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MLB Winter Transactions That Will Impact the 2013 Season

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Baseball fans’ favorite time of the year is naturally either Opening Day or the postseason, but “true” baseball aficionados┬ápay as much attention (and sometimes even more) to the off-season “Hot Stove” comings-and-goings. This is the time when teams assess their rosters and engage in wheeling and dealing to try and find the magic combination that will help to lead their team to success. The 2013 offseason was no different with many teams making changes.

Two of the more active teams this winter have been Toronto and Washington. Blue Jay fans will definitely need a program to identify their favorites, as the team pulled off two big trades and inked a coveted free agent. The team acquired SS Jose Reyes, IF Emilio Bonaficio and Ps Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson from Miami and then added 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in a deal with the New York Mets. The Jays weren’t finished however as they convinced OF Melky Cabrera to join them. Each of these players are expected to make major contributions as Toronto seeks to climb back into AL East contention.

The Nationals were the NL 2012 surprise team, winning their first NL East crown and energizing their D.C. fan base. Their biggest weakness was the lack of a consistent, productive leadoff man, a glaring hole they addressed with the acquisition of CF Denard Swan. The addition of Swan allows manager Davey Johnson to move SS Ian Desmond and RF Jayson Werth back into a more natural batting order slot, with the hope that Swan’s on-base-percentage will give the Nats power hitters more RBI opportunities. Speaking of power hitters, the Nats re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche (career-best 33 HRs in 2012), and are hoping he can continue to provide the power needed. Another key pickup for the Nationals was closer Rafael Soriano from the Yankees. Expendable since Mariano Rivera is expected back, Soriano reaped the benefits of his standout 2012 by inking a two-year $28 million dollar contract. Free agent P Dan Haren joins an already sterling rotation, giving the Nats an enviable staff all the way through. With youngsters Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as cornerstones, and the new additions, much will be expected in 2013 from Washington.

The Nats biggest challengers, the Atlanta Braves, certainly didn’t stand pat and will no doubt pose more than a formidable foe. The retirement of Chipper Jones and his clutch bat leaves a big hole in the lineup, but manager Fredi Gonzalez thinks the moves made by the front office will adequately replace the production, but replacing Jones’ unmatched leadership and mentorship in the clubhouse will be a different matter. With the acquisition of the Upton brothers, Atlanta’s outfield (the Uptons along with Jason Heyward) has the potential to be the best in the majors. Combined with Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Brian McCann and rising star SS Andrelton Simmons, scoring runs shouldn’t be an issue. The pitching staff (Medlen, Hudson, Beachey, Minor along with closer Craig Kimbrell) is at least the equal of Washington’s. Losing the dependable Martin Prado in the Justin Upton deal hurts, but this team appears to be ready to reclaim their accustomed spot atop the NL East.

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The biggest transaction during the offseason may have been the Angels signing of free agent slugger Josh Hamilton from the Texas Rangers. Following last season’s inking of Albert Pujols, opposing pitchers will no doubt have to pick their poison with those two batting back-to-back. Detroit lost in the World Series, but they appear to have strengthened their sometimes shaky defense with the signing of perennial Gold Glover OF Torii Hunter. Another significant move by the Tigers involved re-signing P Anibal Sanchez to a five-year $80 million dollar deal, and the return of the injured Victor Martinez gives Detroit yet another big bat to go along with Prince Fielder and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. As long as the Tigers trot out P Justin Verlander every fifth day, they’ll remain a contender, especially with all that firepower behind him.

Other key players changing addresses during the offseason include P Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Dodgers, lockdown closer Joel Hanrahan joining the Red Sox, P Edwin Jackson leaving Washington for the Chicago Cubs, and P James Shields moving from Tampa Bay to the Kansas City Royals.

One of the biggest surprises of the offseason revolved around the New York Yankees. Ordinarily one of the busiest teams in free agency, the Yankees strangely did very little in terms of personnel. Already one of the oldest teams in the majors, the Yankees failed to address their age issue, instead re-signing such greybeards as Andy Pettite, Kevin Youklis and Mariano Rivera. If the Yankees stumble out of the gate in 2013, that rumbling heard throughout the Bronx will be George Steinbrenner doing everything possible to fire someone from the grave.

MLB 2012: Biggest Disappointments Of The Year

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The 2012 MLB season was certainly a surprising one. While teams like the Nationals defied expectations, there were plenty of disappointing things to happen to several players and teams. Which moments stood out the most during the past season?

The Angels Failed To Make The Playoffs

Despite raising their payroll and signing free agent slugger Albert Pujols, the Anaheim Angels failed to even make the postseason. To be fair, Pujols struggled to find any semblance of consistency until the middle of May. By then, the Angels had fallen too far behind the Rangers and A’s. Fortunately, Pujols did rebound to hit 30 home runs to go along with 105 runs batted in.

Melky Cabrera Was Caught Cheating

Melky Cabrera was in the middle of a career season when he was suspended 50 games for using performance enhancing drugs. Instead of winning the NL batting title, Cabrera was forced to spend the rest of his season watching his teammates win a World Series title. To make things worse, Cabrera tried to claim that he got bad information from websites that turned out to be created by Cabrera.

The Marlins Waved The White Flag

The Miami Marlins started the 2012 season with a new stadium, a payroll in excess of $100 million and hopes of contending for the third championship in franchise history. However, by the end of the season, players such as Hanley Ramirez were out the door. The Marlins finished the job recently by sending Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and John Buck to Toronto for prospects. The worst part about the whole fiasco is that owner Jeffry Loria used the promise of a better team to get taxpayer money for the new stadium.

Houston Looked Like A Minor League Squad Out There

The 2012 Houston Astros looked like the guys from Major League out there this season. While the Astros are not moving anytime soon, they certainly had their share of incompetent play. The good news is that high draft picks should allow the team to bolster the farm system. However, their switch to the AL is going to be tough without any decent bats in the lineup.

The 2012 season was a great one for baseball. Washington finally has a winner, Baltimore made the playoffs and the Dodgers are looking like contenders again. However, the fans in Houston, Miami and Anaheim are certainly hoping that 2013 is nothing like what they saw in 2012.

Projected Division Winners In 2013

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Spring training doesn’t begin for another couple of months, but it is never too early to start thinking about who will win a division crown next year. With many teams making deals to upgrade their teams, it is tempting to project each division winner. Let’s take a look at who has the inside track at a division title next season.

AL East:

2012 Division Winner: New York Yankees
2013 Projected Division Winner: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had a lot of talent in their lineup. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of pitching talent outside of Brandon Morrow. This year, they will get Mark Buehrle to help with the rotation as well as Jose Reyes to provide some more pop in the batting order. With the recent influx of talent from Miami, the Blue Jays should be able to hold off the feisty Orioles and the declining Yankees.

AL Central

2012 Division Winner: Detroit Tigers
2013 Projected Division Winner: Detroit Tigers

The Tigers will have mostly the same lineup this year as they did in 2012. This will allow them to make another run at a division title in a weak AL Central. The only other team that could compete with them is the Chicago White Sox. While the Royals are trying to improve, they need to prove that they can compete before they get any respect from this guy.

AL West

2012 Division Winner: Oakland Athletics
2013 Projected Division Winner: Texas Rangers

Oakland and Anaheim will provide some competition for sure. However, there is one truly great team in that division and it is the Texas Rangers. They will get Josh Hamilton back and will be the team to beat once again.

NL East

2012 Division Winner: Washington Nationals
2013 Projected Division Winner: Atlanta Braves

The Nationals had a great season last year. However, it will be hard for Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg to carry the team like they did last year. While the Nats should still compete for a wild card, the Braves are a solid team with a lot of great young pitching. They should reclaim a crown that they wore with regularity in the 90′s.

NL Central

2012 Division Winner: Cincinnati Reds
2013 Projected Division Winner: Cincinnati Reds

The NL Central may be the weakest division in all of baseball. The Astros will certainly not contend and the Cubs are likely to be near the bottom as well. The Brewers and Pirates may make a valiant effort even if both of those clubs fall short as well. St. Louis may be the only real competition in that division. However, recent history shows that the Cardinals are built for the playoffs as opposed to the regular season.

NL West

2012 Division Winner: San Francisco Giants
2013 Projected Division Winner: LA Dodgers

The Dodgers have made it their mission to win as many games as possible this year. Don’t be surprised if they win this one running away. With over $200 million spent, it will be considered a major failure if they don’t take the division and go on to win the World Series.

The baseball season should be an outstanding one in 2013. Many teams have made upgrades to help them compete next season and appease fan bases that are starving for a winning season. Hopefully, the Royals, Dodgers and Blue Jays will be able to deliver on that promise and put some new blood into the championship picture.