MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Ryan Howard, Dillon Gee and More

Major League Baseball may be in the midst of its offseason, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning out hot rumors about some of the biggest stars in the sport.

With Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, New York Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee and others reportedly on the market, the scuttlebutt has baseball fans excited about the changes that could occur this offseason.

Here are the latest trade rumors from around MLB.

 

Ryan Howard Accommodating Philadelphia’s Desire to Trade Him?

Howard is one of the highest-paid players in the league, earning $25 million in each of the next two seasons, but the team is looking to trade the veteran slugger while he still has value.

At 35 years old and after 11 years with the same team, even Howard may be ready for a change of scenery.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Howard has altered the list of teams he will accept a trade to in order to make a deal happen this offseason:

Howard, according to major-league sources, even revised his nine-team no-trade list at the end of the season to help facilitate a trade, choosing mostly teams that were either set at first base/DH, unlikely to add payroll or focused on other needs.

Considering the good faith that Howard showed in crafting his list, he probably would approve a deal to even to one of his restricted clubs. The Mariners, who began the season needing right-handed hitting, are one such team. The rest of the list, according to ESPN.com, consists of the Tigers, Royals, Angels, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Orioles and Red Sox.

Howard is a double-edged sword for prospective teams. There is no questioning his power at the plate, as he has slugged 334 career home runs, but he is a strikeout machine. In his time with Philadelphia, he has amassed an incredible 1,591 strikeouts.

While his declining numbers should be a concern for any club thinking about making the move for Howard, he is as healthy as he has been since 2011. With a full offseason to get in optimal shape, he could be a force in the American League as a designated hitter.

The Phillies will inevitably have to contribute money to get a deal done, but any team looking for a designated hitter should be kicking the tires on a slugger with the track record of Howard.

 

New York Mets Actively Shopping Dillon Gee?

Gee has been a bright spot for the franchise over the last four seasons, but he has been buried by the lack of success around him. Gee may finally find his way to a contender this offseason.

According to a report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the Mets are actively shopping Gee:

While Gee isn't the ace of a rotation, he could easily be a back-end starter who would find more success on a better team. In 22 starts last season, he was 7-8 overall but amassed 94 strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA in 137.1 innings pitched.

Gee’s familiarity with the National League should have several playoff-caliber teams looking to acquire a player who would be able to fill the role of fourth or fifth in the rotation throughout the season.

At 28 years old, Gee is a long-term solution available via the trade market. While he wouldn't be the biggest trade acquisition of the year, the team that adds the depth and talent he brings would be instantly better. For a team on the cusp of contention, Gee could be a difference-maker.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks Looking for a Catcher?

After the Arizona Diamondbacks traded high-priced catcher Miguel Montero to the Chicago Cubs, the need for another player at the position became clear.

While freeing up salary space was a key to the deal, the need for another catcher is evident.

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, Arizona has been working hard to acquire a catcher via trade:

Morosi also reported that the Diamondbacks have inquired about the Toronto Blue Jays' Dioner Navarro:

The trade market isn’t overwhelming for catchers, but the franchise must continue looking or risk starting the season with an unproven commodity behind the plate in Tuffy Gosewisch. The 31-year-old will be entering his third season in the majors and has a batting average of .213 over his first two years.

There is no doubt Arizona has the assets to get a deal done, but how much the franchise is willing to spend could limit the market for the Diamondbacks. In order to get a blockbuster deal done, Arizona will have to prove it’s willing to pay.

 

Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Chatter Surrounding Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and More

The MLB offseason has already been filled with blockbuster trades and huge free-agent signings, but the trade rumors that continue to circulate around the biggest names in the sport could signal more change to come.

With stars like first baseman Ryan Howard, starting pitcher Cole Hamels and outfielder Allen Craig all reportedly on the market, the landscape of baseball could drastically shift once again this offseason.

Here are the latest trade rumors surrounding the biggest names in baseball.

 

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard started his career as one of the best sluggers in the league, but injuries over the last several years have resulted in lackluster play from the 35-year-old veteran.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Philadelphia is trying desperately to move the high-priced hitter:

The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Howard, and a team source indicated they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him. Howard, who hit 23 home runs and knocked in 95 runs last season, is owed $60 million between 2015 and ’17, which includes a buyout. The Phillies are trying to sell him as a DH. The Rays and Orioles could have needs in that area.

Howard’s first dip in production came during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but he was staying healthy enough to be a contributing factor during the regular season and into the playoffs. The veteran suffered a serious Achilles injury at the end of 2011 and hasn’t been the same since.

The player who hit 48 home runs during the 2008 season has hit a combined 48 home runs over the last three seasons. With the franchise owing him $60 million over the next three years, there is no doubt that the Phillies should be looking to trade Howard.

Philadelphia wouldn’t get a great return if a team bites on Howard, but the franchise would free up money for the rebuilding process.

 

Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies must begin the rebuilding process this offseason and trade away the majority of the veterans who still hold any real value.

One of the names garnering the most attention is starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

In the same report from Cafardo, Hamels is drawing serious interest from teams around the league, giving the Phillies a chance to restock the farm system if it turns into a bidding war:

The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are interested in Hamels. The sleeper team is the aggressive Astros. The Giants may be in if they can’t get James Shields. The feeling has been that if the Red Sox would pick up Hamels’s 2019 option at $20 million, he would waive his no-trade. The five years remaining on Hamels’s deal would be worth $110 million. Would he want an extension beyond that to OK a trade?

Unlike Howard, Hamels is still very dangerous as one of the top starting pitchers in the National League. The left-handed starter has been a staple of Philadelphia's starting rotation since 2006 and a versatile player who has avoided major injury.

Add in the ability of Hamels to play well in the postseason over the course of his career, and there will be several teams willing to overpay for a player who can make a real difference.

The Phillies must make this deal now to get the most out of a possible trade.

With the time to negotiate details and maximize the return, dealing Hamels in the offseason would allow the franchise to enter the regular season without the impending trade hanging over Hamels’ head and affecting his work.

 

Allen Craig, RF, Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig became a star with the St. Louis Cardinals over the first four years of his career, but he suffered multiple foot injuries and has struggled over the last season before being traded midway through the year to the Boston Red Sox.

According to Richard Justice of MLB.com, the Red Sox have listened to offers for Craig.

“Boston general manager Ben Cherington has listened on Craig, but he shown no strong willingness to trade him. Cherington may be reluctant to trade Craig at a time when his value probably is lower,” he wrote.

Craig played in 126 games with the Cardinals and Red Sox during the 2014 season, but only managed to hit a combined .215 batting average, eight home runs and 46 RBIs. His numbers are way down, but at 30 years old, he still has the potential to return to elite form with the proper recovery from his foot injuries.

What makes Craig such a commodity is his ability in the postseason. With the Cardinals, Craig was a major piece to the puzzle and one of the most reliable players in the lineup during St. Louis’ run as a perennial contender.

Any team looking for depth in the outfield and a reliable player at the back end of the lineup should consider giving the Red Sox a call about acquiring Craig for a lower asking price.

 

Stats via MLB.com.

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Pat Neshek to Astros: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

The Houston Astros continued their busy offseason by reportedly signing 34-year-old relief pitcher Pat Neshek, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com:

Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reported that Neshek's deal is for two-years.

The signing of Neshek was not the only upgrade Houston made in the bullpen. According to Nightengale, the Astros signed fellow relief pitcher Luke Gregerson to a three-year contract worth $18.5 million Wednesday.

The additions of Neshek and Gregerson will help bolster a Houston bullpen that finished dead last in the league with an earned-run average of 4.80.

Neshek is coming off an All-Star campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals and posted an impressive 1.87 ERA in 71 appearances. Add in the 2.12 ERA Gregerson amassed with the Oakland Athletics last season, and the Astros have added depth and talent to the bullpen.

Houston is still a few years from contention, but with several years of high draft picks and building for the future, the Astros could be one of the surprise teams of 2015.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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2015 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot Revealed: Full List of Candidates and Reaction

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, is one of the most important Hall of Fame exhibits in all of sports, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America revealed the ballot featuring the 2015 nominees on Monday.    

According to the official website of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the following 34 names (17 first-year candidates and 17 returning candidates) have been nominated for induction in 2015:

This year's ballot is headlined by left-hander Randy Johnson, who pitched 22 seasons in MLB and totaled 4,875 career strikeouts, which ranks second all time. A 10-time All-Star, Johnson earned five Cy Young Awards and was the World Series MVP in 2001.

There is no set number of inductees to the Hall of Fame each year, but last year featured three stars—Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas—for only the eighth time in the 70-year history of the process, according to the official website.  

The voting results will be announced Jan. 6 at 2 p.m. ET. With so many elite first-year eligible players on the ballot this year and several returning stars looking to make the Hall of Fame, this year’s class could be one of the biggest in history.

Last year, former Houston Astros infielder Craig Biggio was just two votes away from reaching the Hall of Fame, but there is a good chance he makes it this year after coming so close in 2014.

Despite the stacked 2015 class of candidates, only once in history have voters elected five entrants into the Hall of Fame (1936). Four men were elected to the Hall of Fame only twice in history (1947 and 1955), but this year’s class has the talent and depth to potentially buck those trends.

 

*All information via BaseballHall.org.

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Justin Upton Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding Braves of

The Atlanta Braves made a blockbuster trade when they sent Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, and the organization is now also reportedly fielding trade offers for power-hitting outfielder Justin Upton.    

According to a report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, “In an age of scarce offense, Upton’s skills are rare and highly valuable. And the teams calling Atlanta about him are seeing that the price will be much higher than what the Braves extracted from St. Louis for Heyward.”

In the Heyward trade, Atlanta acquired pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Heyward is scheduled to become a free agent after next season, but the organization decided it was time to move on from the 25-year-old and took the best possible deal.

The Braves are apparently willing to make blockbuster moves this offseason as a way to revamp the roster. The 27-year-old Upton has played well in each of the last two seasons with Atlanta after coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks via a trade.

Upton has hit 27 and 29 home runs over the last two seasons respectively and has racked up 172 RBI and a .267 batting average in the 303 games since joining the Braves. Atlanta won the National League East Division in 2013 with Upton leading the way, but failed to make the postseason this year.  

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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Zach Duke to White Sox: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran left-handed pitcher Zach Duke has bounced around the majors over the last several seasons, but he has reportedly signed a multi-year deal with the Chicago White Sox, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:

Duke, 31, started his career as a starting pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005 but made the transition to the bullpen when he was traded to Arizona after the 2010 season. He floated from Washington to Cincinnati before making his way to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014.    

In a career-high 74 appearances (58.2 innings) last season, Duke amassed an impressive 74 strikeouts, 12 holds and an ERA of 2.45. The White Sox needed pitching depth in the seventh and eighth innings, and they've now added a player who specializes in those moments.

With the ability to shut down left-handed hitters (holding lefties to a .198 batting average, per Baseball-Reference.com), Duke will join fellow relievers Jake Petricka, Ronald Belisario and Zach Putnam as the team continues rebuilding the bullpen.

Chicago still needs a true closer to emerge from the current group. If the organization doesn’t believe Scott Downs or any other pitcher on the roster is the answer, filling the void on the free-agent market would be an option.

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Evan Gattis Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Braves C

The Atlanta Braves lost former star catcher Brian McCann to free agency last season. Now, his replacement Evan Gattis may be the next to go.   

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Atlanta is looking to trade the 28-year-old catcher:

Gattis will be entering his third season in the majors. He spent his first two seasons with the Braves, amassing a .253 batting average, 43 home runs and 117 RBI in 213 games. While Gattis isn’t the best fielding catcher in the league, his offensive production would be a valuable asset to an American League team needing a designated hitter that can also play the field.

After improving his batting average 20 points over the last year and hitting at least 20 home runs in each of his first two seasons, any team with a need for a catcher or a DH should be kicking the tires on Gattis.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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Aramis Ramirez Opts in to Brewers Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez has accepted the mutual option on his contract and will remain with the franchise for the 2015 MLB season.     

The Brewers’ official Twitter account announced the news Monday:

According to Bill Baer of HardballTalk, the one-year option is worth $14 million.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com broke down the deal and why it was the smart move:

Ramirez will be 37 years old in June and is coming off his worst offensive season since 2010. His .285 batting average, 66 RBI and 15 home runs would be considered solid output from an ordinary third baseman, but Ramirez has the talent to contribute more to the offense.

During his career, Ramirez has hit at least 25 home runs in 10 different seasons and has racked up 100 or more RBI seven times. There is no question that he has slowed as he has gotten older, but Milwaukee expects more offensive production from the veteran.

With the Brewers locking up Ramirez early in the offseason, the franchise can now focus on filling other needs at the middle-infield positions and in the starting rotation.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

 

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Giants Parade 2014: Vital Viewing Information for World Series Celebration

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Wednesday, capturing the 2014 World Series in seven games and earning the city a celebratory parade.

The Giants will once again march through San Francisco in front of screaming fans, just as they did in 2010 and 2012. This time, though, the parade will take place on Halloween.

Wearing orange and black isn't just for trick-or-treaters this Friday.

Here is all the vital viewing information for the 2014 World Series parade.

 

When: Friday, October 31

Start Time: 12 p.m. PT

Where: Parade starts at Steuart and Market Streets, San Francisco

Watch: KPIX 5 and Comcast SportsNet

Live Stream: KPIX Live

As if the party celebrating the championship wasn't going to be large enough, the fact that the parade takes place on a Friday and on Halloween will launch this celebration into the elite stratosphere.

After having two such parades in the the last five years, city officials will know exactly what to do—and what not to do—when it comes to setting up the path of the parade and which streets to close.

The most important factor is the weather. Rain and cold temperatures won't keep fans from joining the party, but the official Twitter account of NBC Bay Area Weather has the latest forecast for Friday:

Some rain is in the forecast for the start of Friday’s parade, but it is supposed to clear up as the day progresses. Rain would be an issue if it were supposed to be cold, but with temperatures expected to be in the 60s, no amount of rain will keep Giants fans off the streets.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement following San Francisco's win:

The San Francisco skyline is awash in Orange. I congratulate our World Champion San Francisco Giants after another spectacular World Series victory. For the third time in just five years, this world-class organization brought our City together as only our hometown heroes can.

According to The Associated Press, via ABC7News.com, Friday’s parade will begin at the intersection of Market Street and Steuart Street and will work its way down Market Street to Civic Center Plaza. This route is similar to the one the team took in 2012, which can be found here.

Every San Francisco fan who followed the long path from the play-in game to the World Series and can get off work (or call in sick with Giants fever) will be looking to line the streets and join the celebration. Fans must get there early, though, as the streets will be packed.

According to SFGate.com, the crowd in 2012 was estimated at over a million people.

The main goal of every championship parade is to celebrate and have fun. With people of all ages in attendance (children included), fans of the team should act appropriately and civilly.

San Francisco earned the World Series win, and now the city gets a proper party.

 

Stats via MLB.com.

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World Series Schedule 2014: Final Game Dates, TV Info Guide and More

The San Francisco Giants dominated the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 of the 2014 World Series, but now the schedule shifts back to Missouri for the sixth and possibly the seventh games of the championship.

Kansas City has made it this far in the MLB postseason using its tenacity. In Tuesday’s matchup, the Royals will have their backs against the wall and should fight hard to force the series to a final game with supremacy on the line.

Here is all the vital viewing information and schedule for the remainder 2014 World Series and a preview of the expected pitching matchup in Game 6.

 

 

 

Breaking Down the Expected Game 6 Pitching Matchup

San Francisco would love to end the World Series in six games and begin their celebration earlier than expected, but Kansas City will not go down without a fight, especially in front of the raucous home crowd.

The most important factor in Game 6 is the starting pitching matchup between Jake Peavy of the Giants and Yordano Ventura of the Royals. These two men met previously in Game 2 of the championship series, and it was Ventura who helped lead his team to a 7-2 victory.

In 5.1 innings of work, Ventura gave up just two earned runs and used his elite fastball to keep San Francisco off balance all game. While Ventura is a still only 23 years old and is starting his second career World Series game already, Kansas City has complete confidence in the young pitcher.

When asked about how he thinks Ventura will perform under the must-win pressure of Game 6, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer told Ted Berg of USAToday.com, “’Ace’ is not your typical rookie. He’s fearless out there. He’s confident in himself and confident in his pitches. Every time he takes the mound, we feel pretty good about winning.”

As well as Ventura has pitched this season, the Giants will be handing the ball off to Peavy with the hope that he has enough left in the tank to outduel his foe and help the team end the series early.

There were questions about whether San Francisco would start top pitcher Madison Bumgarner on short notice in one of the final two games, but Scott Miller of Bleacher Report has the Giants’ starters for Game 6 and the possible Game 7:

Peavy pitched only five innings in Game 2 of the World Series, but he gave up four earned runs in his time on the mound. As explosive as San Francisco’s offensive unit has been during the playoffs, it’s hard for any team to play from behind due to the lack of consistency from a starting pitcher.

While there is no question that as a former Cy Young winner Peavy has the intelligence to still be an effective pitcher, Ventura has been a revelation for Kansas City and gives his team the advantage in Game 6.

If the Royals can string together some timely hitting in support of Ventura, the home team will win on Tuesday and force a decisive Game 7. Baseball fans would have it no other way.

Game 6’s Predicted Final Score: Kansas City 6, San Francisco 3

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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World Series 2014: Vital Viewing Info and Schedule for Giants vs. Royals Game 2

The San Francisco Giants dominated the Kansas City Royals, 7-1, in the opening game of the 2014 World Series, but both teams have already turned their attention to Wednesday and Game 2.

Kansas City has one game remaining at Kauffman Stadium before making the trip to San Francisco for Games 3 and 4, and it has become a must-win for the Royals. The Giants will be looking to take the definitive 2-0 series lead, but KC will be desperate to draw even.

Here is all the vital viewing information and schedule for the entire 2014 World Series and a preview of the pitching matchup in Game 2.

 

Live Stream: MLB.tv (requires subscription)

 

Breaking Down Jake Peavy vs. Yordano Ventura

Game 1 was all about Madison Bumgarner utterly dominating the Royals lineup, but James Shields’ implosion was just as noteworthy. If Kansas City wants to split the first two games at home, starter Yordano Ventura must be at his best.

Ventura will get the nod for the Royals in Game 2 and will be opposed by San Francisco’s Jake Peavy. As it was in the opening game of the series, the pitching matchup will make or break each team Wednesday night.

For Kansas City, the hope is that Ventura has recovered from the shoulder issues that resulted in just 5.2 innings in Game 2 of the ALCS. The Royals have one of the best bullpens in the league, but after Shields was chased after just three innings, the unit needs a night off to recover.

In 11 of Ventura’s last 12 starts during the regular season, he was able to go at least six full innings before being pulled. With an incredible fastball that can hit triple digits and the ability to locate his breaking ball, the stage has been set for the second-year player to make a name for himself.

Richard Justice of MLB.com shared a frame of reference before Ventura steps to the mound:

San Francisco may not have a pitcher who can throw as fast as Ventura lined up for Game 2, but the Giants do have a wily veteran in Peavy. While he struggled in his last appearance against the St. Louis Cardinals, Peavy is making his second postseason appearance in as many years and understands the pressure.

When asked about the advice he is getting from his friends on the Boston Red Sox (where Peavy spent the 2013 postseason), the Game 2 starter told Henry Schulman of SFGate.com:

In all those texts, it was about how to beat the Kansas City Royals, and different bits. A tidbit from Dustin Pedroia talking about positioning of your middle infielders, to prevent them from making the slides they want to take, to my pitching buddies talking about pitches and what to go to, when and where.

They’re feeling a part of the preparation because they know what I’m going through now in trying to put together a game plan, and they’re all helping. It means a lot because there is no better advice that you can get than from your peers who have lived it and played against the same Royals team as well.

Peavy and Ventura have played well this season, but Kansas City needs this victory more than San Francisco. Ventura will be looking to stifle the Giants offense that embarrassed the team in Game 1, and the Royals will be looking to put up early runs against Peavy.

As reliable as Peavy has been during the year, he has struggled in the postseason overall, amassing a career 7.03 ERA. He allowed only two earned runs in 9.2 innings during the 2014 playoffs, but Kansas City will be too strong offensively.

If the Royals can get seven innings of work out of Ventura and the team can hold the lead heading into the eighth inning, the series will shift back to San Francisco tied at 1-1.

Game 2 Predicted Score: Kansas City 4, San Francisco 2

 

*Stats via MLB.com. 

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Jon Jay Injury: Updates on Cardinals Star’s Wrist and Recovery

St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay is scheduled to have surgery on his left wrist and will be out six-to-eight weeks.    

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reported the news Monday:

Jay had a solid year with St. Louis in 2014. The 29-year-old amassed a .303 batting average and 125 hits during the regular season, but he really carried the load for the team during the postseason. Jay finished with a .483 batting average, 14 hits in nine games and a .571 on-base percentage during the playoffs.  

With the ability to cover plenty of ground with his speed in the outfield, Jay has cemented his spot as the team’s top centerfielder. The Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs by San Francisco, and Jay will now be able to recover fully before being expected to resume training.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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World Series 2014: Giants vs. Royals Predictions and Game 1 Preview

October baseball is one of the most exciting aspects of sports, and the start of the 2014 World Series has hardcore and casual fans alike tuning in to see the San Francisco Giants battle the Kansas City Royals.

While this year’s championship series doesn’t feature a mainstream franchise like the New York Yankees, both San Francisco and Kansas City play baseball the right way and have earned their place in the World Series.

Here is all the vital viewing information for the championship, predictions for every matchup and a preview of Game 1.

 

 

Full Game 1 Preview

The unlikely World Series between San Francisco and Kansas City is not the marquee matchup the league was hoping for, but true baseball fans can appreciate the skill and composure shown by these two teams on their run to the championship.

The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, and are looking to win once again in order to enter the conversation for a possible dynasty. San Francisco has been a perennial postseason contender for several years, but the Royals are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Kansas City has not made the World Series since 1985, but the current team is full of tenacious players who understand that baseball is a team sport. The entire roster is pulling for each other, and the result is a team fans can never count out.

The Royals swept the Giants in the regular-season series, but each franchise was in a much different place at that time. When asked about playing San Francisco during the regular season, Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer told John Perrotto of the USA Today about the advantages:

I don't know how much stock you can put into a series that was played two months ago but you do feel better going into the World Series knowing that we've seen [Madison] Bumgarner and some of their left-handed relievers and have an idea of what to expect.

Bumgarner will take the mound in the opening game of the series and square off against James Shields. The two starting pitchers have played well enough to help their teams win, but Bumgarner’s 1.42 postseason ERA gives the Giants the starting pitching advantage.

When the game gets to the hands of the bullpens, San Francisco and Kansas City possess two of the best in the league. The official Twitter of BaseballEssential.com shared just how good each of the bullpens has been:

As it always does, the series will ultimately be decided by timely hitting from the winning team. The Giants have a lineup full of power with stars like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence each playing well, but other role players such as Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco must play better.

On the Kansas City side, role players have come up big, but it will be top stars like Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Omar Infante who must improve their consistency and come through in the most important series of the playoffs.

With the home crowd supporting the Royals, San Francisco will have a hard time pulling out the victory on the road. This, and all the games during this series, should be close, but Kansas City should be able to walk away with a win in Game 1.

Predicted Game 1 Score: Kansas City 4, San Francisco 3

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series 2014: Giants vs. Royals Predictions and Game 1 Preview

October baseball is one of the most exciting aspects of sports, and the start of the 2014 World Series has hardcore and casual fans alike tuning in to see the San Francisco Giants battle the Kansas City Royals.

While this year’s championship series doesn’t feature a mainstream franchise like the New York Yankees, both San Francisco and Kansas City play baseball the right way and have earned their place in the World Series.

Here is all the vital viewing information for the championship, predictions for every matchup and a preview of Game 1.

 

 

Full Game 1 Preview

The unlikely World Series between San Francisco and Kansas City is not the marquee matchup the league was hoping for, but true baseball fans can appreciate the skill and composure shown by these two teams on their run to the championship.

The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, and are looking to win once again in order to enter the conversation for a possible dynasty. San Francisco has been a perennial postseason contender for several years, but the Royals are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Kansas City has not made the World Series since 1985, but the current team is full of tenacious players who understand that baseball is a team sport. The entire roster is pulling for each other, and the result is a team fans can never count out.

The Royals swept the Giants in the regular-season series, but each franchise was in a much different place at that time. When asked about playing San Francisco during the regular season, Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer told John Perrotto of the USA Today about the advantages:

I don't know how much stock you can put into a series that was played two months ago but you do feel better going into the World Series knowing that we've seen [Madison] Bumgarner and some of their left-handed relievers and have an idea of what to expect.

Bumgarner will take the mound in the opening game of the series and square off against James Shields. The two starting pitchers have played well enough to help their teams win, but Bumgarner’s 1.42 postseason ERA gives the Giants the starting pitching advantage.

When the game gets to the hands of the bullpens, San Francisco and Kansas City possess two of the best in the league. The official Twitter of BaseballEssential.com shared just how good each of the bullpens has been:

As it always does, the series will ultimately be decided by timely hitting from the winning team. The Giants have a lineup full of power with stars like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence each playing well, but other role players such as Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco must play better.

On the Kansas City side, role players have come up big, but it will be top stars like Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Omar Infante who must improve their consistency and come through in the most important series of the playoffs.

With the home crowd supporting the Royals, San Francisco will have a hard time pulling out the victory on the road. This, and all the games during this series, should be close, but Kansas City should be able to walk away with a win in Game 1.

Predicted Game 1 Score: Kansas City 4, San Francisco 3

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2014: Vital Viewing Coverage and More for World Series

The American and National League paths to the 2014 World Series have been paved with incredible matchups, but the battle between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants has the potential to be the best series of the playoffs.

The perfect mixture of elite pitching, timely hitting and defensive prowess helped to lead both franchises to the championship series, but only one team will be able to call itself world champions.

Here is all the vital viewing information and schedule for the 2014 World Series and a preview of Game 1.

 

Live Stream: MLB.tv (requires subscription)

 

Breaking Down Game 1

Game 1 of the 2014 World Series begins at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday when the Giants travel to Kansas City to take on the Royals. While neither team was considered a championship favorite, each franchise has played its best baseball in October.

The most important matchup in the opening game of the series is the battle of the starting pitchers. For San Francisco, ace Madison Bumgarner will take the mound Tuesday with his 1.42 ERA in 31.2 innings of playoff action this year. Bumgarner has been lights out all year for the Giants, but he will be going head-to-head with the Royals' top pitcher in James Shields.

Shields may have a 5.63 ERA in 16 innings during the playoffs, but Kansas City has won each of his three starts and has the bullpen to step up in case he doesn’t live up to the expectations. As Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News shared on Twitter, both teams have incredibly talented bullpens:

One of the reasons Kansas City has been so successful has been the team’s appreciation of how far it's made it. No one expected the Royals to run through the American League playoffs and earn a spot in the World Series, but the underdog story is catching on among fans.

When asked about how the team's supporters have reacted to the postseason success, Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas told Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star, “Everyone wants to come say hello to you, and they do, but they’re very respectful. There’s no way to explain it other than that you couldn’t do that in other cities. It makes everything that much more worth it.”

While the blue-collar approach of both teams has added to the intrigue of the matchup, Sporting News insider Jesse Spector doesn’t think this will be an even World Series:

The key in the championship will be which offensive unit is the most consistent. For San Francisco, the team will lean heavily on Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to produce timely hits and drive in runs when it’s needed the most. All three of the top stars have played well, but the Giants need secondary scoring to hold off Kansas City.

On the other hand, the Royals offensive unit has been much more sporadic, but the team has been able to amass runs when it matters the most. As long as players like Moustakas, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer step up at the most important times, this year’s World Series will be an instant classic.

The first game of the championship will be like the first round of a great heavyweight boxing match. The opening round is typically a feeling-out process before the action really begins. Expect the Royals and the Giants to play it safe on the field until they feel confident enough to start taking the educated risks that can win a World Series.

With the home crowd on their side, though, Kansas City should have enough firepower in the lineup and pitching prowess in the bullpen to steal Game 1 and put the pressure on San Francisco moving forward.

Predicted Game 1 Score: Kansas City 4, San Francisco 3

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2014: Updated ALCS, NLCS Bracket, Day 9 Predictions

The 2014 MLB playoffs have been full of intriguing matchups and wild outcomes, but the schedule indicates the madness surrounding October baseball is far from over. The American and National League Championship Series are beginning to heat up.

On the National League side, perennial World Series contenders the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals have begun a fierce battle. In the American League, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Chiefs are looking to continue their dream seasons with a run to the championship.

Here is all the vital viewing information, a full preview for Sunday’s game and a link to the official MLB playoff brackets.

 

*Updated bracket for both championship series at MLB.com.

 

Previewing NLCS Game 2

The San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals have been two of the strongest teams in the National League over the last several years, and the two franchises once again battle to be the NL representatives in the World Series.

San Francisco took the first game of the NLCS on Saturday when the Giants lineup chased St. Louis starting pitcher Adam Wainwright out of the game after he allowed three runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings of work.

The Cardinals lineup came up small as well, totaling just four hits during the team’s shutout loss. If St. Louis wants to take down the experienced San Francisco roster, the team must find its offensive punch in order to pull out the victory Sunday.

Baseball columnist Bill Arnold shared a great stat talking about the tenacity of both franchises:

In the pivotal Game 2, the Cardinals will send 27-year-old starter Lance Lynn to the mound to square off against veteran Jake Peavy. Lynn was a dominant force for St. Louis this season, racking up 15 wins, 181 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA in 203.2 innings pitched. In his one postseason start in 2014, Lynn allowed two earned runs in six innings of work.

As well as Lynn played during the regular season, Peavy is a big-game pitcher and proved his dominance during his 5.2 innings of scoreless action against Washington in his first start of the postseason. He is also coming off eight days of rest.

Peavy spoke to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, about his previous postseason experience and the impact it will have on his play Sunday night:

The more you do something the more comfortable you get in that situation. Up until last year, I had never really gotten an opportunity to pitch with the knowledge that I think I have now. I try to take all that knowledge in with me, be under control. I'll be fiery. I will be emotional, but I will be under control.

The key to success in Game 2 will be which team can get its lineup to find a rhythm against the opposing elite pitcher first. The Cardinals were utterly shut down in the opening game for the series, but the Giants were not overly dominant either.

While it was great to see third basemen Pablo Sandoval contribute in the postseason, and the story of first baseman-turned-outfielder Travis Ishikawa has been what the postseason is about, San Francisco needs top names like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to come through in the most important moments.

The same can be said for St. Louis. Offensive stars like Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams all must contribute Sunday if the team doesn’t want to fall to 0-2. Coming back from that deficit against a stingy San Francisco pitching staff wouldn’t be an easy feat.

Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, the Giants proved in Game 1 they were not afraid of playing inside Busch Stadium and will have no trepidation Sunday either. St. Louis won’t go down without a fight, but if Peavy pitches well, San Francisco has the firepower to rack up several runs and steal Game 2 as the series heads back to the West Coast.

Baseball fans are hoping the Cardinals put up more of a fight Sunday, though.

Predicted Final Score: San Francisco 5, St. Louis 4

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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2015 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Top Potential Targets

October postseason baseball is one of the most entertaining parts of each year, but the talk about the 2015 MLB free-agent class has already begun for the majority of the teams in the league that didn’t make the playoffs.

With players like Nelson Cruz, James Shields, Jon Lester and many others possibly hitting the open market this offseason, the chatter about where each might land has added to the drama surrounding baseball this month.

Here are the top free agents, their potential landing spots and the latest rumors surrounding the biggest names.

 

 

Latest Free-Agent Rumors

While many fans want to focus solely on the playoffs, the free-agent frenzy has already begun, and the rumors are already swirling.

One of the teams being talked about the most is the Baltimore Orioles. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Baltimore has already re-signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year deal:

The Orioles aren’t stopping there, though, as Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is reporting the team is looking to agree to a new deal with designated hitter Nelson Cruz:

Cruz signed a one-year deal with Baltimore during the offseason, and the investment has paid off for the franchise. Not only did the team find success in the postseason, but the power hitter found his rhythm again and amassed career highs in home runs (40) and RBI (108).

The Orioles need more reliable bats in the lineup, and with a solid .271 batting average and a .333 on-base percentage, Cruz should remain a key cog in the franchise’s long-term plans. Re-signing the slugger is a must.

Another postseason hero looking for a new contract is Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields. In a separate report from Heyman, the team is now very interested in a possible deal and will work on one before the pitcher becomes a free agent:

The Royals were originally believed to have a shot to keep Shields only if they went far in the playoffs, and sources say the team has decided by now, after reaching the ALCS, that they will make that effort. The Royals told Shields' agent, Page Odle, around the time of the trade deadline that they'd be back in touch after the season, which was a hopeful sign. And now with their amazing postseason run, which will bolster their revenues big-time -- they have decided they will indeed try to keep him with a new multi-year deal.

Since arriving from Tampa Bay in 2013, Shields has been a workhorse for the team, totaling 68 starts in two seasons. With a 3.15 ERA in 2013 and a 3.21 ERA in 2014, Shields has been the picture of consistency for the pitching staff and a veteran voice of leadership on a team that needs all the experience it can get.

If the Royals want to continue making deep runs in the postseason and being viable championship threats, the franchise must re-sign Shields to a long-term deal.

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2014: Updated ALCS, NLDS Bracket, Day 5 Predictions

After watching Kansas City and Baltimore sweep their respective 2014 MLB playoff series Sunday, baseball fans are ready to watch what happens in Monday's two National League Division series matchups.

This year’s postseason schedule has lived up to the hype thus far, and the intense action in both the American and National League playoffs has hardcore and casual baseball fans alike tuning into the October spectacle.

Here is the full schedule for Monday’s games, a link to the official MLB playoff brackets and a preview of Monday’s must-watch matchup.

 

*Updated bracket for both division series at MLB.com.

 

Monday’s Must-Watch Matchup: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Monday is the worst day of the week for many who are returning to work, but the 2014 MLB postseason will alleviate some of the pressure, and the matchups on the schedule should ease the pain.

The best game of the day, though, is the battle between the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals. With an intriguing starting pitching matchup between Hyun-Jin Ryu and John Lackey and two offensive units with explosive power facing off, baseball fans will be treated to a true on-field war.

With the series tied 1-1, each team will be fighting hard to take the advantage in the series.

For Los Angeles, the team will be leaning on Ryu to keep the game close. The South Korean starter hasn’t pitched since Sept. 12 while recovering from shoulder irritation, but the team has shown patience not rushing him back and showed faith allowing him to start the third game of the series.

When asked about the shoulder injury, Ryu spoke to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times via a translator regarding his recovery and expectations for Monday:

I tried to make sure I didn't do too much or too little. I feel very confident right now. My arm feels really good. My shoulder feels really strong. And I have a pretty good feeling I'll be able to put in a good game tomorrow.

I'm thinking that there's very little, almost 0%, chance that the injury is going to come back tomorrow. I threw a few bullpen sessions and I went 100%. I felt great in all those sessions. I don't foresee why I would feel anything tomorrow.

Even if Ryu isn’t at his best, the Dodgers' offensive unit is as deep as any in the league. With a roster that includes legitimate stars like Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and more, Los Angeles will be unstoppable if the team finds a rhythm Monday against Lackey.

The official Twitter account of the Cardinals shared Lackey’s thoughts on his start:

Lackey better be confident in his ability while facing one of the toughest batting orders in the postseason this year. Since being traded from Boston to St. Louis earlier this season, Lackey has adapted to his new team and has found his comfort level.

While Lackey will have the backing of a top-tier power hitter like Matt Holliday, the Cardinals have done a great job building a team full of reliable athletes. While Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams are not well-known stars, they can score runs when it matters most and will help put the team in the best position to win.

After watching St. Louis win Game 1 10-9 and Los Angeles steal the 3-2 victory in Game 2, it’s finally time for one of the teams to prove itself superior. With the pitching matchup a push between Ryu and Lackey, the Dodgers should be favored due to their high-powered offense.

If Los Angeles’ top hitters come through, St. Louis will find itself on the losing end Monday.

Predicted Final Score: Los Angeles 8, St. Louis 5

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

 

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2014: Updated ALDS, NLDS Bracket, Day 4 Predictions

The 2014 MLB playoff schedule has been packed with marquee matchups in both the American and National League Division Series, and Day 4 continues that streak with two games baseball fans can’t afford to miss.

The first game of the afternoon is Baltimore at Detroit. The Tigers will be sending midseason acquisition David Price to the mound to counteract Baltimore’s Bud Norris. On the other hand, the battle between the Kansas City Royals' James Shields and Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Wilson will be the perfect way to close out the weekend.

It's a good time to be a baseball fan.

Here is the full Day 4 schedule, the link to the full official brackets and a preview of the game you can’t miss Sunday.

 

*Updated bracket for both division series at MLB.com.

 

Sunday’s Must-Watch Matchup: Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals

The key to success for Los Angeles on Sunday is not letting the game get to the 11th inning. The first two games took place in the Angels’ building, and Kansas City managed to win both thanks to 11th-inning home runs.

The Royals were dead last in home runs during the regular season, but they have hit two of the most timely bombs when they needed them the most. Mike Moustakas was the hero in Game 1, and Eric Hosmer hit the go-ahead home run in the second game of the series.

NBC Sports' Twitter account highlighted the home run hitting stars:

While Kansas City is only one win away from advancing to the next round, the Angels are too strong to go out without a fight. Despite Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout amassing just one combined hit through the first two games, the power-hitting trio can explode for an offensive onslaught at any moment.

For Los Angeles fans, the offensive explosion better happen Sunday.

Pujols spoke to Billy Witz of The New York Times about the hole his team finds itself in and how the Angels plan on making the comeback:

It’s tough; it’s stressful. Nobody wants to be 0-2. But they call it best out of five for a reason. They know we have a great team that can win three games in a row. So obviously they’re in good shape right now, but they know they can’t feel too comfortable.

At some point, the heavy hitters for Los Angeles have to come out of their slump and post big numbers. With the team on the brink of elimination, the team must find its rhythm Sunday or the Angels will be heading back to LA with an ugly sweep on their hands.

As good as the Royals have been through the first two games, Pujols and the Angles have the stats to back up their offense prowess. After finishing the regular season with a league-high 773 runs, Sunday should be the team’s opportunity to break out with an elite performance.

For Los Angeles to get the win in Game 3, the hitters must get to Shields early. In his one start against the Angels this season, the Royals pitcher allowed four runs in six innings, including two home runs.

If Hamilton and Trout can find an offensive rhythm early in the game, LA will be able to pull out the win on the road and extend the series for at least another game. Even if the Angels lose the series, the team doesn’t want to get swept in the first round.

Predicted Final Score: Los Angeles 8, Kansas City 5

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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MLB Playoffs 2014: Day 3 Schedule, Updated AL and NL Series Predictions

The first two days of the American and National League Division Series have lived up to the expectations of the fans, but with Day 3 of the MLB playoffs schedule full of intense action, the anticipation continues to climb.

If you like elite pitching, Saturday's action is right up your alley. With San Francisco's Tim Hudson, Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, St. Louis' Lance Lynn and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke all getting the start on Day 3, the on-field action should be intense.

Here is the full schedule for Day 3 with updated predictions for the series on tap for Saturday.

 

Breaking Down the Matchups

San Francisco at Washington

The San Francisco Giants took a thrilling Game 1 victory against the Washington Nationals, 3-2, on Friday. With the Nationals looking to get retribution, the team won't have to wait long to get its hands on the Giants.

Game 2 in Washington should be just as thrilling as the opening game of the series.

San Francisco won't go down without a fight, and the team will send veteran starting pitcher Hudson to the mound in this crucial Game 2. Hudson told Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post about what he feels it takes to make a deep run in the postseason:

Obviously they have a talented group over there. There's no question. They have some great pitching. But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs? That's going to take you real far. And I think we've got a group in here that really has some of that.

The Giants are leading the series against Washington, and it is the Nationals that must show the intestinal fortitude on Saturday. The team must get to Hudson early and rattle his cage. With the starting pitcher off his game, the offensive production of players like Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper should be enough to earn a victory for the Nationals.

On the other hand, if Hudson pitches well and San Francisco continues to get production from the entire lineup, the Giants have the ability and experience to pull away from Washington and win Game 2 and the entire series.

Predicted Final Score: Washington 3, San Francisco 2

 

St. Louis at L.A. Dodgers

The most thrilling game of the 2014 MLB postseason was Game 1 between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers. With L.A. holding a 6-2 lead heading in the seventh inning, St. Louis exploded for eight runs and won the game, 10-9.

The animosity was overflowing in Game 1, as both benches cleared following Adam Wainwright hitting Yasiel Puig with a pitch. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez spoke to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com after the game regarding the altercation:

I was just basically saying, 'You guys keep doing this over and over. We're not going to put up with that.' They're going to say it's not on purpose, but come on. It's Wainwright. He knows where the ball is going.

Even the MLB.com Twitter account shared the animosity:

Now the focus turns to Game 2. With Lynn getting the start for the Cardinals and Greinke carrying the load for Los Angeles, offensive production may not be as easy to come by this time. While the pitching matchup on Saturday is tough, the battle between Clayton Kershaw and Wainwright to start the series resulted in a ton of offense as well.

St. Louis and L.A. are settled in for a long series. Now that the teams are familiar with each other's postseason approach, Saturday's game should feature more small ball. With two superior pitchers going at it, the score in Game 2 should be lower than the opening matchup.

Predicted Final Score: Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 4

 

*Stats via MLB.com.

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