Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chicago Cubs 2020 Season Preview



From ESPN
           It is hard to imagine having a great shot at a wild card spot, then going 2-8 in your last ten games, missing the playoffs by five games, not bringing back your manager and having your entire team on the trade block. It may seem excessive, but it was not a fun September-October for Cubs fans. Expecting a busy offseason that could see the core get split up, the Cubs were relatively quiet, waiting until after the new year to make their first major league signing. They still have a talented lineup, but the rotation is aging and the bullpen does not look strong. It could be another heartbreak year for the Cubs.

            Offseason additions: OF Steven Souza Jr., RHP Jeremy Jeffress, 2B Jason Kipnis, RHP Ryan Tepera, RHP Dan Winkler, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP Jharel Cotton, RHP Jason Adam, LHP Tyler Olson, C Josh Phegley, IF Hernan Perez, IF Carlos Asuaje, IF Corban Joseph.

            Offseason subtractions: OF Nicholas Castellanos, LHP Cole Hamels, IF Addison Russell, RHP Pedro Strop, UT Ben Zobrist, UT Tony Kemp, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP Steve Cishek, C Jonathan Lucroy.

             Rotation
The Cubs enter 2020 with a rotation of 30+ year olds who are no longer stars. The ace figures to be Kyle Hendricks, Who had a 3.46 ERA but struck out only 150 batters in 177 innings. It was the second worst ERA of his career. At age 30, he is Chicago's youngest starter. Yu Darvish's second season in Chicago since he signed a big contract wasn't as bad, as he made 31 starts and struck out 229 batters in 178.2 innings. Still, he had a 3.98 ERA, disappointing compared to previous seasons. Jon Lester has alternated between good and bad seasons the last four years. That is good news for Cubs fans, because he had a 4.46 ERA while allowing a league leading 205 hits in 171.2 innings. His 1.497 WHIP was his worst since his rookie season of 2006. Jose Quintana has been a giant letdown after being acquired from the White Sox for budding star Eloy Jimenez and more. His 4.68 ERA in 2019 was a career worst, and he allowed 10.1 hits per nine innings. In two and a half seasons for the Cubs Quintana has a 4.23 ERA after posting a 3.51 ERA in nine seasons for the other Chicago team. Tyler Chatwood will compete for a rotation spot after a decent season as a swingman. In 38 games (five starts) Chatwood had a 3.76 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. 25 year old Adbert Alzolay debuted late last year, posting a 7.30 ERA with 13 Ks in 12.1 innings.

              Bullpen
The Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel midseason to give their bullpen a boost. He could be the only lock to make the bullpen. The seven time all-star struggled when he finally arrived in June, posting a 6.53 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 13 saves in 20.1 innings. He lost all four of his decisions. Lefty Kyle Ryan made 73 appearances, striking out 58 in 61 innings with a 126 ERA+. Rowan Wick posted an impressive 2.43 ERA over 31 games, with a 9.5 K/9 ratio. Lefty Brad Wieck, acquired midseason from San Diego, had heart surgery a few days ago. It is unclear whether he will be healthy for Opening Day. Wieck struck out 18 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings post-trade. Jeremy Jeffress was an all-star in 2018, finishing the season with a 1.29 ERA in Milwaukee. However, he had a terrible 2019 with a 5.02 ERA and his K/9 ratio went down by 2.4. Ryan Tepera also had a decent 2018, but not as good as Jeffress'. For Toronto last year, Tepera played in just 23 games, posting a weak 4.98 ERA. His K/9 went from 9.5 to 5.8, a drastic change. Another Blue Jay last year, Jason Adam, was impressive down the stretch, with a 2.91 ERA in 23 games. Alec Mills is in play for the 5th rotation spot. In nine games (four starts) Mills struck out 42 batters in 36 innings with a 2.75 ERA. Dan Winkler is another play with a strong 2018 and weak 2019. He had a 3.43 2018 ERA, and like Tepera, had a 2019 ERA of 4.98. He has a career 10.3 K/9.

                 Catchers
There were some trade rumors regarding Willson Contreras during the offseason. They did not make much sense, as there is not a good reason for the Cubs to trade Contreras. Contreras has been an all-star in two straight seasons, hitting a career high 24 home runs with an .888 OPS in 2019. The Cubs picked up Martin Maldonado and then Jonathan Lucroy last year to play when Contreras got hurt twice. However, backup Victor Caratini had career highs in home runs (11), batting average (.266) and OPS (.794).

                 Infielders
First baseman Anthony Rizzo had his option picked up. A three time all-star and Gold Glover, Rizzo has hit at least 23 home runs in seven consecutive seasons. He hit .293 with a .924 OPS in 2019. The former was a career high and the latter was very close to being one. The second base race is wide open. Jason Kipnis is in camp as a non-roster invitee. A nine year veteran in Cleveland, Kipnis hit 17 home runs last year, seven stolen bases and a .245 average. If he makes the team then the team will likely lose a player that they won't want to. That could be Daniel Descalso, a veteran presence who can play all around the infield. His offense in 2019 suggests that it is best for the club to DFA him. He had a .173 batting average, .250 slugging percentage and a .521 OPS in 82 games last year. David Bote can also play around the infield. Bote hit 11 home runs with five stolen bases and a .785 OPS for the Cubs. Javier Baez is a star, and will be on the cover of MLB the Show 20. Baez hit 29 home runs and stole 11 bases with a .281 batting average and an .847 OPS, which were all drop-offs from 2018. Third baseman Kris Bryant lost a grievance case in the offseason, meaning he will be a free agent after 2021. Bryant, who was also reportedly in play for a trade, made the all-star team for the first time since his MVP season of 2016. Bryant hit 31 home runs with a .282 average and a .903 OPS. Top prospect Nico Hoerner could start the season in AAA. He hit three home runs with a .282 average in a 20 game trial last year.

                 Outfielders
Kyle Schwarber had his best offensive season yet, hitting 38 home runs with an OPS of .871. His 156 strikeouts were a career high, but it is fine because he had 100 more Plate Appearances than he had in 2018, when he struck out 140 times. Five time Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward hit 21 home runs, his most since 2012. His .772 OPS was his best as a Cub. Steven Souza Jr. signed with the team. He hit 30 home runs in 2017 with the Rays, but was traded after the season. He played in 72 games in the two years since, all coming in 2018. He has a .740 OPS in his career. Albert Almora hit a career high 12 home runs, but his .236 average was a 50 point drop-off from 2018, and his .651 OPS was a career low by 50 points as well. Ian Happ had a career high .898 OPS in a career low 58 games. A 24 home run hitter in 2017, Happ hit 11 in 2019, for a 160 game pace of 30.

                  Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Jason Heyward (L)
SS Javier Baez (R)
1B Anthony Rizzo (L)
3B Kris Bryant (R)
LF Kyle Schwarber (L)
C Willson Contreras (R)
CF Ian Happ (S)
2B Jason Kipnis (L)
Pitcher

                   Projected Rotation
Kyle Hendricks (R)
Yu Darvish (R)
Jon Lester (L)
Jose Quintana (L)
Tyler Chatwood (R)

                   Projected Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel, closer (R)
Kyle Ryan (L)
Rowan Wick (R)
Jeremy Jeffress (R)
Brad Wieck (L)
Ryan Tepera (R)
Jason Adam (R)
Alec Mills (R)

                  Projected Bench
C Victor Caratini (S)
OF Albert Almora (R)
OF Steven Souza Jr. (R)
IF David Bote (R)
IF Daniel Descalso (L)

                  Prediction
The Cubs are getting older. The team is virtually the same as it was last year. The Reds have been upgrading like crazy this offseason. All of these things point towards a decline in 2020. The Cubs will finish 4th in the NL Central, missing the playoffs.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Boston Red Sox 2020 Season Preview



          A World Series hangover is not a real thing. Well, tell that to Red Sox fans. The team was dominant in 2018, leading to a World Championship. However, the team started off slow in 2019 and could never get it going fully, leading to an 84-78 season, finishing third in the AL East, missing the playoffs. They fired GM Dave Dombrowski mid-season, and due to his involvement in the Astros' cheating scandal, Alex Cora was gone in the offseason. Even worse, when payroll issues became apparent, new head of the front office Chaim Bloom was forced to trade away 2018 MVP winner Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, with former Cy Young winner David Price going with him. Now with Bloom and interim manager Ron Roenicke in charge, in will be very different in Boston, with the expectations lower.

          Offseason additions: OF Alex Verdugo, OF Kevin Pillar, IF Jose Peraza, C Kevin Plawecki, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Austin Brice, LHP Jeffrey Springs, RHP Phillips Valdez, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Trevor Hildenberger, 1B Tommy Joseph, OF Cesar Puello, LHP Matt Hall.

          Offseason subtractions: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price, RHP Rick Porcello, IF Brock Holt, RHP Andrew Cashner, C Sandy Leon, RHP Travis Lakins, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, IF Chris Owings, 1B Steve Pearce, 1B Sam Travis, OF Gorkys Hernandez.

          Rotation
Chris Sale had an injury riddled 2019, but when he was healthy, the results weren't there. He had a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts, about a full run higher than his previous career worst 3.41 ERA. However, he continued to strike out batters at an enormous rate. He K'd 218 batters in 147.1 innings. He did not receive any Cy Young votes. He had been top six in Cy Young voting every year since 2011, when he was still a reliever. He will start the year on the IL due to an illness. Eduardo Rodriguez had a career best 3.81 ERA, 213 strikeouts and 203.1 innings. However, he also walked a league leading 75 batters. Nathan Eovaldi was a postseason hero in 2018, but he had a 5.99 ERA in 23 games (12 starts). The Red Sox tried to use him as a closer, but it didn't work, and he never recorded a save. His 70 strikeouts in 67.2 innings led to a career high 9.3 K/9. The Red Sox will need him to go back to 2018 form. The Red Sox signed Martin Perez to a one year deal. A 28-year-old lefty with eight seasons under his belt, Perez hasn't had an ERA under 4.50 since 2016. For the Twins last season Perez had a 5.12 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 165.1 innings. It was a career high for him in Ks. 28 year old Ryan Weber could be the fifth starter or opener if the Red Sox go that way. In 18 games (three starts), Weber had a 5.09 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 40.2 innings.

            Bullpen
Brandon Workman was a solid reliever prior to 2019, but became Boston's closer last year. He struck out 104 batters over 71.2 innings with 16 saves and a 1.88 ERA. With Craig Kimbrel gone the Red Sox needed him badly last year. After Ryan Brasier was a success story and posted a 1.60 ERA in 2018, he struggled in 2019 and ended up back in the minors. The righty had a 4.85 ERA with 61 Ks in 55.2 innings with seven saves. Matt Barnes has never had an ERA under 3.00 in a season, with 3.78 in 2019 being very close to his career high. He has appeared in at least 62 games in four straight seasons. He struck out 110 batters in 64.1 innings in 2019. 30-year-old Marcus Walden, in his first full season, had a 3.81 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 78 innings over 70 games. Righty Heath Hembree has already been on the team for six years. He struck out 46 with a 125 ERA+ in 39.2 innings last season. In his rookie season Josh Taylor had a 3.04 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. He had a 159 ERA+. 23 year old lefty prospect Darwinzon Hernandez made his debut last year, striking out 57 batters in 30.1 innings. Colten Brewer had a respectable 4.12 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 54.2 innings. Hector Velazquez has starting experience, so he can be an appealing option. He was good in his first two seasons, but was terrible in 2019, with a 5.43 ERA in 56.1 innings.

              Catchers
A big surprise for the Red Sox last year was light hitting catcher Christian Vazquez's breakout season. He hit 23 home runs, raising his career high by 18. He also hit ..276 with a .798 OPS. It was his first season with an OPS+ over 100, at 103. Two thirds of the Red Sox old three catcher tandem are gone, with Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon leaving in the last year. Kevin Plawecki is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. The former Met and Indian has hit 17 homers with 92 RBIs and a .636 OPS in his 296 game career. Former all-star Jonathan Lucroy is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He has played for six teams since the start of 2016. He hit eight home runs with a .660 OPS for the Angels and Cubs last year.

              Infielders
Mitch Moreland is back for his 4th season in Boston. His .835 OPS last year was a career high. He has hit 56 home runs with a .782 OPS in his three years for the Red Sox. He will likely platoon with Michael Chavis, a sophomore who was originally a third baseman but can play first and second as well. The "Ice Horse" hit 18 home runs last year, and got off to a hot start with 15 homers in 69 games, but struggled in the second half, playing in just 26 games, with a .649 OPS. He can take some playing time from speedy second baseman Jose Peraza, signed from the Reds. Peraza stole 67 bases from 2016-18, but stole just seven bases last year, with six home runs and a .631 OPS. He had a .288 batting average in 2018 and a .742 OPS. The left side of the infield is where things get good. Former top prospect Xander Bogaerts finally broke out in his age 26 season, and his 7th season overall. He hit 33 home runs with 117 RBIs, a .309 average and a .939 OPS, plus a 140 OPS+. He is a terrible defender at shortstop, but his offense cancels that out. Rafael Devers is improving on defense at third base. At age 22 Devers led the league with 54 doubles, while hitting 32 home runs with 115 RBIs, eight stolen bases, a .311 average and a .916 OPS. Both Devers and Bogaerts received MVP votes. Rule 5 pick Jonathan Arauz can play all over the infield. He hit 11 home runs with a .707 OPS in High-A and AA in the Astros system. He has always been very young for his league, explaining his low offensive production. He is more of a fielder anyways.

               Outfielders
Without Betts here, writing about the Red Sox outfield seems weird. Andrew Benintendi is now the face of it. He had a down 2019, with just 13 home runs and 10 stolen bases, plus a mediocre .266 average and .774 OPS. To show how average he was, his OPS+ is exactly 100. Jackie Bradley Jr. has a great glove in center field, but his hitting can get better. He did hit 21 home runs in 2019, but he hit just .225 with a .738 OPS and struck out a career high 155 times. He has not had an OPS+ of at least 100 since his all-star 2016 season. Alex Verdugo, the main return in the Betts trade, was a top prospect coming off an encouraging rookie season. He hit 12 home runs with four stolen bases, a .294 batting average and an .817 OPS. Nothing super special, but all above average. The Red Sox signed Kevin Pillar to be one of the, if not best 4th outfielders in the game. Maybe a better defender than Bradley, Pillar hit 21 home runs with 14 stolen bases with a .259 batting average and a .719 OPS. The numbers are good, plus he had great defensive numbers, but somehow that led to him finishing 22nd in MVP voting in the National League. A longtime Blue Jay, he has seen the Red Sox and the rest of the AL East a lot of times. He also is very durable, playing in an average of 152 games over the last five years. JD Martinez's decision to not opt out of his contract might have cost Boston Betts. He is an outfielder, but is much better off at DH. He hit 36 home runs with 105 RBIs with a .304 average and a .939 OPS last year, and that was all worse than his first Red Sox season, 2018.

                Projected Opening Day Lineup
LF Andrew Benintendi (L)
3B Rafael Devers (L)
SS Xander Bogaerts (R)
DH JD Martinez (R)
1B Mitch Moreland (L)
C Christian Vazquez (R)
RF Alex Verdugo (L)
CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (L)
2B Jose Peraza (R)

                 Projected Rotation
Chris Sale (L)
Eduardo Rodriguez (L)
Nathan Eovaldi (R)
Martin Perez (L)
Ryan Weber (R)

                 Projected Bullpen
Brandon Workman, closer (R)
Ryan Brasier (R)
Matt Barnes (R)
Marcus Walden (R)
Heath Hembree (R)
Josh Taylor (L)
Darwinzon Hernandez (L)
Colten Brewer (R)

                 Projected Bench
C Kevin Plawecki (R)
IF Michael Chavis (R)
OF Kevin Pillar (R)
IF Jonathan Arauz (S)

                 Prediction
The Red Sox have a talented roster. But, they are trying to shed salary, and they already traded away their superstar outfielder and second starter. It is really hard to come back from that, especially when the trade was so close to Spring Training. The Red Sox will be on their own island in the AL East, way behind the second place Rays, but way ahead of the 4th place Blue Jays.

Baltimore Orioles 2020 Season Preview



         There were two things about 2019 than were good for the Orioles. They drafted Adley Rutschman first overall in June, and they didn't finish last in the MLB. The Tigers beat the Orioles to the first overall pick this June, while Baltimore will pick second. Despite moving up in the standings one place from 2018 to 2019, the Orioles' rebuild is not even close to being over. They have some good players in Trey Mancini and John Means, but it isn't guaranteed that they will still be decent players by the time the Orioles ever turn it around. It is all about helping the minor league teams now.

          Offseason additions: SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Kohl Stewart, LHP Tommy Milone, SS Richard Urena, RHP Travis Lakins, RHP Cole Sulser, IF Andrew Velazquez, IF Pat Valaika, C Bryan Holaday.

          Offseason subtractions: IF Jonathan Villar, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Dan Straily, OF Joey Rickard

          Rotation
The Orioles had just one player finish the season with the team with at least 10 innings pitched that had an ERA under 4.00. That was John Means, a 26 year old rookie with an elite change-up, but not the strikeout stuff. Means struck out just 121 batters in 155 innings with a 3.60 ERA. The rest of the rotation is a big question. Former Rays second starter Alex Cobb started the season on the IL with the a groin strain, then suffered a lumbar strain and later a hip impingement, which required surgery, ending his season after three starts. Cobb struck out eight batters and allowed 15 earned runs in 12.1 innings. He also somehow allowed nine home runs. He should be healthy for Opening Day. The Orioles signed 2013 4th overall pick Kohl Stewart to a major league deal. In 17 career games (six starts), Stewart has a 4.79 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 62 innings. Even as a AAA starter last year Stewart had a 5.14 ERA. Another former first rounder, Asher Wojciechowski, is more of a wild card. In 82.1 innings last year, Wojciechowski struck out 80 batters and allowed just 80 hits. However, 17 of those hits were home runs, helping inflate his ERA to 4.92. The Orioles gave Wade LeBlanc a minor league deal. A journeyman with a 3.72 ERA in 162 innings for Seattle in 2018, LeBlanc struggled last year, with a 5.71 ERA in 121.1 innings, and lost his spot in the rotation. Now on a much worse Orioles team, LeBlanc gets another shot. LeBlanc's Mariners teammate Tommy Milone is also in camp. Milone pitched 100 innings last year, the first time he's done that since 2015. Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey had a 3.30 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 92.2 innings for AA Corpus Christi (Houston). Another Rule 5 pick, Michael Rucker, struck out 93 batters in 79.2 innings in AA and AAA in the Cubs system.

             Bullpen
Closer Mychal Givens failed to pitch 70 innings for the first time since his first taste of the MLB in 2015. His 4.57 ERA was over a half run worse than his previous career worst. He saved only 11 games, but his 86 strikeouts in 63 innings led to a career high 12.3 K/9. Richard Bleier never had a season with an ERA over 2.00 entering 2019, but after the season, his career ERA went all the way up to 3.05. A lefty with a career 4.3 K/9, Bleier allowed six home runs in 55.1 innings, six more home runs than he allowed in 2018. Even though he won all three of his decisions, Bleier had an awful 5.37 ERA. Hunter Harvey, a 24 year old first rounder in 2013, finally debuted late in 2019, allowing one run while striking out 11 in 6.1 innings (1.42 ERA). Harvey looks like the potential future closer. Speaking of potential future closers, Toronto thought Miguel Castro was exactly that, when he had four saves in his first 13 career games in 2015. However, he saved his first game since then last season. His K/9 went from 5.9 in 2018 to 8.7 in 2019. However, his ERA raised from 3.96 to 4.66. Lefty Paul Fry allowed lefties to have an .839 OPS, but righties had just a .679 OPS. The Orioles claimed Travis Lakins from the Red Sox. He didn't have good AAA numbers, but he had a respectable 3.86 ERA in 23.1 innings last year. It was his MLB debut. Shawn Armstrong had a 5.74 ERA in 58 innings, striking out 63. With limited bullpen spots, Armstrong, Lakins or one of the Rule 5 picks will not make the team. Just based off of stats, Armstrong would be the odd man out. Based of seniority and Rule 5 picks not being able to go to Baltimore's farm system, Lakins would be sent down. Tanner Scott, Dillon Tate, David Hess, Evan Phillips and Cole Sulser will all likely play in the majors in 2020, but also ride the AAA-MLB shuffle.

              Catchers
The Orioles picked up Pedro Severino from the Nats in Spring Training, and he was not bad offensively. He hit 13 home runs with a .740 OPS, okay for a catcher. He also had a 1.2 bWAR. Chance Sisco, once a decent catching prospect, hit eight home runs, but had a weak .210 average and .729 OPS. Sisco has a career .203 batting average. Veteran catcher Bryan Holaday is a non-roster invitee. He hit a career high four home runs in 43 games for Miami last year. He had a solid .278 batting average and a .779 OPS.

              Infielders
Former 53 home run hitter Chris Davis was usurped by Jeff Mathis as the worst hitter in baseball. Davis was still terrible in 2019, with a .179 average and .601 OPS. It is probably best for the team to move Trey Mancini down from right field to play first. Mancini had a breakout season, hitting 35 home runs with 97 RBIs, a .291 average and .899 OPS. The Orioles took a chance on second baseman Hanser Alberto, and he hit 12 home runs with a .305 average. He hit .398 against lefties, ranking among the league's best. The Orioles traded away Jonathan Villar, who was at one point the team's best player. His replacement is Jose Iglesias, a good defender who hit 11 home runs with a .288 average for the Reds last year. Rio Ruiz hit 12 home runs, but his other offensive numbers weren't good. Richie Martin, a Rule 5 pick last year, spent the whole year with the team, hit .208 with a .581 OPS. He can play shortstop, second and third base. Renato Nunez can play corner infield, but he is more of a DH. He hit 31 home runs in his first year with the team.

               Outfielders
Switch hitting outfielder Anthony Santander hit 20 home run in 93 games after hitting one home run in his previous 46 games. He also had a .773 OPS. Austin Hays was called up in September and hit four home runs with a .309 average and .947 OPS. 2015 first rounder DJ Stewart had a weak .698 OPS, but will get a good chance to be the left fielder. Dwight Smith Jr. had a .241 batting average with 13 home runs. Stevie Wilkerson can play all over the field. Playing mostly center field, Wilkerson hit 10 home runs but had a .225 average and .286 OBP.

                 Projected Opening Day Lineup
2B Hanser Alberto (R)
RF Anthony Santander (S)
1B Trey Mancini (R)
DH Renato Nunez (R)
LF DJ Stewart (L)
C Pedro Severino (R)
CF Austin Hays (R)
SS Jose Iglesias (R)
3B Rio Ruiz (L)

                 Projected Rotation
John Means (L)
Alex Cobb (R)
Asher Wojciechowski (R)
Kohl Stewart (R)
Wade LeBlanc (L)

                  Projected Bullpen
Mychal Givens, closer (R)
Richard Bleier (L)
Miguel Castro (R)
Hunter Harvey (R)
Paul Fry (L)
Brandon Bailey (R)
Michael Rucker (R)
Travis Lakins (R)

                   Projected Bench
1B Chris Davis (L)
SS Richie Martin (R)
OF Dwight Smith Jr. (L)
C Chance Sisco (L)

                  It's going to be a rough next few years in Baltimore. Every other team in the AL East is far superior to the Orioles, and so is every team in the league besides the Marlins and Tigers.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Atlanta Braves 2020 Season Preview

From Sports Illustrated


          Entering 2019, it was almost a unanimous opinion that the NL East was the strongest division in baseball. But, the Braves were able to fend off the surging Nationals, the new-look Phillies and the self destructive Mets to win the division. However, the Braves lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals while the Nationals won the World Series. The offseason wasn't easy either, as the Braves made many additions, but lost multiple star players. The Braves still have a very young core, so their window is not close to closing.

          Offseason additions: LHP Will Smith, OF Marcell Ozuna, C Travis d'Arnaud, LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Felix Hernandez, OF Peter O'Brien, IF Yangervis Solarte, OF Shane Robinson, 1B Yonder Alonso, LHP Chris Rusin

           Offseason subtractions: 3B Josh Donaldson, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Julio Teheran OF Matthew Joyce, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Jerry Blevins

           Rotation
The Braves cut ties with former ace Julio Teheran in the offseason. Teheran is now a third starter type. But, the Braves have their own new ace. As a rookie, Mike Soroka had a 2.68 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. He had a WHIP of just 1.11, while allowing 7.9 hits per nine. Mark Melancon was the only Braves pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched with a HR/9 under Soroka's 0.7. Melancon pitched in just 21 innings. Soroka finished 6th in Cy Young voting and 2nd in Rookie of the Year. With Dallas Keuchel gone for Chicago, Max Fried will have to step in to be the number two starter. Fried and his great curveball struck out 173 batters in 165.2 innings with a 4.02 ERA. It was his first full MLB season. Mike Foltynewicz had a career season in 2018 with a 2.85 ERA, but made just 21 starts in 2019, and went back to his pre-2018 struggles, with 105 strikeouts in 117 innings and a 4.54 ERA. His 100 ERA+ means that he was a league average pitcher. For Opening Day, the rest of the rotation is a big question mark. The Braves signed four time all-star and World Series MVP winner Cole Hamels to a one year deal, but he will miss the first couple of weeks of the season with a shoulder injury. He struck out 143 batters in 141.2 innings with a 117 ERA+ for the Cubs last season at age 35. Sean Newcomb was a big part of the rotation in 2018, making 30 starts with a 3.90 ERA. He was moved to the bullpen in 2019, and had career highs in ERA (3.16) and ERA+ (144). He is probably best suited for the bullpen, but he will try to make the rotation. Young prospects Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright are also candidates. They both struggled in little play last season. Former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is in camp. However, he has flamed out by now.

            Bullpen
The Braves gave Will Smith $40 million over three years to be their closer. The best available reliever in free agency, Smith had a 2.76 ERA with a career high 34 saves and 96 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. He will be a welcome addition for a Braves team whose closer most of last season was Luke Jackson. However, Jackson was a pleasant surprise for the Braves. A former Texas supplemental first rounder, Jackson was traded to the Braves for two non prospects in December 2016. Last year, he struck out 106 batters in 72.2 innings with 18 saves and a 3.84 ERA. However, Jackson lost the closer job to Mark Melancon after he was acquired from San Fransisco at the trade deadline. Melancon, who had 98 saves from 2015-16, saved 11 games for the Braves and struck out 24 batters in 21 innings. The Braves acquired both Shane Greene and Chris Martin at the trade deadline as well. Greene had a 1.18 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 in 38 games with the Tigers, but struggled after the trade, with a 4.01 ERA and a 7.7 K/9 in 27 games. Martin is a success story that walked one batter and struck out 22 in 17.2 innings for the Braves. However, he also allowed eight earned runs for them. Darren O'Day was acquired at the 2018 trade deadline but didn't make his Braves debut until late 2019. The submariner allowed one run in 5.1 innings. There are two more spots to be filled and more than two competitors. Josh Tomlin is a non-roster invitee. He had a 3.74 ERA in 79.1 innings over 51 games (one start). Jacob Webb had an amazing rookie season, with a 1.39 ERA and a 329 ERA+ in 32.1 innings before an injury ended his season. The problem is that Smith would be the only lefty on the roster. AJ Minter saved 15 games for the team in 2018, but had a terrible 7.06 ERA in 29.1 innings. Former Rockie Chris Rusin is in camp on a minor league deal. He only pitched an inning in the big leagues last year. He has starting experience and is a lefty, so he could be an alternate to Tomlin.

           Catchers
The Braves saw veteran Brian McCann retire after the team's loss to St. Louis. They went out and signed former 1st rounder Travis d'Arnaud to a one year deal. d'Arnaud started out 2019 by going two-for-24 for the Mets and Dodgers before catching on with the Rays. d'Arnaud then broke out, hitting 16 home runs with a .782 OPS in 92 games. However, his 85 strikeouts were 21 more than his previous career worst. Tyler Flowers is entering his 5th season with the team. His first two were great, but he has been bad since, with averages under .230 and and OPS under .750 in both 2018 and 2019.

            Infielders
The Braves had one of baseball's best infields in 2019. Even after Josh Donaldson walked in free agency, it is still shaping up well. Freddie Freeman is still a top three first baseman in baseball. He had career highs in home runs (38) and RBIs (121) with a .295 batting average and a .938 OPS while swiping six bags. Somehow, his Silver Slugger win was only his first. Ozzie Albies also won a Silver Slugger award, hitting 24 home runs, stealing 15 bases and hitting .295 with an .852 OPS. Former first overall pick Dansby Swanson is still inconsistent, but had his best season at the plate. He hit 17 homers, stole 10 bases, hit .251 with a .748 OPS. Johan Camargo had a breakout 2018 at third base, but struggled after Donaldson took his spot at third base. He had a terrible .663 OPS in 98 games. He fights Austin Riley for the starting position. Riley plays third base and left field, like Camargo can. Riley hit 18 home runs in his 80 game rookie season. However, he hit just .226 with a .750 OPS. He is not guaranteed a roster spot for Opening Day. Adeiny Hechavarria is known as a great defender with a weak bat. However, in 24 games for the Braves last season, Hechavarria hit four home runs with a .328 average and a 1.039 OPS. Charlie Culberson can play seven positions. He has played over 100 games for the Braves in the last two years, but is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He was very bad offensively, with a .731 OPS. Despite playing in 108 games, Culberson made just 144 Plate Appearances.

            Outfielders
Ronald Acuna Jr. has usurped Freeman as the face of the franchise. The former Rookie of the Year winner flirted with a 40-40 season, hitting 40 home runs and stealing 37 bases, the latter leading the league. Acuna also lead the league in Plate Appearances (715) and runs (127). He ended the season 5th in MVP voting and with a Silver Slugger. The Braves poached Marcell Ozuna from the Cardinals after he beat them in the playoffs. Ozuna hit 29 home runs with an .800 OPS in his second season in St. Louis. Ender Inciarte won three consecutive Gold Gloves leading up to 2019. However, he played in just 65 games, stealing seven bases, a career low. He has 113 stolen bases in six years. However, he is not a good hitter, with a career high OPS of .759. Nick Markakis chose to re-sign in Atlanta, likely ruining his outside shot at 3,000 hits. The 36 year old has 2,355 hits in his career. He will be a 4th outfielder and bench bat. Two time 30 home run hitter Adam Duvall played in 41 games, hitting 10 home runs with an .882 OPS.

             Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Ronald Acuna Jr. (R)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
1B Freddie Freeman (L)
LF Marcell Ozuna (R)
C Travis d'Arnaud (R)
CF Ender Inciarte (L)
SS Dansby Swanson (R)
3B Johan Camargo (S)
Pitcher

              Projected Rotation
Mike Soroka (R)
Max Fried (L)
Mike Foltynewicz (R)
Cole Hamels (L)
Sean Newcomb (L)

               Projected Bullpen
Will Smith, closer (L)
Mark Melancon (R)
Shane Greene (R)
Chris Martin (R)
Luke Jackson (R)
Darren O'Day (R)
AJ Minter (L)
Jacob Webb (R)

              Projected Bench
C Tyler Flowers (R)
3B/LF Austin Riley (R)
SS Adeiny Hechavarria (R)
OF Nick Markakis (L)
OF Adam Duvall (R)

               The Braves are still a really good team. While they will be hurt by a young pitching staff, they have the bullpen to bail them out. I believe that they will lose the division, but make the Wild Card as the first team.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Arizona Diamondbacks 2020 Season Preview



           Who would have thought that the Diamondbacks would find a taker for Zack Greinke. The team was able to trade the expensive starter to Houston for four good prospects. But when that trade happened, no one expected it to lead to Madison Bumgarner. The team went out and signed the former Giants star to a five year, $85 million deal. The team finished just four games back of the second wild card spot, and now they have the deepest rotation they've had in a while. They might be your 2020 surprise team.

            Offseason additions: LHP Madison Bumgarner, OF Starling Marte, OF Kole Calhoun, C Stephen Vogt, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Junior Guerra, C John Hicks, OF Jon Jay, OF Trayce Thompson, RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Matt Grace

             Offseason subtractions: OF Adam Jones, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Yoshi Hirano, OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, LHP TJ McFarland

             Rotation
The addition of Bumgarner brings the Diamondbacks a replacement ace for Greinke. However, Bumgarner might not fill the role. While he was healthy for the first time since 2016, Bumgarner had a career worst 3.90 ERA and allowed his most hits since 2014. However, his K rate was up, and his walk rate was down. A three time World Series Champion and two time Silver Slugger winner as a pitcher, Bumgarner should still fit in fine. He is entering his 11th season, but he's only 30. The Diamondbacks decided to hold onto Robbie Ray while trading Greinke. A free agent at the end of the year, Ray's ERA has gotten worse in the two seasons since his breakout 2017. However, he was finally healthy, starting a career high 33 starts and tying his career high in innings with 174.1. He also had a 12.1 K/9, really good for a starter. If the team starts the season slow, then Ray could be the first one to be traded. In his rookie season as a 30 year old, Merrill Kelly led the team in innings with 183.1. However, he had a weak 4.42 ERA and led the league in losses with 14. His 101 ERA+ indicates that he is a league average pitcher. In his rookie season, Zac Gallen had an impressive 2.72 ERA in seven games with the Marlins, before being traded to Arizona at the trade deadline. Gallen continued his good play, with a 2.89 ERA in eight starts. The team went out and got Mike Leake from Seattle to take Greinke's spot in the rotation. Leake does not strike out guys but allows a lot of hits. He had a 102 ERA+ last season and has a career 99 ERA+, showing that he, like Kelly, is very average. A 2015 2nd rounder, Alex Young impressed, with a 3.56 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) with a 125 ERA+. Luke Weaver has dealt with injuries in the past, and missed most of 2019 with right forearm tightness. In 12 starts he had a 2.94 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.

              Bullpen
Archie Bradley held the closer role for the second half of the season after Greg Holland struggled and was eventually DFAd. Bradley finished the season with 18 saves and 87 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, with a 3.52 ERA. Yoan Lopez is not a strikeout pitcher, with 42 Ks in 60.2 innings in 2019. But, he had a 3.41 ERA and allowed 7.7 hits per nine in his first full MLB season. It will be interesting to see how the three batter minimum rule affects lefty Andrew Chafin. Chafin appeared in 77 games in 2019, but pitched just 52.2 innings, striking out 68 batters. The team signed former Cubs closer Hector Rondon to a one year deal. Normally a big strikeout guy, Rondon punched out just 48 batters in 60.2 innings with a 3.71 ERA for Houston in 2019. Former starter Junior Guerra transferred to the bullpen last year, and struck out 77 batters with a 3.55 ERA in 83.2 innings. Kevin Ginkel is a nice dark horse bullpen candidate. Debuting at age 25, Ginkel had a 1.48 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 24.1 innings, plus an inflated 304 ERA+. In his rookie season, Taylor Clarke pitched in 23 games (15 starts), and finished with a terrible 5.31 ERA. If he makes the team it will be in the bullpen. The same can be said for Jon Duplantier. A third round pick in 2016, Duplantier struck out 34 batters in 36.2 innings with a 4.42 ERA. Stefan Crichton played in the MLB for the first time since 2017, and pitched in 28 games, with a 3.56 ERA and 33 strikeouts.

                 Catchers
Carson Kelly, who came over from St. Louis with Weaver for star Paul Goldschmidt, broke out with an .825 OPS and 18 home runs in 365 Plate Appearances. In a league where catchers don't really hit for power, Kelly is a luxury for the D-Backs. Two time all-star Stephen Vogt was hurt for all of 2018, but returned with the Giants in 2019, hitting 10 home runs with an .804 OPS. He will be a very good backup catcher if healthy. The Diamondbacks used four catchers last year, but three of them (Alex Avila, John Ryan Murphy and Caleb Joseph) are gone. The third catcher would be former Tiger John Hicks, who hit a career high 13 home runs last year and is with the team as a non-roster invitee.

                  Infielders
The Diamondbacks found their replacement for Paul Goldschmidt, the former face of the franchise, in an odd way. Christian Walker, a then 28 year old rookie who debuted back in 2014 but barely played, hit 29 home runs with a .259 batting average and an .825 OPS. It was a welcomed surprise for Arizona. Ketel Marte moved to center field last year, and had an MVP caliber breakout season. Marte hit 32 home runs, stole 10 bases, hit .329 with a .981 OPS and a 149 OPS+. He finished 4th in NL MVP voting. He will move back to second base with the acquisition of Starling Marte (no relation). Nick Ahmed signed an extension recently. Always a great defender, Ahmed had career highs in home runs (19), batting average (.254) and OPS (.753) among other categories. He also has won back-to-back Gold Gloves at shortstop. Another breakout infielder was Eduardo Escobar. Moved to third base for good, Escobar hit 35 home runs with 118 RBIs and an .831 OPS. He also lead the league with 10 triples. Jake Lamb hit 59 home runs from 2016-2017, but has been awful since with a combined 12 home runs. Lamb had a .193 batting average in 2019. He will still be the backup corner infielder. Ildemaro Vargas is the utility infielder. In his first full season he hit six home runs with a .269 batting average while playing third base, shortstop, second base and both corner outfield positions. Kevin Cron will compete for the final roster spot. Cron hit six home runs with a .790 OPS in his first taste of MLB experience last year. A 27 year old first baseman, Cron has a .319 average with 60 home runs and a 1.057 OPS in his AAA career.

                    Outfielders
The D-Backs' big trade this offseason was getting Starling Marte from the Pirates. Marte is a power and speed threat in center field. He hit 23 home runs and stole 25 bases with a .295 batting average and an .845 OPS. Arizona also brought in Kole Calhoun on a two year contract. His 33 home runs and .792 OPS for the Angels last year were career highs. David Peralta rebounded to a breakout season poorly, with just 12 home runs. However, he still had an .804 OPS. He played in just 99 games last season. The D-Backs did not bring back Jarrod Dyson, who stole 30 bases for the fifth time last year. However, their fourth outfielder is arguably faster. Tim Locastro returns after stealing 17 bases without being caught once in his rookie season. He can play all four outfield positions. Josh Rojas is fighting with Cron for that last spot. Acquired in the Greinke deal, mostly played left field, but he can also play right field, third base and second base. Making his debut just after the trade, Rojas' numbers weren't good. He hit two home runs in 41 games, and had a matching OBP and slugging percentage at .312.

                       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Starling Marte (right handed hitter)
2B Ketel Marte (switch hitter)
3B Eduardo Escobar (S)
1B Christian Walker (R)
LF David Peralta (L)
C Carson Kelly (R)
RF Kole Calhoun (L)
SS Nick Ahmed (R)
Pitcher

                       Projected Rotation
Madison Bumgarner (L)
Robbie Ray (L)
Luke Weaver (R)
Zac Gallen (R)
Mike Leake (R)

                      Projected Bullpen
Archie Bradley (R), closer
Yoan Lopez (R)
Andrew Chafin (L)
Hector Rondon (R)
Junior Guerra (R)
Kevin Ginkel (R)
Andy Young (L)
Merrill Kelly (R)


                      Projected Bench
C Stephen Vogt (L)
OF Tim Locastro (R)
IF Ildemaro Vargas (S)
IF Jake Lamb (L)
LF Josh Rojas (L)


The Diamondbacks are a really good team. They have a chance to dominate in their division, besides the Dodgers. They should be a lock to finish second in the NL West, and be really close to the second Wild Card spot. But, I don't think they'll make the playoffs in 2020.

Monday, February 24, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Golden Knights acquire Cousins


From Getty Images

       The Vegas Golden Knights have acquired forward Nick Cousins from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2021 4th round draft pick.

       Cousins is a solid bottom six player. He can play center and wing, is on a cheap contract, and will score 10 goals this year. He signed with the Canadiens in the offseason, didn't have a bad year, and now they get value for him as a rental player. If Cousins scores again this year, he will score double-digit goals for the second time in his career. The Canadiens have given Cousins some power play time, but he does not kill penalties. Cousins has averaged one minute and 39 seconds a game on the power play. He is a cheap add for the Golden Knights to improve their forward core. At best you a 4th rounder will be a Cousins type player.

        Cousins, 26, has scored nine goals with 13 assists for 22 points in 58 games for the Canadiens this year. In his NHL career for the Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes, Cousins has scored 40 goals with 55 assists for 95 points in 317 games.

NHL Trade Review: Blue Jackets acquire Shore for Milano



       The Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired forward Devin Shore from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Sonny Milano.

       The Blue Jackets didn't make many trades while the rest of the Metropolitan Division improved today. Shore is a decent bottom six center and winger who scored double digit goals in his first three full seasons in the league, but is not on pace to do it this year. A 2nd rounder in 2012, Shore is fairly young. He will be an RFA at the end of the season. He doesn't have much potential, so there is no point for a rebuilding Anaheim team to keep him. They get a lottery ticket in Milano, a 2014 1st rounder who is a bottom six winger. He has not panned out in Columbus. Shore is a better player for now, and he is older and more experienced. He is a center, but not much of a defensive one. He has not killed penalties for the Ducks. Milano has some potential and will go into the core of young players in the Ducks' system.

        Shore, 25, has scored four goals with six assists for 10 points in 39 games for the Ducks this year. In his NHL career for the Ducks and Dallas Stars, Shore has scored 38 goals with 66 assists for 104 points in 282 games.

         Milano, 23, has scored five goals with 13 assists for 18 points in 46 games for the Blue Jackets this year. In his NHL career, all in Columbus, Milano has scored 20 goals with 22 assists for 42 points in 116 games.
















NHL Trade Review: Ducks acquire Djoos



         The Anaheim Ducks have acquired defenseman Christian Djoos from the Washington Capitals for forward Daniel Sprong.

          This trade is an interesting swap. Both players are young and have NHL experience. However, both players were waived at the beginning of the year and could use a change of scenery. Djoos is a bottom pairing defenseman with solid AHL numbers and a 2018 Stanley Cup ring. He will start his Ducks career in the AHL, though. He should get called up, as the Ducks' seven defensemen include Brendan Guhle and Matt Irwin, both of whom are worse than Djoos. Sprong was a second rounder in 2015, who could never get a chance in Pittsburgh, but scored 14 goals in 47 games for the Ducks last year. He also has not gotten much of a chance, spending most of the season in the AHL. While neither player will start his tenure with his new club in the NHL, they both should get NHL time this year. If he plays well enough, Sprong can make the playoff roster for the Caps.

            Djoos, 25, has scored five goals with 27 assists for 32 points in 42 games for the AHL's Hershey Bears this year. In two NHL games, he has no points. In his NHL career, all for Washington, Djoos has scored four goals with 20 assists for 24 points in 110 games.

            Sprong, 22, has scored 11 goals with 16 assists for 27 points in 39 games for the AHL's San Diego Gulls this year. He has scored one goal with an assist for two points in eight NHL games this year. In his NHL career for the Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins Sprong has scored 19 goals with 11 assists for 30 points in 97 games.

NHL Trade Review: Flames acquire Gustafsson



        The Calgary Flames have acquired defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional 2020 3rd round pick that will be the higher of Calgary's two third rounders this year.

        Gustafsson is a solid second pairing defenseman, but he is not great defensively. However, he has shown flashes of being a great offensive defenseman. While he has not scored much this year, he had a 17 goal, 60 point season last year. He will be a UFA at the end of the year. Trading away a third rounder for a guy with those numbers last year and decent offensive numbers for a defenseman this year is a good bargain for Calgary. He provides depth as well. He is a more experienced option than Oliver Kylington and Alexander Yelesin, who are both on the current roster. The return might seem low for Chicago, but Gustafsson is on an expiring contract and is not having an amazing season currently. He will slot in behind Noah Hanifin and Mark Giordano when the latter returns from injury.

         Gustafsson, 27, has scored six goals with 20 assists for 26 points in 59 games for the Blackhawks this year. In his NHL career, all in Chicago, Gustafsson has scored 28 goals with 88 assists for 116 points in 214 games.

NHL Trade Review: Hurricanes acquire Vatanen



         The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Fredrik Claesson, forward Janne Kuokkanen and a 2020 4th round draft pick.

         The Hurricanes need defensive depth on the right side with Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce out. However, Vatanen is currently on the Injured Reserve himself with a leg injury. That definitely lowered the return for New Jersey. Claesson is a depth defenseman who is a fringe NHLer. Kuokkanen is a 2016 2nd rounder with little NHL experience and does not have super impressive AHL numbers. The 4th round pick is not much. When healthy, Vatanen is a solid, right handed puck moving defenseman that will fit in well with Carolina. He is also a free agent at the end of the year. If everyone is healthy, Vatanen will fill in behind Hamilton and Pesce on the right side, and start over Trevor van Riemsdyk.

         Vatanen, 28, has scored five goals with 18 assists for 23 points in 47 games for the Devils this year. In his NHL career for the Devils and Anaheim Ducks Vatanen has scored 45 goals with 149 assists for 194 points in 434 games.

         Claesson, 27, has scored three goals with 16 assists for 19 points in 47 games for the AHL's Charlotte Checkers this year. In his NHL career for the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers Claesson has scored six goals with 20 assists for 26 points in 150 games.

         Kuokkanen, 21, has scored 12 goals with 30 assists for 42 points in 52 games for Charlotte this year. In his short NHL career, all for the Hurricanes, Kuokkanen has no points in 11 games.

NHL Trade Review: Hurricanes acquire Skjei



       The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick. The Rangers receive the latter of Carolina's two first rounders.

       A former first rounder, Skjei's scoring has decreased each season. However, that is on pace to change, as long as Skjei avoids a major slump. The Hurricanes have a lot of talented defenseman, but they are being hit with the injury bug. Dougie Hamilton is already out long term, and Brett Pesce is expected to be out for a while after sustaining an injury in the Hurricanes win over the Maple Leafs. They went out and got Skjei and Sami Vatanen, who is also currently injured. Skjei used to be a power play presence, with 13 power play assists in his first two full seasons. However, he does not have a power play point since. Skjei is also one goal away from a career high. He is a second pairing defenseman. While it is hard to trade a first rounder for him, he is signed for four more seasons after 2019-20 at a $5.25 million cap hit.

         Skjei, 25, has scored eight goals with 15 assists for 23 points in 60 games for the Rangers this year. In his NHL career, all in New York, Skjei has scored 25 goals with 87 assists for 112 points in 307 games.

NHL Trade Review: Knights acquire Lehner in 3 team deal



       The Vegas Golden Knights have acquired goalie Robin Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks in a three team deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks get goalie Malcolm Subban, defenseman Slava Demin and a 2020 2nd round pick. The Maple Leafs get a 2020 5th round pick but also retain 50% of Lehner's contract (they take on $2.5 million). The Golden Knights received forward Martins Dzierkals as well.

       Lehner is an NHL starting goalie, but will be a 1B to Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas. A Vezina finalist last year, Lehner signed a one year deal with Chicago in the offseason. He has a good save percentage but a terrible goals against average this year. Fleury has started a lot of games recently, and the Golden Knights need to rest him for the playoffs while still hold their spot at the top of the division. The Blackhawks get a second rounder, a replacement backup goalie in Subban, plus a young defensive prospect in Demin who is at the University of Denver currently. The Maple Leafs essentially buy a 5th round pick from Vegas by retaining salary. They also trade away a low level prospect in Dzierkals who isn't playing in North America currently.

       Lehner, 28, has a .918 SV% with a 3.01 GAA in 33 games for the Blackhawks this year. In his NHL career for the Blackhawks, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators Lehner has a .918 SV% with a 2.73 GAA in 298 games.

       Subban, 26, has a .890 SV% with a 3.18 GAA in 20 games for the Golden Knights this year. In his NHL career for Vegas and the Boston Bruins Subban has a .899 SV% with a 2.97 GAA in 65 games.

        Demin, 19, has scored two goals with seven assists for nine points in 30 games for the University of Denver this year. For Denver last season, Demin scored four goals with 10 assists for 14 points in 41 games.

        Dzierkals, 22, has scored three goals with seven assists for 10 points in 31 games for Jukurit Mikkeli of the Finnish League this year. He last played in North America in 2017-18, when he had no points in four games for the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

NHL Trade Review: Lightning acquire Goodrow



         The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired forward Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third round pick from the San Jose Sharks in for 2020 first round pick and forward Anthony Greco.

         This trade is an over payment from the Lightning. Goodrow is a bottom six winger with a career high eight goals this year. The Sharks will gladly take a first round pick for him. He has one more year left under contract with a $925k cap hit. Goodrow also takes lots of penalties. He already has 80 penalty minutes, more than he had in 82 games last season. Goodrow has some playoff experience as well. He is a decent player, but not a second liner. He wasn't a top six player for the Sharks when they were healthy, and they are a bottom five team in the league. They also get a speedy AHL winger in Greco, who Tampa Bay acquired last week from Florida for Danick Martel. The Sharks traded their 1st rounder to Ottawa for Erik Karlsson, so they now get a late 1st for Goodrow.

          Goodrow, who will be 27 in two days, has scored eight goals with 16 assists for 24 points in 62 games for the Sharks this year. In his NHL career, all in San Jose, Goodrow has scored 26 goals with 45 assists for 71 points in 268 games.

          Greco, 26, has 10 goals with 10 assists for 20 points in 40 games for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch and Springfield Thunderbirds this year. He has one game of NHL experience, a scoreless game with the Panthers in 2018-19.

NHL Trade Revie: Penguins and Sabres make three player swap



       The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun.

        The Penguins are improving their depth by trading one NHL player for two. Sheary debuted with Pittsburgh, and won two Stanley Cups with them until being traded to Buffalo due to cap issues before the 2018-19 season. A former 20 goal scorer, Sheary has disappointed with the Sabres. He will take Kahun's roster spot. Kahun is a second year forward from the Czech Republic. He was acquired in the offseason from Chicago for Olli Maatta. While he is on an 82 game pace for a career high in points, the Penguins have scratched him frequently. Kahun will be an RFA at the end of the season. Sheary has familiarity with some of the teams brass, and played on a line with Sidney Crosby before. Pittsburgh can reunite Crosby and Sheary, or they can use Sheary as a depth option. Sheary will be a UFA at the end of the season. Rodrigues entered the season as an underrated bottom six player, but has had a bad season, paving his way out of Buffalo. He will be an RFA after the season.

         Sheary, 27, has scored nine goals with 10 assists for 19 points in 55 games for the Sabres this year. In his NHL career for the Sabres and Penguins Sheary has scored 71 goals with 75 assists for 146 points in 317 games.

         Rodrigues, 26, has scored five goals with four assists for nine points in 38 games for the Sabres this year. In his NHL career, all in Buffalo, Rodrigues has scored 26 goals with 45 assists for 71 points in 192 games.

         Kahun, 24, has scored 10 goals with 17 assists for 27 points in 50 games this year. In his NHL career for the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks Kahun has scored 23 goals with 41 assists for 64 points in 132 games.

NHL Trade Review: Oilers acquire Ennis


From The Athletic

          The Edmonton Oilers have acquired forward Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators for a 2021 5th round pick.

          Ennis is a bottom six winger who has shown they he can score. A three time 20 goal scorer, Ennis is on a near league minimum deal. In his one year in Ottawa, Ennis has scored his most goals already since 2014-15. He is a really good depth option for the Oilers, and can improve scoring on their third and fourth lines. They trade a fifth round pick for him, which is a good price for an NHL forward. Ennis is a pending UFA, thus the low return. The Senators shipped off multiple players this week, as they are once again shedding salary and getting picks for pending UFAs.

           Ennis, 30, has scored 14 goals with 19 assists for 33 points in 61 games for the Senators this year. In his NHL career for the Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs Ennis has scored 131 goals with 178 assists for 309 points in 604 games.

NHL Trade Review: Oilers acquire Athanasiou



        The Edmonton Oilers have acquired forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Sam Gagner and second round picks in 2020 and 2021. The Oilers also retained 10 percent of Gagner's contract ($315k).

        The Red Wings are awful this year, and are already eliminated from playoff contention. Their rebuild is going to take longer than they anticipated. Athanasiou, a pending RFA, does not seem to be a part of their plans. He is in the middle of a down season, and while plus/minus isn't a great stat to determine defense, Athanasiou is currently a -45 player, and will likely finish among the league's worst in that category. At 25 he is not super young anymore. While he is still really fast, the rest of his game has fallen off, even after scoring 30 goals last year. Two second round picks and a roster player may seem like a high price for Athanasiou, but he will be an RFA, so the Oilers get to sign his next contract, and he has potential. Plus, he is one of the few NHL players that can catch up to Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. The Red Wings get back a bottom six veteran in Gagner. The sixth overall pick in 2007, Gagner has been a bust, but has played in the league for 13 years and is only 30 years old. The Red Wings signed Kuffner out of Princeton late last year. He made his NHL debut, but has spent this year in the AHL only, where he has struggled.

         Athanasiou, 25, has scored 10 goals with 14 assists for 24 points in 46 games for the Red Wings this year. In his NHL career, all in Detroit, Athanasiou has scored 83 goals with 71 assists for 154 points in 294 games.

         Kuffner, 23, has no points in 10 career NHL games, all for Detroit last year. In the AHL for the Grand Rapid Griffins this year Kuffner has scored six goals with three assists for nine points in 32 games.

         Gagner, 30, has scored five goals with seven assists for 12 points in 36 games this season. In his NHL career for the Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers, Gagner has scored 163 goals with 295 assists for 458 points in 838 games.

NHL Trade Review: Senators acquire Peca



        The Ottawa Senators have acquired forward Matthew Peca from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 7th round draft pick.

         Peca was a promising depth forward entering the 2019-20 season. He has had a rough year, playing mostly in the AHL, and not putting up many points there. But, the Senators are taking a chance on him. He could be a candidate to be Ottawa's Anthony Duclair acquisition this year. The team traded away Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tyler Ennis today, so they have open roster spots. Peca is worth a bottom six shot. A 7th round pick is nothing, and that's the main part of the deal. Luchuk is an ECHL player that the Sens acquired on February 19th from the Leafs for Max Veronneau.

         Peca, 26, has no points in five NHL games this year. He has scored four goals with nine assists for 13 points in 34 games for the AHL's Laval Rocket this year. In his NHL career for the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning Peca has scored six goals with 11 assists for 17 points in 64 games.

         Luchuk, 22, has no points in three AHL games for the Toronto Marlies this year. In 46 games for the ECHL's Brampton Beast and Newfoundland Growlers Luchuk has scored 19 goals with 31 assists for 50 points.

NHL Trade Review: Bruins and Ducks swap Heinen and Ritchie



        The Boston Bruins have acquired forward Nick Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Danton Heinen.

        Every year there are one or two trade deadline moves that confuses everyone at first because it wasn't expected, then makes more sense as time goes on. This is definitely one of them. Both Heinen and Ritchie are young third liners with potential in down years. This trade also marks the second deal between the teams this weak, after Boston acquired Ondrej Kase for a first round pick, David Backes and Axel Andersson. The players are the same age, with Heinen being roughly 150 days older. Ritchie has scored one more goal this year, but Heinen has three more points. However, Heinen has also played in 17 more games than Ritchie. Ritchie has a higher potential, with more NHL experience. The 10th overall pick in 2014 has never scored 20 goals in a season. Heinen, a 2014 4th rounder, scored a career high 16 goals in 2017-18. The trade works as an energizer for both players. They also will likely take each other's spot in the lineup. Heinen has one more year left under contract with a $2.8 million cap hit, and Ritchie has another year left at nearly $1.5 million. Both will be RFAs at the end of their contracts.

        Ritchie, 24, has scored eight goals with 11 assists for 19 points in 41 games for the Ducks this year. In his NHL career, all in Anaheim, Ritchie has scored 43 goals with 66 assists for 109 points in 287 games.

        Heinen, 24, has scored seven goals with 15 assists for 22 points in 58 games this year. In his NHL career, all with the Bruins, Heinen has scored 34 goals with 69 assists for 103 points in 220 games.

NHL Trade Review: Flyers acquire Grant



         The Philadelphia Flyers have acquired forward Derek Grant from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Kyle Criscuolo and a conditional 2020 4th round pick. The pick will be the higher of Nashville and Philadelphia's 4th rounders, both owned by the Flyers.

          Grant is a good depth forward. He is a 4th liner that can kill penalties. He also has scored a career high 14 goals so far this year. The Flyers have a lot of centers, so they can move Grant to the wing. But, he is a decent center if they need him to play there. The team has been improving their depth with the acquisitions of Grant and Nate Thompson today. Both players are on cheap, expiring deals. The 4th rounder is the main part of the deal. Criscuolo has nine games of NHL experience, all coming in 2017-18. He has not scored 20 goals in a season since he was in the USHL.

           Grant, 29, has scored 14 goals with six assists for 20 points in 49 games for the Ducks this year. In his NHL career for the Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators Grant has scored 30 goals with 35 assists for 65 points in 257 games.

           Criscuolo, 27, has scored eight goals with 16 assists for 24 points in 40 games for the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms this year. In his NHL career, all with the Sabres, Criscuolo has no points in nine games.

NHL Trade Review: Sabres get Simmonds



        The Buffalo Sabres have acquired forward Wayne Simmonds from the New Jersey Devils for a conditional 2021 5th round draft pick. If the Sabres make the playoffs and Simmonds plays in 10 games, the pick is upgraded to a 4th rounder.

         The Sabres don't seem to be in the playoff hunt. But, they are only six points out of the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, needing to pass the Panthers and Maple Leafs. Also, the Panthers appear to be sellers after trading away Vincent Trocheck and potentially Mike Hoffman. The Leafs are falling after losing to the Hurricanes while their goalie for most of the game was 42-year-old Zamboni driver Dave Ayers. The Sabres could be seeing the Leafs loss and the Trocheck trade as a chance to get back in the race. Simmonds is a veteran on an expiring contract, and even if the Sabres miss the playoffs, they only trade a fifth round pick. Plus, the reigning Mark Messier award winner will be a big presence in the locker room. As a player, Simmonds' 30 goal days seem to be behind him. He was terrible in Nashville after being traded at last year's trade deadline. He signed with the Devils in the offseason and has struggled, failing to score 10 goals so far. However, the trade should be a spark for the team as the front office is showing them that they trust them to make the playoffs this year. The pressure could be on for GM Jason Botterill as well. Getting a 5th for Simmonds might have seemed low for New Jersey when they signed him, but he has had a bad year and is aging so the price is warranted.

           Simmonds, 31, has scored eight goals with 16 assists for 24 points in 61 games for the Devils this year. In his NHL career for the Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators Simmonds has scored 251 goals with 247 assists for 498 points in 902 games.

NHL Trade Review: Avs acquire Hutchinson, send Rosen back to Leafs



            The Colorado Avalanche have acquired goalie Michael Hutchinson from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Calle Rosen.

            The Maple Leafs obviously like Rosen. They signed him as an undrafted free agent when he was 23. In December 2018, they extended him to a two year, $3 million contract. However, when they were acquiring Tyson Barrie from Colorado, they traded away Rosen as he wouldn't have a spot. Now, when traded with the Avs again, they get back Rosen to help with their defensive depth. Rosen is not a star, and probably not even a starter, but he is a good depth piece for the club. Hutchinson was their third string goalie, and was having a terrible season. The Avalanche need a backup goalie badly with starter Philipp Grubauer out. Backup Pavel Francouz is holding down the fort, but the other goalie on the roster was Hunter Miska, who had one career NHL game, coming last year. Hutchinson's NHL numbers are awful, but in four AHL games since being sent down following Toronto's trade for Jack Campbell, Hutchinson has looked great. He has a 1.98 GAA and .943 SV% with the Marlies. Rosen has little NHL experience and has been mostly an AHLer since coming over from Sweden after the 2016-17 season.

             Hutchinson, 29, has a 3.66 GAA with a .886 SV% in 15 games for the Maple Leafs this year. In his NHL career for the Leafs, Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets Hutchinson has a 2.81 GAA with a .905 SV% in 126 games.

             Rosen, 26, has two points, both assists in eight games for the Avalanche this year. For the AHL's Colorado Eagles Rosen has scored three goals with 12 assists for 15 points in 35 games. In his NHL career for the Leafs and Avalanche Rosen has scored one goal with three assists for four points in 16 games.

NHL Trade Review: Flyers get Thompson from Montreal



          The Philadelphia Flyers have acquired forward Nate Thompson from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2021 5th round draft pick.

          The Flyers could use center help. They have reportedly acquired Derek Grant from Anaheim, and they also get Thompson. Thompson is a journeyman 4th line center that can play around 12 minutes a game and kill penalties. He is a pending UFA as well. The cost to get him is cheap as well. Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and Grant will place ahead of Thompson in the lineup. Scott Laughton or Hayes could move to the wing. Thompson could be a healthy scratch some days as well. Getting a 5th rounder for Thompson is a losing bet for Montreal after trading a 4th for him last year with L.A.

           Thompson, 35, has scored four goals with 10 assists for 14 points in 63 games for the Canadiens this year. In his NHL career for the Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins, Thompson has scored 62 goals with 93 assists for 155 points in 760 games.

NHL Trade Review: Penguins get Marleau

From NBC Sports



            The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks for a conditional 2021 third round pick. If Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup this year, the pick becomes a 2021 second rounder.

            Marleau is the definition of a veteran. He is 40 years old, and has played over 1,700 games with over 1,000 points in his career. In his 22 year career, 20 were with San Jose. He has not produced in his return to to San Jose after a stint in Toronto. The team is terrible this year. Marleau is a pending UFA on a league minimum contract, so they can get a little bit more for him. While he has not won a Stanley Cup yet, this could be his last chance. The Penguins are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. His experience gets him a better return. Getting a third, maybe second round pick for a 40 year old with 20 points this year is a really good deal for the Sharks. The Penguins don't need the pick, and Marleau can be like a Chris Kunitz type player for them.

             Marleau, 40, has scored 10 goals with 10 assists for 20 points in 58 games for the Sharks this year. In his very long career for the Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs Marleau has scored 561 goals with 625 assists for 1,186 points in 1,715 games.

NHL Trade Review: Canes get Trocheck for four players



          The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired forward Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers for forwards Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Eetu Luostarinen, plus defenseman Chase Priskie.

          Trocheck has been a solid second line center in his career for the Panthers. However, a fractured ankle suffered early last season has derailed his play, and he has not been the same player since. He is on an 82 game pace for 15 goals and 54 points this year, which is not good considering his 31 goal, 75 point season just two years ago. He will improve the Hurricanes' middle six regardless. They give up four players, but no big prospects, and two NHL players that are on expiring contracts. Haula will be a UFA, Wallmark an RFA. They don't give up any draft picks, either. Trocheck is not a great defensive center, though. After 2019-20, he has two more years left under contract with a cap hit of $4.75 million.

           Trocheck, 26, has scored 10 goals with 26 assists for 36 points in 55 games this year. In his NHL career, all in Florida, Trocheck has scored 111 goals with 172 assists for 282 points in 420 games.

            This return seems very low for the Panthers. Haula won't be on the team by July 1st. Wallmark is a decent bottom six center, but is a big step down from Trocheck. Neither Priskie or Luostarinen are big prospects. Haula scored 29 goals with Vegas two seasons ago, but like Trocheck, suffered a big injury, and has struggled since. He has been back down to third line production this year. Priskie was a former 6th rounder who did not sign with the Capitals and played four seasons at Quinnipiac instead. He is in the AHL currently. A 2017 2nd rounder, Luostarinen made his NHL debut this year but has been unimpressive in the AHL.

             Haula, 28, has scored 12 goals with 10 assists for 22 points in 41 games for the Hurricanes this year. In his NHL career for the Hurricanes, Vegas Golden Knights and the Minnesota Wild, Haula has scored 85 goals with 88 assists for 173 points in 398 games.

             Wallmark, 24, has scored 11 goals with 12 assists for 23 points in 60 games this season. In his NHL career, all in Carolina, Wallmark has scored 22 goals with 32 assists for 54 points in 160 games.

             Priskie, 23, has scored six goals with 25 assists for 31 points in 52 games for the AHL's Charlotte Checkers this year. Last year for Quinnipiac, he scored 17 goals with 22 assists for 39 points in 36 games.

             Luostarinen, 21, had one point, an assist, in eight NHL games this year. For Charlotte this season Luostarinen has eight goals with 17 assists for 25 points in 44 games.

NHL Trade Review: Islanders acquire Pageau

From the NY Post


        The New York Islanders have acquired forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick, a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick. The 1st rounder will be a 2021 pick if the 2020 pick is top-3 overall. The Senators only get the 3rd rounder if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this season.

        Pageau is a middle-six center, but the Islanders desperately needed him. He plays a two-way game, and has a career high 24 goals already. However, he has nearly an 18% shooting percentage, about four percent higher than his previous career high. Also, he has had a big bump in ice time as the Senators have traded away many players in recent years. He is a rental, but the Islanders likely believe that they can re-sign him. Neither of the conditions include a re-signing condition. The Isles' bottom-six is horrible, and Pageau helps improve that. They still could use a winger. Pageau's own former teammate Tyler Ennis is very much an option. He should only cost a 4-5th round pick.

         Pageau, 27, has scored 24 goals with 16 assists for 40 points in 60 games for the Senators this year. In his NHL career, all in Ottawa, Pageau has scored 87 goals with 95 assists for 182 points in 428 games.

         The Senators are horrible. Pageau is a pending UFA and contract talks reportedly weren't going anywhere. Getting a first and a second rounder is a really, really good return. Pageau was playing top minutes for them but he is more like a third liner. The Senators have three first round picks now, and two- their own and San Jose's, will be top picks.

NHL Trade Review: Avs acquire Namestnikov



       The Colorado Avalanche have acquired forward Vladislav Namestnikov from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2021 4th round draft pick.

        The Avs are hunting again for a forward. They missed out on Taylor Hall earlier this season, and were in the hunt for Chris Kreider. While it doesn't look like they'll get Kreider, they get a solid depth forward in Namestnikov. While he isn't on the level of Hall or Kreider, he is a decent third line winger. Namestnikov started the season with the Rangers, but was traded to Ottawa after two games. He has been decent for the Senators. A pending UFA, the return probably should have been higher. Especially after the team got a first and second rounder for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. While Pageau is a center, the difference between him and Namestnikov isn't that big. The Avs could sell a little at the deadline as well. Tyson Jost is rumored to potentially be on the way out.

        Namestnikov, 27, has scored 13 goals with 12 assists for 25 points in 56 games for the Senators and New York Rangers this year. In his NHL career for the Senators, Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, Namestnikob has scored 79 goals with 104 assists for 183 points in 416 games.