Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay

Ranking the rotations: 2012 edition

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Last year’s attempt was quite a hit, so let’s try it again, with a somewhat different methodology. Here’s how the 30 rotations stack up, according to my projections. I’ll go strictly by ERA here, taking the top five pitchers on the staff. Along with the ERA totals are the combined inning projections for the five starters.

1. Phillies: 3.39 (1001 1/3)
2. Cardinals: 3.648 (942 1/3)
3. Giants: 3.649 (994)
4. Angels: 3.68 (990 2/3)
5. Rays: 3.69 (995 2/3)
6. Nationals: 3.70 (908 2/3)
7. Red Sox: 3.70 (869)
8. Braves: 3.71 (974 1/3)
9. Marlins: 3.74 (953 1/3)
10. Dodgers: 3.77 (927 2/3)
11. Brewers: 3.81 (952 1/3)
12. Tigers: 3.83 (939)
13. Yankees: 3.89 (991)
14. Mariners: 3.93 (923 2/3)
15. Diamondbacks: 3.93 (991 1/3)
16. Reds: 3.94 (916 1/3)
17. Padres: 3.97 (863 1/3)
18. Rangers: 3.98 (951 2/3)
19. White Sox: 4.04 (860)
20. Athletics: 4.07 (800)
21. Cubs: 4.08 (967 1/3)
22. Mets: 4.08 (926)
23. Blue Jays: 4.10 (880 2/3)
24. Indians: 4.12 (942)
25. Pirates: 4.18 (820 1/3)
26. Rockies: 4.24 (818)
27. Astros: 4.24 (953)
28. Twins: 4.28 (900)
29. Royals: 4.32 (890 2/3)
30. Orioles: 4.36 (915 1/3)

Of course, there’s no factoring for league and ballpark there. There’s also no accounting for depth beyond the top five. So, while the Rays come in ever so slightly behind the Angels here, the quality of the Rays’ sixth and seventh starters would push them ahead in a subjective ranking. In fact, let’s do a more subjective ranking:

1. Phillies
2. Rays
3. Angels
4. Giants
5. Cardinals
6. Braves
7. Yankees
8. Tigers
9. Rangers
10. Red Sox
11. Marlins
12. Brewers
13. Nationals
14. Diamondbacks
15. Dodgers
16. Reds
17. Mariners
18. Indians
19. White Sox
20. Cubs
21. Blue Jays
22. Mets
23. Rockies
24. Padres
25. Athletics
26. Orioles
27. Pirates
28. Twins
29. Royals
30. Astros

The top five was pretty easy, but six through 12 was a mess. I have the Red Sox with a nice ERA, but that’s partly because of a generous Daniel Bard projection (3.53 ERA in 155 1/3 IP) and because I don’t have them with a certain fifth starter dragging them down (right now it’s Vicente Padilla with a 4.31 ERA in 131 2/3 IP). So, they drop here. The Nationals are kind of in the same boat, since their best starter, Stephen Strasburg, is projected to throw 168 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rangers, both getting held back by their ballparks in the ERA projections, rise here. The Rangers certainly come with some risk — I have Yu Darvish and Nettali Feliz finishing with the best ERAs on the staff — but they also have more depth than most. The Yankees also get bonus points for having seven major league starters.

I’m sure fans of teams at the bottom will be annoyed. Kansas City’s rotation actually looks better than it has in years, and the Orioles at least have some upside after importing a couple of NPB pitchers to battle their youngsters. As for the Twins, well, I really don’t think much of Jason Marquis or Nick Blackburn. The Padres are getting dinged because I’m not sure any of their starters are a good bet to throw 190-200 innings.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.