After a disappointing 2049 campaign that found the team missing the playoffs for the 10th time in the last 11 years, Confederates Commanding General and Grand Poobah for life Chris Karluk decided it was time to open the bank vault this season. With the continuing development of the team's young position players, management decided to bring in pitching help. In a "we better win this year or we're totally fucked" sort of move, the team committed over $60M in salary over the next three years in free agency. Over half of that ($10.21M per year) went to SP Zach Graham, signed away from Salt Lake City to be the team's ace. Another $8M a year went to more pitching - resigning long-time starter Gareth Bakewell, and adding four new members to the bullpen.

Here's how things look for the golden anniversary team:

Catcher:

Longtime backstop Gene Taylor was given a legacy free agency contract to return. The seven year Confederate is one of only three players in team history with a lifetime batting average over .300 and is creeping up the team's all-time leaderboard in hits. Rookie Tom Romanoff gets promoted to the majors to back up Taylor.

Infield:

Curt Edmiston set Richmond rookie records with 44 home runs and 119 RBI. The lefty first baseman has four more seasons on his rookie contract, and will be in the cleanup spot for years to come. The other youngster in the infield is third baseman Rick Grimes. Grimes struggled in his first year, with a terrible OPS of .619, but has 40-plus homer potential, and hopes are very high for him. The veterans man the keystone - 2B Gene Cook and SS Johnathan Glasreth. Both provide consistency with the glove - especially Glasreth - and not much offensively. Both middle infielders' contracts are up at the end of the year; Horace Fox waits in the AAA. Clint Tosewell and Alex Encarnacion will back up, as will Jorge Bergoglio. "The Pope" may also see some time at DH.

Outfield:

The pride and joy of the Confederates' lineup is in the outfield, as all three players came up through the Confederates system. Top prospect Cy Pisowicz takes the job in left field and at the top of the lineup. Hes still got a little bit of growing to do when it comes to his batting eye, but management hasn't been this high on a player since.... CF J.J. Williams. Williams came up one steal shy of breaking into the 50/50 club and hit 54 home runs for the second straight year since returning as a free agent from Montego Bay. Pencil him down for about 40 homers and 40 steals in the 3 spot, as long as he stays healthy. In his second full season, formerly highly touted RF Daryl Dixon hit 34 home runs for the second year in a row, though his pate discipline seems to be slipping a bit. The defense that those three can play relegates Ruben Vazquez and his 45 home runs to the DH role. Carlos Gomez will back up all three positions.

Rotation:

Zach Graham got paid like a true ace to come over from the Elders. The hope is that the slightly less hitter friendly confines of the Lee Battlefield will allow him to truly shine and earn that $10.2M salary. The team didn't expect to be able to win Gareth Bakewell back, but welcome the fan favorite back him with open arms. Three youngsters make up the rest of the rotation - righty Clint Romero, and lefties Herschel Greene and Nutsack Utley Jr. round out the rotation. While we don't know if any of those three will develop into stars, they should all have quite creditable major league careers. Hughie Barnsley currently waits in the wings in AAA, though he's been dangled as trade bait.

Bullpen:

Breaking camp, only two spots of the six in the bullpen are manned by players in the organization last year: Pete Mays and Dusty Mason. Mays had 36 saves in each of the last two years but struggled last year. Mason bounced between the rotation and bullpen last season, with his 4.64 ERA not able to pin down a consistent spot. The four newcomers are all expected to make the back end of games a bit more safe this year. Chet Stanley will get first crack at the closer role, after leading the Utica Wombats in saves last season - with 12. Doug Hines will open the season as the primary setup man, with Mays to assist. Don Baker, Don Hill, and Mason round out the pen.

Outlook:

Management feels that the team is much improved over last season, especially if young players like Dixon and Grimes take a step forward, and Pisowicz lives up to the hype. Hopefully the revamped pitching staff is as good as we hope. With the size of the contract given to Graham, we really need a long playoff run this season.