Mid-Season Player Trade Predictions—National League

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Yesterday I predicted where various available American League players would wind up (or if they won’t be traded at all). Now let’s have a look at the National League. Bear one thing in mind: the irony shouldn’t be lost on you that Brett Myers was traded from the Astros to the White Sox and the “insiders” and rumormongering schlock sites had no inkling that Myers was even on the White Sox’ radar. They don’t have any more viable information than you or I do and are either making things up or working hand-in-hand with organizations and one another to wag the dog and accumulate webhits, attention and increase advertising rates.

Know what you’re reading and determine credibility based on logic and intelligence, not a circular reputation based on a shoddy foundation.

New York Mets

Ike Davis, 1B—He hasn’t been rumored anywhere that I’ve seen, but if they can move Davis as part of a deal for Justin Upton, it has to be explored. Davis has power, is a good fielder and his teammates love him, but he strikes out way too much; is streaky; and has a growing negative reputation with the umpires as a whiner. If he thinks the whining is going to get him close calls, he’s sorely mistaken. He won’t be traded in-season; in the off-season, the Mets will listen.

Daniel Murphy, 2B/1B/3B—He can hit and does have the ability to hit the ball out of the park 10-15 times a year in spite of his low power numbers in 2012; his defense at second base has been serviceable and no one works harder, but is he going to be the Mets’ second baseman when they take the next step into contention? If not, they should explore dealing him for pitching help. He’ll go as part of a deal for Huston Street so the Mets can get Jordany Valdespin into the lineup.

Scott Hairston, OF—The talk of trading the likes of R.A. Dickey at his “high value” is ridiculous, but they could get bullpen help for Hairston. I doubt they trade him.

Jason Bay, OF—They could get a similarly bad contract like Chone Figgins and probably money to pay off a worse contract like Vernon Wells. It would be best for everyone, but Bay’s not going anywhere now. They’ll release him after the season.

Miami Marlins

Carlos Zambrano, RHP—Nobody wants him and after yesterday’s display of 6 walks in 3.1 innings and his awful pitching of late, when the Marlins start making the inevitable changes, they’ll just release him and make a big show of it as evidence of them “doing something”.

Hanley Ramirez, 3B/SS—They won’t trade Hanley in-season. If they make a move, it’ll be over the winter. Even then, I doubt they’ll pull the trigger. In fact, amid all the talk of a “Marlins sell-off”, they can’t clean out the house halfway into the first season in a new park just because the flawed team they put together hasn’t performed. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Giancarlo Stanton aren’t going anywhere…for now.

Logan Morrison, LF/1B—LoMo is another matter. He’s too one-dimensional to be this much of an organizational pest. He irritated the club with his tweeting and subversive behaviors and if they’d like to set an example, this is the way to do it.

The Orioles need a bat who can hit the ball out of the park.

Ricky Nolasco, RHP—Nolasco needs a change of scenery and if teams realize the Marlins are moving some pieces after the names that are floating around now are off the board, Nolasco’s a pretty good consolation prize. The Cardinals could use him.

Anibal Sanchez, RHP—Another former Red Sox’ farmhand like Ramirez, he’s available and very good when he’s healthy. Back to the Red Sox he goes.

Heath Bell, RHP—Who wants the contract? Who wants him? Nobody and nobody.

Omar Infante, 2B—They won’t trade him.

John Buck, C—Who wants him?

Greg Dobbs, 3B/OF/PH—The Giants need a bat off the bench.

Philadelphia Phillies

Cole Hamels, LHP—They’re going to sign him.

Cliff Lee, LHP—Here’s a flash for the Joel Shermans of the world of which there are far too many: THEY’RE NOT TRADING LEE!!!!

Shane Victorino, OF—The Yankees are being pushed to acquire an outfielder they don’t need and are said to have asked about Victorino. He’ll be traded and I say to the Indians.

Ty Wigginton, INF—He’s a Kirk Gibson-type player who’d help the Diamondbacks as a corner infielder and bat off the bench.

Hunter Pence, OF—They’re not trading Pence.

Jimmy Rollins, SS—If they’d like to free up some money for Hamels, they could explore getting rid of Rollins. The Giants like veterans, but Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam yesterday; they demoted Brandon Belt; if the Giants look for a bat, it will be at first base. Nobody’s taking Rollins.

Juan Pierre, OF—The Cardinals could use bench help and speed.

Placido Polanco, INF—Back to the Tigers.

Joe Blanton, RHP—The Orioles need a starter to gobble innings.

Milwaukee Brewers

Zack Greinke, RHP—Greinke won’t sign long-term with the Brewers, but they’re close enough to contention to hang onto him and take the draft pick when he leaves.

Randy Wolf, LHP—Another pitcher who will be on the second tier after the names come off the board. He’ll go to the Dodgers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP—He won’t be traded.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B—Nobody’s taking that contract.

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP—Back to the Angels.

Chicago Cubs

Matt Garza, RHP—The blogosphere went bonkers when Garza was yanked from last night’s game after 3 innings. “Was he traded?” “Where was he traded?”

He wasn’t traded. He had cramping in his triceps.

Unless the Cubs are knocked over, why trade him now? He’s under contract for 2013 and whatever they’d get now, they can get after the season. He’ll stay.

Ryan Dempster, RHP—Don’t buy into the teams that are supposedly “out” on Dempster. He’s a Jim Leyland-type of pitcher and the Tigers need starting pitching.

Starlin Castro, SS—They’ll listen but won’t move him in-season.

Geovany Soto, C—If he’s moved, it will be in the winter.

Bryan LaHair, 1B—With the Giants sending Belt to the minors, they need a bat at first base.

Carlos Marmol, RHP—I don’t know who’d want him. He strikes out a lot of hitters, but walks a lot as well.

Alfonso Soriano, LF/DH—The Cubs would have to pay off his remaining contract ($36 million for 2013-2014), but what’s the difference at this point? I doubt anyone’s taking him even for free.

Houston Astros

Wandy Rodriguez, LHP—He’s owed up to $26 million for next season with his 2014 option becoming guaranteed with a trade. The Blue Jays need pitching and have money and prospects to deal.

Wesley Wright, LHP—The Rangers need another lefty reliever for the playoffs.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Justin Upton, RF—They’ve made such an overt display of putting him on the market, they pretty much have to trade him now. The Rays will jump in with a package and hope that the unification of the Justin with his brother B.J. Upton will inspire B.J. to play hard over the second half and perhaps steal another playoff spot.

Stephen Drew, SS—The Braves need a shortstop and Paul Janish ain’t it.

Ryan Roberts, INF/OF—Roberts is a utility player who had a career year in 2011 and the Diamondbacks began to think he’s an everyday player. They’ll keep him and put him back where he belongs as an extra bench man.

San Diego Padres

Chase Headley, 3B—Their demands are high for a controllable player and won’t trade him.

Carlos Quentin, LF—He and the Padres are supposedly nearing a contract extension.

Huston Street, RHP—He’ll go to the Mets.

Luke Gregerson, RHP—They won’t trade him.

Clayton Richard, LHP—They won’t trade him.

Joe Thatcher, LHP—The Indians need another lefty out of the bullpen.

Edinson Volquez, RHP—They won’t trade him.

Colorado Rockies

Dexter Fowler, CF—They’d listen but won’t move him. If GM Dan O’Dowd goes to ownership with a deal that’s as big as it would be to trade Fowler and ownership says to hold off, O’Dowd should start getting boxes for his stuff and prepare to clean out his office.

Rafael Betancourt, RHP—Back to the Indians.

Ramon Hernandez, C—The Rays have interest and that’s where he’ll go.

Jason Giambi, 1B/PH—The Reds need a lefty bat off the bench who can play sparingly at first base until Joey Votto is 100%.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF—More nonsense from Joel Sherman who said recently that the Yankees (shocking coming from Sherman) should go after Gonzalez. He’s not available even to the Yankees who, supposedly, are preordained to be handed whatever they want whether it be Lee, Gonzalez or whoever.

Gonzalez’s not getting dealt.

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Shielded

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

The controversies surrounding the White Sox generally center around manager Ozzie Guillen because, well, because he’s Ozzie. The roster is the creation of GM Kenny Williams and he’s been shielded from criticism to a remarkable degree.

I’m wondering why.

Is it because he’s won a World Series?

Is it because he puts forth the image (which I believe) that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him or what he does?

Is it because of Ozzie?

Why?

If you look at the series of moves he’s made in recent years, many would be accurately described as mistakes—you could refer to some as disastrous.

They don’t have legitimate big league third baseman; Adam Dunn is eventually going to hit, but he’s been an expensive (4 years, $56 million) train wreck so far with a .175 BA, .637 OPS and 7 homers; Alex Rios‘s contract was taken off waivers from the Blue Jays and he’s been terrible this season too after rebounding in 2010—his deal has a guaranteed $38 million after this season; Edwin Jackson and Jake Peavy were acquired in trades for inexpensive young arms that included Daniel Hudson and Clayton Richard—arms with whom the White Sox would be better and cheaper in place of what they got.

This isn’t an indictment of Williams. I think he’s a terrific GM and agreed with all of the moves except for Peavy. I admire his deep-strike mentality in going after what he wants regardless of perception and consequences.

That doesn’t alter the fact that the White Sox are a $128 million mediocrity with rampant infighting among the manager and the GM.

That infighting has gone on forever and doesn’t affect the club in any significant way; the White Sox main troubles have come from the combination of a lack of offense from Dunn and Rios; the struggles/injuries of Jackson and Peavy; and from failing to close games they should’ve won early in the season.

I maintain that the White Sox as the best team in the AL Central; they’ll right the ship to get back into legitimate contention, but how did Williams turn to teflon? He deserves and should receive his share of the blame while things are still going poorly.

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Cold And Indifferent Truth

Hot Stove

Neither love-fest nor shooting gallery, on the day of his retirement, here’s the icy and brutally honest assessment of Andy Pettitte‘s career with its ups-and-downs; truths amid embellishments.

On the field and in a dark alley:

A player establishes relatively quickly whether he’s going to be able to handle the big stage of New York with the media, the attention, the temptations.

One thing that has aided the Yankees during the last 15 years of consistent championship contention has gone under-reported—that their “core four” Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada have stayed out of the front of the newspaper in a negative sense.

Aside from the Roger Clemens-PED controversy (more on that in a bit), as far as we know, Pettitte has been as clean off the field as he was gutty on it; the same can be said of Jeter, Rivera and Posada.

Jeter of course is as big a star as an athlete can possibly be and he’s a bon vivant nonpareil, but he’s shunned controversy and never consciously placed himself into a position where he could be embarrassed.

It was a more difficult road for Pettitte as he was a soft-spoken and subdued Texan; a handsome young athlete who likely had more negative influences available because of the evident shyness. The questions abounded if Pettitte was genuine or if the image was a means-to-an-end for the club and player.

But they were avoided.

If anything was a key to the Yankees run, it was that on and off field professionalism. Vultures and greenflies hover around a young athlete especially in New York; if he keeps from succumbing, he’s free to perform on the field.

As a pitcher, Pettitte was never the most dominant, but there was something about him that said he wasn’t going to wilt in the spotlight. He started his big league career in 1995 out of necessity as an extra arm out of the Yankees bullpen and didn’t enter the starting rotation until a month later. As a rookie he went 12-9 and was a major part of the Yankees late season run to the playoffs; his first post-season start against the Mariners was serviceable, but he was warming up in the bullpen when Jack McDowell blew game 5 in the series loss.

In the 1996 regular season, he went 21-8 and blossomed into a full-blown star; it was in the playoffs that his reputation began to cement itself. His performance in game 5—8 1/3 innings of 5 hit, no run ball, set the stage for the championship clincher in game 6.

As the years passed, Pettitte’s career didn’t follow the path some assumed it would. Rather than continue and improve, he became a cog in the machine. With high ERAs and accumulation of wins in the regular season, there was never an overt “fear” of Andy Pettitte where teams worried about not being able to score runs; he took advantage of the run-scoring machine those Yankees were; that they had a terrific bullpen and he won a lot of games.

You knew at the beginning of each season what you were going to get from Pettitte; that’s not on a level with the devastation a pitcher like Pedro Martinez brought forth on his victims, but it may have been as important. Knowing someone’s going to be there and not cower in the face of danger is a valuable asset.

Pettitte’s career took him to the Astros—a fact that’s conveniently glossed over in the postmortems of his career—and he left the Yankees as a matter of choice. It was said to have partially been due to the disrespect he felt he was receiving from the Yankees organization; that they had other priorities and fell asleep at the switch with their financial might seen as the final arbiter (sounds familiar now, doesn’t it?); but Pettitte took less money from the Astros after a desperation offer from the Yankees failed.

Three years later, he returned, did the same job he did in his first stint with the Yankees. Never dominant; always consistent; durable and money in the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, when the Yankees were said to have offered a contract to Carl Pavano, I said that Pavano is not the person I’d want at my back in a dark alley unless there was a beach, a Porsche dealership and a modeling agency in clear view on the other side; with Pettitte, I’d have no such hesitation—he’s the guy you want protecting you. If he lost, it wasn’t due to a lack of conviction or courage; it was because he got beat.

The PEDs and sullying of his reputation:

It’s not to be totally dismissed that Pettitte admitted to having used HGH. He claimed it was trying to overcome an injury and earn his paycheck by continuing to pitch.

As cynical as I am and knowing the way people almost universally are, I believe him. Just like I believe his assertion that he told the truth about Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee because it was the right thing to do—it’s a rarity.

Multi-millionaire athletes think nothing of flinging overboard a convenient scapegoat to save themselves; Pettitte could’ve done that with his testimony in the Clemens case, but didn’t.

Is it a giant black mark on his career or a mere blot?

I say it’s a blot; continually reference in calling Pettitte a “cheater” is a cheap, agenda-laden shot. It has nothing to do with the notion—which cannot be answered by an outsider—that Pettitte “wouldn’t do that”. You nor I would know what he’s up to in his private life; but I believe him when he says he used the drugs briefly and stopped.

In this era with Rafael Palmeiro‘s finger pointing and Clemens’s “misrememberations”, it was refreshing in the Jason Giambi sense that he did it and wasn’t going to lie about it. With Giambi, there was a bumpkin-like innocence that he was in court and under oath and wasn’t going to present falsehoods; with Pettitte it was because he knew what happened and wasn’t going to make a difficult situation worse for himself by denying that which he knew to be true.

The aftermath for player and club:

Could Pettitte, at age 39, decide at some point that he wants to play? And would the Yankees have him?

Of course.

But the team had to have prepared for this eventuality; Pettitte’s gone and, for all intents and purposes, he’s not coming back. I believe that the lack of desire played a part in his decision, but I also think that a physical breakdown is an issue; with back, muscle and elbow problems, to think that he’d again be the horse he’s been in the past is ignoring reality.

I doubt Pettitte wanted to go through a year of not knowing which pitch would be his last; whether his back or elbow would blow at any moment.

The reactions to the retirement have bordered on nonsensical.

I truly loathe when a club is attacked for that which they didn’t do, but the attacker doesn’t present a viable solution.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said the following on Twitter yesterday:

LH targets kicked around by some #Yankees people: J. Saunders, S. Kazmir, W. LeBlanc, C. Richard, G. Gonzalez. Just ideas right now. #MLB

Some of the names are shots in the dark; others are absurd. For what possible reason would the Padres want to trade Clayton Richard? Why would the A’s trade Gio Gonzalez? More examples of the media coming to solutions in the vein of “the Yankees want, therefore the Yankees get” like talk show callers who want to trade Brett Gardner for Albert Pujols.

Scott Kazmir? Joe Saunders? Wade LeBlanc?

Good luck.

Also Fangraphs suggested the Yankees trade for Barry Zitolink.

Naturally Jonah Keri delivered the same stat-based “reality” that makes this a good plan. Much like the extolling of the Mariners last season, their numbers bypass the reality that Zito would get blasted in the American League East. The patient hitters in the division and throughout the league would do a number on him; he’d give the Yankees 200 innings and post an ERA of 5.50 with a load of homers, 5 inning starts and plenty of walks.

They’re better off with what they have rather than take the remaining $64.5 million guaranteed on Zito’s contract; presumably, he might demand that his full option for 2014 ($18 million) be exercised rather than the $7 million buyout; and Keri suggests that the Giants might pick up half of the money.

Why?

Like the Padres trading Richard, what’s in it for them aside from getting the Yankees top prospects whom GM Brian Cashman is not trading for Zito.

And finally, there’s Wallace Matthews on ESPN—link.

Matthews’s piece is conspicuous in its criticism without a solution.

What did he want them to do?

Let’s say they were putting faith in his competitiveness and more money would overcome Pettitte’s implication that he was done; what was the pitching market past Cliff Lee?

Could they have traded for Zack Greinke? Maybe. Perhaps they should’ve rolled the dice on the off-field questions surrounding Greinke’s suitability for New York and surrendered whatever it took to get him—Jesus Montero, Ivan Nova, whatever—but they chose not to do that. And I understand why.

The Pavano move would’ve been insane; but what were their options? Much like my questioning to the critics as to what Mets GM Sandy Alderson was supposed to do this winter aside from what he’s done, what was the diabolical scheme that Matthews would’ve executed to repair the fissures in the Yankees rotation?

I read the column and didn’t see one idea from Matthews—maybe because past Lee, there wasn’t one.

Andy Pettitte has retired.

It’s not a national tragedy; not fodder for Yankees ridicule; not an opportunity to savage their front office for inaction.

Instead Pettitte should be appreciated for what he was and not canonized as a demagogue for his attributes. That diminishes rather than aggrandizes. Holding him to a higher standard will ruin the good that he did on and off the field.

He won five championships; he behaved professionally and with class; he made a lot of money; and he told the truth.

It’s a great career without being great.

That should be enough for now.

And forever.

Teetering

Hot Stove

Barring anything miraculous in the positive or negative sense, there are teams that we pretty much know their collective fates.

The Red Sox and Phillies are at the top of the food chain; the Yankees, Braves and White Sox can expect to be good; the Royals are basing their entire future and present on the fact that everyone worships their packed farm system—they’ll see you in 2014, just you wait!!

The Mets know where they’re at; the Pirates are the Pirates.

But other clubs have pressing questions of the make-or-break variety; questions that could lead to their rise or fall, depending on the answers.

Here are those teams and things can go right…or wrong in 2011.

Toronto Blue Jays

They’ve done a lot of stuff, but I don’t necessarily know if they’ve gotten better from last season.

Stacked with young pitching, they’ve signed or acquired veteran relievers Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to augment young starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, et al.

With the departures of Vernon Wells, John Buck and Lyle Overbay, they lost 71 homers and replaced them with nothing but hope. Hope that the atrocious seasons from Aaron Hill and Adam Lind were nothing more than blips; hope that Travis Snider will hit the way he did in the minors; hope that Edwin Encarnacion and Yunel Escobar won’t join forces to send new manager John Farrell to test the benefits of the Canadian health care system’s mental program; and hope that the young pitchers improve rather than stagnate or regress.

The Blue Jays could easily fall to 75 wins or rise to 90.

Minnesota Twins

The departures of Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes have gutted imperative parts of their bullpen. Joe Nathan is returning from Tommy John surgery and Matt Capps is still there for the late innings, but the foundation of their bullpen was based on the above names—names that are no longer there. The Twins won with competent, mediocre starting pitching and a deep, reliable bullpen.

They still have the mediocre starting pitching, but without the bullpen, they could have a problem.

Justin Morneau is a question mark returning from his concussion; Delmon Young had his career year in 2010; they’re replacing Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy with Alexi Casilla and, the biggest wild card, Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

I don’t care what the scouting reports say about a player coming over from Japan, you never know what you’re getting until they play in North America. You could be getting Hideki Irabu; you could be getting Hideki Matsui. You don’t know.

If the Twins bullpen falters, that’s going to damage their starting pitching—starting pitching that isn’t all that great to begin with. With the new middle infield, they could take a drastic tumble. They’re also in a division with two good teams in the White Sox and Tigers.

Florida Marlins

The front office has had unreasonably high expectations in the past and it, along with the enabling of diva-like behavior from Hanley Ramirez, combined to cost Fredi Gonzalez his job as manager at mid-season, 2010.

They have an impressive array of talent, but there’s something…off about them. Wes Helms at third base? Chris Coghlan in center field? 3-years, $18 million for John Buck? Trading for relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb when, in the past, the Marlins set the standard for building a bullpen the right way by finding cheap, discarded arms?

Javier Vazquez is a good pickup for the deep rotation as he joins Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez.

That division is a nightmare with the Phillies likely to disappear into the distance a month into the season and the Braves probably the second best team in the National League.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez is on a 1-year deal and the club has had an on-again, off-again flirtation with Bobby Valentine. Owner Jeffrey Loria wants a “name” manager to helm his club heading into the new ballpark in 2012 and Ozzie Guillen, another object of his desires, just had his contract option for 2012 exercised by the White Sox.

Rodriguez did a good job after taking over for Gonzalez, but he’s not box office.

Like a prospective romance that for a variety of reasons all parties insist is over, Valentine and the Marlins are still eyeing each other lustily. Unless the Marlins are right in the thick of the playoff race in June, don’t—do….not—be surprised to see Valentine managing the Marlins.

San Diego Padres

The starting pitching has been compromised with the departures of Jon Garland and Kevin Correia; they still have Clayton Richard and Mat Latos at the top, but after that?

I dunno…

Then they dealt away Mujica and Webb for Cameron Maybin who’s done nothing to justify his top prospect status as of yet—he’s not a prospect anymore, it’s either do it or don’t.

Who knows how the loss of Yorvit Torrealba—a terrific handler of pitchers—will affect the staff.

The offense is devastated by the trade of Adrian Gonzalez; they brought in Maybin, Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu.

Again, I dunno…

“I dunno” is not cutting it in a rough division.

The Padres could fall from 90 wins to 75 if their pitching doesn’t perform.

2011 Bust Out

Hot Stove

Occasionally I go for the deep strike. Based on facts (as I see them) and analysis that makes sense in the moment, this is how I come to my conclusions for better or worse.

Sometimes they’re good: accurately calling the Giants making the playoffs in 2010 and the Diamondbacks disaster, to name two.

Sometimes they’re bad: thinking the Mets would have a drastic turnaround.

At the very least, I had a viable reason for them, right or wrong.

So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some players whose stock may have fallen, who are still learning their trade, or are somewhat unrecognized for what they can do; players who are bust out candidates for 2011.

Matt Garza, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.

Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.

He’s ready to step forward.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP—New York Yankees

I’m a believer in the freedom of diminished expectations.

For all the perceived disappointment surrounding Chamberlain, the Yankees have an opportunity to redeem him; he has a chance to redeem himself.

It seems so long ago that Chamberlain was treated with such paranoia; that the fan/media/baseball person debate was so intense as to whether he should be a starter or reliever that it was a war of attrition; it was unsolvable until it was resolved one way or the other on the field; the endless battle succeeded only in dismantling the Joba Monster that was created in the final month of the 2007 season and was advanced by the unreasonable expectations and babying that accompanied it.

Now, Chamberlain is an afterthought. He’s no longer untouchable in a trade; no one cares about the starter/reliever debate; he’s seen as a non-entity who isn’t even going to be trusted as the primary set-up man to Mariano Rivera.

This is freedom.

Freedom from the constraints of expectation and abuse masquerading as “development”.

The Yankees and Chamberlain now have the opportunity to use him correctly without worrying about injury. Since no one’s going to care one way or the other if he does get hurt now, they can let him pitch.

And that’s what I’d do.

I’d quietly tell him to prepare as a starter and give him every opportunity to win one of the open (gaping) spots in the Yankees rotation. Then I’d turn him loose. This doesn’t imply letting him throw 145 pitches in a start, but it means bagging those ridiculous and hindering rules that played a large part in his ruination.

If they let him pitch, who knows what they’re going to uncover? They can do what they should’ve done from the beginning; with that, they might get what they thought they had in the first place.

Kyle Drabek, RHP—Toronto Blue Jays

His motion and mannerisms are identical to his dad, Doug Drabek. He’s got similar stuff and more strikeout ability. And he’s mean.

Kyle Drabek is going to be a mega-star.

Chris Sale, LHP—Chicago White Sox

I’d trust Matt Thornton as the closer initially and work Sale into the role slowly, but the White Sox have no fear of throwing their young players into the fire. Sale has been dominant with blow-away stuff and he throws strikes.

Luke Hochevar, RHP—Kansas City Royals

Would someone please unlock this guy’s talent? Please?

I look at him, his size and his motion and think Roy Halladay; then I see the results and think former Mets #1 pick Paul Wilson.

Hochevar’s at the point where he could go either way. I’m thinking he’ll have a good year and start to develop into his gifts.

Maybe.

Dallas Braden, LHP—Oakland Athletics

He showed you the 209 in his dustup with Alex Rodriguez; this season, if he’s healthy, he could also show you the CYA (Cy Young Award).

Johnny Venters, LHP—Atlanta Braves

The Braves don’t have a veteran closer and Venters has the strikeout numbers and deceptive motion to handle the job. In fact, he can dominate. Most importantly, he only allowed 1 homer in 83 innings last season.

Ruben Tejada, INF—New York Mets

Why the “experts” question whether or not he’ll hit is a mystery to me. He was overmatched early in his big league trial, but didn’t get discouraged while the bat was being knocked out of his hands and, late in the season, started turning on pitches and showing more pop than one would think he should have at his size.

Defensively, he’s fearless; I think he’s going to win the 2nd base job in spring training and he’ll be playing shortstop by August when the Mets most likely will have traded Jose Reyes.

He looks and moves like a player.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP—Cincinnati Reds

I saw him once last year—on video—and wondered why the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t grab him.

Un….hittable.

Wandy Rodriguez, LHP—Houston Astros

Rodriguez aggravates me because every year I say he’s going to bust out; every year he shows flashes; and every year, he ends up in the same position of “potential” only to re-start the process again.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so perhaps money will motivate him.

Andrew McCutchen, CF—Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen is going to win an MVP one of these years.

Well, if he’s ever on a competitive team, that is.

Clayton Richard, LHP—San Diego Padres

He took the next step in 2010 as he threw 200 innings and went 14-9. Richard’s a 20-game winner waiting to happen.

Luke Gregerson, RHP—San Diego Padres

He’ll end up as the closer if (when) Heath Bell is traded. I’m waiting for an explanation as to what the Cardinals were thinking in trading him for Khalil Greene.

It’d have to be a doozy.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Let’s try this again.

Last year, I said Kershaw was going to blossom into an ace/Cy Young Award winner. He developed, but not to that degree. He went 12-10, but did pitch well enough to win 18 or so games. The strikeouts and hits/innings-pitched ratios show a potential for dominance. Kershaw’s control is wanting, but he’s going to be 23 in March.

The Dodgers need him to step up and take the reins. I think he will.