Mets, Mariners among Smoltz's early suitors

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A source told FOXSports.com that the Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, Mariners, Astros, Rangers and Orioles have expressed early interest in free agent John Smoltz.
That there are three AL clubs in the group of seven teams is a bit of a surprise. It figured that the interest in Smoltz would be mostly concentrated among NL teams, given that Smoltz went 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox last season. He was 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in seven starts for St. Louis.
The report indicates that Smoltz is open to the possibility of returning to closing duties next year. That may just be an effort to give him more bargaining power, though. Smoltz has always preferred starting, and he seems more likely to hold up physically working every five or six days than he would given a reliever’s workload. Plus, it’s a lot easier to sneak in a round of golf when you know exactly when you’ll be pitching.
So, while Smoltz will weigh all offers, his best chance of adding to his Cooperstown resume would come as a starter in the National League. A return to St. Louis would make a lot of sense, given pitching coach Dave Duncan’s track record with veteran starters. The Dodgers, Cubs and Brewers could use him as well.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves