, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is rumored to be targeting top prospect Gleyber Torres, which might be too tall an ask for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.</p><p>They have a promising young first baseman in Josh Bell, a struggling 25-year-old outfielder in Gregory Polanco and the talented Starling Marte, who served an 80-game suspension in 2017. Outside of that, it’s an unreliable rotation (even if it’s mastered by the game’s best pitching coach in Ray Searage) and a lineup that finished 28th in total offense.</p><p><strong>17. Kansas City Royals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>The theme of rebuild or compete is a constant in this piece. The Royals are most likely losing the former centerpieces to their 2015 World Series team in Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Starting pitcher Danny Duffy is gauging interest on the trade market, and could deliver a sizable haul of prospects. It’s probably time to start building a new future in Kansas City, but it’s hard to see what it will look like until this offseason ends.</p><p><strong>16. New York Mets</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 70–92</strong></p><p>With a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and a pitching staff that needs an offseason’s worth of rest, the Mets will return a rotation that most teams still fear, but the usual financial limits will prevent them from acquiring the offense they need (Carlos Santana, who signed with rival Philadelphia, would have been a nice option). Perhaps they can trade for a second baseman like Jason Kipnis or bring outfielder Jay Bruce back on a bargain contract.</p><p>Adrian Gonzalez, who is being paid by the Braves this season, would work as a short-term addition, though it would block prospect Dom Smith. Gonzalez still has a couple of decent seasons left in him if he’s healthy, and the Mets don’t have to pay him. GM Sandy Alderson could also surprise his fans by springing for a player like Cain or Moustakas, who could provide Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto (once he&#39;s back from a serious shoulder injury) with the protection they desperately need.</p><p>The Mets can still compete, but they’ll need to inject some power into their lineup if they want to keep pace with the Nationals.</p><p><strong>15. Seattle Mariners</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 78–84</strong></p><p>General manager Jerry Dipoto missed out on the prize acquisition of Ohtani, and now he’ll try to wheel and deal his way to improving one of the biggest disappointments of 2017. “Trader Jerry” retains the strong core of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez, but Hernandez is regressing and Cruz is aging. Rightfielder Mitch Haniger provided a boost in 96 games last year and Mike Zunino offered a strong season with a 123 OPS+.</p><p>Seattle won’t compete for a playoff spot if Ariel Miranda leads the team in innings again, but Dipoto has stitched together a nice bullpen anchored by closer Edwin Diaz. If Dipoto can find reliable starting pitching either by free agency or trade (and keep James Paxton healthy), the Mariners can compete for an open wild-card spot. More likely, the Mariners are bound for another 78-to-84-win season.</p><p><strong>14. Texas Rangers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 78–84</strong></p><p>The Rangers acquired lefty starter Matt Moore from the Giants and signed Mike Minor away from the Royals to try to boost one of the AL’s worst rotations. The problem is that the West’s best bats (Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Cruz) are mostly righthanded.</p><p>Rougned Odor needs to learn how to take a pitch—he’s the rare player who could amass 30-plus homers and a 65 OPS+—if he wants to stabilize the Rangers’ lineup. Adrian Beltre is aging, so manager Jeff Banister will need big contributions from Odor and Joey Gallo to turn the Rangers back into the kind of team that won the division in 2016. </p><p><strong>13. Minnesota Twins</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 85–77, lost in AL Wild Card Game</strong></p><p>The young core is there; the Twins just need a starting pitcher. Unless they are outbid by a richer team like the Cubs or Astros, the Twins should do everything within their power to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta as well as a secondary starter (Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia) to bolster their playoff chances. With the Tigers, White Sox and Royals all headed toward rebuilds, it’s imperative that the Twins spend now and try to compete.</p><p><strong>12. Los Angeles Angels</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>They’re the most interesting team of the offseason. General manager Billy Eppler has secured the services of Ohtani, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Kinsler to provide the kind of reliable support that Mike Trout hasn’t had during his time in the big leagues. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition (and the Angels could use some help on the back end of their rotation), but they’ve gone from one of the league’s least interesting teams to a genuinely intriguing one.</p><p><strong>11. Milwaukee Brewers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 86–76</strong></p><p>This is a team that can contend, but signing players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo isn’t going to help them achieve that goal. The Brewers have an excellent young core anchored by Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and Domingo Santana, but they need starting pitching to help front-liners Zach Davies and Chase Anderson.</p><p>One of 2017’s most pleasant surprises is one or two pieces away, but the beginning of the offseason hasn’t been thrilling. The best move they can make? Offer Lewis Brinson and other top prospects to the Rays for Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>10. Colorado Rockies</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 87–75, lost in NL Wild Card Game</strong></p><p>Unfortunately the Rockies did not add Giancarlo Stanton—what a dream that would have been—but they did sign Bryan Shaw and re-sign Jake McGee to bolster a bullpen that was a strength in 2017. Shaw is one of the game’s best against righthanded hitters and specializes in getting ground balls (he had a career high 55% ground-ball rate in 79 appearances last year). The Rockies will bank on their young starters (Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez) to anchor the rotation. They’ll hit like they always do, but they’ll need standout years from a host of young starters if they want to make a run in 2018.</p><p><strong>9. Boston Red Sox</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>General manager Dave Dombrowski has remained quiet except for re-signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal. Boston should remain the eventual landing spot for J.D. Martinez, but agent Scott Boras is seeking a long-term contract for the 30-year-old power hitter.</p><p>Martinez’s free agency may play out like Prince Fielder’s six years ago, when the slugging first baseman waited until January to sign a nine-year, $214 million contract. The GM who signed Fielder? Dave Dombrowski.</p><p><strong>8. St. Louis Cardinals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 83–79</strong></p><p>The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton will dominate every offseason headline, but St. Louis’s fleecing of the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna may be an even better deal. Ozuna compiled triple-crown worthy numbers last year (.312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBIs) and slides seamlessly into a Cardinals lineup that missed a reliable power bat last year. General manager John Mozeliak admitted in an interview that a trade for Manny Machado is unlikely, but St. Louis barely missed the playoffs last season without a player of Ozuna’s caliber. It’s a perfect addition, and one that could vault the Cardinals into NL pennant contention.</p><p><strong>7. Arizona Diamondbacks</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>To trade or not to trade? The Diamondbacks owe Zack Greinke an astonishing $138.5 million over the next four seasons, and he’s hamstringing the payroll of a team that isn’t far from competing for a pennant. The pitching-needy Rangers would be an ideal landing spot for Greinke, who had a strong 2017, but fell apart in his last four starts of the season (11.25 ERA, .417 batting average against in his last two regular-season starts; 7.27 ERA, six walks and 8 2/3 IP in his two postseason starts). Robbie Ray proved he’s a legitimate staff ace in 2017, and Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley nicely fill out a rotation that exceeded expectations in 2017.</p><p>If the Diamondbacks can offset a chunk of salary by trading Greinke and use that money to try and bring back J.D. Martinez or acquire one more outfielder, Arizona will compete for the NL West crown in 2018.</p><p><strong>6. Washington Nationals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 97–65, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>Bryce Harper is in the final year of his contract, and he’s playing for his fourth manager in seven years. The goal is for the Nationals to re-sign Harper, but Washington likely needs to make a splash signing to convince Harper to stay and try to bring a title to D.C. Signing Jake Arrieta to complement Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer is the best way to do that. Otherwise, Harper may have one foot out the door even if he loves new manager Dave Martinez. </p><p><strong>5. Cleveland Indians</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 102–60, lost in ALDS</strong></p><p>Losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies is tough for a team that quietly relied on his offensive contributions for the last eight seasons. There’s no obvious replacement for Santana at first base—it might be Lonnie Chisenhall or occasionally Edwin Encarnacion—but it creates a problem in the lineup that lacks an immediate solution.</p><p>The Indians will enter 2018 as one of baseball’s most complete teams, but they’ll need a power surge from a player like Yandy Diaz or Abraham Almonte to help offset the loss of Santana’s consistency.</p><p><strong>4. Chicago Cubs</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 92–70, lost in NLCS</strong></p><p>The lingering question for the Cubs will be whether they’ll trade Kyle Schwarber. The once-beefy outfielder has reportedly lost 17–20 pounds this offseason and arrived looking svelte at the Winter Meetings. The Cubs adore Schwarber and probably won’t ship him, but his horrendous outfield defense was on display again in the NLCS against the Dodgers, and he never remedied the offensive woes that plagued him throughout 2017.</p><p>It makes little sense to trade Schwarber when his value is at its lowest, but perhaps the Red Sox would consider parting with whatever top prospects remain in their system to acquire a reliable DH. Otherwise, the addition of Brandon Morrow from the Dodgers will help shore up a creaky bullpen, and the Cubs are the likely favorite to add Yu Darvish to patch up a rotation that is destined to lose 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.</p><p><strong>3. Los Angeles Dodgers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 record: 104–58, lost in World Series</strong></p><p>The Dodgers’ biggest move of the 2017 offseason was getting under the luxury tax, which they were in peril of violating for the fifth consecutive season. By unloading Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, they freed $51 million from their 2018 payroll in exchange for Matt Kemp, who is owed $43 million over the next two years. Most importantly, <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/16/matt-kemp-dodgers-trade-adrian-gonzalez-braves-bryce-harper" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as our own Jon Tayler noted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as our own Jon Tayler noted</a>, it allows the Dodgers significant flexibility for next year’s loaded free agent class.</p><p>It’s unlikely that Kemp ever suits up for his former team, but Los Angeles will face a difficult time trading a 32-year-old outfielder who is one of the game’s worst defenders and most egregious hackers. If the Dodgers can’t find a landing spot for Kemp (it’s hard to envision they do), they’ll likely designate him for assignment and eat the remainder of his salary.</p><p>The Dodgers will need to restock their bullpen after losing Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, but they’re otherwise set to enter 2018.</p><p><strong>2. New York Yankees</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 91–71, lost in ALCS</strong></p><p>By acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees possess the game’s two most fearsome power hitters. Stanton and Aaron Judge are under the age of 30. They’ve won the 2017 offseason; everybody else is just looking to be the runner-up.</p><p><strong>1. Houston Astros</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 101–61, won World Series</strong></p><p>The champions get the top spot, even if they’ve been quiet up to this point in the offseason. The Astros might get in on the Darvish sweepstakes to bolster their strong but tenuous rotation. Perhaps they’ll pursue J.D. Martinez to become their designated hitter and re-invest in a player they once cut. It’s unclear, but the Astros will return with one of the game’s most stable nuclei and an offense that can out-slug pretty much anybody.</p>
MLB Power Rankings: Yankees, Cardinals Are Big Winners of Early Offseason

Outside of the Yankees' acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the Angels' signing of Shohei Ohtani, it's been a pretty slow start to the baseball offseason. With a few moves made and many more to come, let's reset and take a look at where all 30 teams stand with plenty of signings awaiting.

30. Miami Marlins

2017 Record: 77–85

Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna combined for 96 homers, 13.4 WAR and a median OPS+ of 155 in 2017. The Marlins traded them for one big league regular (infielder Starlin Castro) and zero top-100 prospects. Selling was necessary, but the Marlins deal two of the game’s best players in their primes for Castro, somebody they’ll probably move before the 2018 season, and a host of lottery tickets.

The new ownership group can redeem itself by securing a large package of young talent for outfielder Christian Yelich (who is under team control for the next five years), but he is young, talented and relatively cheap. Targeted rebuilds are understandable; the new Miami ownership group is not doing that. It’s an insult to the fans who are surviving their third teardown since 2003.

29. Detroit Tigers

2017 Record: 64–98

By trading Ian Kinsler to the Angels, the Tigers have almost shed all of their veteran talent. They won’t be able to rid themselves of Miguel Cabrera’s behemoth contract (he’s owed $184 million through 2024), but they will float 2016 Rookie of the Year winner Michael Fulmer in trade talks if GM Al Avila can secure a significant package in return. The Tigers are going to be bad next season, but they’re carefully navigating a full teardown, unlike the Marlins.

28. Cincinnati Reds

2017 Record: 68–94

The Reds are trapped, and it’s unclear how they’ll improve in 2018. The prospects they acquired for long-term stability (Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler) are talented but underwhelming. Their starting pitching is awful (only one starter with more than 14 starts, Luis Castillo, finished with an ERA under 4.45). They tried to make a pitch to Shohei Ohtani, who quickly rebuffed them. They could secure a strong package of prospects by trading closer Raisel Iglesias, but reports are that he’ll remain in Cincinnati.

General Manager Dick Williams will try to ship speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton before the season is over, but his low on-base percentage hardly makes him an attractive candidate. The best move the Reds can make right now is to float Adam Duvall, who has 64 homers over the last two seasons, in trade negotiations. Like Hamilton, however, Duvall has issues getting on base, and power is not coveted like it once was thanks to the juiced ball.

27. San Diego Padres

2017 Record: 71–91

The Padres’ failure to acquire Ohtani will haunt them all offseason long; reports surfaced that GM A.J. Preller even learned conversational Japanese to try to impress Ohtani, who signed with the Angels. Instead, the Padres acquired Chase Headley and hard-throwing reliever Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees (and are reportedly shopping Headley). With Wil Myers protecting first base and young outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe returning, the Padres have some promise, but it’ll probably be another long season.

26. San Francisco Giants

2017 Record: 64–98

It’s been a disappointing offseason for the Giants. They had a trade in place to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, but he vetoed it on the grounds that they weren’t close enough to competing for another title. Marcell Ozuna would have offered the power the team needs and been a perfect defensive fit in AT&T Park’s spacious outfield, but he was dealt to the Cardinals. Their big move came on Wednesday, acquiring Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for one of their top prospects (Christian Arroyo) along with Denard Span and two lesser prospects. Longoria remains one of the game’s most consistent players, but is coming off of a career-worst season at age 32. The upside to the trade is Longoria remains a defensive stud and has played at least 156 games in each of the last five seasons.

Now, GM Bobby Evans will reportedly look to payroll-conscious options like Jay Bruce to try to bolster a lineup that finished last in home runs (128) and OPS+ (83). In the meantime, perhaps they should look to Ripped Tim Lincecum to stabilize their pitching staff or bullpen.

25. Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Record: 80–82

The Rays have started the rebuild by trading Evan Longoria. The next move is to ship Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and (maybe) Chris Archer. They’ve gotten Christian Arroyo, one of the Giants’ top prospects, in exchange for Longoria. They can compile a host of young talent by continuing to sell, and they should.

24. Chicago White Sox

2017 Record: 67–95

The White Sox are happy to remain quiet this offseason after their enormous sale during last year’s Winter Meetings. General manager Rick Hahn has an enviable collection of young talent with little reason to move any of it. As Tom Verducci noted in his Winter Meetings Notebook, the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu, and there are rumors that Hahn envies Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. They may not win much in 2018, but the White Sox will trip up plenty of teams next season.

23. Oakland A's

2017 Record: 75–87

It’s the A’s. Who knows?

Stephen Piscotty is a nice addition who could enjoy a turnaround season in new surroundings. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are breakout players who can anchor the middle of the order. Khris Davis is one of the game’s most reliable power hitters. Jharel Cotton is a potential front-line starter, but he lacked consistency in 2017. Perhaps Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto will have big seasons to finally redeem the Josh Donaldson trade.

Maybe they’ll surprise people. Maybe they won’t. Predicting this team has long been a fool’s errand, but they’ll be intriguing as always.?

22. Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Record: 66–96

The Phillies haven’t made any significant moves yet, but they have a chunk of money and a host of promising young players for 2018. General manager Matt Klentak shipped shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres, which allows J.P. Crawford to inherit the starting shortstop position, and then signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal. Santana might be the most consistent bat in the entire free agent class, but it blocks either Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Altherr, both of whom enjoyed great second halves in 2017.

Klentak is also reportedly shopping infielder Cesar Hernandez (the Mets would be a good fit), but he's seeking a healthy package in return for a player who finished 2017 with a strong .293/.373/.421 slash line. Hernandez may start the season at second; if he doesn’t, it will be touted minor-league infielder Scott Kingery.

Expect the Phillies to engage the Orioles on Manny Machado, who is the perfect candidate to replace the underwhelming Maikel Franco at third base. Otherwise, they're a prime candidate to spend on a front-line starter (Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish) to bolster an otherwise bad starting rotation.

21. Baltimore Orioles

2017 Record: 75–87

Like the Reds, the Orioles don’t have the assets to compete in 2018. As Tom Verducci noted, GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado before he hits free agency after the season, but there’s fear that any team that acquires him could flip him to the prospect-rich Yankees.

Even with the 2017 emergence of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles don’t have the starting rotation to compete in the AL East and probably don’t have the money to sign Machado to a long-term deal. Life has never been easy as an Orioles fan, and it appears that they missed their window to compete for a title with Machado anchoring third base. With closer Zach Britton rupturing his Achilles and due to miss six months, the hope for any success in 2018 got even dimmer.

20. Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Record: 76–86

Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays must decide if they want to make one more run at the playoffs with a star player who will probably skip town during next winter’s free-agent period. Josh Donaldson is at the back end of his prime, but the 2015 AL MVP is still one of the most reliable power bats in baseball; he’s exceeded a 144 OPS+ in four of the last five seasons. The question is whether his presence is enough to lift the struggling Blue Jays, who crashed from the 2016 ALCS to just 76 wins in '17, back into the postseason. The Cardinals have long been enamored with Donaldson and will keep calling the Jays if they’re unable to land Machado from Baltimore.

Toronto started seven regulars over 30 years old last year and will need another huge season from the unlikely Justin Smoak if it expects to keep pace in the AL East. If GM Ross Atkins pursued a rebuild, he’d be smart to float Marcus Stroman, who has four more years of team control, to a prospect-rich team like the Yankees or Dodgers.

19. Atlanta Braves

2017 Record: 72–90

By removing the onerous Matt Kemp contract from the books in a trade with the Dodgers, the Braves created a lane to promote top prospect Ronald Acuña, the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and one of the game's top prospects. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to win top AFL honors after slashing .325/.414/.639 with seven home runs in 23 games.

By adding Brandon McCarthy to the rotation and taking a flyer on the oft-injured Scott Kazmir, Atlanta might be able to stabilize its creaky rotation. With an intriguing blend of youth and veteran leadership, the Braves aren’t far from competing for a playoff spot.

18. Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Record: 75–87

Like the Orioles, the Pirates feel like a team that missed their window. Their future hinges on whether they trade Andrew McCutchen, who saved his 2017 season with a .305/.391/.533 and 19 home runs over his final 102 games, and Gerrit Cole, the staff ace who stumbled to a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2017. The Giants could use a player of McCutchen’s dynamism, but may not have an attractive enough trade package. The Yankees want Cole, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is rumored to be targeting top prospect Gleyber Torres, which might be too tall an ask for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

They have a promising young first baseman in Josh Bell, a struggling 25-year-old outfielder in Gregory Polanco and the talented Starling Marte, who served an 80-game suspension in 2017. Outside of that, it’s an unreliable rotation (even if it’s mastered by the game’s best pitching coach in Ray Searage) and a lineup that finished 28th in total offense.

17. Kansas City Royals

2017 Record: 80–82

The theme of rebuild or compete is a constant in this piece. The Royals are most likely losing the former centerpieces to their 2015 World Series team in Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Starting pitcher Danny Duffy is gauging interest on the trade market, and could deliver a sizable haul of prospects. It’s probably time to start building a new future in Kansas City, but it’s hard to see what it will look like until this offseason ends.

16. New York Mets

2017 Record: 70–92

With a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and a pitching staff that needs an offseason’s worth of rest, the Mets will return a rotation that most teams still fear, but the usual financial limits will prevent them from acquiring the offense they need (Carlos Santana, who signed with rival Philadelphia, would have been a nice option). Perhaps they can trade for a second baseman like Jason Kipnis or bring outfielder Jay Bruce back on a bargain contract.

Adrian Gonzalez, who is being paid by the Braves this season, would work as a short-term addition, though it would block prospect Dom Smith. Gonzalez still has a couple of decent seasons left in him if he’s healthy, and the Mets don’t have to pay him. GM Sandy Alderson could also surprise his fans by springing for a player like Cain or Moustakas, who could provide Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto (once he's back from a serious shoulder injury) with the protection they desperately need.

The Mets can still compete, but they’ll need to inject some power into their lineup if they want to keep pace with the Nationals.

15. Seattle Mariners

2017 Record: 78–84

General manager Jerry Dipoto missed out on the prize acquisition of Ohtani, and now he’ll try to wheel and deal his way to improving one of the biggest disappointments of 2017. “Trader Jerry” retains the strong core of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez, but Hernandez is regressing and Cruz is aging. Rightfielder Mitch Haniger provided a boost in 96 games last year and Mike Zunino offered a strong season with a 123 OPS+.

Seattle won’t compete for a playoff spot if Ariel Miranda leads the team in innings again, but Dipoto has stitched together a nice bullpen anchored by closer Edwin Diaz. If Dipoto can find reliable starting pitching either by free agency or trade (and keep James Paxton healthy), the Mariners can compete for an open wild-card spot. More likely, the Mariners are bound for another 78-to-84-win season.

14. Texas Rangers

2017 Record: 78–84

The Rangers acquired lefty starter Matt Moore from the Giants and signed Mike Minor away from the Royals to try to boost one of the AL’s worst rotations. The problem is that the West’s best bats (Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Cruz) are mostly righthanded.

Rougned Odor needs to learn how to take a pitch—he’s the rare player who could amass 30-plus homers and a 65 OPS+—if he wants to stabilize the Rangers’ lineup. Adrian Beltre is aging, so manager Jeff Banister will need big contributions from Odor and Joey Gallo to turn the Rangers back into the kind of team that won the division in 2016.

13. Minnesota Twins

2017 Record: 85–77, lost in AL Wild Card Game

The young core is there; the Twins just need a starting pitcher. Unless they are outbid by a richer team like the Cubs or Astros, the Twins should do everything within their power to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta as well as a secondary starter (Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia) to bolster their playoff chances. With the Tigers, White Sox and Royals all headed toward rebuilds, it’s imperative that the Twins spend now and try to compete.

12. Los Angeles Angels

2017 Record: 80–82

They’re the most interesting team of the offseason. General manager Billy Eppler has secured the services of Ohtani, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Kinsler to provide the kind of reliable support that Mike Trout hasn’t had during his time in the big leagues. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition (and the Angels could use some help on the back end of their rotation), but they’ve gone from one of the league’s least interesting teams to a genuinely intriguing one.

11. Milwaukee Brewers

2017 Record: 86–76

This is a team that can contend, but signing players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo isn’t going to help them achieve that goal. The Brewers have an excellent young core anchored by Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and Domingo Santana, but they need starting pitching to help front-liners Zach Davies and Chase Anderson.

One of 2017’s most pleasant surprises is one or two pieces away, but the beginning of the offseason hasn’t been thrilling. The best move they can make? Offer Lewis Brinson and other top prospects to the Rays for Chris Archer.

10. Colorado Rockies

2017 Record: 87–75, lost in NL Wild Card Game

Unfortunately the Rockies did not add Giancarlo Stanton—what a dream that would have been—but they did sign Bryan Shaw and re-sign Jake McGee to bolster a bullpen that was a strength in 2017. Shaw is one of the game’s best against righthanded hitters and specializes in getting ground balls (he had a career high 55% ground-ball rate in 79 appearances last year). The Rockies will bank on their young starters (Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez) to anchor the rotation. They’ll hit like they always do, but they’ll need standout years from a host of young starters if they want to make a run in 2018.

9. Boston Red Sox

2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS

General manager Dave Dombrowski has remained quiet except for re-signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal. Boston should remain the eventual landing spot for J.D. Martinez, but agent Scott Boras is seeking a long-term contract for the 30-year-old power hitter.

Martinez’s free agency may play out like Prince Fielder’s six years ago, when the slugging first baseman waited until January to sign a nine-year, $214 million contract. The GM who signed Fielder? Dave Dombrowski.

8. St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Record: 83–79

The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton will dominate every offseason headline, but St. Louis’s fleecing of the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna may be an even better deal. Ozuna compiled triple-crown worthy numbers last year (.312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBIs) and slides seamlessly into a Cardinals lineup that missed a reliable power bat last year. General manager John Mozeliak admitted in an interview that a trade for Manny Machado is unlikely, but St. Louis barely missed the playoffs last season without a player of Ozuna’s caliber. It’s a perfect addition, and one that could vault the Cardinals into NL pennant contention.

7. Arizona Diamondbacks

2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS

To trade or not to trade? The Diamondbacks owe Zack Greinke an astonishing $138.5 million over the next four seasons, and he’s hamstringing the payroll of a team that isn’t far from competing for a pennant. The pitching-needy Rangers would be an ideal landing spot for Greinke, who had a strong 2017, but fell apart in his last four starts of the season (11.25 ERA, .417 batting average against in his last two regular-season starts; 7.27 ERA, six walks and 8 2/3 IP in his two postseason starts). Robbie Ray proved he’s a legitimate staff ace in 2017, and Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley nicely fill out a rotation that exceeded expectations in 2017.

If the Diamondbacks can offset a chunk of salary by trading Greinke and use that money to try and bring back J.D. Martinez or acquire one more outfielder, Arizona will compete for the NL West crown in 2018.

6. Washington Nationals

2017 Record: 97–65, lost in NLDS

Bryce Harper is in the final year of his contract, and he’s playing for his fourth manager in seven years. The goal is for the Nationals to re-sign Harper, but Washington likely needs to make a splash signing to convince Harper to stay and try to bring a title to D.C. Signing Jake Arrieta to complement Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer is the best way to do that. Otherwise, Harper may have one foot out the door even if he loves new manager Dave Martinez.

5. Cleveland Indians

2017 Record: 102–60, lost in ALDS

Losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies is tough for a team that quietly relied on his offensive contributions for the last eight seasons. There’s no obvious replacement for Santana at first base—it might be Lonnie Chisenhall or occasionally Edwin Encarnacion—but it creates a problem in the lineup that lacks an immediate solution.

The Indians will enter 2018 as one of baseball’s most complete teams, but they’ll need a power surge from a player like Yandy Diaz or Abraham Almonte to help offset the loss of Santana’s consistency.

4. Chicago Cubs

2017 Record: 92–70, lost in NLCS

The lingering question for the Cubs will be whether they’ll trade Kyle Schwarber. The once-beefy outfielder has reportedly lost 17–20 pounds this offseason and arrived looking svelte at the Winter Meetings. The Cubs adore Schwarber and probably won’t ship him, but his horrendous outfield defense was on display again in the NLCS against the Dodgers, and he never remedied the offensive woes that plagued him throughout 2017.

It makes little sense to trade Schwarber when his value is at its lowest, but perhaps the Red Sox would consider parting with whatever top prospects remain in their system to acquire a reliable DH. Otherwise, the addition of Brandon Morrow from the Dodgers will help shore up a creaky bullpen, and the Cubs are the likely favorite to add Yu Darvish to patch up a rotation that is destined to lose 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 record: 104–58, lost in World Series

The Dodgers’ biggest move of the 2017 offseason was getting under the luxury tax, which they were in peril of violating for the fifth consecutive season. By unloading Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, they freed $51 million from their 2018 payroll in exchange for Matt Kemp, who is owed $43 million over the next two years. Most importantly, as our own Jon Tayler noted, it allows the Dodgers significant flexibility for next year’s loaded free agent class.

It’s unlikely that Kemp ever suits up for his former team, but Los Angeles will face a difficult time trading a 32-year-old outfielder who is one of the game’s worst defenders and most egregious hackers. If the Dodgers can’t find a landing spot for Kemp (it’s hard to envision they do), they’ll likely designate him for assignment and eat the remainder of his salary.

The Dodgers will need to restock their bullpen after losing Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, but they’re otherwise set to enter 2018.

2. New York Yankees

2017 Record: 91–71, lost in ALCS

By acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees possess the game’s two most fearsome power hitters. Stanton and Aaron Judge are under the age of 30. They’ve won the 2017 offseason; everybody else is just looking to be the runner-up.

1. Houston Astros

2017 Record: 101–61, won World Series

The champions get the top spot, even if they’ve been quiet up to this point in the offseason. The Astros might get in on the Darvish sweepstakes to bolster their strong but tenuous rotation. Perhaps they’ll pursue J.D. Martinez to become their designated hitter and re-invest in a player they once cut. It’s unclear, but the Astros will return with one of the game’s most stable nuclei and an offense that can out-slug pretty much anybody.

<p>Outside of the Yankees&#39; acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the Angels&#39; signing of Shohei Ohtani, it&#39;s been a pretty slow start to the baseball offseason. With a few moves made and many more to come, let&#39;s reset and take a look at where all 30 teams stand with plenty of signings awaiting.</p><p><strong>30. Miami Marlins</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record</strong>: <strong>77–85</strong></p><p>Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna combined for 96 homers, 13.4 WAR and a median OPS+ of 155 in 2017. The Marlins traded them for one big league regular (infielder Starlin Castro) and zero top-100 prospects. Selling was necessary, but the Marlins deal two of the game’s best players in their primes for Castro, somebody they’ll probably move before the 2018 season, and a host of lottery tickets. </p><p>The new ownership group can redeem itself by securing a large package of young talent for outfielder Christian Yelich (who is under team control for the next five years), but he is young, talented and relatively cheap. Targeted rebuilds are understandable; the new Miami ownership group is not doing that. It’s an insult to the fans who are surviving their third teardown since 2003. </p><p><strong>29. Detroit Tigers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 64–98</strong></p><p>By trading Ian Kinsler to the Angels, the Tigers have almost shed all of their veteran talent. They won’t be able to rid themselves of Miguel Cabrera’s behemoth contract (he’s owed $184 million through 2024), but they will float 2016 Rookie of the Year winner Michael Fulmer in trade talks if GM Al Avila can secure a significant package in return. The Tigers are going to be bad next season, but they’re carefully navigating a full teardown, unlike the Marlins.</p><p><strong>28. Cincinnati Reds</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 68–94</strong></p><p>The Reds are trapped, and it’s unclear how they’ll improve in 2018. The prospects they acquired for long-term stability (Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler) are talented but underwhelming. Their starting pitching is awful (only one starter with more than 14 starts, Luis Castillo, finished with an ERA under 4.45). They tried to make a pitch to Shohei Ohtani, who quickly rebuffed them. They could secure a strong package of prospects by trading closer Raisel Iglesias, but reports are that he’ll remain in Cincinnati.</p><p>General Manager Dick Williams will try to ship speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton before the season is over, but his low on-base percentage hardly makes him an attractive candidate. The best move the Reds can make right now is to float Adam Duvall, who has 64 homers over the last two seasons, in trade negotiations. Like Hamilton, however, Duvall has issues getting on base, and power is not coveted like it once was thanks to the juiced ball.</p><p><strong>27. San Diego Padres</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 71–91</strong></p><p>The Padres’ failure to acquire Ohtani will haunt them all offseason long; reports surfaced that GM A.J. Preller even learned conversational Japanese to try to impress Ohtani, who signed with the Angels. Instead, the Padres acquired Chase Headley and hard-throwing reliever Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees (and are reportedly shopping Headley). With Wil Myers protecting first base and young outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe returning, the Padres have some promise, but it’ll probably be another long season.</p><p><strong>26. San Francisco Giants</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 64–98</strong></p><p>It’s been a disappointing offseason for the Giants. They had a trade in place to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, but he vetoed it on the grounds that they weren’t close enough to competing for another title. Marcell Ozuna would have offered the power the team needs and been a perfect defensive fit in AT&#38;T Park’s spacious outfield, but he was dealt to the Cardinals. Their big move came on Wednesday, acquiring Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for one of their top prospects (Christian Arroyo) along with Denard Span and two lesser prospects. Longoria remains one of the game’s most consistent players, but is coming off of a career-worst season at age 32. The upside to the trade is Longoria remains a defensive stud and has played at least 156 games in each of the last five seasons.</p><p>Now, GM Bobby Evans will reportedly look to payroll-conscious options like Jay Bruce to try to bolster a lineup that finished last in home runs (128) and OPS+ (83). In the meantime, perhaps they should look to Ripped Tim Lincecum to stabilize their pitching staff or bullpen.</p><p><strong>25. Tampa Bay Rays</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>The Rays have started the rebuild by trading Evan Longoria. The next move is to ship Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and (maybe) Chris Archer. They’ve gotten Christian Arroyo, one of the Giants’ top prospects, in exchange for Longoria. They can compile a host of young talent by continuing to sell, and they should.</p><p><strong>24. Chicago White Sox</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 67–95</strong></p><p>The White Sox are happy to remain quiet this offseason after their enormous sale during last year’s Winter Meetings. General manager Rick Hahn has an enviable collection of young talent with little reason to move any of it. As Tom Verducci noted in his Winter Meetings Notebook,<a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/winter-meetings-notebook-boston-red-sox-jose-abreu" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu</a>, and there are rumors that Hahn envies Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. They may not win much in 2018, but the White Sox will trip up plenty of teams next season.</p><p><strong>23. Oakland A&#39;s</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>It’s the A’s. Who knows?</p><p>Stephen Piscotty is a nice addition who could enjoy a turnaround season in new surroundings. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are breakout players who can anchor the middle of the order. Khris Davis is one of the game’s most reliable power hitters. Jharel Cotton is a potential front-line starter, but he lacked consistency in 2017. Perhaps Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto will have big seasons to finally redeem the Josh Donaldson trade.</p><p>Maybe they’ll surprise people. Maybe they won’t. Predicting this team has long been a fool’s errand, but they’ll be intriguing as always.?</p><p><strong>22. Philadelphia Phillies</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 66–96</strong></p><p>The Phillies haven’t made any significant moves yet, but they have a chunk of money and a host of promising young players for 2018. General manager Matt Klentak shipped shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres, which allows J.P. Crawford to inherit the starting shortstop position, and then signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal. Santana might be the most consistent bat in the entire free agent class, but it blocks either Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Altherr, both of whom enjoyed great second halves in 2017.</p><p>Klentak is also reportedly shopping infielder Cesar Hernandez (the Mets would be a good fit), but he&#39;s seeking a healthy package in return for a player who finished 2017 with a strong .293/.373/.421 slash line. Hernandez may start the season at second; if he doesn’t, it will be touted minor-league infielder Scott Kingery.</p><p>Expect the Phillies to engage the Orioles on Manny Machado, who is the perfect candidate to replace the underwhelming Maikel Franco at third base. Otherwise, they&#39;re a prime candidate to spend on a front-line starter (Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish) to bolster an otherwise bad starting rotation.</p><p><strong>21. Baltimore Orioles</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>Like the Reds, the Orioles don’t have the assets to compete in 2018. As Tom Verducci noted, <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/14/baltimore-orioles-manny-machado-trade-rumors-winter-meetings" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado</a> before he hits free agency after the season, but there’s fear that any team that acquires him could flip him to the prospect-rich Yankees.</p><p>Even with the 2017 emergence of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles don’t have the starting rotation to compete in the AL East and probably don’t have the money to sign Machado to a long-term deal. Life has never been easy as an Orioles fan, and it appears that they missed their window to compete for a title with Machado anchoring third base. With closer Zach Britton rupturing his Achilles and due to miss six months, the hope for any success in 2018 got even dimmer.</p><p><strong>20. Toronto Blue Jays</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 76–86</strong></p><p>Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays must decide if they want to make one more run at the playoffs with a star player who will probably skip town during next winter’s free-agent period. Josh Donaldson is at the back end of his prime, but the 2015 AL MVP is still one of the most reliable power bats in baseball; he’s exceeded a 144 OPS+ in four of the last five seasons. The question is whether his presence is enough to lift the struggling Blue Jays, who crashed from the 2016 ALCS to just 76 wins in &#39;17, back into the postseason. The Cardinals have long been enamored with Donaldson and will keep calling the Jays if they’re unable to land Machado from Baltimore.</p><p>Toronto started seven regulars over 30 years old last year and will need another huge season from the unlikely Justin Smoak if it expects to keep pace in the AL East. If GM Ross Atkins pursued a rebuild, he’d be smart to float Marcus Stroman, who has four more years of team control, to a prospect-rich team like the Yankees or Dodgers.</p><p><strong>19. Atlanta Braves</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 72–90</strong></p><p>By removing the onerous Matt Kemp contract from the books in a trade with the Dodgers, the Braves created a lane to promote top prospect Ronald Acuña, the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and one of the game&#39;s top prospects. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to win top AFL honors after slashing .325/.414/.639 with seven home runs in 23 games.</p><p>By adding Brandon McCarthy to the rotation and taking a flyer on the oft-injured Scott Kazmir, Atlanta might be able to stabilize its creaky rotation. With an intriguing blend of youth and veteran leadership, the Braves aren’t far from competing for a playoff spot.</p><p><strong>18. Pittsburgh Pirates</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 75–87</strong></p><p>Like the Orioles, the Pirates feel like a team that missed their window. Their future hinges on whether they trade Andrew McCutchen, who saved his 2017 season with a .305/.391/.533 and 19 home runs over his final 102 games, and Gerrit Cole, the staff ace who stumbled to a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2017. The Giants could use a player of McCutchen’s dynamism, but may not have an attractive enough trade package. The Yankees want Cole, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is rumored to be targeting top prospect Gleyber Torres, which might be too tall an ask for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.</p><p>They have a promising young first baseman in Josh Bell, a struggling 25-year-old outfielder in Gregory Polanco and the talented Starling Marte, who served an 80-game suspension in 2017. Outside of that, it’s an unreliable rotation (even if it’s mastered by the game’s best pitching coach in Ray Searage) and a lineup that finished 28th in total offense.</p><p><strong>17. Kansas City Royals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>The theme of rebuild or compete is a constant in this piece. The Royals are most likely losing the former centerpieces to their 2015 World Series team in Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Starting pitcher Danny Duffy is gauging interest on the trade market, and could deliver a sizable haul of prospects. It’s probably time to start building a new future in Kansas City, but it’s hard to see what it will look like until this offseason ends.</p><p><strong>16. New York Mets</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 70–92</strong></p><p>With a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and a pitching staff that needs an offseason’s worth of rest, the Mets will return a rotation that most teams still fear, but the usual financial limits will prevent them from acquiring the offense they need (Carlos Santana, who signed with rival Philadelphia, would have been a nice option). Perhaps they can trade for a second baseman like Jason Kipnis or bring outfielder Jay Bruce back on a bargain contract.</p><p>Adrian Gonzalez, who is being paid by the Braves this season, would work as a short-term addition, though it would block prospect Dom Smith. Gonzalez still has a couple of decent seasons left in him if he’s healthy, and the Mets don’t have to pay him. GM Sandy Alderson could also surprise his fans by springing for a player like Cain or Moustakas, who could provide Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto (once he&#39;s back from a serious shoulder injury) with the protection they desperately need.</p><p>The Mets can still compete, but they’ll need to inject some power into their lineup if they want to keep pace with the Nationals.</p><p><strong>15. Seattle Mariners</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 78–84</strong></p><p>General manager Jerry Dipoto missed out on the prize acquisition of Ohtani, and now he’ll try to wheel and deal his way to improving one of the biggest disappointments of 2017. “Trader Jerry” retains the strong core of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez, but Hernandez is regressing and Cruz is aging. Rightfielder Mitch Haniger provided a boost in 96 games last year and Mike Zunino offered a strong season with a 123 OPS+.</p><p>Seattle won’t compete for a playoff spot if Ariel Miranda leads the team in innings again, but Dipoto has stitched together a nice bullpen anchored by closer Edwin Diaz. If Dipoto can find reliable starting pitching either by free agency or trade (and keep James Paxton healthy), the Mariners can compete for an open wild-card spot. More likely, the Mariners are bound for another 78-to-84-win season.</p><p><strong>14. Texas Rangers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 78–84</strong></p><p>The Rangers acquired lefty starter Matt Moore from the Giants and signed Mike Minor away from the Royals to try to boost one of the AL’s worst rotations. The problem is that the West’s best bats (Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Cruz) are mostly righthanded.</p><p>Rougned Odor needs to learn how to take a pitch—he’s the rare player who could amass 30-plus homers and a 65 OPS+—if he wants to stabilize the Rangers’ lineup. Adrian Beltre is aging, so manager Jeff Banister will need big contributions from Odor and Joey Gallo to turn the Rangers back into the kind of team that won the division in 2016. </p><p><strong>13. Minnesota Twins</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 85–77, lost in AL Wild Card Game</strong></p><p>The young core is there; the Twins just need a starting pitcher. Unless they are outbid by a richer team like the Cubs or Astros, the Twins should do everything within their power to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta as well as a secondary starter (Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia) to bolster their playoff chances. With the Tigers, White Sox and Royals all headed toward rebuilds, it’s imperative that the Twins spend now and try to compete.</p><p><strong>12. Los Angeles Angels</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 80–82</strong></p><p>They’re the most interesting team of the offseason. General manager Billy Eppler has secured the services of Ohtani, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Kinsler to provide the kind of reliable support that Mike Trout hasn’t had during his time in the big leagues. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition (and the Angels could use some help on the back end of their rotation), but they’ve gone from one of the league’s least interesting teams to a genuinely intriguing one.</p><p><strong>11. Milwaukee Brewers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 86–76</strong></p><p>This is a team that can contend, but signing players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo isn’t going to help them achieve that goal. The Brewers have an excellent young core anchored by Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and Domingo Santana, but they need starting pitching to help front-liners Zach Davies and Chase Anderson.</p><p>One of 2017’s most pleasant surprises is one or two pieces away, but the beginning of the offseason hasn’t been thrilling. The best move they can make? Offer Lewis Brinson and other top prospects to the Rays for Chris Archer.</p><p><strong>10. Colorado Rockies</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 87–75, lost in NL Wild Card Game</strong></p><p>Unfortunately the Rockies did not add Giancarlo Stanton—what a dream that would have been—but they did sign Bryan Shaw and re-sign Jake McGee to bolster a bullpen that was a strength in 2017. Shaw is one of the game’s best against righthanded hitters and specializes in getting ground balls (he had a career high 55% ground-ball rate in 79 appearances last year). The Rockies will bank on their young starters (Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez) to anchor the rotation. They’ll hit like they always do, but they’ll need standout years from a host of young starters if they want to make a run in 2018.</p><p><strong>9. Boston Red Sox</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>General manager Dave Dombrowski has remained quiet except for re-signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal. Boston should remain the eventual landing spot for J.D. Martinez, but agent Scott Boras is seeking a long-term contract for the 30-year-old power hitter.</p><p>Martinez’s free agency may play out like Prince Fielder’s six years ago, when the slugging first baseman waited until January to sign a nine-year, $214 million contract. The GM who signed Fielder? Dave Dombrowski.</p><p><strong>8. St. Louis Cardinals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 83–79</strong></p><p>The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton will dominate every offseason headline, but St. Louis’s fleecing of the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna may be an even better deal. Ozuna compiled triple-crown worthy numbers last year (.312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBIs) and slides seamlessly into a Cardinals lineup that missed a reliable power bat last year. General manager John Mozeliak admitted in an interview that a trade for Manny Machado is unlikely, but St. Louis barely missed the playoffs last season without a player of Ozuna’s caliber. It’s a perfect addition, and one that could vault the Cardinals into NL pennant contention.</p><p><strong>7. Arizona Diamondbacks</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>To trade or not to trade? The Diamondbacks owe Zack Greinke an astonishing $138.5 million over the next four seasons, and he’s hamstringing the payroll of a team that isn’t far from competing for a pennant. The pitching-needy Rangers would be an ideal landing spot for Greinke, who had a strong 2017, but fell apart in his last four starts of the season (11.25 ERA, .417 batting average against in his last two regular-season starts; 7.27 ERA, six walks and 8 2/3 IP in his two postseason starts). Robbie Ray proved he’s a legitimate staff ace in 2017, and Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley nicely fill out a rotation that exceeded expectations in 2017.</p><p>If the Diamondbacks can offset a chunk of salary by trading Greinke and use that money to try and bring back J.D. Martinez or acquire one more outfielder, Arizona will compete for the NL West crown in 2018.</p><p><strong>6. Washington Nationals</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 97–65, lost in NLDS</strong></p><p>Bryce Harper is in the final year of his contract, and he’s playing for his fourth manager in seven years. The goal is for the Nationals to re-sign Harper, but Washington likely needs to make a splash signing to convince Harper to stay and try to bring a title to D.C. Signing Jake Arrieta to complement Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer is the best way to do that. Otherwise, Harper may have one foot out the door even if he loves new manager Dave Martinez. </p><p><strong>5. Cleveland Indians</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 102–60, lost in ALDS</strong></p><p>Losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies is tough for a team that quietly relied on his offensive contributions for the last eight seasons. There’s no obvious replacement for Santana at first base—it might be Lonnie Chisenhall or occasionally Edwin Encarnacion—but it creates a problem in the lineup that lacks an immediate solution.</p><p>The Indians will enter 2018 as one of baseball’s most complete teams, but they’ll need a power surge from a player like Yandy Diaz or Abraham Almonte to help offset the loss of Santana’s consistency.</p><p><strong>4. Chicago Cubs</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 92–70, lost in NLCS</strong></p><p>The lingering question for the Cubs will be whether they’ll trade Kyle Schwarber. The once-beefy outfielder has reportedly lost 17–20 pounds this offseason and arrived looking svelte at the Winter Meetings. The Cubs adore Schwarber and probably won’t ship him, but his horrendous outfield defense was on display again in the NLCS against the Dodgers, and he never remedied the offensive woes that plagued him throughout 2017.</p><p>It makes little sense to trade Schwarber when his value is at its lowest, but perhaps the Red Sox would consider parting with whatever top prospects remain in their system to acquire a reliable DH. Otherwise, the addition of Brandon Morrow from the Dodgers will help shore up a creaky bullpen, and the Cubs are the likely favorite to add Yu Darvish to patch up a rotation that is destined to lose 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.</p><p><strong>3. Los Angeles Dodgers</strong></p><p><strong>2017 record: 104–58, lost in World Series</strong></p><p>The Dodgers’ biggest move of the 2017 offseason was getting under the luxury tax, which they were in peril of violating for the fifth consecutive season. By unloading Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, they freed $51 million from their 2018 payroll in exchange for Matt Kemp, who is owed $43 million over the next two years. Most importantly, <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/16/matt-kemp-dodgers-trade-adrian-gonzalez-braves-bryce-harper" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as our own Jon Tayler noted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as our own Jon Tayler noted</a>, it allows the Dodgers significant flexibility for next year’s loaded free agent class.</p><p>It’s unlikely that Kemp ever suits up for his former team, but Los Angeles will face a difficult time trading a 32-year-old outfielder who is one of the game’s worst defenders and most egregious hackers. If the Dodgers can’t find a landing spot for Kemp (it’s hard to envision they do), they’ll likely designate him for assignment and eat the remainder of his salary.</p><p>The Dodgers will need to restock their bullpen after losing Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, but they’re otherwise set to enter 2018.</p><p><strong>2. New York Yankees</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 91–71, lost in ALCS</strong></p><p>By acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees possess the game’s two most fearsome power hitters. Stanton and Aaron Judge are under the age of 30. They’ve won the 2017 offseason; everybody else is just looking to be the runner-up.</p><p><strong>1. Houston Astros</strong></p><p><strong>2017 Record: 101–61, won World Series</strong></p><p>The champions get the top spot, even if they’ve been quiet up to this point in the offseason. The Astros might get in on the Darvish sweepstakes to bolster their strong but tenuous rotation. Perhaps they’ll pursue J.D. Martinez to become their designated hitter and re-invest in a player they once cut. It’s unclear, but the Astros will return with one of the game’s most stable nuclei and an offense that can out-slug pretty much anybody.</p>
MLB Power Rankings: Yankees, Cardinals Are Big Winners of Early Offseason

Outside of the Yankees' acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the Angels' signing of Shohei Ohtani, it's been a pretty slow start to the baseball offseason. With a few moves made and many more to come, let's reset and take a look at where all 30 teams stand with plenty of signings awaiting.

30. Miami Marlins

2017 Record: 77–85

Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna combined for 96 homers, 13.4 WAR and a median OPS+ of 155 in 2017. The Marlins traded them for one big league regular (infielder Starlin Castro) and zero top-100 prospects. Selling was necessary, but the Marlins deal two of the game’s best players in their primes for Castro, somebody they’ll probably move before the 2018 season, and a host of lottery tickets.

The new ownership group can redeem itself by securing a large package of young talent for outfielder Christian Yelich (who is under team control for the next five years), but he is young, talented and relatively cheap. Targeted rebuilds are understandable; the new Miami ownership group is not doing that. It’s an insult to the fans who are surviving their third teardown since 2003.

29. Detroit Tigers

2017 Record: 64–98

By trading Ian Kinsler to the Angels, the Tigers have almost shed all of their veteran talent. They won’t be able to rid themselves of Miguel Cabrera’s behemoth contract (he’s owed $184 million through 2024), but they will float 2016 Rookie of the Year winner Michael Fulmer in trade talks if GM Al Avila can secure a significant package in return. The Tigers are going to be bad next season, but they’re carefully navigating a full teardown, unlike the Marlins.

28. Cincinnati Reds

2017 Record: 68–94

The Reds are trapped, and it’s unclear how they’ll improve in 2018. The prospects they acquired for long-term stability (Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler) are talented but underwhelming. Their starting pitching is awful (only one starter with more than 14 starts, Luis Castillo, finished with an ERA under 4.45). They tried to make a pitch to Shohei Ohtani, who quickly rebuffed them. They could secure a strong package of prospects by trading closer Raisel Iglesias, but reports are that he’ll remain in Cincinnati.

General Manager Dick Williams will try to ship speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton before the season is over, but his low on-base percentage hardly makes him an attractive candidate. The best move the Reds can make right now is to float Adam Duvall, who has 64 homers over the last two seasons, in trade negotiations. Like Hamilton, however, Duvall has issues getting on base, and power is not coveted like it once was thanks to the juiced ball.

27. San Diego Padres

2017 Record: 71–91

The Padres’ failure to acquire Ohtani will haunt them all offseason long; reports surfaced that GM A.J. Preller even learned conversational Japanese to try to impress Ohtani, who signed with the Angels. Instead, the Padres acquired Chase Headley and hard-throwing reliever Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees (and are reportedly shopping Headley). With Wil Myers protecting first base and young outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe returning, the Padres have some promise, but it’ll probably be another long season.

26. San Francisco Giants

2017 Record: 64–98

It’s been a disappointing offseason for the Giants. They had a trade in place to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, but he vetoed it on the grounds that they weren’t close enough to competing for another title. Marcell Ozuna would have offered the power the team needs and been a perfect defensive fit in AT&T Park’s spacious outfield, but he was dealt to the Cardinals. Their big move came on Wednesday, acquiring Evan Longoria from the Rays in exchange for one of their top prospects (Christian Arroyo) along with Denard Span and two lesser prospects. Longoria remains one of the game’s most consistent players, but is coming off of a career-worst season at age 32. The upside to the trade is Longoria remains a defensive stud and has played at least 156 games in each of the last five seasons.

Now, GM Bobby Evans will reportedly look to payroll-conscious options like Jay Bruce to try to bolster a lineup that finished last in home runs (128) and OPS+ (83). In the meantime, perhaps they should look to Ripped Tim Lincecum to stabilize their pitching staff or bullpen.

25. Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Record: 80–82

The Rays have started the rebuild by trading Evan Longoria. The next move is to ship Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and (maybe) Chris Archer. They’ve gotten Christian Arroyo, one of the Giants’ top prospects, in exchange for Longoria. They can compile a host of young talent by continuing to sell, and they should.

24. Chicago White Sox

2017 Record: 67–95

The White Sox are happy to remain quiet this offseason after their enormous sale during last year’s Winter Meetings. General manager Rick Hahn has an enviable collection of young talent with little reason to move any of it. As Tom Verducci noted in his Winter Meetings Notebook, the Red Sox would be wise to try to acquire first baseman Jose Abreu, and there are rumors that Hahn envies Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. They may not win much in 2018, but the White Sox will trip up plenty of teams next season.

23. Oakland A's

2017 Record: 75–87

It’s the A’s. Who knows?

Stephen Piscotty is a nice addition who could enjoy a turnaround season in new surroundings. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are breakout players who can anchor the middle of the order. Khris Davis is one of the game’s most reliable power hitters. Jharel Cotton is a potential front-line starter, but he lacked consistency in 2017. Perhaps Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto will have big seasons to finally redeem the Josh Donaldson trade.

Maybe they’ll surprise people. Maybe they won’t. Predicting this team has long been a fool’s errand, but they’ll be intriguing as always.?

22. Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Record: 66–96

The Phillies haven’t made any significant moves yet, but they have a chunk of money and a host of promising young players for 2018. General manager Matt Klentak shipped shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres, which allows J.P. Crawford to inherit the starting shortstop position, and then signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal. Santana might be the most consistent bat in the entire free agent class, but it blocks either Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Altherr, both of whom enjoyed great second halves in 2017.

Klentak is also reportedly shopping infielder Cesar Hernandez (the Mets would be a good fit), but he's seeking a healthy package in return for a player who finished 2017 with a strong .293/.373/.421 slash line. Hernandez may start the season at second; if he doesn’t, it will be touted minor-league infielder Scott Kingery.

Expect the Phillies to engage the Orioles on Manny Machado, who is the perfect candidate to replace the underwhelming Maikel Franco at third base. Otherwise, they're a prime candidate to spend on a front-line starter (Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish) to bolster an otherwise bad starting rotation.

21. Baltimore Orioles

2017 Record: 75–87

Like the Reds, the Orioles don’t have the assets to compete in 2018. As Tom Verducci noted, GM Dan Duquette would be wise to ship Manny Machado before he hits free agency after the season, but there’s fear that any team that acquires him could flip him to the prospect-rich Yankees.

Even with the 2017 emergence of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles don’t have the starting rotation to compete in the AL East and probably don’t have the money to sign Machado to a long-term deal. Life has never been easy as an Orioles fan, and it appears that they missed their window to compete for a title with Machado anchoring third base. With closer Zach Britton rupturing his Achilles and due to miss six months, the hope for any success in 2018 got even dimmer.

20. Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Record: 76–86

Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays must decide if they want to make one more run at the playoffs with a star player who will probably skip town during next winter’s free-agent period. Josh Donaldson is at the back end of his prime, but the 2015 AL MVP is still one of the most reliable power bats in baseball; he’s exceeded a 144 OPS+ in four of the last five seasons. The question is whether his presence is enough to lift the struggling Blue Jays, who crashed from the 2016 ALCS to just 76 wins in '17, back into the postseason. The Cardinals have long been enamored with Donaldson and will keep calling the Jays if they’re unable to land Machado from Baltimore.

Toronto started seven regulars over 30 years old last year and will need another huge season from the unlikely Justin Smoak if it expects to keep pace in the AL East. If GM Ross Atkins pursued a rebuild, he’d be smart to float Marcus Stroman, who has four more years of team control, to a prospect-rich team like the Yankees or Dodgers.

19. Atlanta Braves

2017 Record: 72–90

By removing the onerous Matt Kemp contract from the books in a trade with the Dodgers, the Braves created a lane to promote top prospect Ronald Acuña, the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and one of the game's top prospects. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to win top AFL honors after slashing .325/.414/.639 with seven home runs in 23 games.

By adding Brandon McCarthy to the rotation and taking a flyer on the oft-injured Scott Kazmir, Atlanta might be able to stabilize its creaky rotation. With an intriguing blend of youth and veteran leadership, the Braves aren’t far from competing for a playoff spot.

18. Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Record: 75–87

Like the Orioles, the Pirates feel like a team that missed their window. Their future hinges on whether they trade Andrew McCutchen, who saved his 2017 season with a .305/.391/.533 and 19 home runs over his final 102 games, and Gerrit Cole, the staff ace who stumbled to a 4.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2017. The Giants could use a player of McCutchen’s dynamism, but may not have an attractive enough trade package. The Yankees want Cole, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is rumored to be targeting top prospect Gleyber Torres, which might be too tall an ask for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

They have a promising young first baseman in Josh Bell, a struggling 25-year-old outfielder in Gregory Polanco and the talented Starling Marte, who served an 80-game suspension in 2017. Outside of that, it’s an unreliable rotation (even if it’s mastered by the game’s best pitching coach in Ray Searage) and a lineup that finished 28th in total offense.

17. Kansas City Royals

2017 Record: 80–82

The theme of rebuild or compete is a constant in this piece. The Royals are most likely losing the former centerpieces to their 2015 World Series team in Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Starting pitcher Danny Duffy is gauging interest on the trade market, and could deliver a sizable haul of prospects. It’s probably time to start building a new future in Kansas City, but it’s hard to see what it will look like until this offseason ends.

16. New York Mets

2017 Record: 70–92

With a new manager (Mickey Callaway) and a pitching staff that needs an offseason’s worth of rest, the Mets will return a rotation that most teams still fear, but the usual financial limits will prevent them from acquiring the offense they need (Carlos Santana, who signed with rival Philadelphia, would have been a nice option). Perhaps they can trade for a second baseman like Jason Kipnis or bring outfielder Jay Bruce back on a bargain contract.

Adrian Gonzalez, who is being paid by the Braves this season, would work as a short-term addition, though it would block prospect Dom Smith. Gonzalez still has a couple of decent seasons left in him if he’s healthy, and the Mets don’t have to pay him. GM Sandy Alderson could also surprise his fans by springing for a player like Cain or Moustakas, who could provide Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto (once he's back from a serious shoulder injury) with the protection they desperately need.

The Mets can still compete, but they’ll need to inject some power into their lineup if they want to keep pace with the Nationals.

15. Seattle Mariners

2017 Record: 78–84

General manager Jerry Dipoto missed out on the prize acquisition of Ohtani, and now he’ll try to wheel and deal his way to improving one of the biggest disappointments of 2017. “Trader Jerry” retains the strong core of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez, but Hernandez is regressing and Cruz is aging. Rightfielder Mitch Haniger provided a boost in 96 games last year and Mike Zunino offered a strong season with a 123 OPS+.

Seattle won’t compete for a playoff spot if Ariel Miranda leads the team in innings again, but Dipoto has stitched together a nice bullpen anchored by closer Edwin Diaz. If Dipoto can find reliable starting pitching either by free agency or trade (and keep James Paxton healthy), the Mariners can compete for an open wild-card spot. More likely, the Mariners are bound for another 78-to-84-win season.

14. Texas Rangers

2017 Record: 78–84

The Rangers acquired lefty starter Matt Moore from the Giants and signed Mike Minor away from the Royals to try to boost one of the AL’s worst rotations. The problem is that the West’s best bats (Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Cruz) are mostly righthanded.

Rougned Odor needs to learn how to take a pitch—he’s the rare player who could amass 30-plus homers and a 65 OPS+—if he wants to stabilize the Rangers’ lineup. Adrian Beltre is aging, so manager Jeff Banister will need big contributions from Odor and Joey Gallo to turn the Rangers back into the kind of team that won the division in 2016.

13. Minnesota Twins

2017 Record: 85–77, lost in AL Wild Card Game

The young core is there; the Twins just need a starting pitcher. Unless they are outbid by a richer team like the Cubs or Astros, the Twins should do everything within their power to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta as well as a secondary starter (Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia) to bolster their playoff chances. With the Tigers, White Sox and Royals all headed toward rebuilds, it’s imperative that the Twins spend now and try to compete.

12. Los Angeles Angels

2017 Record: 80–82

They’re the most interesting team of the offseason. General manager Billy Eppler has secured the services of Ohtani, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart and Kinsler to provide the kind of reliable support that Mike Trout hasn’t had during his time in the big leagues. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition (and the Angels could use some help on the back end of their rotation), but they’ve gone from one of the league’s least interesting teams to a genuinely intriguing one.

11. Milwaukee Brewers

2017 Record: 86–76

This is a team that can contend, but signing players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo isn’t going to help them achieve that goal. The Brewers have an excellent young core anchored by Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and Domingo Santana, but they need starting pitching to help front-liners Zach Davies and Chase Anderson.

One of 2017’s most pleasant surprises is one or two pieces away, but the beginning of the offseason hasn’t been thrilling. The best move they can make? Offer Lewis Brinson and other top prospects to the Rays for Chris Archer.

10. Colorado Rockies

2017 Record: 87–75, lost in NL Wild Card Game

Unfortunately the Rockies did not add Giancarlo Stanton—what a dream that would have been—but they did sign Bryan Shaw and re-sign Jake McGee to bolster a bullpen that was a strength in 2017. Shaw is one of the game’s best against righthanded hitters and specializes in getting ground balls (he had a career high 55% ground-ball rate in 79 appearances last year). The Rockies will bank on their young starters (Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez) to anchor the rotation. They’ll hit like they always do, but they’ll need standout years from a host of young starters if they want to make a run in 2018.

9. Boston Red Sox

2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS

General manager Dave Dombrowski has remained quiet except for re-signing Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal. Boston should remain the eventual landing spot for J.D. Martinez, but agent Scott Boras is seeking a long-term contract for the 30-year-old power hitter.

Martinez’s free agency may play out like Prince Fielder’s six years ago, when the slugging first baseman waited until January to sign a nine-year, $214 million contract. The GM who signed Fielder? Dave Dombrowski.

8. St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Record: 83–79

The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton will dominate every offseason headline, but St. Louis’s fleecing of the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna may be an even better deal. Ozuna compiled triple-crown worthy numbers last year (.312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBIs) and slides seamlessly into a Cardinals lineup that missed a reliable power bat last year. General manager John Mozeliak admitted in an interview that a trade for Manny Machado is unlikely, but St. Louis barely missed the playoffs last season without a player of Ozuna’s caliber. It’s a perfect addition, and one that could vault the Cardinals into NL pennant contention.

7. Arizona Diamondbacks

2017 Record: 93–69, lost in NLDS

To trade or not to trade? The Diamondbacks owe Zack Greinke an astonishing $138.5 million over the next four seasons, and he’s hamstringing the payroll of a team that isn’t far from competing for a pennant. The pitching-needy Rangers would be an ideal landing spot for Greinke, who had a strong 2017, but fell apart in his last four starts of the season (11.25 ERA, .417 batting average against in his last two regular-season starts; 7.27 ERA, six walks and 8 2/3 IP in his two postseason starts). Robbie Ray proved he’s a legitimate staff ace in 2017, and Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley nicely fill out a rotation that exceeded expectations in 2017.

If the Diamondbacks can offset a chunk of salary by trading Greinke and use that money to try and bring back J.D. Martinez or acquire one more outfielder, Arizona will compete for the NL West crown in 2018.

6. Washington Nationals

2017 Record: 97–65, lost in NLDS

Bryce Harper is in the final year of his contract, and he’s playing for his fourth manager in seven years. The goal is for the Nationals to re-sign Harper, but Washington likely needs to make a splash signing to convince Harper to stay and try to bring a title to D.C. Signing Jake Arrieta to complement Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer is the best way to do that. Otherwise, Harper may have one foot out the door even if he loves new manager Dave Martinez.

5. Cleveland Indians

2017 Record: 102–60, lost in ALDS

Losing Carlos Santana to the Phillies is tough for a team that quietly relied on his offensive contributions for the last eight seasons. There’s no obvious replacement for Santana at first base—it might be Lonnie Chisenhall or occasionally Edwin Encarnacion—but it creates a problem in the lineup that lacks an immediate solution.

The Indians will enter 2018 as one of baseball’s most complete teams, but they’ll need a power surge from a player like Yandy Diaz or Abraham Almonte to help offset the loss of Santana’s consistency.

4. Chicago Cubs

2017 Record: 92–70, lost in NLCS

The lingering question for the Cubs will be whether they’ll trade Kyle Schwarber. The once-beefy outfielder has reportedly lost 17–20 pounds this offseason and arrived looking svelte at the Winter Meetings. The Cubs adore Schwarber and probably won’t ship him, but his horrendous outfield defense was on display again in the NLCS against the Dodgers, and he never remedied the offensive woes that plagued him throughout 2017.

It makes little sense to trade Schwarber when his value is at its lowest, but perhaps the Red Sox would consider parting with whatever top prospects remain in their system to acquire a reliable DH. Otherwise, the addition of Brandon Morrow from the Dodgers will help shore up a creaky bullpen, and the Cubs are the likely favorite to add Yu Darvish to patch up a rotation that is destined to lose 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 record: 104–58, lost in World Series

The Dodgers’ biggest move of the 2017 offseason was getting under the luxury tax, which they were in peril of violating for the fifth consecutive season. By unloading Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir, they freed $51 million from their 2018 payroll in exchange for Matt Kemp, who is owed $43 million over the next two years. Most importantly, as our own Jon Tayler noted, it allows the Dodgers significant flexibility for next year’s loaded free agent class.

It’s unlikely that Kemp ever suits up for his former team, but Los Angeles will face a difficult time trading a 32-year-old outfielder who is one of the game’s worst defenders and most egregious hackers. If the Dodgers can’t find a landing spot for Kemp (it’s hard to envision they do), they’ll likely designate him for assignment and eat the remainder of his salary.

The Dodgers will need to restock their bullpen after losing Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, but they’re otherwise set to enter 2018.

2. New York Yankees

2017 Record: 91–71, lost in ALCS

By acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees possess the game’s two most fearsome power hitters. Stanton and Aaron Judge are under the age of 30. They’ve won the 2017 offseason; everybody else is just looking to be the runner-up.

1. Houston Astros

2017 Record: 101–61, won World Series

The champions get the top spot, even if they’ve been quiet up to this point in the offseason. The Astros might get in on the Darvish sweepstakes to bolster their strong but tenuous rotation. Perhaps they’ll pursue J.D. Martinez to become their designated hitter and re-invest in a player they once cut. It’s unclear, but the Astros will return with one of the game’s most stable nuclei and an offense that can out-slug pretty much anybody.

<p>Through these topsy-turvy times, we’ve always been able to count on a few things. Death is inescapable; puppies are adorable; and Evan Longoria will rake in Tampa Bay despite never posting an OPS above .900. Well, death and dogs continue, but Longoria’s time in Florida has surprisingly come to an end. On Wednesday, the Rays <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/20/rays-trade-evan-longoria-giants" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:dealt the veteran third baseman to the Giants" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">dealt the veteran third baseman to the Giants</a> for a four-player package headlined by centerfielder Denard Span and infield prospect Christian Arroyo. The trade ends Longoria’s decade-long tenure as the best player in Tampa’s short franchise history, as San Francisco makes a bid to return to contention (or at least relevance) by taking a risky bet on a solid but aging star.</p><p>The 32-year-old Longoria is the picture of reliability and durability: He’s played at least 122 games every year but 2012, when he missed half the season with a hamstring strain, and has posted an OPS of .840 or better every season but two. Unfortunately for him and possibly the Giants, one of those seasons was 2017, when he slumped to a .261/.313/.424 line; his resulting 100 OPS+ was the lowest mark of his career, and his 20 homers were his fewest ever in a full season. Longoria’s still-strong defense (+11 Defensive Runs Saved and his third Gold Glove) kept his WAR respectable at 3.6, but that kind of offensive slide is worrisome for a player well into his 30s.</p><p>The underlying peripherals aren’t too sunny either. Longoria’s ground-ball rate skyrocketed, going from 31.9% in 2016 to 43.4% in ’17, which killed his extra-base hit rate and home-run rate. His performance against fastballs cratered, going from a .318 batting average and .682 slugging percentage in ’16 to .265 and .412, respectively, last season. And his average exit velocity on balls dropped from 90.7 mph in ’16 to 86.7 mph last year. None of those are be-all/end-all stats, but they suggest that Longoria simply wasn’t squaring up balls or hitting them hard—and that when he did get a hold of a pitch, he topped it straight into the dirt.</p><p>The truly scary number going forward, though, is Longoria’s salary: He still has five years and $87 million to go on the six-year extension he signed all the way back in 2012—a deal that didn’t kick in until his then-contract expired after the ’16 season. At the time, $100 million for Longoria must have looked like a steal. But since signing it, he’s posted a cumulative .265/.325/.457 line with a 116 OPS+— decidedly pedestrian numbers for that kind of investment. For the small-market Rays, the idea of shelling out another $87 million for a 32-year-old player with sagging stats must have caused some upset stomachs, franchise legend or not.</p><p>That’s a risk the Giants are willing to take, and it’s easy to understand why. Calling third base a black hole for San Francisco is an insult to black holes; the team’s collective line at the position in 2017 was a putrid .216/.268/.300, all of which were far and away the worst in baseball. Nine different players took turns at the hot corner in the Bay Area last season, and with the exception of Eduardo Nuñez, who was productive before being dealt to Boston in August, all were awful. Given a 2018 depth chart of Arroyo, the decrepit Pablo Sandoval, bespectacled utility infielder Kelby Tomlinson, and prospect Ryder Jones, acquiring a third baseman was a screaming need for the Giants, and Longoria represents a dramatic upgrade over the in-house solutions almost no matter what he does next year.</p><p>Was Longoria the right call, though? The options in free agency are unappealing: Mike Moustakas (lots of power but little else), Todd Frazier (the older, cheaper Moustakas), and Nuñez are the best of a shaky lot. It’s easy to understand why the Giants didn’t feel comfortable committing multiple years and millions of dollars to anyone in that group. And while his offense may be declining, Longoria, at the very least, is durable and a good defender—a big improvement for a Giants team that lost virtually everyone to injury last year and, aside from Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Buster Posey behind the plate, was a mess with the gloves.</p><p>But Longoria’s contract and age make him a potential land mine for San Francisco. Dealing away Span’s money—$11 million next year and a $12 million team option for 2019 with a $4 million buyout—helps offset some of Longoria’s cost, but we’re still talking about taking on an additional $72 million over the next five years for a team that spent $191 million to lose 98 games last season and is on the hook for at least $175 million in 2018. And a lot of that money is tied up in veterans who, like Longoria, are wading deeper into their 30s: Brandon Belt (30 next season), Posey (31), Crawford (31), Johnny Cueto (32), Jeff Samardzija (33), Mark Melancon (33), and Hunter Pence (35) will earn a combined $128.9 million this coming year. There’s no salary relief in sight, either: With Longoria now on board, the Giants have $132.9 million committed in &#39;19, $129.4 million in &#39;20 and $94.1 million in &#39;21 (to just five players!)—and after the &#39;19 season, they’ll have to free up some cash to pay free-agent-to-be Madison Bumgarner, currently working on a dirt-cheap contract ($12 million in both 2018 and &#39;19).</p><p>Virtually none of those big contracts are movable, particularly in a day and age when teams are terrified of surpassing the luxury tax threshold. The Giants do have room to make moves even after adding Longoria’s money, but they’re right up against their limit and still have holes to fill in the outfield, rotation and bullpen. So while Longoria will make them better in 2018, it will come at a significant financial (and potentially opportunity) cost. San Francisco may have been better off going cheaper, younger or shorter at the position instead of taking a short-term upgrade that carries significant long-term complications. (Not to mention that trading Arroyo, one of the team’s top prospects, further weakens a bad farm system and eliminates a cost-effective option under 30 years old.)</p><p>For Tampa fans, meanwhile, the loss of Longoria has to be crushing for those who watched him take the team to unforeseeable heights and likely hoped he’d retire a Ray. But what’s worse for those supporters is that his departure is a flashing neon sign that the Rays, long the pipsqueak financially in the behemoth AL East, are planning to take a step back in the division as the Yankees and Red Sox flex their might. With Longoria gone, expect Tampa to get aggressive about moving closer Alex Colome, starter Jake Odorizzi, and—most intriguing of all—staff ace Chris Archer. He would bring a potentially franchise-altering haul back in prospects if the Rays decide to move him, and could easily shift the balance of power for whichever contender—the Dodgers, Brewers, and Yankees immediately jump to mind—could land him.</p><p>For now, Tampa will take on Arroyo (a solid bat whose defensive position is still to be determined), probably try to dump Span’s contract on someone else, and man the phones to see what else of the roster can be moved. But while plenty of other players will change addresses this winter, there may be no stranger sight next spring than Longoria putting on orange and black. Nothing can last forever, I suppose.</p>
Giants Finally Make Splash by Acquiring Evan Longoria from Rays

Through these topsy-turvy times, we’ve always been able to count on a few things. Death is inescapable; puppies are adorable; and Evan Longoria will rake in Tampa Bay despite never posting an OPS above .900. Well, death and dogs continue, but Longoria’s time in Florida has surprisingly come to an end. On Wednesday, the Rays dealt the veteran third baseman to the Giants for a four-player package headlined by centerfielder Denard Span and infield prospect Christian Arroyo. The trade ends Longoria’s decade-long tenure as the best player in Tampa’s short franchise history, as San Francisco makes a bid to return to contention (or at least relevance) by taking a risky bet on a solid but aging star.

The 32-year-old Longoria is the picture of reliability and durability: He’s played at least 122 games every year but 2012, when he missed half the season with a hamstring strain, and has posted an OPS of .840 or better every season but two. Unfortunately for him and possibly the Giants, one of those seasons was 2017, when he slumped to a .261/.313/.424 line; his resulting 100 OPS+ was the lowest mark of his career, and his 20 homers were his fewest ever in a full season. Longoria’s still-strong defense (+11 Defensive Runs Saved and his third Gold Glove) kept his WAR respectable at 3.6, but that kind of offensive slide is worrisome for a player well into his 30s.

The underlying peripherals aren’t too sunny either. Longoria’s ground-ball rate skyrocketed, going from 31.9% in 2016 to 43.4% in ’17, which killed his extra-base hit rate and home-run rate. His performance against fastballs cratered, going from a .318 batting average and .682 slugging percentage in ’16 to .265 and .412, respectively, last season. And his average exit velocity on balls dropped from 90.7 mph in ’16 to 86.7 mph last year. None of those are be-all/end-all stats, but they suggest that Longoria simply wasn’t squaring up balls or hitting them hard—and that when he did get a hold of a pitch, he topped it straight into the dirt.

The truly scary number going forward, though, is Longoria’s salary: He still has five years and $87 million to go on the six-year extension he signed all the way back in 2012—a deal that didn’t kick in until his then-contract expired after the ’16 season. At the time, $100 million for Longoria must have looked like a steal. But since signing it, he’s posted a cumulative .265/.325/.457 line with a 116 OPS+— decidedly pedestrian numbers for that kind of investment. For the small-market Rays, the idea of shelling out another $87 million for a 32-year-old player with sagging stats must have caused some upset stomachs, franchise legend or not.

That’s a risk the Giants are willing to take, and it’s easy to understand why. Calling third base a black hole for San Francisco is an insult to black holes; the team’s collective line at the position in 2017 was a putrid .216/.268/.300, all of which were far and away the worst in baseball. Nine different players took turns at the hot corner in the Bay Area last season, and with the exception of Eduardo Nuñez, who was productive before being dealt to Boston in August, all were awful. Given a 2018 depth chart of Arroyo, the decrepit Pablo Sandoval, bespectacled utility infielder Kelby Tomlinson, and prospect Ryder Jones, acquiring a third baseman was a screaming need for the Giants, and Longoria represents a dramatic upgrade over the in-house solutions almost no matter what he does next year.

Was Longoria the right call, though? The options in free agency are unappealing: Mike Moustakas (lots of power but little else), Todd Frazier (the older, cheaper Moustakas), and Nuñez are the best of a shaky lot. It’s easy to understand why the Giants didn’t feel comfortable committing multiple years and millions of dollars to anyone in that group. And while his offense may be declining, Longoria, at the very least, is durable and a good defender—a big improvement for a Giants team that lost virtually everyone to injury last year and, aside from Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Buster Posey behind the plate, was a mess with the gloves.

But Longoria’s contract and age make him a potential land mine for San Francisco. Dealing away Span’s money—$11 million next year and a $12 million team option for 2019 with a $4 million buyout—helps offset some of Longoria’s cost, but we’re still talking about taking on an additional $72 million over the next five years for a team that spent $191 million to lose 98 games last season and is on the hook for at least $175 million in 2018. And a lot of that money is tied up in veterans who, like Longoria, are wading deeper into their 30s: Brandon Belt (30 next season), Posey (31), Crawford (31), Johnny Cueto (32), Jeff Samardzija (33), Mark Melancon (33), and Hunter Pence (35) will earn a combined $128.9 million this coming year. There’s no salary relief in sight, either: With Longoria now on board, the Giants have $132.9 million committed in '19, $129.4 million in '20 and $94.1 million in '21 (to just five players!)—and after the '19 season, they’ll have to free up some cash to pay free-agent-to-be Madison Bumgarner, currently working on a dirt-cheap contract ($12 million in both 2018 and '19).

Virtually none of those big contracts are movable, particularly in a day and age when teams are terrified of surpassing the luxury tax threshold. The Giants do have room to make moves even after adding Longoria’s money, but they’re right up against their limit and still have holes to fill in the outfield, rotation and bullpen. So while Longoria will make them better in 2018, it will come at a significant financial (and potentially opportunity) cost. San Francisco may have been better off going cheaper, younger or shorter at the position instead of taking a short-term upgrade that carries significant long-term complications. (Not to mention that trading Arroyo, one of the team’s top prospects, further weakens a bad farm system and eliminates a cost-effective option under 30 years old.)

For Tampa fans, meanwhile, the loss of Longoria has to be crushing for those who watched him take the team to unforeseeable heights and likely hoped he’d retire a Ray. But what’s worse for those supporters is that his departure is a flashing neon sign that the Rays, long the pipsqueak financially in the behemoth AL East, are planning to take a step back in the division as the Yankees and Red Sox flex their might. With Longoria gone, expect Tampa to get aggressive about moving closer Alex Colome, starter Jake Odorizzi, and—most intriguing of all—staff ace Chris Archer. He would bring a potentially franchise-altering haul back in prospects if the Rays decide to move him, and could easily shift the balance of power for whichever contender—the Dodgers, Brewers, and Yankees immediately jump to mind—could land him.

For now, Tampa will take on Arroyo (a solid bat whose defensive position is still to be determined), probably try to dump Span’s contract on someone else, and man the phones to see what else of the roster can be moved. But while plenty of other players will change addresses this winter, there may be no stranger sight next spring than Longoria putting on orange and black. Nothing can last forever, I suppose.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2017 election, it has been updated to reflect it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see</em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em> here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>A savant in the batter&#39;s box, Manny Ramirez could be an idiot just about everywhere else—sometimes amusingly, sometimes much less so. The Dominican-born slugger, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a power-hitting righthanded slugger who spent the better part of his 19 seasons (1993–2011) terrorizing pitchers. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez bashed 555 home runs and helped the Indians and the Red Sox reach two World Series apiece, adding a record 29 postseason homers along the way. He was the World Series MVP for Boston in 2004, when the club won its first championship in 86 years.</p><p>For all of his prowess with the bat, Ramirez&#39;s lapses—&quot;Manny Being Manny&quot;—both on and off the field are legendary. There was the time in 1997 that he &quot;stole&quot; first base, returning to the bag after a successful steal of second because he thought Jim Thome had fouled off a pitch ... the time in 2004 that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCdp-pSA8kc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he inexplicably cut off" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he inexplicably cut off</a> centerfielder Johnny Damon&#39;s relay throw from about 30 feet away, leading to an inside-the-park home run ... the time in &#39;05 that he disappeared mid-inning to relieve himself inside Fenway Park&#39;s Green Monster ... the time in &#39;08 that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md8j_Sq5Nbs" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he high-fived a fan in mid-play" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he high-fived a fan in mid-play</a> between catching a fly ball and doubling a runner off first ... and so much more.</p><p>Beneath those often comic lapses was an intense work ethic that was apparent as far back as his high school and allowed Ramirez&#39;s talent to flourish. But there was also a darker side, one that, particularly after he left the Indians, went beyond the <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20110408&#38;content_id=17525066&#38;c_id=mlb" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:litany" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">litany</a> of his late reports to spring training, questionable absences due to injury (particularly for the All-Star Game) and near-annual trade requests. Most notably, there was his shoving match with 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick in 2008, which prefigured Ramirez&#39;s trade to the Dodgers that summer, and a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence/battery in &#39;11 after his wife told an emergency operator that her husband had slapped her face, causing her to hit her head against the headboard of the bed. (That domestic violence charge was later dropped after his wife refused to testify.) Interspersed with those two incidents were a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, the second of which ran him out of the majors.</p><p>For all of the handwringing about PED-tinged candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot over the past decade, Ramirez is the first star with actual suspensions on his record to gain eligibility since Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. Like Palmeiro, he has numbers that would otherwise make his enshrinement a lock. In his ballot debut last year, he benefited from an electorate in the midst of softening its hardline stance against PED users, receiving 23.8%—a higher share than Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, players who were never suspended. He won’t get into Cooperstown anytime soon, but he isn’t going away either, and it should surprise no one if his share of the vote climbs gradually.</p><p>Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1972, and moved to the Washington Heights neighborhood—home of one of the city&#39;s highest homicide rates at the time—at age 13. His mother worked as a seamstress in a dress factory, and his father drove a livery cab and repaired electronics. At 14, playing for his traveling Youth Service team, he already stood out. &quot;Manny was easy to coach because he probably had the best focus of any hitter we ever had,&quot; said his Youth Service coach, Mel Zitter, in a 2004 interview. &quot;He always had a plan. And if the pitcher got him out, he&#39;d tell me why: &#39;I was looking for a fastball in, but he threw me a curveball and I popped it up.&#39;&quot;</p><p>Ramirez didn&#39;t just star in baseball at George Washington High School, where the entire varsity was Dominican-born; he built a legend there. At 4:30 a.m. every morning, he would run up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, dragging a spare tire tied to a rope around his waist. One tale has him hitting a home run to leftfield with a one-handed swing. He played centerfield and third base, hit .650 with 14 homers in 22 games as a senior and learned to hit to the opposite field because the school&#39;s rightfield fence was only about 280 feet away.</p><p>Ramirez didn&#39;t graduate from George Washington, but at 19, he was old enough for the 1991 draft. The Indians chose him with the 13th pick and signed him for a $250,00 bonus. Scout Joe DeLuca delivered him to the team&#39;s Rookie league affiliate in Burlington, N.C., with one rule: &quot;Don’t let anyone talk to you about changing your swing.&quot; Ramirez hit .326/.426/.679 with 19 homers in 59 games that season, good enough to vault him onto <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s top prospects list at No. 37 the following spring. He lost two months at Class A to a right wrist contusion in 1992 but recovered to bash 31 homers and hit a combined .333/.417/.613 split between Double A and Triple A in &#39;93. Though he went just 9-for-55 in a September call-up, he enjoyed a remarkable homecoming in his second big league game on Sept. 3, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers against the Yankees in the Bronx, not far from where he had grown up.</p><p>The Indians finished above .500 just once between 1982 and &#39;93, but with a cadre of young stars—<a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/04/jim-thome-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Thome" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Thome</a>, 23; second baseman Carlos Baerga, 25; outfielders Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton, both 27; and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., 28—the Tribe were a burgeoning powerhouse. At 22, Ramirez began the 1994 season as the Indians&#39; rightfielder and hit a two-run double off the Mariners&#39; Randy Johnson on Opening Day. He finished with a .269/.357/.521 showing and 17 homers, helping him to a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting behind obscurity-bound Bob Hamelin of Kansas City.</p><p>Cleveland went 66–47 in the strike-torn season, but in 1995, the club stormed to a 100–44 record and its first pennant since &#39;54. Ramirez broke out to earn All-Star honors, batting .308/.402/.558 with 31 homers, 107 RBIs and a 147 OPS+ (sixth in the league). After starting the postseason in a 1-for-16 funk, he went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Mariners. Unfortunately, his World Series performance against the Braves was most notable for being picked off first base in the eighth inning of Game 2 as the tying run with Thome at bat. Ramirez finished the Series 4-for-18 with a homer as Atlanta won in six games.</p><p>During the 1995 season, the legend of Manny had begun to grow. Indians manager Mike Hargrove&#39;s response to learning that Ramirez had left a paycheck in a pair of boots during a road trip—&quot;That&#39;s just Manny being Manny&quot;—was reported by <em>Newsday</em>&#39;s Jon Heyman and soon gained traction. According to ESPN&#39;s Mike Hume, the phrase was used more than 1,600 times in print over the next 14 years, generally to describe Ramirez&#39;s mystifying and occasionally off-putting behavior, from holding himself out of the lineup to stiffing people to whom he had promised tickets to sticking his high school coach with a $7,000 bill for new uniforms that he had agreed to pay for.</p><p>In December 1995, Ramirez signed a four-year, $10.1 million extension, joining Alomar, Lofton, Thome and shortstop <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/06/omar-vizquel-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Omar Vizquel" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Omar Vizquel</a> among those whose arbitration years general manager John Hart had bought out, thereby enabling the team to save millions while keeping its nucleus together. Hart&#39;s pioneering strategy helped Cleveland to six first-place finishes in the AL Central over a seven-year span (1995–2002).</p><p>In 1996, Ramirez replicated his offensive numbers of the previous year, with slightly better (but still subpar) defense pushing him from 2.9 to 4.2 WAR. Despite going 6-for-16 with homers off David Wells and Mike Mussina, he couldn&#39;t propel the Indians past the Orioles in the Division Series. Though Cleveland slipped from 99 wins in 1996 to 86 in &#39;97, Ramirez continued to rake: .328/.415/.538 for a 144 OPS+ with 26 homers and 4.6 WAR. After a quiet Division Series against the Yankees, he hit .286/.444/.619 against Baltimore in the ALCS, with both of his home runs coming in one-run victories. He homered twice more in the World Series against the Marlins but collected just two other hits in the Indians&#39; seven-game loss.</p><p>Ramirez took things to a new level in 1998, bashing 45 homers, driving in 145 runs and slugging .599—all good for fourth in the league—during a season in which he began a streak of 11 straight All-Star selections. He had another monster season in &#39;99: .333/.442/.663, with his slugging percentage, 165 RBIs and 174 OPS+ all leading the league; his on-base percentage ranked second, his 7.3 WAR (a career high) was third and his batting average was fifth. Ramirez finished tied for third in the AL MVP voting.</p><p>That performance made picking up Ramirez&#39;s $4.25 million club option for 2000 a no-brainer. But while he hit 38 homers and set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.351/.457/.697) and another with a 186 OPS+, a strained left hamstring that sat him for six weeks cost the team a playoff spot; the Indians went 19–20 in his absence and finished with 90 wins, one fewer than the wild card-winning Mariners and five fewer than the division champion White Sox.</p><p>When Ramirez hit free agency, agent Jeff Moorad gave ESPN&#39;s <em>Outside the Lines</em> unprecedented access to negotiations as he met with executives from Boston, Cleveland and Seattle, none of whom were told they were being taped until just before the meetings. With Alex Rodriguez having recently signed his landmark 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, Moorad sought 10 years and $200 million for his client. He didn&#39;t quite get that, but he still landed Ramirez the second-largest contract in baseball history, an eight-year, $160 million deal from the Red Sox with a pair of $20 million club options tacked on at the end.</p><p>Over the next 7 1/2 seasons, Ramirez would put up nearly identical numbers in Boston (.312/.411/.588, 155 OPS+) as he did in Cleveland (.313/.407/.592, 152 OPS+), but almost always amid the heightened drama that came with residence in baseball’s fishbowl. Before he could take the field on Opening Day 2001, the first of numerous controversies ensued, as he <a href="http://www.espn.com/gammons/s/2001/0304/1128214.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reneged" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reneged</a> on an agreement to switch from rightfield to leftfield, a position he hadn&#39;t played before. A hamstring strain that confined him to DH duty for the first two months of the season tabled the matter, and when he was finally able to play the field in early June, he did so in left. Although hopes were high regarding his joining Nomar Garciaparra to form one of the game&#39;s foremost 1–2 punches, the slugging shortstop was limited to 21 games by a wrist tendon injury in 2001; Ramirez, though he hit 41 homers, drove in 125 runs and slugged .609, couldn&#39;t do it all alone in a lineup that had just two other above-average regulars. The Sox went 82–79, firing manager Jimy Williams late in the season; already, <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Ramirez-s-unhappiness-called-an-overreaction-2879391.php" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:rumors of Ramirez&#39;s unhappiness in Boston" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">rumors of Ramirez&#39;s unhappiness in Boston</a> surfaced.</p><p>?Under a new regime—owner John Henry, club president Larry Lucchino and manager Grady Little (Theo Epstein would be promoted to GM the next year)—the Red Sox rebounded to go 93–69 in 2002. Ramirez hit .349/.450/.647, leading the league in both batting average and on-base percentage and ranking second in both slugging percentage and OPS+ (184) and sixth in WAR (6.0), but he missed six weeks in May and June after fracturing his left index finger on a head-first slide. In a minor league rehab appearance, he <a href="http://blog.syracuse.com/sports/2011/04/when_manny_ramirez_came_to_syr.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:lost a diamond-encrusted earring" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">lost a diamond-encrusted earring</a> while making another head-first slide, because of course he did.</p><p>In 2003, flanked by Garciaparra and scrapheap pickup David Ortiz, Ramirez led the AL in OBP (.427) and intentional walks (28) and clouted 37 homers. Although he played in 154 games, his absences—a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game; an illness that kept him out of the lineup one day against the Yankees but didn&#39;t stop him from socializing with New York infielder Enrique Wilson. Nonetheless, Boston won 95 games and the AL wild card, returning to the postseason for the first time since 1999. Facing the A&#39;s in the Division Series, Ramirez shook off a 3-for-18 slump with a go-ahead three-run homer off Barry Zito in the do-or-die Game 5. The Red Sox advanced, and his four-hit effort—including a homer off Mussina—helped them get a leg up on the Yankees in the ALCS opener, but New York ultimately outlasted Boston in the seven-game series, won by Aaron Boone&#39;s walk-off homer.</p><p>Though Ramirez had hit for a 167 OPS+ (tied for fourth in MLB) and produced 16.6 WAR in his three seasons in Boston, the Red Sox were already willing to consider life without him. At the end of October, they put him on irrevocable waivers, meaning that another team could claim him, be responsible for the five years and $104 million remaining on his contract and not have to surrender talent in return. The Sox couldn&#39;t give the 31-year-old slugger away: The Yankees, one of the few teams that could have absorbed such a salary, instead signed Gary Sheffield, and the Angels did the same with Vladimir Guerrero. When Boston attempted to acquire Rodriguez from the Rangers in December, they offered Ramirez in a package that also included a pitching prospect named Jon Lester. That deal fell through over issues in restructuring Rodriguez&#39;s contract, and eventually it was the Yankees who traded for A-Rod.</p><p>Undaunted by his team&#39;s attempts to get rid of him and heeding the advice of teammates Ortiz and Kevin Millar to be more accommodating with the media—which he often spurned for long stretches—Ramirez returned to Boston in 2004 and continued to mash: He hit .308/.397/.613, leading the AL with 43 homers as the Sox, self-proclaimed &quot;Idiots,&quot; won 98 games and another wild card. In the postseason, Ramirez drove in eight runs during the team&#39;s three-game Division Series sweep of the Angels, and while he wasn’t central to Boston&#39;s unprecedented comeback from a 3–0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, his 7-for-17, 1.088 OPS performance in the World Series sweep of the Cardinals earned him MVP honors as the Sox won their first championship since 1918. With at least one hit in every postseason game, Ramirez produced a record-tying 17-game hitting streak that dated back to the 2003 ALCS.</p><p>Despite the championship, the Red Sox again explored trading Ramirez over the winter, this time to the Mets, but Boston&#39;s unwillingness to kick in enough off the $77 million remaining on his contract scuttled the deal. Money would remain an issue when the Sox and Mets revisited trade talks the following July and again after Ramirez asked for a trade following the 2005 season, in what <a href="http://archive.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2005/10/29/ramirez_again_asks_sox_for_trade/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Lucchino said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Lucchino said</a> was his fourth request since Henry had bought the team. Being Manny, he was typically productive in both 2005 (45 homers, 153 OPS+, 4.4 WAR) and &#39;06 (35 homers, a league-high .439 OBP, 165 OPS+, 4.5 WAR), but the Red Sox were ousted in the first round by the White Sox in the former year and missed the playoffs in the latter. Patellar tendonitis limited Ramirez to just six starts after Aug. 26, 2006, which drew allegations of malingering and, again, a request for a trade.</p><p>Ramirez missed most of September 2007 due to an injury as well, this time an oblique strain at the end of his least productive season since his rookie year (20 homers, 126 OPS+, 1.1 WAR). Still, he hit well upon returning, clubbing a pair of homers in both the Division Series against the Angels and the ALCS against the Indians. His first homer of the postseason was a walk-off–three-run shot off Francisco Rodriguez in ALDS Game 2:</p><p>His third homer of the postseason, in ALCS Game 2, was the 23rd postseason homer of his career, surpassing Bernie Williams for the all-time record. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the World Series opener against the Rockies, and while he wasn&#39;t much of a factor the rest of the way, the Sox swept their way to their second championship in four seasons.</p><p>On May 31, 2008, Ramirez hit the 500th home run of his career, off the Orioles&#39; Chad Bradford, but that was a rare highlight of what proved to be his final go-around in a Red Sox uniform. In June, he got into an altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout at the start of the month, and at the end of the month, he shoved McCormick. After removing himself from the lineup against Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain in July, claiming knee pain, the Sox sent him for MRIs on both knees when he &quot;forgot&quot; which one ailed him.</p><p>Both sides had reached their limit. The Red Sox stepped up efforts to shop the unhappy slugger, who in turn, blasted them to <em>ESPN Deportes</em>:</p><p>The next day, on July 31, the Red Sox sent Ramirez and $7 million to cover his remaining salary to the Dodgers in a three-way, six-player deal that brought them Pirates slugger Jason Bay. To get Ramirez to waive his 10-and-5 rights, Los Angeles agreed to decline his 2009 option, and Ramirez agreed to decline arbitration, making him a free agent at season&#39;s end.</p><p>Donning uniform No. 99, Ramirez joined the Dodgers, who were just 54–54 but a game out of first place in the NL West. He went 13-for-23 with four homers in his first six games and never really cooled off, putting up astonishing numbers (.396/.489/.743, 17 homers, 221 OPS+, 3.5 WAR) that endeared himself to stony-faced new manager Joe Torre even as he flouted orders to get a haircut. Dreadlocked wigs under Dodgers caps became the rage in Chavez Ravine, and L.A. won the division with an 84–78 record. Ramirez went 13-for-28 with four homers in a Division Series sweep against the Cubs and a six-game NLCS loss to the Phillies. After the season, he finished fourth in the MVP voting despite having played just 53 games in the National League.</p><p>A free agent at 37, Ramirez was reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth about $25 million per year, but no team wanted to commit to that kind of headache. In March, he agreed to a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers that included an opt-out after the first year. He even picked up where he left off, batting .348/.492/.641 through the first week of May, but just over a week after the team launched a special &quot;Mannywood&quot; section in leftfield, Ramirez drew a 50-game suspension for taking a banned medication, the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, which is typically used by steroid users to restore testosterone production. Less than a month after his return, <em>The New York Times</em> reported that both Ramirez and Ortiz were among the players who had failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, which carried no penalty but had triggered the implementation of a testing and penalty regimen.</p><p>Amid the controversy, Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the NL West and sweep the Cardinals in the Division Series before falling to the Phillies in the NLCS. With the recent black marks against his name, he opted not to test the free-agent market again. While he put together a strong half-season for the Dodgers in 2010, he made three trips to the DL for a variety of injuries, and from June 29 to Aug. 29, he played in just seven games. Mannywood was dismantled, and on Aug. 30, the White Sox claimed him off waivers.</p><p>Ramirez never got it going in Chicago, homering just once in 88 plate appearances. The following January, he signed a one-year deal to DH for the Rays but played in just five games before MLB announced that he had again tested positive for a banned substance. Facing a 100-game suspension, he opted to retire. Ramirez made comeback attempts with the Triple A affiliates of the A&#39;s (2012), Rangers (&#39;13) and Cubs (&#39;14) and even played 49 games for the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan in &#39;13, but he never returned to the majors.</p><p>Ramirez finished with offensive numbers that are of Cooperstown caliber. His total of 555 homers ranks 15th in baseball history, his 1,831 RBIs are 18th and his 4,826 total bases are 29th. Among players with at least 7,000 plate appearances, his 154 OPS+ <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/n0nti" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th</a> all-time; his .585 slugging percentage is seventh and his .411 on-base percentage is 20th. Among righties with at least 9,000 PA since World War II, only Frank Thomas (156), Willie Mays (156) and Hank Aaron (155) outdid him in OPS+; Ramirez&#39;s slugging percentage is tops among that group, and his on-base percentage is second. Between his All-Star selections, league leads—once each in homers, RBIs and OPS+ and three times apiece in on-base percentage and slugging percentage—and other accomplishments, his Hall of Fame Monitor Score of 226 is 35th all-time, well above the threshold of a likely inductee.</p><p>From an advanced statistical perspective, Ramirez&#39;s 651 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—ranks 18th all-time, but his ineptitude on the base paths (-22 runs), avoiding double plays (-27 runs) and in the field (-129 runs, using both Total Zone up through 2002 and Defensive Runs Saved thereafter) chips away at that value; the last of those is the sixth-worst total of all time. That said, it&#39;s worth noting that defensive metrics have generally had a tough time with Boston leftfielders due to the Green Monster; other systems, such as Baseball Prospectus&#39; Fielding Runs Above Average (-68 runs) and Michael Humphreys&#39; Defensive Regression Analysis (-42 runs) both paint rosier pictures of Ramirez&#39;s glove work than the TZ/DRS combo. On the other hand, he&#39;s even worse via UZR (-108 runs) in the 2003–11 period also covered by DRS (-90).</p><p>Even while taking the larger hit from Baseball-Reference&#39;s choice of defensive metrics, Ramirez&#39;s 69.2 career WAR ranks seventh all-time among leftfielders, trailing only Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and four of the 20 Hall of Famers; he&#39;s about four wins above the standard there. His 39.9 peak WAR is 12th, 1.6 wins below the standard, and his 54.6 JAWS ranks 10th, 1.3 points above the standard and ahead of 13 of the 20 enshrined.</p><p>On performance alone, that&#39;s a Hall of Famer, but his drug transgressions make voting for him anything but automatic. I don’t have a ballot until the 2021 cycle, but as someone who draws a distinction between allegations stemming from the &quot;Wild West&quot; era before testing and penalties were in place and those that resulted in actual suspensions, I wouldn&#39;t vote for Ramirez at this juncture, whereas I would vote for Bonds and Roger Clemens.</p><p>Not everybody agrees with that position. What&#39;s interesting from an electorate that has used pre-testing era allegations to shun both Mark McGwire (who debuted at 23.5% and maxed out at 23.7%) and Sammy Sosa (who peaked at 12.5% in his 2013 debut and has been below 9.0% ever since)—neither of whom ever tested positive or were suspended—is that Ramirez received a higher share than both last year. In light of <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/21/joe-morgan-hall-of-fame-letter-steroid-users" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Joe Morgan’s letter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Joe Morgan’s letter</a>, it doesn’t appear as though he’s picking up ground, but neither is he losing it, at least according to the @NotMrTibbs <span>Ballot Tracker</span>. Through 51 ballots, Ramirez has received 33.3% thus far, with a net gain of zero among returning voters (two added, two dropped) and votes from two out of three first-timers.</p><p>When I published last year’s piece, Ramirez was at 33% through 84 ballots but his final public vote share was just 24.5%, compared to 21.9% on private ballots. In other words, there was relatively little difference between his public/private split (-2.6%) compared to Bonds (-21.9%) and Clemens (-20%), All but one of this year’s pro-Manny ballots also included Bonds; that outlier did include Sosa and Clemens, so it’s difficult to say what the logic is there. </p><p>Among last year’s pro-Manny voters, many if not most who published their ballots did so without explanation. Of those who did explain, some declared themselves out of the business of policing, others cited the sheer entertainment value provided by Ramirez, the recent election of former commissioner Bud Selig, whose stewardship amid the influx of PEDs helped exacerbate the situation, and the fear that he would fall off the ballot before his merits could truly be weighed.</p><p>Given the crowded ballot, I don’t think Ramirez will make much headway this year, but with <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/barry-bonds-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bonds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bonds</a> and <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/13/roger-clemens-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Clemens" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Clemens</a> trending towards eventual election, albeit slowly, I hardly think the door is closed. More than McGwire, Sosa or Palmeiro, he sticks out as a player whose combination of performance and transgressions are testing the will of the voters to stick to a hardline stance. I’d be lying if I said I knew how that stance would age, or if I weren’t tempted to hold my nose and vote for him as well someday. </p>
Talented and Tainted, Manny Ramirez Is One of the Hall of Fame's Most Challenging Cases

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2017 election, it has been updated to reflect it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

A savant in the batter's box, Manny Ramirez could be an idiot just about everywhere else—sometimes amusingly, sometimes much less so. The Dominican-born slugger, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a power-hitting righthanded slugger who spent the better part of his 19 seasons (1993–2011) terrorizing pitchers. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez bashed 555 home runs and helped the Indians and the Red Sox reach two World Series apiece, adding a record 29 postseason homers along the way. He was the World Series MVP for Boston in 2004, when the club won its first championship in 86 years.

For all of his prowess with the bat, Ramirez's lapses—"Manny Being Manny"—both on and off the field are legendary. There was the time in 1997 that he "stole" first base, returning to the bag after a successful steal of second because he thought Jim Thome had fouled off a pitch ... the time in 2004 that he inexplicably cut off centerfielder Johnny Damon's relay throw from about 30 feet away, leading to an inside-the-park home run ... the time in '05 that he disappeared mid-inning to relieve himself inside Fenway Park's Green Monster ... the time in '08 that he high-fived a fan in mid-play between catching a fly ball and doubling a runner off first ... and so much more.

Beneath those often comic lapses was an intense work ethic that was apparent as far back as his high school and allowed Ramirez's talent to flourish. But there was also a darker side, one that, particularly after he left the Indians, went beyond the litany of his late reports to spring training, questionable absences due to injury (particularly for the All-Star Game) and near-annual trade requests. Most notably, there was his shoving match with 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick in 2008, which prefigured Ramirez's trade to the Dodgers that summer, and a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence/battery in '11 after his wife told an emergency operator that her husband had slapped her face, causing her to hit her head against the headboard of the bed. (That domestic violence charge was later dropped after his wife refused to testify.) Interspersed with those two incidents were a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, the second of which ran him out of the majors.

For all of the handwringing about PED-tinged candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot over the past decade, Ramirez is the first star with actual suspensions on his record to gain eligibility since Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. Like Palmeiro, he has numbers that would otherwise make his enshrinement a lock. In his ballot debut last year, he benefited from an electorate in the midst of softening its hardline stance against PED users, receiving 23.8%—a higher share than Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, players who were never suspended. He won’t get into Cooperstown anytime soon, but he isn’t going away either, and it should surprise no one if his share of the vote climbs gradually.

Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1972, and moved to the Washington Heights neighborhood—home of one of the city's highest homicide rates at the time—at age 13. His mother worked as a seamstress in a dress factory, and his father drove a livery cab and repaired electronics. At 14, playing for his traveling Youth Service team, he already stood out. "Manny was easy to coach because he probably had the best focus of any hitter we ever had," said his Youth Service coach, Mel Zitter, in a 2004 interview. "He always had a plan. And if the pitcher got him out, he'd tell me why: 'I was looking for a fastball in, but he threw me a curveball and I popped it up.'"

Ramirez didn't just star in baseball at George Washington High School, where the entire varsity was Dominican-born; he built a legend there. At 4:30 a.m. every morning, he would run up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, dragging a spare tire tied to a rope around his waist. One tale has him hitting a home run to leftfield with a one-handed swing. He played centerfield and third base, hit .650 with 14 homers in 22 games as a senior and learned to hit to the opposite field because the school's rightfield fence was only about 280 feet away.

Ramirez didn't graduate from George Washington, but at 19, he was old enough for the 1991 draft. The Indians chose him with the 13th pick and signed him for a $250,00 bonus. Scout Joe DeLuca delivered him to the team's Rookie league affiliate in Burlington, N.C., with one rule: "Don’t let anyone talk to you about changing your swing." Ramirez hit .326/.426/.679 with 19 homers in 59 games that season, good enough to vault him onto Baseball America's top prospects list at No. 37 the following spring. He lost two months at Class A to a right wrist contusion in 1992 but recovered to bash 31 homers and hit a combined .333/.417/.613 split between Double A and Triple A in '93. Though he went just 9-for-55 in a September call-up, he enjoyed a remarkable homecoming in his second big league game on Sept. 3, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers against the Yankees in the Bronx, not far from where he had grown up.

The Indians finished above .500 just once between 1982 and '93, but with a cadre of young stars—Thome, 23; second baseman Carlos Baerga, 25; outfielders Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton, both 27; and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., 28—the Tribe were a burgeoning powerhouse. At 22, Ramirez began the 1994 season as the Indians' rightfielder and hit a two-run double off the Mariners' Randy Johnson on Opening Day. He finished with a .269/.357/.521 showing and 17 homers, helping him to a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting behind obscurity-bound Bob Hamelin of Kansas City.

Cleveland went 66–47 in the strike-torn season, but in 1995, the club stormed to a 100–44 record and its first pennant since '54. Ramirez broke out to earn All-Star honors, batting .308/.402/.558 with 31 homers, 107 RBIs and a 147 OPS+ (sixth in the league). After starting the postseason in a 1-for-16 funk, he went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Mariners. Unfortunately, his World Series performance against the Braves was most notable for being picked off first base in the eighth inning of Game 2 as the tying run with Thome at bat. Ramirez finished the Series 4-for-18 with a homer as Atlanta won in six games.

During the 1995 season, the legend of Manny had begun to grow. Indians manager Mike Hargrove's response to learning that Ramirez had left a paycheck in a pair of boots during a road trip—"That's just Manny being Manny"—was reported by Newsday's Jon Heyman and soon gained traction. According to ESPN's Mike Hume, the phrase was used more than 1,600 times in print over the next 14 years, generally to describe Ramirez's mystifying and occasionally off-putting behavior, from holding himself out of the lineup to stiffing people to whom he had promised tickets to sticking his high school coach with a $7,000 bill for new uniforms that he had agreed to pay for.

In December 1995, Ramirez signed a four-year, $10.1 million extension, joining Alomar, Lofton, Thome and shortstop Omar Vizquel among those whose arbitration years general manager John Hart had bought out, thereby enabling the team to save millions while keeping its nucleus together. Hart's pioneering strategy helped Cleveland to six first-place finishes in the AL Central over a seven-year span (1995–2002).

In 1996, Ramirez replicated his offensive numbers of the previous year, with slightly better (but still subpar) defense pushing him from 2.9 to 4.2 WAR. Despite going 6-for-16 with homers off David Wells and Mike Mussina, he couldn't propel the Indians past the Orioles in the Division Series. Though Cleveland slipped from 99 wins in 1996 to 86 in '97, Ramirez continued to rake: .328/.415/.538 for a 144 OPS+ with 26 homers and 4.6 WAR. After a quiet Division Series against the Yankees, he hit .286/.444/.619 against Baltimore in the ALCS, with both of his home runs coming in one-run victories. He homered twice more in the World Series against the Marlins but collected just two other hits in the Indians' seven-game loss.

Ramirez took things to a new level in 1998, bashing 45 homers, driving in 145 runs and slugging .599—all good for fourth in the league—during a season in which he began a streak of 11 straight All-Star selections. He had another monster season in '99: .333/.442/.663, with his slugging percentage, 165 RBIs and 174 OPS+ all leading the league; his on-base percentage ranked second, his 7.3 WAR (a career high) was third and his batting average was fifth. Ramirez finished tied for third in the AL MVP voting.

That performance made picking up Ramirez's $4.25 million club option for 2000 a no-brainer. But while he hit 38 homers and set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.351/.457/.697) and another with a 186 OPS+, a strained left hamstring that sat him for six weeks cost the team a playoff spot; the Indians went 19–20 in his absence and finished with 90 wins, one fewer than the wild card-winning Mariners and five fewer than the division champion White Sox.

When Ramirez hit free agency, agent Jeff Moorad gave ESPN's Outside the Lines unprecedented access to negotiations as he met with executives from Boston, Cleveland and Seattle, none of whom were told they were being taped until just before the meetings. With Alex Rodriguez having recently signed his landmark 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, Moorad sought 10 years and $200 million for his client. He didn't quite get that, but he still landed Ramirez the second-largest contract in baseball history, an eight-year, $160 million deal from the Red Sox with a pair of $20 million club options tacked on at the end.

Over the next 7 1/2 seasons, Ramirez would put up nearly identical numbers in Boston (.312/.411/.588, 155 OPS+) as he did in Cleveland (.313/.407/.592, 152 OPS+), but almost always amid the heightened drama that came with residence in baseball’s fishbowl. Before he could take the field on Opening Day 2001, the first of numerous controversies ensued, as he reneged on an agreement to switch from rightfield to leftfield, a position he hadn't played before. A hamstring strain that confined him to DH duty for the first two months of the season tabled the matter, and when he was finally able to play the field in early June, he did so in left. Although hopes were high regarding his joining Nomar Garciaparra to form one of the game's foremost 1–2 punches, the slugging shortstop was limited to 21 games by a wrist tendon injury in 2001; Ramirez, though he hit 41 homers, drove in 125 runs and slugged .609, couldn't do it all alone in a lineup that had just two other above-average regulars. The Sox went 82–79, firing manager Jimy Williams late in the season; already, rumors of Ramirez's unhappiness in Boston surfaced.

?Under a new regime—owner John Henry, club president Larry Lucchino and manager Grady Little (Theo Epstein would be promoted to GM the next year)—the Red Sox rebounded to go 93–69 in 2002. Ramirez hit .349/.450/.647, leading the league in both batting average and on-base percentage and ranking second in both slugging percentage and OPS+ (184) and sixth in WAR (6.0), but he missed six weeks in May and June after fracturing his left index finger on a head-first slide. In a minor league rehab appearance, he lost a diamond-encrusted earring while making another head-first slide, because of course he did.

In 2003, flanked by Garciaparra and scrapheap pickup David Ortiz, Ramirez led the AL in OBP (.427) and intentional walks (28) and clouted 37 homers. Although he played in 154 games, his absences—a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game; an illness that kept him out of the lineup one day against the Yankees but didn't stop him from socializing with New York infielder Enrique Wilson. Nonetheless, Boston won 95 games and the AL wild card, returning to the postseason for the first time since 1999. Facing the A's in the Division Series, Ramirez shook off a 3-for-18 slump with a go-ahead three-run homer off Barry Zito in the do-or-die Game 5. The Red Sox advanced, and his four-hit effort—including a homer off Mussina—helped them get a leg up on the Yankees in the ALCS opener, but New York ultimately outlasted Boston in the seven-game series, won by Aaron Boone's walk-off homer.

Though Ramirez had hit for a 167 OPS+ (tied for fourth in MLB) and produced 16.6 WAR in his three seasons in Boston, the Red Sox were already willing to consider life without him. At the end of October, they put him on irrevocable waivers, meaning that another team could claim him, be responsible for the five years and $104 million remaining on his contract and not have to surrender talent in return. The Sox couldn't give the 31-year-old slugger away: The Yankees, one of the few teams that could have absorbed such a salary, instead signed Gary Sheffield, and the Angels did the same with Vladimir Guerrero. When Boston attempted to acquire Rodriguez from the Rangers in December, they offered Ramirez in a package that also included a pitching prospect named Jon Lester. That deal fell through over issues in restructuring Rodriguez's contract, and eventually it was the Yankees who traded for A-Rod.

Undaunted by his team's attempts to get rid of him and heeding the advice of teammates Ortiz and Kevin Millar to be more accommodating with the media—which he often spurned for long stretches—Ramirez returned to Boston in 2004 and continued to mash: He hit .308/.397/.613, leading the AL with 43 homers as the Sox, self-proclaimed "Idiots," won 98 games and another wild card. In the postseason, Ramirez drove in eight runs during the team's three-game Division Series sweep of the Angels, and while he wasn’t central to Boston's unprecedented comeback from a 3–0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, his 7-for-17, 1.088 OPS performance in the World Series sweep of the Cardinals earned him MVP honors as the Sox won their first championship since 1918. With at least one hit in every postseason game, Ramirez produced a record-tying 17-game hitting streak that dated back to the 2003 ALCS.

Despite the championship, the Red Sox again explored trading Ramirez over the winter, this time to the Mets, but Boston's unwillingness to kick in enough off the $77 million remaining on his contract scuttled the deal. Money would remain an issue when the Sox and Mets revisited trade talks the following July and again after Ramirez asked for a trade following the 2005 season, in what Lucchino said was his fourth request since Henry had bought the team. Being Manny, he was typically productive in both 2005 (45 homers, 153 OPS+, 4.4 WAR) and '06 (35 homers, a league-high .439 OBP, 165 OPS+, 4.5 WAR), but the Red Sox were ousted in the first round by the White Sox in the former year and missed the playoffs in the latter. Patellar tendonitis limited Ramirez to just six starts after Aug. 26, 2006, which drew allegations of malingering and, again, a request for a trade.

Ramirez missed most of September 2007 due to an injury as well, this time an oblique strain at the end of his least productive season since his rookie year (20 homers, 126 OPS+, 1.1 WAR). Still, he hit well upon returning, clubbing a pair of homers in both the Division Series against the Angels and the ALCS against the Indians. His first homer of the postseason was a walk-off–three-run shot off Francisco Rodriguez in ALDS Game 2:

His third homer of the postseason, in ALCS Game 2, was the 23rd postseason homer of his career, surpassing Bernie Williams for the all-time record. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the World Series opener against the Rockies, and while he wasn't much of a factor the rest of the way, the Sox swept their way to their second championship in four seasons.

On May 31, 2008, Ramirez hit the 500th home run of his career, off the Orioles' Chad Bradford, but that was a rare highlight of what proved to be his final go-around in a Red Sox uniform. In June, he got into an altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout at the start of the month, and at the end of the month, he shoved McCormick. After removing himself from the lineup against Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain in July, claiming knee pain, the Sox sent him for MRIs on both knees when he "forgot" which one ailed him.

Both sides had reached their limit. The Red Sox stepped up efforts to shop the unhappy slugger, who in turn, blasted them to ESPN Deportes:

The next day, on July 31, the Red Sox sent Ramirez and $7 million to cover his remaining salary to the Dodgers in a three-way, six-player deal that brought them Pirates slugger Jason Bay. To get Ramirez to waive his 10-and-5 rights, Los Angeles agreed to decline his 2009 option, and Ramirez agreed to decline arbitration, making him a free agent at season's end.

Donning uniform No. 99, Ramirez joined the Dodgers, who were just 54–54 but a game out of first place in the NL West. He went 13-for-23 with four homers in his first six games and never really cooled off, putting up astonishing numbers (.396/.489/.743, 17 homers, 221 OPS+, 3.5 WAR) that endeared himself to stony-faced new manager Joe Torre even as he flouted orders to get a haircut. Dreadlocked wigs under Dodgers caps became the rage in Chavez Ravine, and L.A. won the division with an 84–78 record. Ramirez went 13-for-28 with four homers in a Division Series sweep against the Cubs and a six-game NLCS loss to the Phillies. After the season, he finished fourth in the MVP voting despite having played just 53 games in the National League.

A free agent at 37, Ramirez was reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth about $25 million per year, but no team wanted to commit to that kind of headache. In March, he agreed to a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers that included an opt-out after the first year. He even picked up where he left off, batting .348/.492/.641 through the first week of May, but just over a week after the team launched a special "Mannywood" section in leftfield, Ramirez drew a 50-game suspension for taking a banned medication, the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, which is typically used by steroid users to restore testosterone production. Less than a month after his return, The New York Times reported that both Ramirez and Ortiz were among the players who had failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, which carried no penalty but had triggered the implementation of a testing and penalty regimen.

Amid the controversy, Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the NL West and sweep the Cardinals in the Division Series before falling to the Phillies in the NLCS. With the recent black marks against his name, he opted not to test the free-agent market again. While he put together a strong half-season for the Dodgers in 2010, he made three trips to the DL for a variety of injuries, and from June 29 to Aug. 29, he played in just seven games. Mannywood was dismantled, and on Aug. 30, the White Sox claimed him off waivers.

Ramirez never got it going in Chicago, homering just once in 88 plate appearances. The following January, he signed a one-year deal to DH for the Rays but played in just five games before MLB announced that he had again tested positive for a banned substance. Facing a 100-game suspension, he opted to retire. Ramirez made comeback attempts with the Triple A affiliates of the A's (2012), Rangers ('13) and Cubs ('14) and even played 49 games for the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan in '13, but he never returned to the majors.

Ramirez finished with offensive numbers that are of Cooperstown caliber. His total of 555 homers ranks 15th in baseball history, his 1,831 RBIs are 18th and his 4,826 total bases are 29th. Among players with at least 7,000 plate appearances, his 154 OPS+ is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th all-time; his .585 slugging percentage is seventh and his .411 on-base percentage is 20th. Among righties with at least 9,000 PA since World War II, only Frank Thomas (156), Willie Mays (156) and Hank Aaron (155) outdid him in OPS+; Ramirez's slugging percentage is tops among that group, and his on-base percentage is second. Between his All-Star selections, league leads—once each in homers, RBIs and OPS+ and three times apiece in on-base percentage and slugging percentage—and other accomplishments, his Hall of Fame Monitor Score of 226 is 35th all-time, well above the threshold of a likely inductee.

From an advanced statistical perspective, Ramirez's 651 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—ranks 18th all-time, but his ineptitude on the base paths (-22 runs), avoiding double plays (-27 runs) and in the field (-129 runs, using both Total Zone up through 2002 and Defensive Runs Saved thereafter) chips away at that value; the last of those is the sixth-worst total of all time. That said, it's worth noting that defensive metrics have generally had a tough time with Boston leftfielders due to the Green Monster; other systems, such as Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average (-68 runs) and Michael Humphreys' Defensive Regression Analysis (-42 runs) both paint rosier pictures of Ramirez's glove work than the TZ/DRS combo. On the other hand, he's even worse via UZR (-108 runs) in the 2003–11 period also covered by DRS (-90).

Even while taking the larger hit from Baseball-Reference's choice of defensive metrics, Ramirez's 69.2 career WAR ranks seventh all-time among leftfielders, trailing only Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and four of the 20 Hall of Famers; he's about four wins above the standard there. His 39.9 peak WAR is 12th, 1.6 wins below the standard, and his 54.6 JAWS ranks 10th, 1.3 points above the standard and ahead of 13 of the 20 enshrined.

On performance alone, that's a Hall of Famer, but his drug transgressions make voting for him anything but automatic. I don’t have a ballot until the 2021 cycle, but as someone who draws a distinction between allegations stemming from the "Wild West" era before testing and penalties were in place and those that resulted in actual suspensions, I wouldn't vote for Ramirez at this juncture, whereas I would vote for Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Not everybody agrees with that position. What's interesting from an electorate that has used pre-testing era allegations to shun both Mark McGwire (who debuted at 23.5% and maxed out at 23.7%) and Sammy Sosa (who peaked at 12.5% in his 2013 debut and has been below 9.0% ever since)—neither of whom ever tested positive or were suspended—is that Ramirez received a higher share than both last year. In light of Joe Morgan’s letter, it doesn’t appear as though he’s picking up ground, but neither is he losing it, at least according to the @NotMrTibbs Ballot Tracker. Through 51 ballots, Ramirez has received 33.3% thus far, with a net gain of zero among returning voters (two added, two dropped) and votes from two out of three first-timers.

When I published last year’s piece, Ramirez was at 33% through 84 ballots but his final public vote share was just 24.5%, compared to 21.9% on private ballots. In other words, there was relatively little difference between his public/private split (-2.6%) compared to Bonds (-21.9%) and Clemens (-20%), All but one of this year’s pro-Manny ballots also included Bonds; that outlier did include Sosa and Clemens, so it’s difficult to say what the logic is there.

Among last year’s pro-Manny voters, many if not most who published their ballots did so without explanation. Of those who did explain, some declared themselves out of the business of policing, others cited the sheer entertainment value provided by Ramirez, the recent election of former commissioner Bud Selig, whose stewardship amid the influx of PEDs helped exacerbate the situation, and the fear that he would fall off the ballot before his merits could truly be weighed.

Given the crowded ballot, I don’t think Ramirez will make much headway this year, but with Bonds and Clemens trending towards eventual election, albeit slowly, I hardly think the door is closed. More than McGwire, Sosa or Palmeiro, he sticks out as a player whose combination of performance and transgressions are testing the will of the voters to stick to a hardline stance. I’d be lying if I said I knew how that stance would age, or if I weren’t tempted to hold my nose and vote for him as well someday.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2017 election, it has been updated to reflect it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see</em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em> here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>A savant in the batter&#39;s box, Manny Ramirez could be an idiot just about everywhere else—sometimes amusingly, sometimes much less so. The Dominican-born slugger, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a power-hitting righthanded slugger who spent the better part of his 19 seasons (1993–2011) terrorizing pitchers. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez bashed 555 home runs and helped the Indians and the Red Sox reach two World Series apiece, adding a record 29 postseason homers along the way. He was the World Series MVP for Boston in 2004, when the club won its first championship in 86 years.</p><p>For all of his prowess with the bat, Ramirez&#39;s lapses—&quot;Manny Being Manny&quot;—both on and off the field are legendary. There was the time in 1997 that he &quot;stole&quot; first base, returning to the bag after a successful steal of second because he thought Jim Thome had fouled off a pitch ... the time in 2004 that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCdp-pSA8kc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he inexplicably cut off" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he inexplicably cut off</a> centerfielder Johnny Damon&#39;s relay throw from about 30 feet away, leading to an inside-the-park home run ... the time in &#39;05 that he disappeared mid-inning to relieve himself inside Fenway Park&#39;s Green Monster ... the time in &#39;08 that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md8j_Sq5Nbs" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he high-fived a fan in mid-play" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he high-fived a fan in mid-play</a> between catching a fly ball and doubling a runner off first ... and so much more.</p><p>Beneath those often comic lapses was an intense work ethic that was apparent as far back as his high school and allowed Ramirez&#39;s talent to flourish. But there was also a darker side, one that, particularly after he left the Indians, went beyond the <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/news/print.jsp?ymd=20110408&#38;content_id=17525066&#38;c_id=mlb" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:litany" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">litany</a> of his late reports to spring training, questionable absences due to injury (particularly for the All-Star Game) and near-annual trade requests. Most notably, there was his shoving match with 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick in 2008, which prefigured Ramirez&#39;s trade to the Dodgers that summer, and a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence/battery in &#39;11 after his wife told an emergency operator that her husband had slapped her face, causing her to hit her head against the headboard of the bed. (That domestic violence charge was later dropped after his wife refused to testify.) Interspersed with those two incidents were a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, the second of which ran him out of the majors.</p><p>For all of the handwringing about PED-tinged candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot over the past decade, Ramirez is the first star with actual suspensions on his record to gain eligibility since Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. Like Palmeiro, he has numbers that would otherwise make his enshrinement a lock. In his ballot debut last year, he benefited from an electorate in the midst of softening its hardline stance against PED users, receiving 23.8%—a higher share than Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, players who were never suspended. He won’t get into Cooperstown anytime soon, but he isn’t going away either, and it should surprise no one if his share of the vote climbs gradually.</p><p>Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1972, and moved to the Washington Heights neighborhood—home of one of the city&#39;s highest homicide rates at the time—at age 13. His mother worked as a seamstress in a dress factory, and his father drove a livery cab and repaired electronics. At 14, playing for his traveling Youth Service team, he already stood out. &quot;Manny was easy to coach because he probably had the best focus of any hitter we ever had,&quot; said his Youth Service coach, Mel Zitter, in a 2004 interview. &quot;He always had a plan. And if the pitcher got him out, he&#39;d tell me why: &#39;I was looking for a fastball in, but he threw me a curveball and I popped it up.&#39;&quot;</p><p>Ramirez didn&#39;t just star in baseball at George Washington High School, where the entire varsity was Dominican-born; he built a legend there. At 4:30 a.m. every morning, he would run up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, dragging a spare tire tied to a rope around his waist. One tale has him hitting a home run to leftfield with a one-handed swing. He played centerfield and third base, hit .650 with 14 homers in 22 games as a senior and learned to hit to the opposite field because the school&#39;s rightfield fence was only about 280 feet away.</p><p>Ramirez didn&#39;t graduate from George Washington, but at 19, he was old enough for the 1991 draft. The Indians chose him with the 13th pick and signed him for a $250,00 bonus. Scout Joe DeLuca delivered him to the team&#39;s Rookie league affiliate in Burlington, N.C., with one rule: &quot;Don’t let anyone talk to you about changing your swing.&quot; Ramirez hit .326/.426/.679 with 19 homers in 59 games that season, good enough to vault him onto <em>Baseball America</em>&#39;s top prospects list at No. 37 the following spring. He lost two months at Class A to a right wrist contusion in 1992 but recovered to bash 31 homers and hit a combined .333/.417/.613 split between Double A and Triple A in &#39;93. Though he went just 9-for-55 in a September call-up, he enjoyed a remarkable homecoming in his second big league game on Sept. 3, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers against the Yankees in the Bronx, not far from where he had grown up.</p><p>The Indians finished above .500 just once between 1982 and &#39;93, but with a cadre of young stars—<a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/04/jim-thome-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Thome" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Thome</a>, 23; second baseman Carlos Baerga, 25; outfielders Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton, both 27; and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., 28—the Tribe were a burgeoning powerhouse. At 22, Ramirez began the 1994 season as the Indians&#39; rightfielder and hit a two-run double off the Mariners&#39; Randy Johnson on Opening Day. He finished with a .269/.357/.521 showing and 17 homers, helping him to a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting behind obscurity-bound Bob Hamelin of Kansas City.</p><p>Cleveland went 66–47 in the strike-torn season, but in 1995, the club stormed to a 100–44 record and its first pennant since &#39;54. Ramirez broke out to earn All-Star honors, batting .308/.402/.558 with 31 homers, 107 RBIs and a 147 OPS+ (sixth in the league). After starting the postseason in a 1-for-16 funk, he went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Mariners. Unfortunately, his World Series performance against the Braves was most notable for being picked off first base in the eighth inning of Game 2 as the tying run with Thome at bat. Ramirez finished the Series 4-for-18 with a homer as Atlanta won in six games.</p><p>During the 1995 season, the legend of Manny had begun to grow. Indians manager Mike Hargrove&#39;s response to learning that Ramirez had left a paycheck in a pair of boots during a road trip—&quot;That&#39;s just Manny being Manny&quot;—was reported by <em>Newsday</em>&#39;s Jon Heyman and soon gained traction. According to ESPN&#39;s Mike Hume, the phrase was used more than 1,600 times in print over the next 14 years, generally to describe Ramirez&#39;s mystifying and occasionally off-putting behavior, from holding himself out of the lineup to stiffing people to whom he had promised tickets to sticking his high school coach with a $7,000 bill for new uniforms that he had agreed to pay for.</p><p>In December 1995, Ramirez signed a four-year, $10.1 million extension, joining Alomar, Lofton, Thome and shortstop <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/06/omar-vizquel-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Omar Vizquel" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Omar Vizquel</a> among those whose arbitration years general manager John Hart had bought out, thereby enabling the team to save millions while keeping its nucleus together. Hart&#39;s pioneering strategy helped Cleveland to six first-place finishes in the AL Central over a seven-year span (1995–2002).</p><p>In 1996, Ramirez replicated his offensive numbers of the previous year, with slightly better (but still subpar) defense pushing him from 2.9 to 4.2 WAR. Despite going 6-for-16 with homers off David Wells and Mike Mussina, he couldn&#39;t propel the Indians past the Orioles in the Division Series. Though Cleveland slipped from 99 wins in 1996 to 86 in &#39;97, Ramirez continued to rake: .328/.415/.538 for a 144 OPS+ with 26 homers and 4.6 WAR. After a quiet Division Series against the Yankees, he hit .286/.444/.619 against Baltimore in the ALCS, with both of his home runs coming in one-run victories. He homered twice more in the World Series against the Marlins but collected just two other hits in the Indians&#39; seven-game loss.</p><p>Ramirez took things to a new level in 1998, bashing 45 homers, driving in 145 runs and slugging .599—all good for fourth in the league—during a season in which he began a streak of 11 straight All-Star selections. He had another monster season in &#39;99: .333/.442/.663, with his slugging percentage, 165 RBIs and 174 OPS+ all leading the league; his on-base percentage ranked second, his 7.3 WAR (a career high) was third and his batting average was fifth. Ramirez finished tied for third in the AL MVP voting.</p><p>That performance made picking up Ramirez&#39;s $4.25 million club option for 2000 a no-brainer. But while he hit 38 homers and set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.351/.457/.697) and another with a 186 OPS+, a strained left hamstring that sat him for six weeks cost the team a playoff spot; the Indians went 19–20 in his absence and finished with 90 wins, one fewer than the wild card-winning Mariners and five fewer than the division champion White Sox.</p><p>When Ramirez hit free agency, agent Jeff Moorad gave ESPN&#39;s <em>Outside the Lines</em> unprecedented access to negotiations as he met with executives from Boston, Cleveland and Seattle, none of whom were told they were being taped until just before the meetings. With Alex Rodriguez having recently signed his landmark 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, Moorad sought 10 years and $200 million for his client. He didn&#39;t quite get that, but he still landed Ramirez the second-largest contract in baseball history, an eight-year, $160 million deal from the Red Sox with a pair of $20 million club options tacked on at the end.</p><p>Over the next 7 1/2 seasons, Ramirez would put up nearly identical numbers in Boston (.312/.411/.588, 155 OPS+) as he did in Cleveland (.313/.407/.592, 152 OPS+), but almost always amid the heightened drama that came with residence in baseball’s fishbowl. Before he could take the field on Opening Day 2001, the first of numerous controversies ensued, as he <a href="http://www.espn.com/gammons/s/2001/0304/1128214.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:reneged" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">reneged</a> on an agreement to switch from rightfield to leftfield, a position he hadn&#39;t played before. A hamstring strain that confined him to DH duty for the first two months of the season tabled the matter, and when he was finally able to play the field in early June, he did so in left. Although hopes were high regarding his joining Nomar Garciaparra to form one of the game&#39;s foremost 1–2 punches, the slugging shortstop was limited to 21 games by a wrist tendon injury in 2001; Ramirez, though he hit 41 homers, drove in 125 runs and slugged .609, couldn&#39;t do it all alone in a lineup that had just two other above-average regulars. The Sox went 82–79, firing manager Jimy Williams late in the season; already, <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Ramirez-s-unhappiness-called-an-overreaction-2879391.php" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:rumors of Ramirez&#39;s unhappiness in Boston" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">rumors of Ramirez&#39;s unhappiness in Boston</a> surfaced.</p><p>?Under a new regime—owner John Henry, club president Larry Lucchino and manager Grady Little (Theo Epstein would be promoted to GM the next year)—the Red Sox rebounded to go 93–69 in 2002. Ramirez hit .349/.450/.647, leading the league in both batting average and on-base percentage and ranking second in both slugging percentage and OPS+ (184) and sixth in WAR (6.0), but he missed six weeks in May and June after fracturing his left index finger on a head-first slide. In a minor league rehab appearance, he <a href="http://blog.syracuse.com/sports/2011/04/when_manny_ramirez_came_to_syr.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:lost a diamond-encrusted earring" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">lost a diamond-encrusted earring</a> while making another head-first slide, because of course he did.</p><p>In 2003, flanked by Garciaparra and scrapheap pickup David Ortiz, Ramirez led the AL in OBP (.427) and intentional walks (28) and clouted 37 homers. Although he played in 154 games, his absences—a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game; an illness that kept him out of the lineup one day against the Yankees but didn&#39;t stop him from socializing with New York infielder Enrique Wilson. Nonetheless, Boston won 95 games and the AL wild card, returning to the postseason for the first time since 1999. Facing the A&#39;s in the Division Series, Ramirez shook off a 3-for-18 slump with a go-ahead three-run homer off Barry Zito in the do-or-die Game 5. The Red Sox advanced, and his four-hit effort—including a homer off Mussina—helped them get a leg up on the Yankees in the ALCS opener, but New York ultimately outlasted Boston in the seven-game series, won by Aaron Boone&#39;s walk-off homer.</p><p>Though Ramirez had hit for a 167 OPS+ (tied for fourth in MLB) and produced 16.6 WAR in his three seasons in Boston, the Red Sox were already willing to consider life without him. At the end of October, they put him on irrevocable waivers, meaning that another team could claim him, be responsible for the five years and $104 million remaining on his contract and not have to surrender talent in return. The Sox couldn&#39;t give the 31-year-old slugger away: The Yankees, one of the few teams that could have absorbed such a salary, instead signed Gary Sheffield, and the Angels did the same with Vladimir Guerrero. When Boston attempted to acquire Rodriguez from the Rangers in December, they offered Ramirez in a package that also included a pitching prospect named Jon Lester. That deal fell through over issues in restructuring Rodriguez&#39;s contract, and eventually it was the Yankees who traded for A-Rod.</p><p>Undaunted by his team&#39;s attempts to get rid of him and heeding the advice of teammates Ortiz and Kevin Millar to be more accommodating with the media—which he often spurned for long stretches—Ramirez returned to Boston in 2004 and continued to mash: He hit .308/.397/.613, leading the AL with 43 homers as the Sox, self-proclaimed &quot;Idiots,&quot; won 98 games and another wild card. In the postseason, Ramirez drove in eight runs during the team&#39;s three-game Division Series sweep of the Angels, and while he wasn’t central to Boston&#39;s unprecedented comeback from a 3–0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, his 7-for-17, 1.088 OPS performance in the World Series sweep of the Cardinals earned him MVP honors as the Sox won their first championship since 1918. With at least one hit in every postseason game, Ramirez produced a record-tying 17-game hitting streak that dated back to the 2003 ALCS.</p><p>Despite the championship, the Red Sox again explored trading Ramirez over the winter, this time to the Mets, but Boston&#39;s unwillingness to kick in enough off the $77 million remaining on his contract scuttled the deal. Money would remain an issue when the Sox and Mets revisited trade talks the following July and again after Ramirez asked for a trade following the 2005 season, in what <a href="http://archive.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2005/10/29/ramirez_again_asks_sox_for_trade/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Lucchino said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Lucchino said</a> was his fourth request since Henry had bought the team. Being Manny, he was typically productive in both 2005 (45 homers, 153 OPS+, 4.4 WAR) and &#39;06 (35 homers, a league-high .439 OBP, 165 OPS+, 4.5 WAR), but the Red Sox were ousted in the first round by the White Sox in the former year and missed the playoffs in the latter. Patellar tendonitis limited Ramirez to just six starts after Aug. 26, 2006, which drew allegations of malingering and, again, a request for a trade.</p><p>Ramirez missed most of September 2007 due to an injury as well, this time an oblique strain at the end of his least productive season since his rookie year (20 homers, 126 OPS+, 1.1 WAR). Still, he hit well upon returning, clubbing a pair of homers in both the Division Series against the Angels and the ALCS against the Indians. His first homer of the postseason was a walk-off–three-run shot off Francisco Rodriguez in ALDS Game 2:</p><p>His third homer of the postseason, in ALCS Game 2, was the 23rd postseason homer of his career, surpassing Bernie Williams for the all-time record. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the World Series opener against the Rockies, and while he wasn&#39;t much of a factor the rest of the way, the Sox swept their way to their second championship in four seasons.</p><p>On May 31, 2008, Ramirez hit the 500th home run of his career, off the Orioles&#39; Chad Bradford, but that was a rare highlight of what proved to be his final go-around in a Red Sox uniform. In June, he got into an altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout at the start of the month, and at the end of the month, he shoved McCormick. After removing himself from the lineup against Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain in July, claiming knee pain, the Sox sent him for MRIs on both knees when he &quot;forgot&quot; which one ailed him.</p><p>Both sides had reached their limit. The Red Sox stepped up efforts to shop the unhappy slugger, who in turn, blasted them to <em>ESPN Deportes</em>:</p><p>The next day, on July 31, the Red Sox sent Ramirez and $7 million to cover his remaining salary to the Dodgers in a three-way, six-player deal that brought them Pirates slugger Jason Bay. To get Ramirez to waive his 10-and-5 rights, Los Angeles agreed to decline his 2009 option, and Ramirez agreed to decline arbitration, making him a free agent at season&#39;s end.</p><p>Donning uniform No. 99, Ramirez joined the Dodgers, who were just 54–54 but a game out of first place in the NL West. He went 13-for-23 with four homers in his first six games and never really cooled off, putting up astonishing numbers (.396/.489/.743, 17 homers, 221 OPS+, 3.5 WAR) that endeared himself to stony-faced new manager Joe Torre even as he flouted orders to get a haircut. Dreadlocked wigs under Dodgers caps became the rage in Chavez Ravine, and L.A. won the division with an 84–78 record. Ramirez went 13-for-28 with four homers in a Division Series sweep against the Cubs and a six-game NLCS loss to the Phillies. After the season, he finished fourth in the MVP voting despite having played just 53 games in the National League.</p><p>A free agent at 37, Ramirez was reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth about $25 million per year, but no team wanted to commit to that kind of headache. In March, he agreed to a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers that included an opt-out after the first year. He even picked up where he left off, batting .348/.492/.641 through the first week of May, but just over a week after the team launched a special &quot;Mannywood&quot; section in leftfield, Ramirez drew a 50-game suspension for taking a banned medication, the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, which is typically used by steroid users to restore testosterone production. Less than a month after his return, <em>The New York Times</em> reported that both Ramirez and Ortiz were among the players who had failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, which carried no penalty but had triggered the implementation of a testing and penalty regimen.</p><p>Amid the controversy, Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the NL West and sweep the Cardinals in the Division Series before falling to the Phillies in the NLCS. With the recent black marks against his name, he opted not to test the free-agent market again. While he put together a strong half-season for the Dodgers in 2010, he made three trips to the DL for a variety of injuries, and from June 29 to Aug. 29, he played in just seven games. Mannywood was dismantled, and on Aug. 30, the White Sox claimed him off waivers.</p><p>Ramirez never got it going in Chicago, homering just once in 88 plate appearances. The following January, he signed a one-year deal to DH for the Rays but played in just five games before MLB announced that he had again tested positive for a banned substance. Facing a 100-game suspension, he opted to retire. Ramirez made comeback attempts with the Triple A affiliates of the A&#39;s (2012), Rangers (&#39;13) and Cubs (&#39;14) and even played 49 games for the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan in &#39;13, but he never returned to the majors.</p><p>Ramirez finished with offensive numbers that are of Cooperstown caliber. His total of 555 homers ranks 15th in baseball history, his 1,831 RBIs are 18th and his 4,826 total bases are 29th. Among players with at least 7,000 plate appearances, his 154 OPS+ <a href="https://bbref.com/pi/shareit/n0nti" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th</a> all-time; his .585 slugging percentage is seventh and his .411 on-base percentage is 20th. Among righties with at least 9,000 PA since World War II, only Frank Thomas (156), Willie Mays (156) and Hank Aaron (155) outdid him in OPS+; Ramirez&#39;s slugging percentage is tops among that group, and his on-base percentage is second. Between his All-Star selections, league leads—once each in homers, RBIs and OPS+ and three times apiece in on-base percentage and slugging percentage—and other accomplishments, his Hall of Fame Monitor Score of 226 is 35th all-time, well above the threshold of a likely inductee.</p><p>From an advanced statistical perspective, Ramirez&#39;s 651 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—ranks 18th all-time, but his ineptitude on the base paths (-22 runs), avoiding double plays (-27 runs) and in the field (-129 runs, using both Total Zone up through 2002 and Defensive Runs Saved thereafter) chips away at that value; the last of those is the sixth-worst total of all time. That said, it&#39;s worth noting that defensive metrics have generally had a tough time with Boston leftfielders due to the Green Monster; other systems, such as Baseball Prospectus&#39; Fielding Runs Above Average (-68 runs) and Michael Humphreys&#39; Defensive Regression Analysis (-42 runs) both paint rosier pictures of Ramirez&#39;s glove work than the TZ/DRS combo. On the other hand, he&#39;s even worse via UZR (-108 runs) in the 2003–11 period also covered by DRS (-90).</p><p>Even while taking the larger hit from Baseball-Reference&#39;s choice of defensive metrics, Ramirez&#39;s 69.2 career WAR ranks seventh all-time among leftfielders, trailing only Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and four of the 20 Hall of Famers; he&#39;s about four wins above the standard there. His 39.9 peak WAR is 12th, 1.6 wins below the standard, and his 54.6 JAWS ranks 10th, 1.3 points above the standard and ahead of 13 of the 20 enshrined.</p><p>On performance alone, that&#39;s a Hall of Famer, but his drug transgressions make voting for him anything but automatic. I don’t have a ballot until the 2021 cycle, but as someone who draws a distinction between allegations stemming from the &quot;Wild West&quot; era before testing and penalties were in place and those that resulted in actual suspensions, I wouldn&#39;t vote for Ramirez at this juncture, whereas I would vote for Bonds and Roger Clemens.</p><p>Not everybody agrees with that position. What&#39;s interesting from an electorate that has used pre-testing era allegations to shun both Mark McGwire (who debuted at 23.5% and maxed out at 23.7%) and Sammy Sosa (who peaked at 12.5% in his 2013 debut and has been below 9.0% ever since)—neither of whom ever tested positive or were suspended—is that Ramirez received a higher share than both last year. In light of <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/21/joe-morgan-hall-of-fame-letter-steroid-users" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Joe Morgan’s letter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Joe Morgan’s letter</a>, it doesn’t appear as though he’s picking up ground, but neither is he losing it, at least according to the @NotMrTibbs <span>Ballot Tracker</span>. Through 51 ballots, Ramirez has received 33.3% thus far, with a net gain of zero among returning voters (two added, two dropped) and votes from two out of three first-timers.</p><p>When I published last year’s piece, Ramirez was at 33% through 84 ballots but his final public vote share was just 24.5%, compared to 21.9% on private ballots. In other words, there was relatively little difference between his public/private split (-2.6%) compared to Bonds (-21.9%) and Clemens (-20%), All but one of this year’s pro-Manny ballots also included Bonds; that outlier did include Sosa and Clemens, so it’s difficult to say what the logic is there. </p><p>Among last year’s pro-Manny voters, many if not most who published their ballots did so without explanation. Of those who did explain, some declared themselves out of the business of policing, others cited the sheer entertainment value provided by Ramirez, the recent election of former commissioner Bud Selig, whose stewardship amid the influx of PEDs helped exacerbate the situation, and the fear that he would fall off the ballot before his merits could truly be weighed.</p><p>Given the crowded ballot, I don’t think Ramirez will make much headway this year, but with <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/barry-bonds-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bonds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bonds</a> and <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/13/roger-clemens-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Clemens" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Clemens</a> trending towards eventual election, albeit slowly, I hardly think the door is closed. More than McGwire, Sosa or Palmeiro, he sticks out as a player whose combination of performance and transgressions are testing the will of the voters to stick to a hardline stance. I’d be lying if I said I knew how that stance would age, or if I weren’t tempted to hold my nose and vote for him as well someday. </p>
Talented and Tainted, Manny Ramirez Is One of the Hall of Fame's Most Challenging Cases

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2017 election, it has been updated to reflect it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

A savant in the batter's box, Manny Ramirez could be an idiot just about everywhere else—sometimes amusingly, sometimes much less so. The Dominican-born slugger, who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan, stands as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a power-hitting righthanded slugger who spent the better part of his 19 seasons (1993–2011) terrorizing pitchers. A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez bashed 555 home runs and helped the Indians and the Red Sox reach two World Series apiece, adding a record 29 postseason homers along the way. He was the World Series MVP for Boston in 2004, when the club won its first championship in 86 years.

For all of his prowess with the bat, Ramirez's lapses—"Manny Being Manny"—both on and off the field are legendary. There was the time in 1997 that he "stole" first base, returning to the bag after a successful steal of second because he thought Jim Thome had fouled off a pitch ... the time in 2004 that he inexplicably cut off centerfielder Johnny Damon's relay throw from about 30 feet away, leading to an inside-the-park home run ... the time in '05 that he disappeared mid-inning to relieve himself inside Fenway Park's Green Monster ... the time in '08 that he high-fived a fan in mid-play between catching a fly ball and doubling a runner off first ... and so much more.

Beneath those often comic lapses was an intense work ethic that was apparent as far back as his high school and allowed Ramirez's talent to flourish. But there was also a darker side, one that, particularly after he left the Indians, went beyond the litany of his late reports to spring training, questionable absences due to injury (particularly for the All-Star Game) and near-annual trade requests. Most notably, there was his shoving match with 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick in 2008, which prefigured Ramirez's trade to the Dodgers that summer, and a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence/battery in '11 after his wife told an emergency operator that her husband had slapped her face, causing her to hit her head against the headboard of the bed. (That domestic violence charge was later dropped after his wife refused to testify.) Interspersed with those two incidents were a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, the second of which ran him out of the majors.

For all of the handwringing about PED-tinged candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot over the past decade, Ramirez is the first star with actual suspensions on his record to gain eligibility since Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. Like Palmeiro, he has numbers that would otherwise make his enshrinement a lock. In his ballot debut last year, he benefited from an electorate in the midst of softening its hardline stance against PED users, receiving 23.8%—a higher share than Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, players who were never suspended. He won’t get into Cooperstown anytime soon, but he isn’t going away either, and it should surprise no one if his share of the vote climbs gradually.

Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1972, and moved to the Washington Heights neighborhood—home of one of the city's highest homicide rates at the time—at age 13. His mother worked as a seamstress in a dress factory, and his father drove a livery cab and repaired electronics. At 14, playing for his traveling Youth Service team, he already stood out. "Manny was easy to coach because he probably had the best focus of any hitter we ever had," said his Youth Service coach, Mel Zitter, in a 2004 interview. "He always had a plan. And if the pitcher got him out, he'd tell me why: 'I was looking for a fastball in, but he threw me a curveball and I popped it up.'"

Ramirez didn't just star in baseball at George Washington High School, where the entire varsity was Dominican-born; he built a legend there. At 4:30 a.m. every morning, he would run up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, dragging a spare tire tied to a rope around his waist. One tale has him hitting a home run to leftfield with a one-handed swing. He played centerfield and third base, hit .650 with 14 homers in 22 games as a senior and learned to hit to the opposite field because the school's rightfield fence was only about 280 feet away.

Ramirez didn't graduate from George Washington, but at 19, he was old enough for the 1991 draft. The Indians chose him with the 13th pick and signed him for a $250,00 bonus. Scout Joe DeLuca delivered him to the team's Rookie league affiliate in Burlington, N.C., with one rule: "Don’t let anyone talk to you about changing your swing." Ramirez hit .326/.426/.679 with 19 homers in 59 games that season, good enough to vault him onto Baseball America's top prospects list at No. 37 the following spring. He lost two months at Class A to a right wrist contusion in 1992 but recovered to bash 31 homers and hit a combined .333/.417/.613 split between Double A and Triple A in '93. Though he went just 9-for-55 in a September call-up, he enjoyed a remarkable homecoming in his second big league game on Sept. 3, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers against the Yankees in the Bronx, not far from where he had grown up.

The Indians finished above .500 just once between 1982 and '93, but with a cadre of young stars—Thome, 23; second baseman Carlos Baerga, 25; outfielders Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton, both 27; and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., 28—the Tribe were a burgeoning powerhouse. At 22, Ramirez began the 1994 season as the Indians' rightfielder and hit a two-run double off the Mariners' Randy Johnson on Opening Day. He finished with a .269/.357/.521 showing and 17 homers, helping him to a second-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting behind obscurity-bound Bob Hamelin of Kansas City.

Cleveland went 66–47 in the strike-torn season, but in 1995, the club stormed to a 100–44 record and its first pennant since '54. Ramirez broke out to earn All-Star honors, batting .308/.402/.558 with 31 homers, 107 RBIs and a 147 OPS+ (sixth in the league). After starting the postseason in a 1-for-16 funk, he went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Mariners. Unfortunately, his World Series performance against the Braves was most notable for being picked off first base in the eighth inning of Game 2 as the tying run with Thome at bat. Ramirez finished the Series 4-for-18 with a homer as Atlanta won in six games.

During the 1995 season, the legend of Manny had begun to grow. Indians manager Mike Hargrove's response to learning that Ramirez had left a paycheck in a pair of boots during a road trip—"That's just Manny being Manny"—was reported by Newsday's Jon Heyman and soon gained traction. According to ESPN's Mike Hume, the phrase was used more than 1,600 times in print over the next 14 years, generally to describe Ramirez's mystifying and occasionally off-putting behavior, from holding himself out of the lineup to stiffing people to whom he had promised tickets to sticking his high school coach with a $7,000 bill for new uniforms that he had agreed to pay for.

In December 1995, Ramirez signed a four-year, $10.1 million extension, joining Alomar, Lofton, Thome and shortstop Omar Vizquel among those whose arbitration years general manager John Hart had bought out, thereby enabling the team to save millions while keeping its nucleus together. Hart's pioneering strategy helped Cleveland to six first-place finishes in the AL Central over a seven-year span (1995–2002).

In 1996, Ramirez replicated his offensive numbers of the previous year, with slightly better (but still subpar) defense pushing him from 2.9 to 4.2 WAR. Despite going 6-for-16 with homers off David Wells and Mike Mussina, he couldn't propel the Indians past the Orioles in the Division Series. Though Cleveland slipped from 99 wins in 1996 to 86 in '97, Ramirez continued to rake: .328/.415/.538 for a 144 OPS+ with 26 homers and 4.6 WAR. After a quiet Division Series against the Yankees, he hit .286/.444/.619 against Baltimore in the ALCS, with both of his home runs coming in one-run victories. He homered twice more in the World Series against the Marlins but collected just two other hits in the Indians' seven-game loss.

Ramirez took things to a new level in 1998, bashing 45 homers, driving in 145 runs and slugging .599—all good for fourth in the league—during a season in which he began a streak of 11 straight All-Star selections. He had another monster season in '99: .333/.442/.663, with his slugging percentage, 165 RBIs and 174 OPS+ all leading the league; his on-base percentage ranked second, his 7.3 WAR (a career high) was third and his batting average was fifth. Ramirez finished tied for third in the AL MVP voting.

That performance made picking up Ramirez's $4.25 million club option for 2000 a no-brainer. But while he hit 38 homers and set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.351/.457/.697) and another with a 186 OPS+, a strained left hamstring that sat him for six weeks cost the team a playoff spot; the Indians went 19–20 in his absence and finished with 90 wins, one fewer than the wild card-winning Mariners and five fewer than the division champion White Sox.

When Ramirez hit free agency, agent Jeff Moorad gave ESPN's Outside the Lines unprecedented access to negotiations as he met with executives from Boston, Cleveland and Seattle, none of whom were told they were being taped until just before the meetings. With Alex Rodriguez having recently signed his landmark 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, Moorad sought 10 years and $200 million for his client. He didn't quite get that, but he still landed Ramirez the second-largest contract in baseball history, an eight-year, $160 million deal from the Red Sox with a pair of $20 million club options tacked on at the end.

Over the next 7 1/2 seasons, Ramirez would put up nearly identical numbers in Boston (.312/.411/.588, 155 OPS+) as he did in Cleveland (.313/.407/.592, 152 OPS+), but almost always amid the heightened drama that came with residence in baseball’s fishbowl. Before he could take the field on Opening Day 2001, the first of numerous controversies ensued, as he reneged on an agreement to switch from rightfield to leftfield, a position he hadn't played before. A hamstring strain that confined him to DH duty for the first two months of the season tabled the matter, and when he was finally able to play the field in early June, he did so in left. Although hopes were high regarding his joining Nomar Garciaparra to form one of the game's foremost 1–2 punches, the slugging shortstop was limited to 21 games by a wrist tendon injury in 2001; Ramirez, though he hit 41 homers, drove in 125 runs and slugged .609, couldn't do it all alone in a lineup that had just two other above-average regulars. The Sox went 82–79, firing manager Jimy Williams late in the season; already, rumors of Ramirez's unhappiness in Boston surfaced.

?Under a new regime—owner John Henry, club president Larry Lucchino and manager Grady Little (Theo Epstein would be promoted to GM the next year)—the Red Sox rebounded to go 93–69 in 2002. Ramirez hit .349/.450/.647, leading the league in both batting average and on-base percentage and ranking second in both slugging percentage and OPS+ (184) and sixth in WAR (6.0), but he missed six weeks in May and June after fracturing his left index finger on a head-first slide. In a minor league rehab appearance, he lost a diamond-encrusted earring while making another head-first slide, because of course he did.

In 2003, flanked by Garciaparra and scrapheap pickup David Ortiz, Ramirez led the AL in OBP (.427) and intentional walks (28) and clouted 37 homers. Although he played in 154 games, his absences—a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the All-Star Game; an illness that kept him out of the lineup one day against the Yankees but didn't stop him from socializing with New York infielder Enrique Wilson. Nonetheless, Boston won 95 games and the AL wild card, returning to the postseason for the first time since 1999. Facing the A's in the Division Series, Ramirez shook off a 3-for-18 slump with a go-ahead three-run homer off Barry Zito in the do-or-die Game 5. The Red Sox advanced, and his four-hit effort—including a homer off Mussina—helped them get a leg up on the Yankees in the ALCS opener, but New York ultimately outlasted Boston in the seven-game series, won by Aaron Boone's walk-off homer.

Though Ramirez had hit for a 167 OPS+ (tied for fourth in MLB) and produced 16.6 WAR in his three seasons in Boston, the Red Sox were already willing to consider life without him. At the end of October, they put him on irrevocable waivers, meaning that another team could claim him, be responsible for the five years and $104 million remaining on his contract and not have to surrender talent in return. The Sox couldn't give the 31-year-old slugger away: The Yankees, one of the few teams that could have absorbed such a salary, instead signed Gary Sheffield, and the Angels did the same with Vladimir Guerrero. When Boston attempted to acquire Rodriguez from the Rangers in December, they offered Ramirez in a package that also included a pitching prospect named Jon Lester. That deal fell through over issues in restructuring Rodriguez's contract, and eventually it was the Yankees who traded for A-Rod.

Undaunted by his team's attempts to get rid of him and heeding the advice of teammates Ortiz and Kevin Millar to be more accommodating with the media—which he often spurned for long stretches—Ramirez returned to Boston in 2004 and continued to mash: He hit .308/.397/.613, leading the AL with 43 homers as the Sox, self-proclaimed "Idiots," won 98 games and another wild card. In the postseason, Ramirez drove in eight runs during the team's three-game Division Series sweep of the Angels, and while he wasn’t central to Boston's unprecedented comeback from a 3–0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, his 7-for-17, 1.088 OPS performance in the World Series sweep of the Cardinals earned him MVP honors as the Sox won their first championship since 1918. With at least one hit in every postseason game, Ramirez produced a record-tying 17-game hitting streak that dated back to the 2003 ALCS.

Despite the championship, the Red Sox again explored trading Ramirez over the winter, this time to the Mets, but Boston's unwillingness to kick in enough off the $77 million remaining on his contract scuttled the deal. Money would remain an issue when the Sox and Mets revisited trade talks the following July and again after Ramirez asked for a trade following the 2005 season, in what Lucchino said was his fourth request since Henry had bought the team. Being Manny, he was typically productive in both 2005 (45 homers, 153 OPS+, 4.4 WAR) and '06 (35 homers, a league-high .439 OBP, 165 OPS+, 4.5 WAR), but the Red Sox were ousted in the first round by the White Sox in the former year and missed the playoffs in the latter. Patellar tendonitis limited Ramirez to just six starts after Aug. 26, 2006, which drew allegations of malingering and, again, a request for a trade.

Ramirez missed most of September 2007 due to an injury as well, this time an oblique strain at the end of his least productive season since his rookie year (20 homers, 126 OPS+, 1.1 WAR). Still, he hit well upon returning, clubbing a pair of homers in both the Division Series against the Angels and the ALCS against the Indians. His first homer of the postseason was a walk-off–three-run shot off Francisco Rodriguez in ALDS Game 2:

His third homer of the postseason, in ALCS Game 2, was the 23rd postseason homer of his career, surpassing Bernie Williams for the all-time record. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the World Series opener against the Rockies, and while he wasn't much of a factor the rest of the way, the Sox swept their way to their second championship in four seasons.

On May 31, 2008, Ramirez hit the 500th home run of his career, off the Orioles' Chad Bradford, but that was a rare highlight of what proved to be his final go-around in a Red Sox uniform. In June, he got into an altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout at the start of the month, and at the end of the month, he shoved McCormick. After removing himself from the lineup against Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain in July, claiming knee pain, the Sox sent him for MRIs on both knees when he "forgot" which one ailed him.

Both sides had reached their limit. The Red Sox stepped up efforts to shop the unhappy slugger, who in turn, blasted them to ESPN Deportes:

The next day, on July 31, the Red Sox sent Ramirez and $7 million to cover his remaining salary to the Dodgers in a three-way, six-player deal that brought them Pirates slugger Jason Bay. To get Ramirez to waive his 10-and-5 rights, Los Angeles agreed to decline his 2009 option, and Ramirez agreed to decline arbitration, making him a free agent at season's end.

Donning uniform No. 99, Ramirez joined the Dodgers, who were just 54–54 but a game out of first place in the NL West. He went 13-for-23 with four homers in his first six games and never really cooled off, putting up astonishing numbers (.396/.489/.743, 17 homers, 221 OPS+, 3.5 WAR) that endeared himself to stony-faced new manager Joe Torre even as he flouted orders to get a haircut. Dreadlocked wigs under Dodgers caps became the rage in Chavez Ravine, and L.A. won the division with an 84–78 record. Ramirez went 13-for-28 with four homers in a Division Series sweep against the Cubs and a six-game NLCS loss to the Phillies. After the season, he finished fourth in the MVP voting despite having played just 53 games in the National League.

A free agent at 37, Ramirez was reportedly seeking a four-year deal worth about $25 million per year, but no team wanted to commit to that kind of headache. In March, he agreed to a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers that included an opt-out after the first year. He even picked up where he left off, batting .348/.492/.641 through the first week of May, but just over a week after the team launched a special "Mannywood" section in leftfield, Ramirez drew a 50-game suspension for taking a banned medication, the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, which is typically used by steroid users to restore testosterone production. Less than a month after his return, The New York Times reported that both Ramirez and Ortiz were among the players who had failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, which carried no penalty but had triggered the implementation of a testing and penalty regimen.

Amid the controversy, Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the NL West and sweep the Cardinals in the Division Series before falling to the Phillies in the NLCS. With the recent black marks against his name, he opted not to test the free-agent market again. While he put together a strong half-season for the Dodgers in 2010, he made three trips to the DL for a variety of injuries, and from June 29 to Aug. 29, he played in just seven games. Mannywood was dismantled, and on Aug. 30, the White Sox claimed him off waivers.

Ramirez never got it going in Chicago, homering just once in 88 plate appearances. The following January, he signed a one-year deal to DH for the Rays but played in just five games before MLB announced that he had again tested positive for a banned substance. Facing a 100-game suspension, he opted to retire. Ramirez made comeback attempts with the Triple A affiliates of the A's (2012), Rangers ('13) and Cubs ('14) and even played 49 games for the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan in '13, but he never returned to the majors.

Ramirez finished with offensive numbers that are of Cooperstown caliber. His total of 555 homers ranks 15th in baseball history, his 1,831 RBIs are 18th and his 4,826 total bases are 29th. Among players with at least 7,000 plate appearances, his 154 OPS+ is tied with Frank Robinson for 20th all-time; his .585 slugging percentage is seventh and his .411 on-base percentage is 20th. Among righties with at least 9,000 PA since World War II, only Frank Thomas (156), Willie Mays (156) and Hank Aaron (155) outdid him in OPS+; Ramirez's slugging percentage is tops among that group, and his on-base percentage is second. Between his All-Star selections, league leads—once each in homers, RBIs and OPS+ and three times apiece in on-base percentage and slugging percentage—and other accomplishments, his Hall of Fame Monitor Score of 226 is 35th all-time, well above the threshold of a likely inductee.

From an advanced statistical perspective, Ramirez's 651 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—ranks 18th all-time, but his ineptitude on the base paths (-22 runs), avoiding double plays (-27 runs) and in the field (-129 runs, using both Total Zone up through 2002 and Defensive Runs Saved thereafter) chips away at that value; the last of those is the sixth-worst total of all time. That said, it's worth noting that defensive metrics have generally had a tough time with Boston leftfielders due to the Green Monster; other systems, such as Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average (-68 runs) and Michael Humphreys' Defensive Regression Analysis (-42 runs) both paint rosier pictures of Ramirez's glove work than the TZ/DRS combo. On the other hand, he's even worse via UZR (-108 runs) in the 2003–11 period also covered by DRS (-90).

Even while taking the larger hit from Baseball-Reference's choice of defensive metrics, Ramirez's 69.2 career WAR ranks seventh all-time among leftfielders, trailing only Barry Bonds, Pete Rose and four of the 20 Hall of Famers; he's about four wins above the standard there. His 39.9 peak WAR is 12th, 1.6 wins below the standard, and his 54.6 JAWS ranks 10th, 1.3 points above the standard and ahead of 13 of the 20 enshrined.

On performance alone, that's a Hall of Famer, but his drug transgressions make voting for him anything but automatic. I don’t have a ballot until the 2021 cycle, but as someone who draws a distinction between allegations stemming from the "Wild West" era before testing and penalties were in place and those that resulted in actual suspensions, I wouldn't vote for Ramirez at this juncture, whereas I would vote for Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Not everybody agrees with that position. What's interesting from an electorate that has used pre-testing era allegations to shun both Mark McGwire (who debuted at 23.5% and maxed out at 23.7%) and Sammy Sosa (who peaked at 12.5% in his 2013 debut and has been below 9.0% ever since)—neither of whom ever tested positive or were suspended—is that Ramirez received a higher share than both last year. In light of Joe Morgan’s letter, it doesn’t appear as though he’s picking up ground, but neither is he losing it, at least according to the @NotMrTibbs Ballot Tracker. Through 51 ballots, Ramirez has received 33.3% thus far, with a net gain of zero among returning voters (two added, two dropped) and votes from two out of three first-timers.

When I published last year’s piece, Ramirez was at 33% through 84 ballots but his final public vote share was just 24.5%, compared to 21.9% on private ballots. In other words, there was relatively little difference between his public/private split (-2.6%) compared to Bonds (-21.9%) and Clemens (-20%), All but one of this year’s pro-Manny ballots also included Bonds; that outlier did include Sosa and Clemens, so it’s difficult to say what the logic is there.

Among last year’s pro-Manny voters, many if not most who published their ballots did so without explanation. Of those who did explain, some declared themselves out of the business of policing, others cited the sheer entertainment value provided by Ramirez, the recent election of former commissioner Bud Selig, whose stewardship amid the influx of PEDs helped exacerbate the situation, and the fear that he would fall off the ballot before his merits could truly be weighed.

Given the crowded ballot, I don’t think Ramirez will make much headway this year, but with Bonds and Clemens trending towards eventual election, albeit slowly, I hardly think the door is closed. More than McGwire, Sosa or Palmeiro, he sticks out as a player whose combination of performance and transgressions are testing the will of the voters to stick to a hardline stance. I’d be lying if I said I knew how that stance would age, or if I weren’t tempted to hold my nose and vote for him as well someday.

<p>LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has told teams to bring him their best offers on star infielder Manny Machado, one of the five best players in baseball who will leave them soon by trade or later by free agency after next season. With that decision, which not coincidentally came just days after the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, expanding the 16-win gap between the two clubs, the Orioles will be shutting down a competitive six-year run with Machado, manager Buck Showalter and centerfielder Adam Jones as the pillars.</p><p>But here’s the truth: that run actually ended in the second half of last year, and the Orioles are smart for recognizing it.</p><p>Today’s baseball is defined by where a team is on the winning curve. The smart clubs pick from two paths: you’re either in (competing for the postseason) or you’re out (building for the next chance to compete). The middle ground, in which 75-win teams trick themselves into believing a needle-threading, best-case scenario makes them competitive, wastes time and resources. Baltimore needs to bail from that middle ground, just as the Phillies, White Sox and Tigers belatedly have done in the past few years. So, too, do the Tampa Bay Rays, which would hand the Yankees and Red Sox more wins in a weakened division.</p><p>Officially, the Orioles haven’t punted quite yet. And even trading Machado would not necessarily trigger a full-on, back-up-the-truck, Marlins-style rebuild.</p><p>“We’re tying to make our team better for next year,” Duquette said. “Right now we are listening to offers and considering the options.”</p><p>Unofficially, they know they’d be foolish to keep Machado on a non-contender with no momentum, which is what the Orioles are today. In the past four years the Orioles have grown older, more expensive, worse and less attractive. They have taken an 18% hit at the gate in just four years, losing almost half a million fans. They have one of the four worst farm systems in baseball. They don’t pursue international free agents. Their pitching last year was the worst in the league, excepting Detroit. They are so desperate for pitching that on Thursday they took not one, not two, but three pitching lottery tickets in the Rule 5 draft. Machado, Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are free agents at the end of next season, and Jonathon Schoop is next on the departure line the year after that. Chris Davis, declining at 31, is the only player they have under contract for 2020.</p><p>The beginning of the end happened midway through last season. For seven years Showalter has squeezed the most out of his roster, exceeding the team’s expected record, or Pythagorean won-lost record, in five of those years. On May 20 last season the Orioles were in first place with a 25–16 record, despite the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley making regular turns in the rotation and Chris Tillman missing a month.</p><p>It was a mirage. The lack of pitching depth in the organization doomed Baltimore. After May 20, the Orioles were 50–71—only the White Sox and Tigers, with their white flags waving, played worse. The staff posted a 5.21 ERA in those final 121 games. Over the last five weeks the rotation went 3–19. There was nothing fluky about how Baltimore spiraled to the bottom of the AL East.</p><p>“When you look at teams today,” Showalter said, “you look at how they match up in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation—and really, you need seven or eight starters—and the relievers who are in front of your three guys at the end. That’s where you find the biggest difference. You need depth.”</p><p>The Orioles figure to be no deeper and no better this year. The old narrative on the Orioles hitting the re-set button is that feisty owner Peter Angelos would never allow it. He is 88 years old. (His son, John, has been running the day-to-day operations of the club for more than a decade.)</p><p>There is that oft-repeated story of the 1996 season, when general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson saw a team going nowhere in July and wanted to trade pitcher David Wells and outfielder Bobby Bonilla to re-boot for 1997. Angelos looked at the team’s phenomenal season ticket base of 27,500 and would not allow it. He took both players off the market, and the veteran Orioles team responded with run to the American League Championship Series.</p><p>But that story is not just 21 years old, it also has no relevance to the Orioles’ situation today. The Baltimore Ravens had yet to play their first game at the trade deadline of 1996, and the Washington Nationals were still nine years away from moving into the neighborhood. Camden Yards was only four years old, still aglow as an attraction.</p><p>At the height of the Orioles owning the town, in 1997, 3.7 million people came to see them play at Camden Yards. Those days are long gone. More than half of those paid customers have deserted the team. Attendance reached just two million this season. Only the White Sox and the stadium-challenged A’s and Rays were a worse draw in the league. A series against the Red Sox in September, when Baltimore turns to football, drew an average of just 18,000 fans. Local TV viewership was down 26 percent.</p><p>The trade market for Machado is good, but limited because he is a one-year rental (assuming he is unlikely to forgo free agency and sign an extension as part of a trade). He could be a difference-maker for the Cardinals, Giants, Angels, Red Sox or—yes, don’t rule them out on anything—the Yankees. The White Sox and Phillies would like to get Machado now and win him over during the season to convince him to stay long term, a risky but worthwhile strategy. The Orioles must get young, near-major league ready pitching back in a deal.</p><p>The idea of trading Machado, a homegrown franchise player, must strike an Orioles fan as a lousy one, especially if he were to wind up with the Red Sox or Yankees. But at this ever-drooping point on the winning curve, as the Orioles slide further from contention, the idea of keeping him on another 75-win team is even worse. </p>
The Orioles Should Trade Manny Machado Now

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has told teams to bring him their best offers on star infielder Manny Machado, one of the five best players in baseball who will leave them soon by trade or later by free agency after next season. With that decision, which not coincidentally came just days after the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, expanding the 16-win gap between the two clubs, the Orioles will be shutting down a competitive six-year run with Machado, manager Buck Showalter and centerfielder Adam Jones as the pillars.

But here’s the truth: that run actually ended in the second half of last year, and the Orioles are smart for recognizing it.

Today’s baseball is defined by where a team is on the winning curve. The smart clubs pick from two paths: you’re either in (competing for the postseason) or you’re out (building for the next chance to compete). The middle ground, in which 75-win teams trick themselves into believing a needle-threading, best-case scenario makes them competitive, wastes time and resources. Baltimore needs to bail from that middle ground, just as the Phillies, White Sox and Tigers belatedly have done in the past few years. So, too, do the Tampa Bay Rays, which would hand the Yankees and Red Sox more wins in a weakened division.

Officially, the Orioles haven’t punted quite yet. And even trading Machado would not necessarily trigger a full-on, back-up-the-truck, Marlins-style rebuild.

“We’re tying to make our team better for next year,” Duquette said. “Right now we are listening to offers and considering the options.”

Unofficially, they know they’d be foolish to keep Machado on a non-contender with no momentum, which is what the Orioles are today. In the past four years the Orioles have grown older, more expensive, worse and less attractive. They have taken an 18% hit at the gate in just four years, losing almost half a million fans. They have one of the four worst farm systems in baseball. They don’t pursue international free agents. Their pitching last year was the worst in the league, excepting Detroit. They are so desperate for pitching that on Thursday they took not one, not two, but three pitching lottery tickets in the Rule 5 draft. Machado, Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are free agents at the end of next season, and Jonathon Schoop is next on the departure line the year after that. Chris Davis, declining at 31, is the only player they have under contract for 2020.

The beginning of the end happened midway through last season. For seven years Showalter has squeezed the most out of his roster, exceeding the team’s expected record, or Pythagorean won-lost record, in five of those years. On May 20 last season the Orioles were in first place with a 25–16 record, despite the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley making regular turns in the rotation and Chris Tillman missing a month.

It was a mirage. The lack of pitching depth in the organization doomed Baltimore. After May 20, the Orioles were 50–71—only the White Sox and Tigers, with their white flags waving, played worse. The staff posted a 5.21 ERA in those final 121 games. Over the last five weeks the rotation went 3–19. There was nothing fluky about how Baltimore spiraled to the bottom of the AL East.

“When you look at teams today,” Showalter said, “you look at how they match up in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation—and really, you need seven or eight starters—and the relievers who are in front of your three guys at the end. That’s where you find the biggest difference. You need depth.”

The Orioles figure to be no deeper and no better this year. The old narrative on the Orioles hitting the re-set button is that feisty owner Peter Angelos would never allow it. He is 88 years old. (His son, John, has been running the day-to-day operations of the club for more than a decade.)

There is that oft-repeated story of the 1996 season, when general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson saw a team going nowhere in July and wanted to trade pitcher David Wells and outfielder Bobby Bonilla to re-boot for 1997. Angelos looked at the team’s phenomenal season ticket base of 27,500 and would not allow it. He took both players off the market, and the veteran Orioles team responded with run to the American League Championship Series.

But that story is not just 21 years old, it also has no relevance to the Orioles’ situation today. The Baltimore Ravens had yet to play their first game at the trade deadline of 1996, and the Washington Nationals were still nine years away from moving into the neighborhood. Camden Yards was only four years old, still aglow as an attraction.

At the height of the Orioles owning the town, in 1997, 3.7 million people came to see them play at Camden Yards. Those days are long gone. More than half of those paid customers have deserted the team. Attendance reached just two million this season. Only the White Sox and the stadium-challenged A’s and Rays were a worse draw in the league. A series against the Red Sox in September, when Baltimore turns to football, drew an average of just 18,000 fans. Local TV viewership was down 26 percent.

The trade market for Machado is good, but limited because he is a one-year rental (assuming he is unlikely to forgo free agency and sign an extension as part of a trade). He could be a difference-maker for the Cardinals, Giants, Angels, Red Sox or—yes, don’t rule them out on anything—the Yankees. The White Sox and Phillies would like to get Machado now and win him over during the season to convince him to stay long term, a risky but worthwhile strategy. The Orioles must get young, near-major league ready pitching back in a deal.

The idea of trading Machado, a homegrown franchise player, must strike an Orioles fan as a lousy one, especially if he were to wind up with the Red Sox or Yankees. But at this ever-drooping point on the winning curve, as the Orioles slide further from contention, the idea of keeping him on another 75-win team is even worse.

<p>LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has told teams to bring him their best offers on star infielder Manny Machado, one of the five best players in baseball who will leave them soon by trade or later by free agency after next season. With that decision, which not coincidentally came just days after the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, expanding the 16-win gap between the two clubs, the Orioles will be shutting down a competitive six-year run with Machado, manager Buck Showalter and centerfielder Adam Jones as the pillars.</p><p>But here’s the truth: that run actually ended in the second half of last year, and the Orioles are smart for recognizing it.</p><p>Today’s baseball is defined by where a team is on the winning curve. The smart clubs pick from two paths: you’re either in (competing for the postseason) or you’re out (building for the next chance to compete). The middle ground, in which 75-win teams trick themselves into believing a needle-threading, best-case scenario makes them competitive, wastes time and resources. Baltimore needs to bail from that middle ground, just as the Phillies, White Sox and Tigers belatedly have done in the past few years. So, too, do the Tampa Bay Rays, which would hand the Yankees and Red Sox more wins in a weakened division.</p><p>Officially, the Orioles haven’t punted quite yet. And even trading Machado would not necessarily trigger a full-on, back-up-the-truck, Marlins-style rebuild.</p><p>“We’re tying to make our team better for next year,” Duquette said. “Right now we are listening to offers and considering the options.”</p><p>Unofficially, they know they’d be foolish to keep Machado on a non-contender with no momentum, which is what the Orioles are today. In the past four years the Orioles have grown older, more expensive, worse and less attractive. They have taken an 18% hit at the gate in just four years, losing almost half a million fans. They have one of the four worst farm systems in baseball. They don’t pursue international free agents. Their pitching last year was the worst in the league, excepting Detroit. They are so desperate for pitching that on Thursday they took not one, not two, but three pitching lottery tickets in the Rule 5 draft. Machado, Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are free agents at the end of next season, and Jonathon Schoop is next on the departure line the year after that. Chris Davis, declining at 31, is the only player they have under contract for 2020.</p><p>The beginning of the end happened midway through last season. For seven years Showalter has squeezed the most out of his roster, exceeding the team’s expected record, or Pythagorean won-lost record, in five of those years. On May 20 last season the Orioles were in first place with a 25–16 record, despite the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley making regular turns in the rotation and Chris Tillman missing a month.</p><p>It was a mirage. The lack of pitching depth in the organization doomed Baltimore. After May 20, the Orioles were 50–71—only the White Sox and Tigers, with their white flags waving, played worse. The staff posted a 5.21 ERA in those final 121 games. Over the last five weeks the rotation went 3–19. There was nothing fluky about how Baltimore spiraled to the bottom of the AL East.</p><p>“When you look at teams today,” Showalter said, “you look at how they match up in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation—and really, you need seven or eight starters—and the relievers who are in front of your three guys at the end. That’s where you find the biggest difference. You need depth.”</p><p>The Orioles figure to be no deeper and no better this year. The old narrative on the Orioles hitting the re-set button is that feisty owner Peter Angelos would never allow it. He is 88 years old. (His son, John, has been running the day-to-day operations of the club for more than a decade.)</p><p>There is that oft-repeated story of the 1996 season, when general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson saw a team going nowhere in July and wanted to trade pitcher David Wells and outfielder Bobby Bonilla to re-boot for 1997. Angelos looked at the team’s phenomenal season ticket base of 27,500 and would not allow it. He took both players off the market, and the veteran Orioles team responded with run to the American League Championship Series.</p><p>But that story is not just 21 years old, it also has no relevance to the Orioles’ situation today. The Baltimore Ravens had yet to play their first game at the trade deadline of 1996, and the Washington Nationals were still nine years away from moving into the neighborhood. Camden Yards was only four years old, still aglow as an attraction.</p><p>At the height of the Orioles owning the town, in 1997, 3.7 million people came to see them play at Camden Yards. Those days are long gone. More than half of those paid customers have deserted the team. Attendance reached just two million this season. Only the White Sox and the stadium-challenged A’s and Rays were a worse draw in the league. A series against the Red Sox in September, when Baltimore turns to football, drew an average of just 18,000 fans. Local TV viewership was down 26 percent.</p><p>The trade market for Machado is good, but limited because he is a one-year rental (assuming he is unlikely to forgo free agency and sign an extension as part of a trade). He could be a difference-maker for the Cardinals, Giants, Angels, Red Sox or—yes, don’t rule them out on anything—the Yankees. The White Sox and Phillies would like to get Machado now and win him over during the season to convince him to stay long term, a risky but worthwhile strategy. The Orioles must get young, near-major league ready pitching back in a deal.</p><p>The idea of trading Machado, a homegrown franchise player, must strike an Orioles fan as a lousy one, especially if he were to wind up with the Red Sox or Yankees. But at this ever-drooping point on the winning curve, as the Orioles slide further from contention, the idea of keeping him on another 75-win team is even worse. </p>
The Orioles Should Trade Manny Machado Now

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has told teams to bring him their best offers on star infielder Manny Machado, one of the five best players in baseball who will leave them soon by trade or later by free agency after next season. With that decision, which not coincidentally came just days after the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, expanding the 16-win gap between the two clubs, the Orioles will be shutting down a competitive six-year run with Machado, manager Buck Showalter and centerfielder Adam Jones as the pillars.

But here’s the truth: that run actually ended in the second half of last year, and the Orioles are smart for recognizing it.

Today’s baseball is defined by where a team is on the winning curve. The smart clubs pick from two paths: you’re either in (competing for the postseason) or you’re out (building for the next chance to compete). The middle ground, in which 75-win teams trick themselves into believing a needle-threading, best-case scenario makes them competitive, wastes time and resources. Baltimore needs to bail from that middle ground, just as the Phillies, White Sox and Tigers belatedly have done in the past few years. So, too, do the Tampa Bay Rays, which would hand the Yankees and Red Sox more wins in a weakened division.

Officially, the Orioles haven’t punted quite yet. And even trading Machado would not necessarily trigger a full-on, back-up-the-truck, Marlins-style rebuild.

“We’re tying to make our team better for next year,” Duquette said. “Right now we are listening to offers and considering the options.”

Unofficially, they know they’d be foolish to keep Machado on a non-contender with no momentum, which is what the Orioles are today. In the past four years the Orioles have grown older, more expensive, worse and less attractive. They have taken an 18% hit at the gate in just four years, losing almost half a million fans. They have one of the four worst farm systems in baseball. They don’t pursue international free agents. Their pitching last year was the worst in the league, excepting Detroit. They are so desperate for pitching that on Thursday they took not one, not two, but three pitching lottery tickets in the Rule 5 draft. Machado, Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are free agents at the end of next season, and Jonathon Schoop is next on the departure line the year after that. Chris Davis, declining at 31, is the only player they have under contract for 2020.

The beginning of the end happened midway through last season. For seven years Showalter has squeezed the most out of his roster, exceeding the team’s expected record, or Pythagorean won-lost record, in five of those years. On May 20 last season the Orioles were in first place with a 25–16 record, despite the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley making regular turns in the rotation and Chris Tillman missing a month.

It was a mirage. The lack of pitching depth in the organization doomed Baltimore. After May 20, the Orioles were 50–71—only the White Sox and Tigers, with their white flags waving, played worse. The staff posted a 5.21 ERA in those final 121 games. Over the last five weeks the rotation went 3–19. There was nothing fluky about how Baltimore spiraled to the bottom of the AL East.

“When you look at teams today,” Showalter said, “you look at how they match up in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation—and really, you need seven or eight starters—and the relievers who are in front of your three guys at the end. That’s where you find the biggest difference. You need depth.”

The Orioles figure to be no deeper and no better this year. The old narrative on the Orioles hitting the re-set button is that feisty owner Peter Angelos would never allow it. He is 88 years old. (His son, John, has been running the day-to-day operations of the club for more than a decade.)

There is that oft-repeated story of the 1996 season, when general manager Pat Gillick and manager Davey Johnson saw a team going nowhere in July and wanted to trade pitcher David Wells and outfielder Bobby Bonilla to re-boot for 1997. Angelos looked at the team’s phenomenal season ticket base of 27,500 and would not allow it. He took both players off the market, and the veteran Orioles team responded with run to the American League Championship Series.

But that story is not just 21 years old, it also has no relevance to the Orioles’ situation today. The Baltimore Ravens had yet to play their first game at the trade deadline of 1996, and the Washington Nationals were still nine years away from moving into the neighborhood. Camden Yards was only four years old, still aglow as an attraction.

At the height of the Orioles owning the town, in 1997, 3.7 million people came to see them play at Camden Yards. Those days are long gone. More than half of those paid customers have deserted the team. Attendance reached just two million this season. Only the White Sox and the stadium-challenged A’s and Rays were a worse draw in the league. A series against the Red Sox in September, when Baltimore turns to football, drew an average of just 18,000 fans. Local TV viewership was down 26 percent.

The trade market for Machado is good, but limited because he is a one-year rental (assuming he is unlikely to forgo free agency and sign an extension as part of a trade). He could be a difference-maker for the Cardinals, Giants, Angels, Red Sox or—yes, don’t rule them out on anything—the Yankees. The White Sox and Phillies would like to get Machado now and win him over during the season to convince him to stay long term, a risky but worthwhile strategy. The Orioles must get young, near-major league ready pitching back in a deal.

The idea of trading Machado, a homegrown franchise player, must strike an Orioles fan as a lousy one, especially if he were to wind up with the Red Sox or Yankees. But at this ever-drooping point on the winning curve, as the Orioles slide further from contention, the idea of keeping him on another 75-win team is even worse.

<p>Winter Meetings has begun, but will this slow MLB offseason pick up steam at the annually frenetic event? Be sure to check in here regularly for the latest rumors, news and moves around the league.</p><h3>Rumors and News</h3><p>• The Yankees and White Sox are among the teams that have expressed interest in Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/940722234750054401" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• The Cardinals have reportedly acquired Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna for pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara. (<a href="https://twitter.com/CraigMish/status/941004846035034113" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sirius XM" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sirius XM</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/JesseSanchezMLB/status/941005900323741697" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• After initially telling teams that they are not looking to move outfielder Christian Yelich, the Marlins are now saying that they have not ruled out trading Yelich and will talk to him to see if he wants to stay in Miami. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941050840831483904" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Diamondbacks and Rangers have discussed a possible trade involving starter Zack Greinke. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Sullivan_Ranger/status/940743300222464000" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• Other teams are also inquiring about Greinke, though Arizona would require another starter to take his place in the rotation, potentially complicating talks. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940985783804223489" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• Along with Greinke, the Diamondbacks are getting calls about lefthanded starter Patrick Corbin and utility players Chris Owings and Brandon Drury. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940986253591359488" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• Free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez will meet with Red Sox officials this week. (<a href="http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21752094/jd-martinez-sit-boston-red-sox-other-suitors-winter-meetings" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• The Royals are getting lots of calls about lefthanded starter Danny Duffy and are &quot;seriously thinking&quot; about dealing him. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941076190722494464" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Giants are &quot;staying in contact&quot; with free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce but have seen trade talks with the Reds for outfielder Billy Hamilton &quot;fade significantly.&quot; (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941035696504082433" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Athletics are &quot;edging closer&quot; to getting outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/susanslusser/status/941023204465938433" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:San Francisco Chronicle" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">San Francisco Chronicle</a></em>)</p><p>• The Twins have signed starter Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract. Pineda spent last season with the Yankees but suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July and will miss most of the 2018 season. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/940957711600177153" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:USA Today" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">USA Today</a></em>)</p><p>• The Rockies have re-signed lefthanded reliever Jake McGee to a three-year deal worth $27 million. McGee posted a 3.61 ERA in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado last season, striking out 58. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940981060271329281" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Mets have signed righthanded reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal. Swarzak spent last year with the White Sox and Brewers, recording a 2.33 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/MarcCarig/status/940983556129611776" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Newsday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Newsday</a></em>)</p><p>• The Mariners have signed righthanded reliever Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract. Nicasio split the 2017 season between the Pirates and Cardinals, with a 2.61 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941069615727292417" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Angels are “definitely interested” in Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, with the Mets, Giants and Brewers also showing interest. (<a href="https://twitter.com/jcrasnick/status/940963772604338177" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• Kinsler&#39;s no-trade list comprises 10 teams: the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Rays and Blue Jays. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/941019207273275395" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The New York Post" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The New York Post</a></em>)</p><p>• The Dodgers are still having talks with free-agent starter Yu Darvish. (<a href="https://twitter.com/kengurnick/status/940698318627393538" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• The Blue Jays, Orioles, Astros, Athletics and Phillies are all interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940989031210541056" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Blue Jays are also interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gomez. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940989264258568192" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• As many as 10 teams are interested in free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, including the Giants and Angels. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/941019539676024832" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The New York Post" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The New York Post</a></em>)</p><p>• Free-agent second baseman Eduardo Nuñez is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941021344434704385" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Padres are talking trades involving infielders Yangervis Solarte and Chase Headley, who was acquired by San Diego from the Yankees on Tuesday. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941050050054184960" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Mets are weighing their second base options and could be eyeing Jason Kipnis, Josh Harrison, Cesar Hernandez and Kinsler. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940760465084383232" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• There is &quot;strong optimism&quot; the Rockies and closer Greg Holland will agree to a deal. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941007756999393280" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p>
MLB Trade Rumors: All the Latest News, Rumors and Moves From Winter Meetings

Winter Meetings has begun, but will this slow MLB offseason pick up steam at the annually frenetic event? Be sure to check in here regularly for the latest rumors, news and moves around the league.

Rumors and News

• The Yankees and White Sox are among the teams that have expressed interest in Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. (ESPN.com)

• The Cardinals have reportedly acquired Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna for pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara. (Sirius XM and MLB.com)

• After initially telling teams that they are not looking to move outfielder Christian Yelich, the Marlins are now saying that they have not ruled out trading Yelich and will talk to him to see if he wants to stay in Miami. (The Athletic)

• The Diamondbacks and Rangers have discussed a possible trade involving starter Zack Greinke. (MLB.com)

• Other teams are also inquiring about Greinke, though Arizona would require another starter to take his place in the rotation, potentially complicating talks. (The Athletic)

• Along with Greinke, the Diamondbacks are getting calls about lefthanded starter Patrick Corbin and utility players Chris Owings and Brandon Drury. (The Athletic)

• Free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez will meet with Red Sox officials this week. (ESPN.com)

• The Royals are getting lots of calls about lefthanded starter Danny Duffy and are "seriously thinking" about dealing him. (FanRag Sports)

• The Giants are "staying in contact" with free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce but have seen trade talks with the Reds for outfielder Billy Hamilton "fade significantly." (The Athletic)

• The Athletics are "edging closer" to getting outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. (San Francisco Chronicle)

• The Twins have signed starter Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract. Pineda spent last season with the Yankees but suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July and will miss most of the 2018 season. (USA Today)

• The Rockies have re-signed lefthanded reliever Jake McGee to a three-year deal worth $27 million. McGee posted a 3.61 ERA in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado last season, striking out 58. (FanRag Sports)

• The Mets have signed righthanded reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal. Swarzak spent last year with the White Sox and Brewers, recording a 2.33 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. (Newsday)

• The Mariners have signed righthanded reliever Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract. Nicasio split the 2017 season between the Pirates and Cardinals, with a 2.61 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. (The Athletic)

• The Angels are “definitely interested” in Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, with the Mets, Giants and Brewers also showing interest. (ESPN.com)

• Kinsler's no-trade list comprises 10 teams: the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Rays and Blue Jays. (The New York Post)

• The Dodgers are still having talks with free-agent starter Yu Darvish. (MLB.com)

• The Blue Jays, Orioles, Astros, Athletics and Phillies are all interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. (FanRag Sports)

• The Blue Jays are also interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gomez. (FanRag Sports)

• As many as 10 teams are interested in free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, including the Giants and Angels. (The New York Post)

• Free-agent second baseman Eduardo Nuñez is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. (FanRag Sports)

• The Padres are talking trades involving infielders Yangervis Solarte and Chase Headley, who was acquired by San Diego from the Yankees on Tuesday. (FanRag Sports)

• The Mets are weighing their second base options and could be eyeing Jason Kipnis, Josh Harrison, Cesar Hernandez and Kinsler. (FanRag Sports)

• There is "strong optimism" the Rockies and closer Greg Holland will agree to a deal. (FanRag Sports)

<p>It has been a slow free agency period so far, but things are expected to pick up once the winter meetings take place this week in Orlando, Fla.</p><p>So far, the nine players who have received $17.4 million qualifying offers from their teams have turned down the offer and there has been little movement between teams and the 166 players that have filed for free agency.</p><p>The biggest blockbuster in years has been completed as the New York Yankees finalized of a trade sending National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins to the Bronx.</p><p>The Marlins will get back second baseman Starlin Castro, minor league right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman and minor league infielder Jose Devers in the deal.</p><p><em>Here is the latest news and rumors from around the league.</em></p><h3>Rumors and News</h3><p>• The Orioles may want to trade a reliever to the Mets in exchange for Matt Harvey. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940348479918034944" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Pirates are open to moving Gerrit Cole, with the Yankees a possible landing spot. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/940328475730350080" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN</a>)</p><p>• The Phillies are interested in both Orioles closer Zach Britton and third baseman Manny Machado. (<a href="http://www.masnsports.com/school-of-roch/2017/12/latest-buzz-on-machado.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MASN" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MASN</a>)</p><p>• Tigers GM Al Avila expects second baseman Ian Kinsler to be traded by the end of the winter. (<a href="https://twitter.com/beckjason/status/940343856146591745" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• Jacoby Ellsbury is “unlikely” to waive his no-trade clause and ease the Yankees’ outfield logjam. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Feinsand/status/940326265931919360" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• Yuli Gurriel’s racist gesture toward Yu Darvish wouldn’t be a barrier to the Astros signing Darvish. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940345879218843648" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• Pat Neshek has a two-year deal worth $16 million with the Phillies. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940337294808174597" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports/USA Today" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports/<em>USA Today</em></a>)</p><p>• The Boston Red Sox have let several teams know that Jackie Bradley Jr. is available. (<a href="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/940224610896896000" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:USA Today" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>USA Today</em></a>)</p><p>• The New York Mets have talked to at least two teams about trading pitcher Matt Harvey this offseason. (<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/mets-talked-teams-trading-matt-harvey-source-article-1.3690040" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:New York Daily News" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>New York Daily News</em></a>)</p><p>• At least six teams have “expressed significant interest” in pitcher Tom Koehler. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Feinsand/status/940116108425785344" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• The Cardinals and Rockies are aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/940202793972961281" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:USA Today" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">USA Today</a></em>)</p><p>• The Yankees have completed their contract extension with general manager Brian Cashman. The deal is worth $25 million over five years. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940214051652718592" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Oakland Athletics continue to set their sights on Cardinals OF/1B Stephen Piscotty. (<a href="https://www.mlb.com/athletics/video/as-linked-to-piscotty-garcia/c-1869181683" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• The Chicago Cubs and pitcher Brandon Morrow agree to a two-year deal worth $21 million, pending physical. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940204944543617024" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• A half dozen teams are interested in first baseman Carlos Santana. Santana has already rejected the Cleveland Indians&#39; qualifying offer. (<em><a href="http://www.cleveland.com/tribe/index.ssf/2017/12/cleveland_indians_make_offer_t.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Cleveland Plain Dealer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Cleveland Plain Dealer</a></em>)</p><p>• The Los Angeles Angels and CC Sabathia have held talks about possibly signing him to a deal. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/GeorgeAKingIII/status/940004143552520192" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:New York Post" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">New York Post</a></em>)</p><p>• J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Kyle Schwarber are sluggers that the Boston Red Sox are looking at. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/939915194930810880" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p>
MLB Rumors: Mets Willing to Trade Matt Harvey

It has been a slow free agency period so far, but things are expected to pick up once the winter meetings take place this week in Orlando, Fla.

So far, the nine players who have received $17.4 million qualifying offers from their teams have turned down the offer and there has been little movement between teams and the 166 players that have filed for free agency.

The biggest blockbuster in years has been completed as the New York Yankees finalized of a trade sending National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins to the Bronx.

The Marlins will get back second baseman Starlin Castro, minor league right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman and minor league infielder Jose Devers in the deal.

Here is the latest news and rumors from around the league.

Rumors and News

• The Orioles may want to trade a reliever to the Mets in exchange for Matt Harvey. (The Athletic)

• The Pirates are open to moving Gerrit Cole, with the Yankees a possible landing spot. (ESPN)

• The Phillies are interested in both Orioles closer Zach Britton and third baseman Manny Machado. (MASN)

• Tigers GM Al Avila expects second baseman Ian Kinsler to be traded by the end of the winter. (MLB.com)

• Jacoby Ellsbury is “unlikely” to waive his no-trade clause and ease the Yankees’ outfield logjam. (MLB.com)

• Yuli Gurriel’s racist gesture toward Yu Darvish wouldn’t be a barrier to the Astros signing Darvish. (FanRag Sports)

• Pat Neshek has a two-year deal worth $16 million with the Phillies. (FanRag Sports/USA Today)

• The Boston Red Sox have let several teams know that Jackie Bradley Jr. is available. (USA Today)

• The New York Mets have talked to at least two teams about trading pitcher Matt Harvey this offseason. (New York Daily News)

• At least six teams have “expressed significant interest” in pitcher Tom Koehler. (MLB.com)

• The Cardinals and Rockies are aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome. (USA Today)

• The Yankees have completed their contract extension with general manager Brian Cashman. The deal is worth $25 million over five years. (FanRag Sports)

• The Oakland Athletics continue to set their sights on Cardinals OF/1B Stephen Piscotty. (MLB.com)

• The Chicago Cubs and pitcher Brandon Morrow agree to a two-year deal worth $21 million, pending physical. (The Athletic)

• A half dozen teams are interested in first baseman Carlos Santana. Santana has already rejected the Cleveland Indians' qualifying offer. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

• The Los Angeles Angels and CC Sabathia have held talks about possibly signing him to a deal. (New York Post)

• J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Kyle Schwarber are sluggers that the Boston Red Sox are looking at. (FanRag Sports)

<p>Are the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes coming to an end? On Sunday night, a bevy of teams learned from the Japanese superstar’s representation that they are no longer in the running for his services. That includes the Yankees, who <a href="https://nypost.com/2017/11/22/scouts-are-conflicted-on-what-shohei-ohtanis-plan-should-be/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:were widely presumed to be favorites for Ohtani" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">were widely presumed to be favorites for Ohtani</a>, as well as—deep breath—the Red Sox, Mets, Blue Jays, Pirates, Twins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Rays, Cardinals, White Sox, Nationals, Braves, and Athletics. On the other side of things are the lucky few: <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/937458753171009537" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan</a>, the Mariners and Giants will both meet with Ohtani in Los Angeles next week; the Padres are also on the docket, <a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/937483245566025728" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman</a>; and the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs are apparently still in the race (or at least not openly out of it).</p><p>As we learn which teams have dropped out or stayed alive, numerous reports have emerged that Ohtani <a href="https://apnews.com/d3e49ed0b5244e858d944f18f2231b1c/Ohtani-rules-out-Yanks,-Red-Sox,-others;-prefers-West-Coast" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:would like to sign with a West Coast team" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">would like to sign with a West Coast team</a>, and may also want to play in a smaller market. Add that to <a href="http://m.mlb.com/news/article/262688222/what-factors-matter-most-to-shohei-ohtani/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the already extensive list of possible Ohtani preferences" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the already extensive list of possible Ohtani preferences</a>—he wants to hit and pitch, play for a team with high-end facilities and for one that has experience with Japanese players and access to Japanese culture, <a href="https://twitter.com/jonmorosi/status/936600677220003841" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:but also not for a team that already has a Japanese player" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">but also not for a team that already has a Japanese player</a>—that may or may not have outsize influence on his ultimate choice. It’s safe to say that no one truly knows what Ohtani wants, save that the usual factors don’t seem to apply. After all, the Yankees can offer hundreds of millions of dollars in the future as well as a place on a star-studded roster built to win this year and down the road in the biggest media market in the league, and he immediately rejected them.</p><p>Regardless, Sunday’s flurry of activity considerably narrowed the list of contenders. Aside from those already eliminated, a number of others are either longshots—Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami and Philadelphia (a city that Ohtani <a href="http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/12/shoehi-ohtani-phillies-ouch" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:apparently only wants to visit" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">apparently only wants to visit</a>)—or didn’t publicly express interest, including Kansas City, Colorado and Detroit. That leaves the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs as meeting his parameters or still in the chase.</p><p>Which of those teams is likely in the lead? <a href="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/937482516331618304" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>USA Today</em>’s Bob Nightengale reports</a> that the Mariners are considered by other general managers to be the favorite. That makes sense: Seattle is geographically right, a (relatively) small market, can offer him time at designated hitter or in the outfield alongside a rotation spot, and is well acquainted with Japanese players, having brought future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki state-side back in 2001.</p><p>He also fits into the Mariners roster plans. Seattle’s rotation was a total mess last season thanks to injury: Ariel Miranda led the team in innings last season despite a 5.12 ERA. The Mariners have an ace in James Paxton, but he was limited to 136 frames due to persistent and worrisome arm troubles, and ace Felix Hernandez managed only 86 2/3 innings while getting tagged for a 4.36 ERA. If Ohtani is serious about being a two-way player, then the Mariners could use the help. Nelson Cruz has the DH spot on lockdown, but he turns 37 in July. In the outfield corners, meanwhile, the Mariners are rolling with light-hitting Ben Gamel in left and Mitch Haniger in right; the latter hit well last year, posting a 146 OPS+, but played only 96 games due to injury.</p><p>All of that should create plenty of available playing time for Ohtani, perhaps with the Mariners giving him two to three starts a week spread out in the outfield and at DH alongside his starts on the mound. Other teams, though, can more easily slot him in. The Giants, for example, desperately need help in the outfield—the team managed a putrid .685 OPS among all three spots there last year—and can make Ohtani a regular in either corner while still allowing him starts in the rotation. San Diego, too, can try Ohtani in left to form a formidable young outfield with him, Manuel Margot in center and top prospect Hunter Renfroe in right, and could desperately use his arm in a bottom-of-the-barrel rotation devoid of upside (unless you’re fond of staff ace Clayton Richard).</p><p>Neither the Giants nor Padres, though, offer Ohtani much in the way of contention. San Francisco is coming off a rough 98-loss season that exposed holes up and down the roster that even Ohtani can’t plug by himself. (That calculus does change somewhat if the Giants can finish a trade for NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/03/giancarlo-stanton-trade-rumors-marlins-cardinals-giants-framework-set" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as they’re reportedly close to doing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as they’re reportedly close to doing</a>.) San Diego, meanwhile, will be entering yet another year of a perpetual rebuild that hasn’t yielded much in the way of major league talent or success yet. If general manager A.J. Preller can sell Ohtani on the Padres’ potential after 273 losses over three seasons, then he’s clearly some kind of wizard.</p><p>Contention is far more in range for the six other teams still left, with the Dodgers, Astros and Cubs atop that list. Los Angeles has a ton of outfielders to find playing time for beyond Ohtani and more starting pitchers than most, but talent wins out in the end. Plus, the Dodgers can offer him the prospect of the most money down the road and a roster that was one win away from a championship while Chicago can flash its 2016 hardware and enviable roster as well. But neither the Dodgers nor Cubs (nor the Angels, for that matter) play in anything that could remotely be described as a small market.</p><p>If you want a true upset special, it’s Texas. Like the Mariners, the Rangers can offer Ohtani time in the rotation (where he’d instantly become the team’s ace) and in the outfield or at DH. Arlington is a smaller market, and crucially, the Rangers have experience with Japanese superstars, having been the home of Yu Darvish (himself a former member of Ohtani’s NPB team) for five-plus seasons. Texas also has the most money to offer right now, at $3.53 million, and while it’s clear that cash doesn’t rule everything around Shohei, that has to count for something.</p><p>Regardless, you can make a case for any of the teams left standing as being a good fit. All have flaws, all have strengths, but ultimately, it’s hard to say what matters most to Ohtani. One thing is for certain, though: We’re thankfully that much closer to MLB adding a truly dynamic talent.</p>
Where Will Shohei Ohtani Sign? The West Coast Appears to be the Safest Bet

Are the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes coming to an end? On Sunday night, a bevy of teams learned from the Japanese superstar’s representation that they are no longer in the running for his services. That includes the Yankees, who were widely presumed to be favorites for Ohtani, as well as—deep breath—the Red Sox, Mets, Blue Jays, Pirates, Twins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Rays, Cardinals, White Sox, Nationals, Braves, and Athletics. On the other side of things are the lucky few: According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Mariners and Giants will both meet with Ohtani in Los Angeles next week; the Padres are also on the docket, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman; and the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs are apparently still in the race (or at least not openly out of it).

As we learn which teams have dropped out or stayed alive, numerous reports have emerged that Ohtani would like to sign with a West Coast team, and may also want to play in a smaller market. Add that to the already extensive list of possible Ohtani preferences—he wants to hit and pitch, play for a team with high-end facilities and for one that has experience with Japanese players and access to Japanese culture, but also not for a team that already has a Japanese player—that may or may not have outsize influence on his ultimate choice. It’s safe to say that no one truly knows what Ohtani wants, save that the usual factors don’t seem to apply. After all, the Yankees can offer hundreds of millions of dollars in the future as well as a place on a star-studded roster built to win this year and down the road in the biggest media market in the league, and he immediately rejected them.

Regardless, Sunday’s flurry of activity considerably narrowed the list of contenders. Aside from those already eliminated, a number of others are either longshots—Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami and Philadelphia (a city that Ohtani apparently only wants to visit)—or didn’t publicly express interest, including Kansas City, Colorado and Detroit. That leaves the Mariners, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs as meeting his parameters or still in the chase.

Which of those teams is likely in the lead? USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners are considered by other general managers to be the favorite. That makes sense: Seattle is geographically right, a (relatively) small market, can offer him time at designated hitter or in the outfield alongside a rotation spot, and is well acquainted with Japanese players, having brought future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki state-side back in 2001.

He also fits into the Mariners roster plans. Seattle’s rotation was a total mess last season thanks to injury: Ariel Miranda led the team in innings last season despite a 5.12 ERA. The Mariners have an ace in James Paxton, but he was limited to 136 frames due to persistent and worrisome arm troubles, and ace Felix Hernandez managed only 86 2/3 innings while getting tagged for a 4.36 ERA. If Ohtani is serious about being a two-way player, then the Mariners could use the help. Nelson Cruz has the DH spot on lockdown, but he turns 37 in July. In the outfield corners, meanwhile, the Mariners are rolling with light-hitting Ben Gamel in left and Mitch Haniger in right; the latter hit well last year, posting a 146 OPS+, but played only 96 games due to injury.

All of that should create plenty of available playing time for Ohtani, perhaps with the Mariners giving him two to three starts a week spread out in the outfield and at DH alongside his starts on the mound. Other teams, though, can more easily slot him in. The Giants, for example, desperately need help in the outfield—the team managed a putrid .685 OPS among all three spots there last year—and can make Ohtani a regular in either corner while still allowing him starts in the rotation. San Diego, too, can try Ohtani in left to form a formidable young outfield with him, Manuel Margot in center and top prospect Hunter Renfroe in right, and could desperately use his arm in a bottom-of-the-barrel rotation devoid of upside (unless you’re fond of staff ace Clayton Richard).

Neither the Giants nor Padres, though, offer Ohtani much in the way of contention. San Francisco is coming off a rough 98-loss season that exposed holes up and down the roster that even Ohtani can’t plug by himself. (That calculus does change somewhat if the Giants can finish a trade for NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, as they’re reportedly close to doing.) San Diego, meanwhile, will be entering yet another year of a perpetual rebuild that hasn’t yielded much in the way of major league talent or success yet. If general manager A.J. Preller can sell Ohtani on the Padres’ potential after 273 losses over three seasons, then he’s clearly some kind of wizard.

Contention is far more in range for the six other teams still left, with the Dodgers, Astros and Cubs atop that list. Los Angeles has a ton of outfielders to find playing time for beyond Ohtani and more starting pitchers than most, but talent wins out in the end. Plus, the Dodgers can offer him the prospect of the most money down the road and a roster that was one win away from a championship while Chicago can flash its 2016 hardware and enviable roster as well. But neither the Dodgers nor Cubs (nor the Angels, for that matter) play in anything that could remotely be described as a small market.

If you want a true upset special, it’s Texas. Like the Mariners, the Rangers can offer Ohtani time in the rotation (where he’d instantly become the team’s ace) and in the outfield or at DH. Arlington is a smaller market, and crucially, the Rangers have experience with Japanese superstars, having been the home of Yu Darvish (himself a former member of Ohtani’s NPB team) for five-plus seasons. Texas also has the most money to offer right now, at $3.53 million, and while it’s clear that cash doesn’t rule everything around Shohei, that has to count for something.

Regardless, you can make a case for any of the teams left standing as being a good fit. All have flaws, all have strengths, but ultimately, it’s hard to say what matters most to Ohtani. One thing is for certain, though: We’re thankfully that much closer to MLB adding a truly dynamic talent.

<p>Of all this offseason’s big storylines to follow, the saga of Giancarlo Stanton is perhaps the most open-ended one. Whether the Marlins will ship out the newly crowned NL MVP under new owner Derek Jeter is a fascinating question, but there are a lot of variables complicating the process. Jeter <a href="https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/jeter-confirms-marlins-hes-listening-to-offers-for-stanton-but-hasnt-talked-to-him-yet/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:has yet to declare one way or another" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">has yet to declare one way or another</a> whether Miami will move Stanton. The big slugger has a full no-trade clause, as well as a $300 million contract that essentially functions as one. And while every team in baseball could use a home run-hitting behemoth like Stanton, it’s not clear who’s in the running for him.</p><p>So let’s simplify the process. Instead of trying to chart the endless and contradicting Stanton rumors like a man holding a weathervane in a hurricane, we’ll narrow the field down to the teams that present the best fit for MLB’s resident Atlas.</p><p>Note that I won’t attempt to put together offers for Stanton, as his combination of production (great!) and contract (onerous!) is confounding when it comes to creating fair trade value. Besides, who knows what the Marlins want in exchange, be it simply payroll space or a trio of top prospects.</p><p>Before we get to the favorites, let’s rule out the rest. Rebuilding squads won’t be in the running, so you can cross the Tigers, Reds, Athletics and Padres off the list. The White Sox and Braves are potential dark horses, seeing as how they have prospects to spare to offer up, but it’s hard to imagine Stanton approving a deal that sends him to a team that’s still a ways away from contention. Payroll limitations, meanwhile, eliminate the Rays, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Royals, Mariners, Mets, Brewers and Pirates.</p><p>As for the big-spending contenders: The Nationals will likely want to save money to throw at Bryce Harper next winter. The Diamondbacks already have a monster deal on the books with Zack Greinke’s contract and need to find room for a Paul Goldschmidt extension. The Astros are likely happy with the roster as is. The Angels <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/02/angels-justin-upton-contract-hot-stove" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:gave Justin Upton a new big deal" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">gave Justin Upton a new big deal</a>, so they’re set. The Cubs always have money to spend, but they’re spoken for in terms of hitters.</p><p>Then there are the Yankees and the Dodgers, who both have more than enough financial ability to make a deal happen. Neither team truly needs Stanton: The Yankees already have the prequel version of Stanton in Aaron Judge, while the Dodgers have lanky slugger Cody Bellinger; both squads have tough, young lineups that—most importantly—are very cost effective; and neither front office is all too keen to give up prospects. And both New York and Los Angeles are likely saving their pennies for the Harper and Manny Machado bidding wars coming next winter.</p><p>That leaves seven teams who make the most sense for a Stanton trade. Let’s break them down, one by one.</p><h3>Red Sox</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense:</strong> Dave Dombrowski never filled the David Ortiz-sized hole in the lineup left by Big Papi’s retirement after the 2016 season, and it showed in last year’s results. Boston went from 208 homers and a league-high .461 slugging percentage in ’16 to 168 and .407, respectively, in ’17. Some of that was losing Ortiz, some of that was down years from the lineup, but it all added up to a deficit of power: Only three Red Sox topped 20 or more homers in a season where the ball flew out of the park with startling regularity. Stanton solves that problem and then some.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit:</strong> Unless the Red Sox successfully petition the league to add a fourth outfielder, they’re already set with Mookie Betts in right, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in left. All three are highly productive and rather cheap—an important factor for a team whose farm system is currently in a fallow period and won’t be producing much in the way of low-cost major league talent. Adding Stanton would require either subtracting one of those three, or plugging him in as the world’s most expensive DH—and why do that when J.D. Martinez is available for just money? Also, Boston is already on the hook for $158 million in salary commitments in 2018—and that’s before arbitration.</p><h3>Blue Jays</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>The Blue Jays went from an opposing pitcher’s house of horrors in 2015 and ’16 to a walk in the park last year. Toronto averaged just 4.3 runs per game in 2017, tied with Tampa for fifth-lowest in baseball, and posted a collective OPS+ of only 88—the equivalent of a lineup of Tommy Josephs. The Jays also got next to zero from the outfield corners: Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce were disasters in left, and the declining Jose Bautista hit .203/.308/.366 with only 23 homers in right. With Bautista leaving as a free agent, Stanton would patch up rightfield and bring back some thump to a lineup that’s lost Joey Bats and Edwin Encarnacion and is unlikely ever to see a healthy Troy Tulowitzki.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>Do the Jays have the room to fit Stanton’s contract? They do on paper—Toronto spent just a shade under $200 million in payroll last season—but it would likely spell the end of Josh Donaldson’s time in Canada, as the hard-hitting third baseman is set to hit free agency after the 2018 season. That may make a Stanton deal more likely, as he could provide insurance should Donaldson walk, but it’s still a big gamble to take.</p><h3>Rangers</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>The Rangers’ offense was below average last year despite a staggering amount of homers—looking at you, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli. Stanton would be a much-needed source of stability in the middle of the lineup and would make an imposing power pair with Joey Gallo. And with Carlos Gomez hitting free agency, there’s a hole in the outfield he could fill.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>The Rangers have far bigger issues to address this offseason, starting with a bullpen that couldn’t be trusted and a rotation with no depth. As a result, Stanton is more of an unnecessary luxury than a top target. The Rangers’ farm system also isn’t very deep, offering more in the way of high-upside teenagers who are years away than ready-to-contribute prospects. Again, who knows what the Marlins want, but Texas may not have enough to make a competitive offer.</p><h3>Phillies</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>The Phillies are still rebuilding after last year’s stumble, and the plan in Philadelphia is geared more toward spending in free agency next year than making big moves now. But with tons of payroll space available—Philly has a mere $6.35 million on the books for 2018—and a dearth of under-30 players on the market, why not use some pieces from a good farm system to bring in a top young talent? There’s no guarantee that Harper, Machado, Donaldson or any of the other stars available next winter choose Philly, or that this year brings the Phillies any closer to the contention needed to lure them. Stanton would be a good safeguard against the former and a big step toward the latter.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>If there’s any one portion of the Phillies’ rebuild going to plan, it’s the outfield, where Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams are already in place and awaiting the arrival of Roman Quinn, Cornelius Randolph and former No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak, among others. The Phillies’ braintrust might decide to save their chips for upgrading the rotation and bullpen or trying to improve on Maikel Franco at third base.</p><h3>Cardinals</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>Despite the ability of St. Louis’ farm system to produce 20–30 outfielders who hit 25 home runs every single season, Stanton does fill a need. Both Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk stumbled last year, and while Tommy Pham was a revelation as a regular, the Cardinals could shift him to centerfield and <a href="http://m.mlb.com/news/article/261962872/dexter-fowler-might-move-out-of-center-field/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:move veteran Dexter Fowler to one corner" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">move veteran Dexter Fowler to one corner</a> with Stanton in the other.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>Stanton would be a cost expenditure the likes of which the Cardinals usually avoid. And while neither Grichuk nor Piscotty was any great shakes last year, both have impressive pedigrees and previous MLB success. St. Louis may decide that the cheaper course of action—hoping for better from that pair—is the safer course.</p><h3>Giants</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>No team needs Stanton more than the Giants, whose outfield is a disaster and whose offense was no better. San Francisco was dead last in the majors last year in home runs (128), slugging percentage (.380) and OPS+ (83). Giants outfielders combined—<em>combined</em>—to hit 38 homers last year, or 21 fewer than Stanton did by himself, and no one on the team even cracked the 20-homer plateau; Brandon Belt led them with 18, and his season ended in early August. The Giants could choose to lavish money on J.D. Martinez or Jay Bruce, but Stanton is a better hitter and a much better defender—an important consideration given AT&#38;T Park’s spacious pastures.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>The Giants’ payroll is already at its limit thanks to bad investments in Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon; last year’s team cost $182 million for 98 losses. The only long-term deal coming off the books next winter is Hunter Pence’s. Then there’s the matter of the farm system, which is more depleted than an Old West gold mine: Only one Giant, first baseman Chris Shaw, <a href="https://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/2017-midseason-top-100-prospects-july-7/#6tHprOjS5XsjAsBo.97" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:made Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list back in July" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">made <em>Baseball America</em>’s midseason top 100 list back in July</a>, and that was at No. 86. San Francisco will either have to try to entice the Marlins with the likes of a slightly used Joe Panik, or be forced to eat the majority of a contract it can’t afford.</p><h3>Rockies</h3><p><strong>Why Stanton Makes Sense: </strong>Just picture it: Giancarlo Stanton, clubbing baseballs 550 feet in the thin Colorado air, raining homers all over the greater Denver metropolitan area while Dinger cackles demonically behind home plate. The combo of Stanton and Coors Field is a science experiment gone horribly, beautifully wrong. There’s a legitimate chance Stanton could hit 50 home runs just in his home games. Anyone who doesn’t want to see this happen is a fool and a liar.</p><p><strong>Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: </strong>Forget payroll and prospects and need: This has to happen. If the Marlins are going to be obstinate enough to take the best player in their franchise history and throw him away to slash payroll so Jeets and company <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/09/04/derek-jeter-owner-miami-marlins-salary-cap" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:can make a profit at the expense of putting a quality product on the field" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">can make a profit at the expense of putting a quality product on the field</a>, then let’s at least get something objectively good out of it. I command Rob Manfred to make Giancarlo Stanton a Rockie, and reward us all with the single greatest power season in league history.</p>
Which Teams Are the Best Fits for Giancarlo Stanton?

Of all this offseason’s big storylines to follow, the saga of Giancarlo Stanton is perhaps the most open-ended one. Whether the Marlins will ship out the newly crowned NL MVP under new owner Derek Jeter is a fascinating question, but there are a lot of variables complicating the process. Jeter has yet to declare one way or another whether Miami will move Stanton. The big slugger has a full no-trade clause, as well as a $300 million contract that essentially functions as one. And while every team in baseball could use a home run-hitting behemoth like Stanton, it’s not clear who’s in the running for him.

So let’s simplify the process. Instead of trying to chart the endless and contradicting Stanton rumors like a man holding a weathervane in a hurricane, we’ll narrow the field down to the teams that present the best fit for MLB’s resident Atlas.

Note that I won’t attempt to put together offers for Stanton, as his combination of production (great!) and contract (onerous!) is confounding when it comes to creating fair trade value. Besides, who knows what the Marlins want in exchange, be it simply payroll space or a trio of top prospects.

Before we get to the favorites, let’s rule out the rest. Rebuilding squads won’t be in the running, so you can cross the Tigers, Reds, Athletics and Padres off the list. The White Sox and Braves are potential dark horses, seeing as how they have prospects to spare to offer up, but it’s hard to imagine Stanton approving a deal that sends him to a team that’s still a ways away from contention. Payroll limitations, meanwhile, eliminate the Rays, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Royals, Mariners, Mets, Brewers and Pirates.

As for the big-spending contenders: The Nationals will likely want to save money to throw at Bryce Harper next winter. The Diamondbacks already have a monster deal on the books with Zack Greinke’s contract and need to find room for a Paul Goldschmidt extension. The Astros are likely happy with the roster as is. The Angels gave Justin Upton a new big deal, so they’re set. The Cubs always have money to spend, but they’re spoken for in terms of hitters.

Then there are the Yankees and the Dodgers, who both have more than enough financial ability to make a deal happen. Neither team truly needs Stanton: The Yankees already have the prequel version of Stanton in Aaron Judge, while the Dodgers have lanky slugger Cody Bellinger; both squads have tough, young lineups that—most importantly—are very cost effective; and neither front office is all too keen to give up prospects. And both New York and Los Angeles are likely saving their pennies for the Harper and Manny Machado bidding wars coming next winter.

That leaves seven teams who make the most sense for a Stanton trade. Let’s break them down, one by one.

Red Sox

Why Stanton Makes Sense: Dave Dombrowski never filled the David Ortiz-sized hole in the lineup left by Big Papi’s retirement after the 2016 season, and it showed in last year’s results. Boston went from 208 homers and a league-high .461 slugging percentage in ’16 to 168 and .407, respectively, in ’17. Some of that was losing Ortiz, some of that was down years from the lineup, but it all added up to a deficit of power: Only three Red Sox topped 20 or more homers in a season where the ball flew out of the park with startling regularity. Stanton solves that problem and then some.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Unless the Red Sox successfully petition the league to add a fourth outfielder, they’re already set with Mookie Betts in right, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in left. All three are highly productive and rather cheap—an important factor for a team whose farm system is currently in a fallow period and won’t be producing much in the way of low-cost major league talent. Adding Stanton would require either subtracting one of those three, or plugging him in as the world’s most expensive DH—and why do that when J.D. Martinez is available for just money? Also, Boston is already on the hook for $158 million in salary commitments in 2018—and that’s before arbitration.

Blue Jays

Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Blue Jays went from an opposing pitcher’s house of horrors in 2015 and ’16 to a walk in the park last year. Toronto averaged just 4.3 runs per game in 2017, tied with Tampa for fifth-lowest in baseball, and posted a collective OPS+ of only 88—the equivalent of a lineup of Tommy Josephs. The Jays also got next to zero from the outfield corners: Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce were disasters in left, and the declining Jose Bautista hit .203/.308/.366 with only 23 homers in right. With Bautista leaving as a free agent, Stanton would patch up rightfield and bring back some thump to a lineup that’s lost Joey Bats and Edwin Encarnacion and is unlikely ever to see a healthy Troy Tulowitzki.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Do the Jays have the room to fit Stanton’s contract? They do on paper—Toronto spent just a shade under $200 million in payroll last season—but it would likely spell the end of Josh Donaldson’s time in Canada, as the hard-hitting third baseman is set to hit free agency after the 2018 season. That may make a Stanton deal more likely, as he could provide insurance should Donaldson walk, but it’s still a big gamble to take.

Rangers

Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Rangers’ offense was below average last year despite a staggering amount of homers—looking at you, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli. Stanton would be a much-needed source of stability in the middle of the lineup and would make an imposing power pair with Joey Gallo. And with Carlos Gomez hitting free agency, there’s a hole in the outfield he could fill.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: The Rangers have far bigger issues to address this offseason, starting with a bullpen that couldn’t be trusted and a rotation with no depth. As a result, Stanton is more of an unnecessary luxury than a top target. The Rangers’ farm system also isn’t very deep, offering more in the way of high-upside teenagers who are years away than ready-to-contribute prospects. Again, who knows what the Marlins want, but Texas may not have enough to make a competitive offer.

Phillies

Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Phillies are still rebuilding after last year’s stumble, and the plan in Philadelphia is geared more toward spending in free agency next year than making big moves now. But with tons of payroll space available—Philly has a mere $6.35 million on the books for 2018—and a dearth of under-30 players on the market, why not use some pieces from a good farm system to bring in a top young talent? There’s no guarantee that Harper, Machado, Donaldson or any of the other stars available next winter choose Philly, or that this year brings the Phillies any closer to the contention needed to lure them. Stanton would be a good safeguard against the former and a big step toward the latter.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: If there’s any one portion of the Phillies’ rebuild going to plan, it’s the outfield, where Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams are already in place and awaiting the arrival of Roman Quinn, Cornelius Randolph and former No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak, among others. The Phillies’ braintrust might decide to save their chips for upgrading the rotation and bullpen or trying to improve on Maikel Franco at third base.

Cardinals

Why Stanton Makes Sense: Despite the ability of St. Louis’ farm system to produce 20–30 outfielders who hit 25 home runs every single season, Stanton does fill a need. Both Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk stumbled last year, and while Tommy Pham was a revelation as a regular, the Cardinals could shift him to centerfield and move veteran Dexter Fowler to one corner with Stanton in the other.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Stanton would be a cost expenditure the likes of which the Cardinals usually avoid. And while neither Grichuk nor Piscotty was any great shakes last year, both have impressive pedigrees and previous MLB success. St. Louis may decide that the cheaper course of action—hoping for better from that pair—is the safer course.

Giants

Why Stanton Makes Sense: No team needs Stanton more than the Giants, whose outfield is a disaster and whose offense was no better. San Francisco was dead last in the majors last year in home runs (128), slugging percentage (.380) and OPS+ (83). Giants outfielders combined—combined—to hit 38 homers last year, or 21 fewer than Stanton did by himself, and no one on the team even cracked the 20-homer plateau; Brandon Belt led them with 18, and his season ended in early August. The Giants could choose to lavish money on J.D. Martinez or Jay Bruce, but Stanton is a better hitter and a much better defender—an important consideration given AT&T Park’s spacious pastures.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: The Giants’ payroll is already at its limit thanks to bad investments in Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon; last year’s team cost $182 million for 98 losses. The only long-term deal coming off the books next winter is Hunter Pence’s. Then there’s the matter of the farm system, which is more depleted than an Old West gold mine: Only one Giant, first baseman Chris Shaw, made Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list back in July, and that was at No. 86. San Francisco will either have to try to entice the Marlins with the likes of a slightly used Joe Panik, or be forced to eat the majority of a contract it can’t afford.

Rockies

Why Stanton Makes Sense: Just picture it: Giancarlo Stanton, clubbing baseballs 550 feet in the thin Colorado air, raining homers all over the greater Denver metropolitan area while Dinger cackles demonically behind home plate. The combo of Stanton and Coors Field is a science experiment gone horribly, beautifully wrong. There’s a legitimate chance Stanton could hit 50 home runs just in his home games. Anyone who doesn’t want to see this happen is a fool and a liar.

Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Forget payroll and prospects and need: This has to happen. If the Marlins are going to be obstinate enough to take the best player in their franchise history and throw him away to slash payroll so Jeets and company can make a profit at the expense of putting a quality product on the field, then let’s at least get something objectively good out of it. I command Rob Manfred to make Giancarlo Stanton a Rockie, and reward us all with the single greatest power season in league history.

<p>Nine-year-old Alayna Adams runs to see her father, Army Lt. Col. William Adams, before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lt. Col. Adams, who had been stationed in Afghanistan, surprised his wife and daughter. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara) </p>
Heartwarming military surprises

Nine-year-old Alayna Adams runs to see her father, Army Lt. Col. William Adams, before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lt. Col. Adams, who had been stationed in Afghanistan, surprised his wife and daughter. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

<p>The World Series champions are champions of technology, as well. Every team crunches numbers, but no team has been better at the practical application of data than the Houston Astros, especially on the pitching side.</p><p>Two years ago the Astros and the New York Yankees became the first teams to throw fewer than 50% fastballs. They knew the old pitching paradigm of “<em>establish your fastball down</em>” was broken. The modern hitter has adapted to the increase in velocity and, with the emphasis on hitting balls in the air, has a swing path geared toward the fastball down. This year the Indians, Rays and Angels joined Houston and New York in no longer believing fastballs should be thrown a majority of the time.</p><p>The data tell us that in particular the two-seam fastball/sinker is a dying pitch. It’s the easiest pitch to hit in baseball. Over the past three seasons the batting average on the pitch has been going up (.291, .293, .296) as well as the slugging percentage (.438, .452, .468).</p><p>Then, in the World Series, the Astros suddenly boosted their overall fastball percentage to 58%, with Brad Peacock (81%), Joe Musgrove (70), Justin Verlander (68) and Charlie Morton (67) leading the way, though they did so largely with high, hard fastballs. Maybe the slicker baseballs that pitchers complained about, particularly when throwing sliders, had something to do with the change. Sixth in MLB in slider usage during the regular season, the Astros decreased their slider percentage drastically in the World Series, from 19.6 to 12.8%.</p><p>Also, the matchup the Astros liked going into the World Series was their high-spin fastballs up in the zone against the Dodgers lineup. The Astros knew that the Dodgers, with so many hitters trying to launch balls in the air, were <em>the worst team in baseball</em> this year at hitting high fastballs (.204).</p><p>It wasn’t too long ago that the radar gun provided the only data point to evaluate pitching. Most of the evaluation was being done by scouts and pitching coaches based on what their eyes told them, which is how we came to accept phrases such as “good life on his fastball,” “the ball gets on you,” “12 to 6 curve,” “hides the ball well,” and so on. They were opinions, not facts.</p><p>Now we have actual data on how the ball moves and spins and how the pitcher releases the ball. The masters of the game no longer are those grizzled gurus with “an eye” for pitching, but the analysts who can interpret the data and combine it with a coach’s understanding of the craft.</p><p>Think about the role of Brian Bannister, Boston’s vice president of pitching development, an analyst/coaching job that didn’t exist two years ago. Bannister was about to start a private business based on pitching analytics, with centers around the country to provide data with “MRI level of precision” to train pitchers. Then the Red Sox called and asked him, “Can you do that for us?”</p><p>“In any industry where there is a disruptive technology, in this case Pitch FX and Trackman, it creates non-traditional roles, sometimes you don’t even expect,” he said. “I never expected to do this when I broke into the big leagues in 2006, but I saw an opportunity. At the major league level it’s always about competitive advantages and giving your players better information. The next wave is personalizing things for the players.”</p><p>The next wave is here.</p><p>Coaching in sports has changed dramatically. Golfers hire swing coaches who never played on the tour, but through technology have gained a deeper understanding of the golf swing than those who played it at the highest level. Major league hitters such as Justin Turner, Josh Donaldson, Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez have turned around their careers by seeking out hitting gurus who never played in the majors, but bring the same deep, analytical approach to hitting that swing coaches bring to pro golf.</p><p>The same fresh approach is an asset with pitching. Bannister, for instance, admits he failed as a big league pitcher in part because “I was a big trial and error guy. I eventually stumbled upon a lot of things that now I have a high level of confidence in, the things that make major league pitchers successful and allow them to stay successful, but my road was very rocky and I had a lot of failure.”</p><p>In Houston, pitching coach Brent Strom and manager A.J. Hinch have embraced new technology and thinking. Strom went 22–39 with three teams in his big league career. Hinch was a .219 hitter. Because they were not largely successful as players, they are not hidebound to “the way I did it”—the old school ways that no longer are as applicable in a changing modern game. They have the freedom to embrace new technology instead of relying on what worked for centuries: one generation passing on “the way I did it” to the next.</p><p>Let’s take four key pitchers as examples of how Houston has re-imagined pitching. Four times in the postseason Hinch let a reliever finish a game by getting 11 outs or more—the first time in any postseason a team had so many lengthy game-finishing outings. Those four outings were as many as managed by every other team combined in the previous 26 postseasons.</p><p>What’s so interesting is that a different pitcher made each one, and the rise of each pitcher helps tell the story about how Houston has applied personalized data to pitching:</p><p><strong>1. Collin McHugh (ALCS Game 3):</strong> McHugh was 0–8 with an 8.94 ERA when the Astros signed him after the 2013 season as a free agent. McHugh was failing in the traditional ways: the majority of his pitches were fastballs, including many hittable sinkers.</p><p>Despite the awful traditional stats, Houston liked McHugh because of the high spin rate on his curveball. The club figured McHugh should be throwing more breaking balls and fewer fastballs. He virtually eliminated the sinker (high fastballs work better in tandem with curveballs, because they work off the same “tunnel,” creating deception) and added a slider. The result: a guy who never won a game before is 48–28 since joining Houston, the 11th best winning percentage (.632) among starters over these past four seasons.</p><p><strong>2. Lance McCullers (ALCS Game 7):</strong> The idea of throwing just 41% fastballs would have been heretical just five years ago. But McCullers did just that this year (sixth lowest among conventional pitchers) and thrived because his curveball is extraordinary. No other starter throws a curveball with a higher spin rate or at a greater velocity than does McCullers. Moreover, his fastball command is average at best, so why not throw more curveballs? He famously closed out the ALCS with 24 straight curveballs.</p><p><strong>3. Brad Peacock (World Series Game 3):</strong> His place in the game was so tenuous this spring that Peacock told his wife that he wasn’t sure if he could make the club and was prepared to go find work pitching in Japan.</p><p>Thinking this might be his last shot, Peacock came to camp in better shape, and his pitches were crisper. The Astros also saw that Peacock had one of the highest spin rates on a slider (fourth highest among pitchers who threw at least 500 sliders), so they encouraged him to throw it more often—leading to career-high usage of 36%, which led to a career year (13–2, 3.00).</p><p>But it was his fastball that Houston liked against the flyball-hitting Dodgers. Peacock throws his fastball from an abnormally low release point—barely more than five feet off the ground. The normal release point is about the same height as the pitcher. Peacock is 6’ 1”.</p><p>Because of his long stride and because he has a low three-quarters delivery, Peacock “confuses” hitters with the angle he creates on his fastball. The ball seems to be “traveling up” to the hitters (it’s actually just dropping less than they expect), and they can’t get on top of it.</p><p>It’s the same illusion that works for Boston closer Craig Kimbrel. Peacock is a junior version of Kimbrel. That’s why the Dodgers hit .174 against Peacock’s fastballs in the World Series (4-for-23).</p><p><strong>4. Charlie Morton (ALCS Game 7)</strong>: Many critics scoffed when the Astros quickly gave $14 million over two years to Morton, a free agent sinkerball pitcher with a 46–71 record, a long injury history and major problems against lefthanded hitters. The Astros knew, however, that Morton had one of the highest curveball spin rates and above-average velocity. In their estimation, he was throwing too many sinkers (62% in his last full season, with Pittsburgh in 2015) and not enough curveballs, especially to lefthanded hitters.</p><p>The change in Morton in Houston was dramatic. A career-high 29% curveballs led to a career season (14–7, 3.62). The biggest improvement came against lefthanded hitters. By increasing his curveball percentage to lefties compared to 2015 (25 to 35%) he eliminated his biggest weakness (the batting average by lefties against him dropped from .301 to .175).</p><p>With Houston, Morton transformed from a non-descript journeyman to a World Series star. He became only the fourth pitcher to win the seventh game of the World Series with at least four innings of game-ending relief, earning a place in history next to Bob Turley (1958), Joe Page (1947) and Walter Johnson (1924).</p><p>His turnaround is so stunning that it begs the question: who is the next Charlie Morton? Why can’t another club, using technology and data available today, identify better things in mediocre pitchers such as Morton, McHugh and Peacock?</p><p>First, a disclaimer: Morton’s turnaround is not so simple as just throwing more high-spin curveballs. It’s a metamorphosis that began in late 2015 when he decided to throw harder instead of pitching to contact. It continued that winter when, with former Pirates pitcher and current Dodger Tony Watson as his workout partner, Morton revamped his diet and training regimen, which led him to losing 15 pounds and helped him gain speed and flexibility in his delivery. Extra fuel came from the disappointment he felt by pitching poorly against St. Louis in a key game down the stretch for the Pirates. “I let everybody down,” he said.</p><p>So it’s a recipe with many ingredients, not just one.</p><p>But let’s start with the main ingredients to find the next Charlie Morton: an underachieving pitcher with high-spin rates who is not using his pitches in proper proportion, who suffers from serious platoon splits, and who is stuck in the old “fastball-first” paradigm.</p><p>Here are the three pitchers who could be breakout stars next season—the next Charlie Morton.</p><p><strong>1. Chris Stratton, 27, Giants.</strong></p><p><strong>The pitcher</strong>: A former 2012 first-round pick, Stratton finally made an imprint in the big leagues last season. In his final eight starts he went 4­2 with a 2.27 ERA. He’s ticketed to be in the mix for the No. 5 spot in the San Francisco rotation next year.</p><p><strong>The problem: </strong>Stratton has a mediocre four-seam fastball (91.8 mph) and, if you lower the bar to 100 curveballs thrown, the fastest-spinning curveball in baseball (3,105 rpm). Batters hit .292 against his fastball, but only .100 against his curveball. But he’s stuck in an old-school way of pitching: 61% fastballs and only 18% curves.</p><p><strong>The symptoms:</strong> Lefthanded hitters crushed Stratton, lighting him up for a .811 OPS, while he held righthanded hitters to a .670 OPS. Stratton throws his curveball even less often to lefties (17%) than to righties (21).</p><p><strong>The mechanics:</strong> They need work. Stratton has poor arm deceleration, meaning his arm and hand brake too soon after release. He can improve velocity by working on better deceleration. He also can throw harder by driving his head and torso more toward the plate; he has a tendency to drift toward the first-base side of the mound while releasing the ball. Bottom line: there’s more in there.</p><p><strong>How to get Morton-ized: </strong>Increase curveball percentage to lefthanded hitters, work the high fastball/curveball tunnel more often, and tighten mechanics.</p><p><strong>2. Chad Kuhl, 25, Pittsburgh Pirates</strong></p><p><strong>The pitcher:</strong> A 2013 ninth-round pick out of Delaware, Kuhl learned the sinker while in the Pittsburgh minor league system—the Pirates and Cardinals love the sinker - and that pitch got him to the big leagues. He has added ridiculous velocity. In four games last year he hit 100 mph <em>with his sinker</em>!</p><p>Alas, after 45 big league starts, Kuhl is a good athlete with a power arm but a mediocre record: 13–15 with a 4.30 ERA.</p><p><strong>The problem:</strong> Kuhl is trying to win in the big leagues as a sinker/slider pitcher. That was a great idea in the 90s; not so much now, especially since his fastball command can be spotty.</p><p>The parallels to Morton are almost uncanny. Kuhl’s exceptional spin rate on his curve (2,877) is almost identical to that of Morton (2,877). His average fastball velocity (95.6) is almost identical to Morton’s heater (95.7).</p><p><strong>The symptoms:</strong> Lefties crush Kuhl (.893 OPS, fifth worst in baseball) because he doesn’t throw his curveball enough to them (7%). In fairness, Kuhl didn’t start throwing his knuckle-curve until late May, so confidence in the pitch may be lacking.</p><p><strong>The mechanics:</strong> Terrific. His arm deceleration is among the best you can find. He’s a great athlete who repeats his mechanics well. Like some sinkerball pitchers, however, to “get on top” of the sinker he throws it with a release point two inches higher than his other pitches. Ideally, you want every pitch coming out of the same spot, so as not to give a hitter any early indication of what’s coming.</p><p><strong>How to get Morton-ized:</strong> Trust the knuckle-curve more against lefthanders. Embrace the four-seam fastball up in the zone. De-emphasize the power sinker down.</p><p><strong>3. Tyler Chatwood, 27, Rockies</strong></p><p><strong>The pitcher:</strong> He reached the big leagues just three years after the Angels drafted him out of high school in 2008. He has undergone two Tommy John surgeries and largely been mediocre: 40–46 with a 4.31 ERA. He led the league in losses last year (15).</p><p><strong>The problem:</strong> Coors Field, for one. It’s hard to judge any pitcher in that ballpark. Chatwood suffered a 6.01 ERA at home, with a .302 average against, but posted a 3.49 mark on the road, with a .200 average against.</p><p>Chatwood has an extreme high-spinning curveball (2,980) but doesn’t use it much. He relies mostly on fastball and sliders. His two- and four-seam fastballs have above-average velocity (94-95 mph), but they get hit.</p><p><strong>The symptoms:</strong> He’s too fastball dependent. The data:</p><p>Chatwood threw 177 curveballs to lefthanded hitters—<em>and gave up just two hits!</em> Lefties batted .063 against his hook, but he threw it only 13% of the time. Denver’s altitude is notorious for taking the bite out of curveballs, so his home park could be leading him away from a pitch that’s been successful.</p><p><strong>The mechanics:</strong> Don’t try this at home. Chatwood, a short righthander (6-feet), keeps his hands away from his body, pulls the ball out of his glove early, pulls his elbow behind the line of his shoulders and raises the elbow higher than the shoulder before the ball rotates up—and that’s all before he gets the baseball in the loaded position. He throws over the top, but because of a long stride and an extreme bend of the front knee, actually has a low release point in terms of height off the ground.</p><p><strong>How to get Morton-ized</strong>: Get out of Denver. Short of that, reduce fastball percentage and increase curveball percentage, especially to lefthanded hitters.</p><p><strong>Honorable mentions:</strong> Pirates righthander Trevor Williams, 25, who because of freakish extension has the second-highest difference between effective and actual velocity on his four-seam fastball (Jacob deGrom is first); Twins reliever Ryan Pressly, 28, who throws 96 and also has a ridiculous curveball spin rate (3,083), but has mechanical issues because of forearm flyout (the ball when loaded is too far from his head); and Rays reliever Austin Pruitt, 28, a strike-thrower and converted starter with a high-spin hook (2,946) and overhand delivery who needs a tick or two on his mediocre four-seam fastball (91.8).</p><p>One of the most underrated factors in a ballplayers’ development is environment. Nolan Arenado hits in the same batting practice group as Troy Tulowitzki in Denver, and adopts the same foot shuffle in his setup. CC Sabathia extended his career with the cut fastball he learned from Andy Pettitte. After he was traded from Baltimore to Chicago, Jake Arrieta inherited a former crossfire pitcher as a pitching coach, Chris Bosio, who encourages a return to throwing across his body.</p><p>In Houston, Morton, who had always been interested in analytics, found the right place to emphasize his curveball. Stratton, Kuhl and Chatwood all pitch for organizations that largely work off the old paradigm of “fastball first.” If you include cut fastballs, the Rockies, Pirates and Giants ranked 5-6-8 in the highest percentage of fastballs thrown.</p><p>Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill tells the story of the day in 2015 when he had a conversation with Bannister in Pawtucket, where Hill was pitching in Triple-A at age 35. Bannister told Hill his high-spinning curveball was so good that he could throw it 50% of the time. Hill had been around pro ball 14 years and never heard such a thing. When Hill came home, his wife immediately saw the excitement on his face. “You’ve had a creative explosion,” she told him.</p><p>Since then, Hill is 24–13 in the majors and signed contracts worth $83 million.</p><p>Bannister also helped turn around the career of Joe Kelly, who was raised in the Cardinals system as a traditional sinkerball pitcher despite having a high-spin breaking ball and elite velocity. Bannister encouraged Kelly at the end of the 2016 season to emphasize his four-seam fastball, not his sinker. Kelly also changed his arm swing so as not to pull his arm behind the line of his shoulders. Kelly, 29, began this year with a career 3.93 ERA, but re-born as a power reliever he posted his best season (2.79 ERA, 3.49 FIP).</p><p>Many more will follow the likes of McHugh, Peacock, Morton, Hill and Kelly. There will be more as organizations accept this teaching in which data is not just collected, but also applied in highly personalized ways. Morton gave this revolution the high profile moment to scale it up. In ending the World Series, he started a movement. </p>