Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The great Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
For those of you who haven't stopped to look around lately, the landscape of Major League Baseball has changed drastically this offseason. The once-great Texas Rangers suddenly seem destined for mediocrity while the formerly underachieving Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as World Series favorites.
We've seen a flurry of roster moves over the past couple weeks, but do all the pieces fit? We're about to find out.
Most of you are probably sick of hearing about Josh Hamilton and Zack Grienke by now, so I didn't include them on this list. Everyone else is fair game though:
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds: The Reds acquired Choo as part of a three- team deal earlier this month and the only significant piece they gave up was speedy but strikeout-prone outfielder Drew Stubbs. Choo's production has dropped off the past couple of seasons (.274, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 31 SBs his last two seasons after hitting .300 with 42 HR, 176 RBI and 43 SBs in 2009-10) but he should at least score more runs with All-Stars Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce hitting behind him.
Ryan Dempster, SP, Boston Red Sox: Dempster is on the wrong end of 35 and has little experience pitching in the American League after spending 14 seasons with the Cubs, Reds and Marlins. None of that sounds encouraging but the high- scoring Red Sox will certainly be able to give him more run support than he received with the Cubs last season. Fourteen or fifteen wins with an ERA in the high threes seems like the most likely scenario for Dempster.
R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: The Mets were hesitant to sign Dickey to a long-term contract, so they sent him to the Jays for a handful of prospects. It's true, Dickey is the second-oldest player on Toronto's roster (42-year-old Darren Oliver is still deciding whether or not to retire), but remember he's coming off a Cy Young season and knuckleballers are known for pitching well into their 40s. Pitching in the highly competitive AL East might raise Dickey's ERA but Toronto's loaded lineup will give him plenty of run support. A second-straight 20-win season could be a real possibility for Dickey.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Chicago Cubs: The Cubs just forked out an insane amount of dough for Jackson, rewarding the right-hander with $52 million over the next four seasons. It would be equally insane to have Jackson on your fantasy team next season. Though he's still just 29 and has no history of injuries, Jackson has never won more than 14 games and his career ERA is north of four. With the Cubs coming off their worst season in more than 30 years, Jackson would be lucky to scrape together 10 wins next season.
Brandon McCarthy, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: McCarthy has been unstoppable for Oakland the last two seasons, compiling a 3.29 ERA in 281 2/3 innings. He's not a strikeout pitcher though and one wonders what McCarthy's mindset will be like after taking a line drive to the head last September. Even with these concerns, McCarthy looks like a safe bet for 15 wins and an ERA in the low threes, assuming he can stay healthy.
Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: Never the model of consistency, Reyes has been known to alternate between excellent and so-so seasons. Reyes' 2012 campaign would definitely fall under the so-so umbrella (.287, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 40 SB), which bodes well for his prospects in 2013. Reyes can score 100 runs in his sleep with Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting behind him in the lineup. Think bounce back for Reyes.
James Shields, SP, Kansas City Royals: Shields has started at least 31 games each of his last six seasons while averaging 221 2/3 innings over that span. There's two ways you can process that information. One would be to commend Shields for his impressive durability. The other thought would be, "When is this dude's arm gonna' give out?" Even if Shields' body holds up, winning 15 games seems like a longshot. No pitcher on Kansas City has won more than 12 since 2009.
B.J. Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves: Upton will replace Michael Bourn as Atlanta's starting center fielder next season. Turner Field is pretty neutral in terms of hitter/pitcher friendliness but anything would be better than Tropicana Field, where Upton spent the first eight seasons of his career (23rd in park factor last season). Upton is coming off a career-high in homers (28 last season) and it wouldn't be surprising if he topped that number again in 2013. Just don't expect a high batting average (.255 hitter for his career and .246 last season).
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees: Everything about Youkilis wearing pinstripes feels wrong. With that said, Yankee Stadium's short dimensions might be just what Youk needs to get back on track. If Russell Martin and his Swiss cheese-like swing can have a 20-homer season playing in New York, so can Youk. Sorry, Red Sox fans.
Most of the dominos have already fallen this offseason but there are still a few big names left on the market including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse and Cody Ross. Maybe we'll see one of them sign before the holidays as part of a little last minute shopping. Tis' the season, right?
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