September 2006

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2007 MLB Free Agents: Gary Matthews Jr.

The Rangers would like to retain free agent center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., but competition could be fierce if he hits the market.  It's important to remember that Sarge Jr. will be entering his age 32 season in 2007.  Perhaps his athleticism will help him age better. 


While Matthews's .372 OBP is a career high, you'll notice that it's entirely batting average driven.  He hasn't improved his walk rate at all this season.  The improvement in batting average is tied to more frequent contact - he's up to 84% in that department.  He's also got a career high SLG.  The increase can be attributed to doubles and triples, as Matthews's flyball percentage and home runs per flyball have not changed.  It stands to reason that he'll regress to something near .270/.330/.440 in 2007. 

Matthews has been abandoned by the Padres (twice), Cubs, Pirates, Orioles (twice), Braves, and Mets.  He's dealt with all kinds of injuries in the past few years: ribcage strain, hamstring strain, calf strain, sliced thumb from slicing a bagel, and wrist tendinitis. 

Despite all this, I'm not down on Matthews as a free agent signing.  The average center fielder hits about .270/.335/.425 and plays, well, average defense.  Matthews should be able to hit a little better than that and play plus defense.  Sure, he'll decline from his career season.  But CFs like Matthews don't grow on trees.  Would you rather have the defense of Dave Roberts out there? 

Lately the possibility has been raised of the Mariners signing Matthews.  This would be an odd signing, given the Mariners' decent outfield arrangement and dire need for starting pitching.

Should the Rangers fail to retain Matthews, both Chicago teams, the Astros, Cardinals, and Rockies could all be interested.  I'd be impressed if any team could get him for fewer than three years.  He made $2.4MM this year, but could command $7-8MM annually on the open market.   



2007 Oakland A's

Next up in the 2007 Team Outlooks are the Oakland Athletics.  They stand to possibly lose a couple of key players after this season.


Billy Beane's contract obligations:

C - Jason Kendall - $8MM
C - Adam Melhuse - $0.85MM
1B - Dan Johnson - $0.33MM
2B - Mark Ellis - $3.5MM
SS - Bobby Crosby - $2.5MM
3B - Eric Chavez - $9MM
IF - Marcos Scutaro - $0.34MM
IF - D'Angelo Jimenez - $0.75MM
LF - Nick Swisher - $0.335MM
CF - Mark Kotsay - $7MM
RF - Milton Bradley - $3MM
OF - Bobby Kielty - $1.85MM
DH -

SP - Rich Harden - $2MM
SP - Dan Haren - $2.2MM
SP - Esteban Loaiza - $6MM
SP - Joe Blanton - $0.327MM
SP - Kirk Saarloos - $0.354MM
SP - Jerome Williams - $0.38MM
SP - Jason Windsor - $0.327MM

RP - Huston Street - $0.34MM
RP - Justin Duchscherer - $0.3445MM
RP - Joe Kennedy - $2.4MM
RP - Jay Witasick - $1.5MM
RP - Kiko Calero - $0.85MM
RP - Santiago Casilla - $0.327MM
RP - Chad Gaudin - $0.327MM
RP - Brad Halsey - $0.346MM
RP - Ron Flores - $0.327MM
RP - Shane Komine - $0.327MM

The A's have roughly $60MM tied up, assuming some raises and such.  That's about where they entered 2006 - Opening Day payroll was $62MM.

Depending on how you feel about Dan Johnson, the A's could use some help in the form of a 1B/LF/DH player (given that Swisher can play first. If you can say one thing about Beane, it's that he builds a versatile roster). 21 year-old top prospect Daric Barton missed most of 2006 with a broken elbow.  Upon returning he strained his hamstring.  He might have something to contribute in the Majors at some point in '07, even if the power doesn't arrive yet. 

One could see Beane signing a Craig Wilson to fill the void.  He could also go after Moises Alou or David Dellucci.  There's also the option of one Barry Bonds, who would probably spend most of his time at DH.

Speaking of DH, will Frank Thomas return?  Not an easy decision for Beane.  Sure, Thomas re-established himself as one of the game's top sluggers.  Still, he'll be 39 next May and could require, I don't know, a two-year, $20MM deal?  Who knows what Frank will ask for.  My gut says Beane lets him walk.

The A's have a host of disappointing players lccked up who probably can't help but play better in 2007.  Kotsay, Chavez, Ellis, and Crosby have not impressed.  Kotsay and Crosby will need very capable backups.  Ellis's second half, at .271/.341/.442 seems more his level.  Plus, his defense is top-notch.  Chavez dealt with a hamstring strain, elbow and forearm tendinitis, back tightness, and even food poisoning this year.  He's also got that chronically sore shoulder.  The A's have no choice but to try to nurse him back to health after the playoffs.

Kotsay isn't a great bet at this point, but the outfield is at least average offensively.  When he misses time, we'll see plenty of Kielty, maybe Hiram Bocachica, and position shuffling out there.

The pitching staff is long on options.  If and when Harden misses time, the A's have a laundry list of decent options to start in his place.  Jerome Williams has seen success at the big league level.  Halsey, Gaudin, Kennedy, and Windsor can all fill in.   

The difference will be that the A's won't have Barry Zito making 34 decent starts for them anymore.  If Harden goes down, do you really want Saarloos and one of the aforementioned starters in the rotation for an extended period of time?  The A's signed Loaiza last offseason when it appeared they didn't quite need him.  Beane could make a similar signing this offseason if he has the budget.  Ted Lilly has voiced a desire to return to the Bay Area, perhaps with the A's or Giants. 

There's really no need to mess with the bullpen.  Plenty of good arms there.

Perhaps the astute A's supporters can lend me a hand here, but I don't know how high the A's will take the payroll in 2007.  If they bring it up to $75MM or so, Beane should have room to sign Thomas or a replacement and snag a mid-level starter.      



2007 Houston Astros

The Astros are due for the next Team Outlook. 


Tim Purpura's contract obligations:

C - Brad Ausmus - $3.5MM
C - Eric Munson - $0.35MM
1B - Lance Berkman - $14.5MM
2B - Chris Burke - $0.3625MM
SS - Adam Everett - $1.9MM
3B - Morgan Ensberg - $3.8MM
1B/3B - Mike Lamb - $1.7MM
IF - Eric Bruntlett - $0.365MM
LF - Luke Scott - $0.327MM
CF - Willy Taveras - $0.4MM
RF - Jason Lane - $0.45MM
OF - Orlando Palmeiro - $0.95MM

SP - Roy Oswalt - $13MM
SP - Jason Hirsh - $0.327MM
SP - Wandy Rodriguez - $0.327MM
SP - Matt Albers - $0.327MM
SP - Taylor Buchholz - $0.327MM
SP - Chris Sampson - $0.327MM
SP - Ezequiel Astacio - $0.327MM
SP - Troy Patton - $0.327MM

RP - Brad Lidge - $3.975MM
RP - Trever Miller - $1.3MM
RP - Dan Wheeler - $0.93MM
RP - Chad Qualls - $0.376MM
RP - Fernando Nieve - $0.327MM
RP - Dave Borkowski - $0.33MM

Injured:
SP - Brandon Backe - $0.4425MM
1B - Jeff Bagwell - $7MM buyout

I have this payroll at approximately $60MM, maybe a little more if raises are large.  The Astros entered '06 with a $92MM payroll.  So where's the extra money going to go?

At second base, it's getting really hard to justify another year of Craig Biggio.  Objectively, he shouldn't be around unless he wants to take $1MM to play a utility role.  Burke will be 27 next year.  He showed progress this season and would be a nice low-cost solution in 2007.

Luke Scott's earned a chance to begin 2007 as the everyday left fielder, given his .350/.436/.650 line in 203 ABs.  He turned 28 this year and hit .299/.400/.541 in 87 Triple A games.  Maybe he's a late bloomer.

It's impossible to recommend Taveras as the starting CF, given his hitting.  The Astros should probably pursue Jim Edmonds, Gary Matthews Jr., or Dave Roberts.  The likely need for a CF is one way the Astros resemble their division rivals the Cubs this offseason.

It's also tough to see Lane as the starting RF given the kind of year he had.  I definitely didn't expect this given his decent 2005.  He still has a chance to put up a few league average seasons, but it'd be a gamble.  The Astros should set their sights on Jose Guillen to man the position.  The outfield will be a huge challenge for Purpura this winter.

Challenge #2, which also resembles the Cubs, is the lack of starting pitching.  Like Zambrano/Hill, the Astros have Oswalt/Hirsh as a pretty good start.  But the rest of the starters in that list either aren't ready or aren't good.  They'll need to sign two starters, and Woody Williams might be one of them.  Maybe Andy Pettitte comes back at a reasonable price; it's up in the air as far as I know.  And the Rocket?  Public perception seems to be that he'd play in Boston if he plays at all.

I could list the usual suspects among free agent starting pitchers, but you know all the names.  The Astros probably won't get Matsuzaka or Zito.  Jason Schmidt, a long shot but not a bad idea.  Maybe expect something more of the Wolf/Meche/Padilla speed.  Which is fine; you can't throw Wandy Rodriguez out there for 24 starts again and expect to win.

Trade rumors: Carl Crawford has been mentioned, and he'd be a nice jolt to the outfield.  Of course, the Astros aren't oozing with top shelf near-ready pitching talent to part with.  Luis Gonzalez could join the club assuming Scott could man right field.  But Gonzo isn't a difference maker.  Perhaps Purpura will re-engage the Tejada talks, although Brad Lidge's stock has fallen.    



2007 Minnesota Twins

Given their postseason berth, you wouldn't expect Twins fans to be clamoring for a writeup on the '07 club.  They have been, however, and I aim to please.


Terry Ryan's contract obligations:

C - Joe Mauer - $0.4MM
C - Mike Redmond - $0.95MM
1B - Justin Morneau - $0.385MM
2B - Luis Castillo - $5.75MM
SS - Jason Bartlett - $0.38MM
3B - Nick Punto - $0.69MM
IF - Luis Rodriguez - $0.38MM
LF -
CF - Torii Hunter - $12MM option
RF - Michael Cuddyer - $1.3MM
OF - Lew Ford - $0.425MM
OF - Jason Tyner - $0.38MM
DH - Jason Kubel - $0.38MM

SP - Johan Santana - $12MM
SP - Carlos Silva - $4.35MM
SP - Boof Bonser - $0.38MM
SP - Matt Garza - $0.38MM
SP - Scott Baker - $0.38MM
SP - Glen Perkins - $0.38MM
SP - Kevin Slowey - $0.38MM
SP - J.D. Durbin - $0.38MM

RP - Joe Nathan - $5.25MM
RP - Juan Rincon - $0.7MM
RP - Dennys Reyes - $1MM
RP - Jesse Crain - $0.38MM
RP - Pat Neshek - $0.38MM
RP - Matt Guerrier - $0.38MM
RP - Willie Eyre - $0.38MM

Injured:
SP - Francisco Liriano - $0.38MM

This is about $52MM worth of players, raises included.  The team entered '06 with a $63MM payroll.

The big decision, of course, is Torii Hunter.  Declining the chance to have him for one year, $12MM is lunacy, and I don't think that will happen.  Lately Hunter has said he's looking to renegotiate for a four-year deal.  I think he stays and his recently play cemented it.

There's this idea of beginning 2007 with Punto as the starting 3B.  I guess this is rationalized based on defensive abilities.  To be fair, the free agent market for third basemen stinks and the Twins won't be winning the Aramis Ramirez bidding if he hits the market.  The usual trade candidates will surface: Mike Lowell, Hank Blalock.  Can't see Joe Crede traded to a rival, though Morgan Ensberg, Adrian Beltre, or Dallas McPherson could be available.  Pretty sure we'll see Punto at third on opening day though.

Rondell White's option for 2007 won't vest, so the team will be in need of a left fielder, DH, or both.  Kubel may be able to fill the DH role.  Terry Ryan could bring White back at $2MM or so.  While he'll be 35 next season, he's been much better since returning from a demotion in July.  Other options, and names I keep recommending for various teams: Moises Alou, David Dellucci, and Frank CatalanottoLuis Gonzalez would probably do league average work, but he'd have to be convinced to play in Minnesota. 

The pitching rotation looks pretty well set: Santana and the Kids.  Even if Liriano goes down to injury, the #2-5 starters would be Bonser, Garza, Baker, and maybe Perkins.  There are some question marks but it still doesn't justify a huge free agent expenditure.  Perhaps to hedge his best Ryan will spend some of his free $10-15MM on one mid-level guy.  That could be Miguel Batista, Cory Lidle, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Ramon Ortiz, Chan Ho Park, John Thomson, Jeff Weaver...the list goes on.  It makes sense to snag one.  I don't see much need to tinker with the bullpen; the Twins know that homegrown talent is the way to go.

Overall I don't see the Twins being too active this winter, just like any other offseason.  They'll probably get one starter and a decent left fielder and call it good.  I can't say I'd do much differently aside from the Punto thing.



Royals Join Matsuzaka Chase

An unlikely eighth team has expressed interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka: the Royals.  KC joins the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, and Mariners as a suitor.


While it's unlikely that the Royals would pony up more than $10MM annually for one player, it would bring some excitement to the '07 team.  It would also be better than the way they spent free agent money in 2006: $5MM for Reggie Sanders, $4MM for Scott Elarton, $4MM for Mark Grudzielanek, $1.85MM for Doug Mientkiewicz, $1.7MM for Elmer Dessens, and $1.5MM for Tony Graffanino.  Granted that was a different GM, but the Royals spent $18MM on six players that A)wouldn't help them win when the team becomes competitive and B)won't put butts in the seats.    



Sherman: Carl Crawford Available

As you may have seen, Joel Sherman's latest article mentions that the D-Rays will "dangle" Carl Crawford in return for a top starting pitching prospect.  Sherman goes on to mention that TB would also explore trading Rocco Baldelli or - gasp - Delmon Young.


Given Young's off-the-chart talent and future, I can't see how this is feasible.  Crawford makes a sense though, as he's relatively well-paid and proven.  But aside from Mr. Kazmir, how often do you see top-shelf pitching prospects moved?  Here are some names: Scott Elbert, Homer Bailey, Philip Hughes, Jason Hirsh, Nick Adenhart, Humberto Sanchez, Donald Veal.  Do you see any of these guys being traded?  Apparently, that's what it would take to land Crawford.

Exchanging outfield talent for an equally good starting pitcher makes all sorts of sense for the Rays.  And Crawford is signed at a good price through 2010.  Would Tim Purpura trade Hirsh or Troy Patton to snag Crawford, a Houston native?  Just one of many interesting subplots to follow this winter.  Sherman also mentions the Rockies, Dodgers, and Angels as suitors.  The White Sox have shown interest in the past as well. 



2007 Chicago Cubs

Updated 12/07/2006

Full disclosure: I am a diehard Cubs fan.  Still, I think I'm capable of pulling together a Team Outlook for this bunch.


Jim Hendry's 2007 contract obligatons:

C - Michael Barrett - $3MM
C - Henry Blanco - $1.8MM
1B - Derrek Lee - $13MM
2B - Mark DeRosa - $4.33MM
SS - Cesar Izturis - $4.15MM
3B - Aramis Ramirez - $11MM
IF - Ryan Theriot - $0.38MM
LF - Matt Murton - $0.38MM
CF - Jacque Jones - $4MM
RF - Alfonso Soriano - $9MM
OF - Angel Pagan - $0.38MM

SP - Carlos Zambrano - $6.5MM
SP - Ted Lilly - $10MM
SP - Rich Hill - $0.38MM
SP -
SP - Wade Miller - $1.5MM
SP - Mark Prior - $3.65MM
SP - Sean Marshall - $0.38MM

RP - Ryan Dempster - $5MM
RP - Bob Howry - $4MM
RP - Scott Eyre - $3.5MM
RP - Will Ohman - $0.61MM
RP - Mike Wuertz - $0.38MM
RP - Kerry Wood - $1.75MM
RP - Roberto Novoa - $0.38MM
RP - Neal Cotts - $0.4MM

Buyouts:

RP - Kerry Wood - $3MM

Injured players:

RP - Glendon Rusch - $3.25MM

The Cubs have about $96MM locked up before raises, unless perhaps insurance covers Rusch's salary.  Also keep in mind that Miller can earn an additional $3.75MM in incentives and some of Soriano's bonus may need to be paid out in '07.  Zambrano should get decent money in arbitration, so a rough estimate is $102MM committed.  There have been rumors of the team taking payroll all the way to $120MM to field a winner in 2007.  That'd mean a lot of patchwork via free agency. Hey, it worked for the Marlins in '97.  Wow, that team had some crappy seasons by hitters now that I look at it. 

Mark DeRosa will handle second base now, so the infield's set. 

In the outfield, Hendry really just needs a center fielder.  Kenny Lofton is the only real viable option in free agency.  Otherwise Jones or Soriano will have to learn the position.  There's also been talk of adding Cliff Floyd as a platoon partner for Murton; I don't see the point. 

The rotation could probably use one more arm behind the front three of Zambrano, Lilly, and Hill.  Someone to bridge the gap between Hill and the fifth starter DL combo of Prior and Miller.  Gil Meche remains on the radar.  In-house longshot starting candidates include Dempster and Cotts.  The trade bait seems to be Jones, who apparently wants out of Chicago

A few of the pitchers I've listed will be squeezed out and sent to the minors or traded.  The Cubs have three lefties in the pen currently.



2007 St. Louis Cardinals

I already took my best shot at a 2007 plan for the Cardinals back in August.  But, let's do our usual Team Outlook analysis for the club.  The Viva El Birdos article was more my recommendations, so here we'll discuss more of what I think Walt Jocketty will do.


2007 contract obligations:

C - Yadier Molina - $0.4MM
C -
1B - Albert Pujols - $15MM
2B - Aaron Miles - $0.35MM
SS - David Eckstein - $4.5MM
3B - Scott Rolen - $12MM
IF -
LF - Chris Duncan - $0.33MM
CF -
RF - Juan Encarnacion - $5MM
OF - Larry Bigbie - $0.9MM
OF - So Taguchi - $0.825MM
OF - John Rodriguez - $0.332MM

SP - Chris Carpenter - $7MM
SP - Anthony Reyes - $0.33MM
SP - Adam Wainwright - $0.327MM
SP -
SP -

RP - Jason Isringhausen - $8.75MM
RP - Braden Looper - $4.5MM
RP - Jorge Sosa - $2.2MM
RP - Ricardo Rincon - $1.45MM
RP - Josh Hancock - $0.355MM
RP - Randy Flores - $0.35MM
RP - Brad Thompson - $0.334MM
RP - Josh Kinney - $0.33MM
RP - Chris Narveson - $0.33MM

The Cards have roughly $70MM tied up after entering 2006 with an $89MM payroll.  Should ownership be willing to go into the mid-90s in '07, there will be some serious cash spent in St. Louis.  You'll notice I don't list Jim Edmonds as the center fielder.  It seems pretty obvious that the Cards won't be picking up his $10MM option given La Russa's comments.  More on that later.

Catching: can Molina's defense compensate for a .600 OPS?  I'm not sure anyone's defense has ever compensated for that kind of offensive futility.  Nonetheless, the Cards don't appear to be looking for a change.  They'll just bring in a backup.

Miles definitely won't hit enough to play 2B every day; that's why they brought Belliard in.  I think the Cards will either re-up Belliard or snag a scrappy Mark Loretta/Adam Kennedy type.  Said scrappy player will then be foolishly called team's MVP by John Kruk despite presence of the best hitter of my generation at first base. 

The $4MM or so that I can see going towards 2B would be better allocated to a backup plan in left.  At what point is Chris Duncan no longer a fluke?  On one hand, 20 HR in 291 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at.  In fact, Duncan's home run every 14.55 PAs is tenth best in the game among those with 250 PAs.  The Cards will likely bank on Duncan being league averge in 2007 - .279/.361/.481.  His minor league record doesn't support that, but you never know.

As I've said before, the Jocketty can help right the wrong that was the Encarnacion signing by moving him to center.  He's below average out there, but it'd be easier to stomach his bat.  He's also not terribly expensive.  But if you move Encarnacion to center, you really need some defense in right.  That means Jose Guillen or Trot Nixon.  The more conventional approach would be to sign one of these guys - probably Gary Matthews Jr. or Dave Roberts - to replace Edmonds in center.

The pitching staff has problems as well.  Where does La Russa want to put Wainwright?  He's mentioned using him in the rotation, and that seems most likely.  It'll be similar to the Papelbon situation - do you want a proven very good reliever or a guy who might hold up and be decent for 180 innings?  I'd install Wainwright at closer. 

Either way, the club needs to come up with at least two starters.  I'm not really seeing the pieces for a good trade.  The free agent market bears all sorts of projects and mid-level guys.  Wade Miller may have something left as a finesse pitcher.  Kip Wells still has potential.  Mark Redman would probably love to return to the NL.  The Ramon Ortizes, Miguel Batistas, and Tony Armas Jrs need homes.

The fan base will probably revolt if Jocketty doesn't acquire someone a little better than that, though.  Someone like Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, Mark Buehrle, or Ted Lilly.  In my crystal ball I see a lowball offer for Jason Schmidt and a Plan B three-year deal for one of the above as the "#2 starter."

The 'pen looks like a wreck, but I would hope Jocketty learned from the Looper signing.  Find your relievers somewhere else.  You'd hate to see another three-year deal for the likes of Jamie Walker, Danys Baez, Darren Oliver, or Russ Springer.  Such a move would not surprise me, however.

By and large, Walt Jocketty has made many brilliant decisions as GM.  He's leaned toward affordable finesse pitchers and it's mostly worked.  He likes to trade young talent for proven vets.  He practices "buy low" strategies to much success.  (All of that came courtesy of Brian Gunn's fine article in the Hardball Times 2006 Annual.)  Jocketty's decision-making has slipped of late, and he'll have to be at the top of his game to keep the Cards atop the division in 2007.



2007 MLB Free Agents: Luis Gonzalez

When we last checked in with future free agent left fielder Luis Gonzalez, he'd been informed by the D'Backs that they didn't want him back. 


Now, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has a few interested teams for us:

"Don't feel bad about Luis Gonzalez's Diamondbacks career being over. The Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, and Cubs are already considering him as a DH and/or left fielder for next year."

Word was that Gonzo wanted to stay in the NL, meaning a return to the Cubs might be at the top of the list.  The problem?  The Cubs already have a left fielder, and he's having a fine age 24 season.

Matt Murton:  .294/.359/.438
Luis Gonzalez:  .274/.356/.453

Given that Murton is improving and Gonzalez is on the decline, and that Gonzalez will make significantly more money, the signing wouldn't make much sense. 

If the Cubs really are interested, that should mean one of two things. 

1. They plan on using Murton in center field and letting Juan Pierre go (unlikely but not the worst idea in the world if Murton could somehow pull it off on defense).

2. They are considering trading Murton (possible).

If the Cubs want to make a major trade, say involving Miguel Tejada, Murton could be a coveted player. 



2007 New York Mets

Let's see what's in store for the Mets next year.  Their playoff appearance this year should ensure that ownership spends some more money to plug any holes.


By the way, you can read any of my 2007 Team Outlooks here. 

Omar Minaya's contractual obligations:

C - Paul LoDuca - $6.5MM
C - Ramon Castro - $0.8MM
1B - Carlos Delgado - $14.5MM
2B -
SS - Jose Reyes - $2.5MM
3B - David Wright - $1MM
IF - Julio Franco - $1.1MM
IF - Ruben Gotay - $0.3405MM, Anderson Hernandez - $0.327MM
LF - Lastings Milledge - $0.415MM
CF - Carlos Beltran - $12MM
RF - Shawn Green - $3.7MM
OF - Endy Chavez - $0.5MM

SP - Pedro Martinez - $14MM
SP - Tom Glavine - $7.5MM player option; $14MM club option. Both have $3MM buyout
SP - Oliver Perez - $1.9MM
SP - Brian Bannister - $0.327MM
SP - Philip Humber - $0.84MM
SP - Mike Pelfrey - $1.3125MM
SP - John Maine - $0.33MM
SP - Victor Zambrano - $3MM
SP - Dave Williams - $1.4MM
RP - Alay Soler - $0.93MM

RP - Billy Wagner - $10.5MM
RP - Duaner Sanchez - $0.3995MM
RP - Aaron Heilman - $0.359MM
RP - Heath Bell - $0.33MM
RP - Henry Owens - $0.33MM
RP - Pedro Feliciano - $0.33MM
RP - Royce Ring - $0.33MM
RP - Matt Lindstrom - $0.33MM

The Mets come in at about $81MM with this group, excluding Glavine.  If Glavine were to stay maybe the sides would meet in the middle at $11MM.  While it's true that not every player listed above will receive a Major League salary, some guys will get raises.  Let's say they're at $95MM with Glavine, and $84MM without.  The Mets entered the season with a $101MM payroll.

One hole the Mets should fill is second base.  There are your usual mid-range free agents, and then there's Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano could be used in left field if the Mets trade Milledge or decide he's not ready.  Recent word is that Sori will be priced out of the Mets' range.  I think that's silly given the playoff revenue and payroll room.  Sure, the Mets don't need him.  But why not build a National League juggernaut?  His offense could become vital if, say, a 35 year-old Delgado gets hurt or declines.  There's also Julio Lugo, who would be happy to play second as a Met.

As I said, the Mets can go with Milledge in left.  Or right, if you think flip-flopping him with Green improves the defense.  With a win now team like the Mets, Milledge probably isn't who you want starting in the outfield.  The Yankees would not enter 2007 with Melky Cabrera in left, especially if Cabrera had just 162 big league ABs.  Minaya can just leave him in Triple A, wait until he hits so well that there's no choice but to play him.  In the meantime there are fine options like Moises Alou and David Dellucci on the market.  Either player would make sense on a two-year deal.

The position players are otherwise set in stone, and the outlook is good.

The pitching situation is also very promising. The Mets are literally ten-deep in the rotation.  And it's not all mid-range guys, as Perez, Humber, and Pelfrey have a lot of upside.  It'll be hard to do if he becomes a playoff hero, but the Mets should probably let Glavine go to the Braves.  Maybe that's what Glavine will prefer anyway.  The Mets just have tons of far cheaper, comparable starting options.  Maybe the recent "we don't need Zito" thing is a smokescreen, but the Mets really don't need Zito.   

The bullpen looks equally deep.  It's anchored by Wagner and Sanchez.  Beyond that plenty of cheap, young players are showing promise.  I wouldn't tinker with the pen.

If I'm Omar, I would sign Soriano to play second.  Yes, it's a deal that won't end well.  It's the price you pay to get the available star without giving up young talent.  I'd also pick up Alou for left field and find a respectful way to have Glavine move on.  Then I'd let the chips fall for April and May and see if I need anything.  If Pedro isn't holding up, or several of the younger starters falter, I'd try to trade for Jason Jennings or Jake Westbrook.   









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