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The Panic Index: The Red Sox, Giants, Rays and Brewers

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Panic on the streets of Boston … St. Pete, Frisco and Milwaukee …

OK, fine, so the Smiths sang about panic better than I can, but the “oh noes!” quotient is pretty high among some fans this morning. Fans who, it seems, forgot that baseball is not football and three or four games don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but their pain is real even if it’s not entirely rational.

Or is it?  Based on random comments, emails and tweets, fans of four teams seem to be most concerned on this fine day. Let’s see if they’re taking to their fainting couches prematurely or if they really do have something to worry about. Let’s rate the panic on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that you’re just mad about Saffron, and ten meaning that it’s time for fans to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside:

Red Sox: Yeah, it was an ugly weekend with the pitching staff serving up meatballs, but I really do think this is just a blip. The Sox are not the first team to leave The Ballpark with an ugly ERA and they won’t be the last. The Rangers are good. Everyone is healthy. The 1998 Yankees began the season 0-3 and they somehow found 114 wins lying around over the next six months, so there’s no reason to push the panic button in Beantown. Panic Index: 3

Giants: Yeah, the chalk outline of Aubrey Huff in right was funny, but with the way he’s flopped around out there I’m worried for his safety, be it from going into a wall Bump Bailey-style or be it from his pitching staff murdering him. The defense is a huge problem for San Francisco. Perhaps a bigger problem than we assumed this spring. Still, Cody Ross will be back soon, moving Huff to left, and you can’t really get down on a team with this kind of pitching. Panic Index: 5

Brewers: Eh, hard to say if it’s panic time yet. The Reds are good. Milwaukee should have won that Opening Day game. Zack Greinke will come back and restore order. But the defense, while not as spectacularly shaky as the Giants was this weekend, was bad, and Randy Wolf made everyone flash back to the Brewers’ pitching struggles in 2010.  Panic Index: 6

Rays: This is a problem. No, not the anemic showing against the Orioles as such — Chris Tillman and Zach Britton are going to make a lot of guys look bad over the next few years — but because of the injuries. Evan Longoria could be on the shelf for three weeks if you believe Joe Maddon, and Johnny Damon — a guy whose primary value at this point is his dependability — is hurting only two games into this thing.  For the Rays to have a hope at being relevant, everything needs to go their way. They need to get the breaks. Losing their best player and their starting left fielder is not something they need. Panic Index: 8

So there you have it.  Knowing these things won’t prevent you from panicking, of course, but at least you now know how rational your panic truly is. And knowing is half the battle.

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

Brandon Belt
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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.