Link-O-Rama: Lester or Beckett in Game 1?

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* Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox will likely start Jon Lester in Game 1 of the ALDS, followed by Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Beckett was MVP of the World Series in 2003 and MVP of the ALCS in 2007, and has a sparkling 7-2 record and 2.90 ERA in 87 postseason innings. Then again, Lester has been the Red Sox’s best pitcher this season and has a 2.25 ERA in 36 postseason innings himself. Can’t go wrong either way, really.
* On a related note, Brad Penny turned in another strong start last night, holding the Cubs to one run over eight innings. Penny and John Smoltz now have a combined 3.24 ERA in 11 starts back in the NL after going 9-13 with a 6.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox. Helluva league, that NL.
* After a decade with the Orioles and the 10th-most games in franchise history, Melvin Mora is preparing for life away from Baltimore once his $8 million option for 2010 gets declined. Mora was a 28-year-old utility man when the Orioles got him from the Mets as part of the haul for Mike Bordick in mid-2000, but since then he’s been one of the best third basemen in the league while making two All-Star teams and hitting 158 homers.
* David Brown of Yahoo! Sports did a great interview with Denard Span, who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the league after once looking like a bust.
* Brandon Webb reiterated yesterday that he’s not interesting in an incentive-laden contract, so if the Diamondbacks want to keep him from becoming a free agent they’ll need to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2010. “I’ve got to go out and see what’s best for me,” Webb said. “I think I can get [$8.5 million] anywhere I want.” And he’s probably right.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.