Wilson Opening Day

The HardballTalk Season Preview

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Opening Day is upon us.  Well, one of them anyway. We had one in Japan last week. And then the Cardinals-Marlins game and then more staggered Opening Days across Thursday and Friday. It’s all a conspiracy, you know. The red, white and blue decorative bunting industry and its high-powered lobbyists are what made that happen. More “Opening Days” means more of those banners and that means more money for Big Bunting. Alas.

But baseball is back, and that’s good. And to hold you over until the Cardinals and Marlins face off, here are links to all 30 of HardballTalk’s Springtime Storyline posts.  Read all of these and you’ll be able to talk intelligently about every team in the game.

Unless the predictions are all wrong, of course. In which case this will still be useful as a quick-reference for our collective ignorance and folly.  We believe, however, that we did a pretty darn good job with these.

AL EAST

Are the Yankees the best team in baseball?

Does anyone remember that the Boston Red Sox were really good last year?

Do the Tampa Bay Rays have the best rotation in baseball?

Have Toronto Blue Jays brought in enough help for Jose Bautista?

Can Dan Duquette lead the Orioles out of the wildnerness?

 

AL CENTRAL

Can anyone in the AL Central beat the Detroit Tigers?

Will the Cleveland Indians build on last season or take a step backward?

Are the Kansas City Royals finally ready to contend?

Are the Chicago White Sox rebuilding or contending?

Can the Minnesota Twins get back on track after 99 losses?

 

AL WEST

Can the Rangers win the AL once again?

Did the Angels buy themselves the A.L. West?

Who are the Oakland Athletics?

Can the Seattle Mariners score any runs?

 

NL EAST

Are the Phillies still a juggernaut?

Will standing pat get the Braves back to the playoffs?

Are the Marlins the most interesting team in baseball?

Are the Nationals ready to contend?

 How long will the Mets spend in baseball purgatory?

 

NL CENTRAL

Will the St. Louis Cardinals survive the loss of three legends?

Is there life after Prince Fielder in baseball’s smallest market?

Have the Reds built themselves a World Series contender?

Are the Pittsburgh Pirates getting any closer to breaking .500?

How will year one of the Cubs’ rebuilding plan fly in The Friendly Confines?

What will the Astros’ final year in the National League look like?

 

NL WEST

Was 2011 a fluke for the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Are the San Francisco Giants going to give Brandon Belt a chance?

Will the Rockies make us all look like suckers again?

How long until new ownership puts the magic back in the Los Angeles Dodgers?

What did the Mat Latos deal do for the San Diego Padres?

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.