Monday, January 14, 2013

AL EAST - Season #24 Preview

Baltimore Renegades

The Baltimore Renegades are determined to win their first World Series.   This off-season, upper management has done everything in it's power to try and make this the year.  Baltimore has been extremely busy, as they have rebuilt last years under-achieving starting rotation and they were also able to solidify an already-strong bullpen by adding three more quality arms. 

They made these improvements, while still maintaining one of the most potent line-ups in the league.  Baltimore was one of seven teams to have scored 1000 runs last season, and this line-up is aiming to duplicate that feat again this season.  The team has all of the ingredients needed to make a run at that illusive World Series championship which Baltimore has been missing from it's mantle.

Some of the Renegades star players are starting to age a little, and several big name players (Craig Cook, Calvin Forbes, and Jim Morris) are free agents at season's end.  Baltimore's window of opportunity may be shrinking a little bit, but management still feels there is a 2-3 year window to win.  Realistically, this may be the last chance to try to win it all before a rebuilding project occurs.

The good news is that Baltimore already has a great core of young ballplayers who are battle-tested in the playoffs.  Many of these core players are locked up to long term deals too.  The Renegades have also begun to shift their focus towards their minor league system.  The team has added to their minor league budget each of the last two seasons.  This, coupled with the fact that the Renegades have 4 of the first 61 picks in this year's amateur draft bodes well for Baltimore's future.  So, Baltimore should be a force to reckon with for many years to come.
Financially, GM Terry Swayne has done an excellent job front-loading many of the team's long-term contracts. Many of the contending teams spent an over-exuberant amount of money this off-season, but Baltimore found many bargains. Milt Gagne, Jessie Stein, Anthony Thomas, Lou Guthrie, and Jake Keppinger were all signed at great salaries compared to what other teams paid for similarly valued players.

The biggest news of the off-season was the trade of original Baltimore Renegade Craig Cook.  Cook refused to sign a long term deal, so he was traded to Montgomery.  This move was very unpopular with the fans; so much so, that when the trade was announced, riots broke out in the streets of Baltimore and season ticket sales plummeted 11%.  The Renegades quickly addressed this issue as they reacquired Craig Cook for a package of players and cash.  Craig Cook's short 10 game stint in Montgomery ends his tenure as the 'last original Renegade" but the fans don't seem to care as the team has sold out every home game (again) this season, which marks the 10th year in a row.

The Renegades line-up is still the strength of the team.  The line-up includes returning players C-Walt Harnisch, 1B-Oswaldo Padilla, CF-Ricky Atchley, SS-Craig Jackson, RF-Red James, DH-Jim Morris, and re-acquired LF-Craig Cook.  Newly acquired 2B-Mickey Reid (a former first round pick by the Renegades) and 3B-Miguel Cabeza (a late free agent signing who will replace injured 3B-Andy Norton-neck surgery) will round out the line-up.  The bench is deep and decent with UT-Pepe Cabellero, UT- Junior Estrada, 2B/OF-Terry Ramirez, 1B/OF-Jessie Stein, and back-up C- Alex Crosby.

The starting rotation is much improved.  Gone are David Vargas and Jimmie Veres.  The staff is now anchored by FIVE veterans. RHP's- Milt Gagne, Calvin Forbes, and Jamie Benningson and LHP's- Vic Ordonez and Angel Martin give Baltimore the best rotation it's had in the franchise's history.  The long man and emergency starter will be rookie LHP-Tim Leiter, but the team believes that he has tremendous upside (hence the trade of Craig Cook for him).  The bullpen will again be anchored by lefty closer Darrin Roth.  The set up men are righties Theodore Standridge and Julian Ortiz and lefties D.J. Webster and Olmedo Ramirez.

Top Rookie- LHP- Tom Leiter

Key Players Lost- LHP-Neftali Delgado (FA), LHP-Willie Quinones (trade), RHP-Damien Murphy (FA), RHP-David Vargas (FA), RHP-Jimmie Veras (trade), LF-Stuart Locke (FA), CF-Bruce Blasingame (FA) DH-Buddy Williamson (trade). 

Key Players Acquired- LHP-DJ Webster (trade), RHP-Jamie Benningson (trade), RHP-Milt Gagne (FA), RHP-Theodore Standridge (trade), 3B-Miquel Cabeza (FA), CF-Terry Ramirez (trade). 
Key Off-Season Transaction- Trading, then re-acquiring 1B/RF-Craig Cook.  We were able to pick up one of the best young arms in the game by acquiring Tim Leiter for Cook, then reacquiring Cook, a week later, for two off-season free agent signings was a great feat.

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