2007 Team Outlooks Rumors

Quick Hits: White Sox, Diamondbacks, Mets

It’s draft day, which means lots of coverage on MLBTR. I’ll be hosting a live chat throughout the evening, so come by and discuss the latest picks as they’re announced. MLBTR’s Steve Adams will be updating posts with each selection, so you’ll be able to see everything at a glance. Here are some non-draft links as we await the big event…

  • The White Sox are expected to target veteran bullpen help if they're in a position to add to their roster in July, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
  • Knobler hears the Diamondbacks will call top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer up “soon” (Twitter link).
  • The Red Sox called the Diamondbacks about Joe Saunders after Arizona acquired the left-hander in 2010, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. One MLB executive can imagine a trade involving Saunders and Kevin Youkilis, though the person doubts the Diamondbacks would be interested in taking on considerable salary or parting with a significant prospect.
  • The Mets will likely make three roster moves Tuesday, when Miguel Batista, Jason Bay and Chris Young are expected to return, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports (on Twitter). The club will have to create 40-man roster space for Young.
  • The Tigers should have a better idea of what, if anything, Victor Martinez can offer in 2012 by late July, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.

Minor Moves: Lindsay, Robertson

The latest minor moves from around MLB…

  • The Cubs signed free agent right-hander Shane Lindsay and released left-hander Nate Robertson, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. Lindsay, who was released by the Dodgers earlier this month, will report to Triple-A Iowa. He has a 3.61 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 8.9 BB/9 in three Triple-A seasons. His trouble with walks persisted in the Dodgers' organization earlier this year.
  • Robertson has pitched more than 1100 innings over the course of nine seasons in the Major Leagues. The free agent last appeared in an MLB game in 2010.

2007 San Diego Padres

Time for a Padres Team Outlook.  Notice the new sidebar section called MLBTR Features.  There you will always be able to find these outlooks as well as free agent info for next offseason.

Kevin Towers’s contract obligations:

C – Josh Bard – $1.05MM
C – Rob Bowen – $0.38MM
1B – Adrian Gonzalez – $0.3805MM
2B – Marcus Giles – $3.25MM + incentives
SS – Khalil Greene – $2.25MM + incentives
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff – $0.38MM
IF – Todd Walker – $3.95MM
IF – Russell Branyan – $1.25MM
IF – Geoff Blum – $0.9MM + incentives
LF – Terrmel Sledge – $0.38MM
CF – Mike Cameron – $7MM
RF – Brian Giles – $9MM
OF – Jose Cruz Jr. – $0.65MM

SP – Greg Maddux – $10MM
SP – Jake Peavy – $4.75MM
SP – David Wells – $3MM + incentives
SP – Chris Young – $0.6MM
SP – Clay Hensley – $0.392MM

RP – Trevor Hoffman – $6.5MM
RP – Scott Linebrink – $1.75MM
RP – Scott Strickland – $0.55MM
RP – Doug Brocail – $0.5MM + incentives
RP – Cla Meredith – $0.38MM
RP – Heath Bell – $0.38MM
RP – Mike Thompson – $0.38MM

I calculate a $60MM payroll, not including any incentives earned.  That’s down about $10MM from last year, so count on Towers making a big move midseason if needed.

Let’s first take a look at defense.  If Bard’s 17% caught stealing rate from last year carries over, he may be the worst in baseball at shutting down the running game.  Head to head fantasy baseball players, take note.  He’s not quite Piazza bad, but still. 

Kouzmanoff is not a glove man, nor are backup infielders Branyan and Walker.  Greene and Giles form an above average defensive middle infield combo, taking some pressure off Kouz.  The outfield defense should be excellent, led by Cameron.  Peavy and Young are the flyball pitchers on the staff while the rest get grounders.

How about the offense, ranked 13th of 16 NL teams last year?  They have a downgrade at catcher, upgrade at 2B, big upgrade at 3B, and a clear upgrade in left.  It seems sneaky, but this team has improved a lot on offense by importing Giles and Sledge while letting Dave Roberts go.  It’s tough to sustain a Roberts-type hitter from a power position if you’re not the White Sox.  They should move towards the middle in runs scored.

One more note – I really like what they’re doing with Sledge and Cruz in left.  That platoon could be league average or better for a million bucks, and if it’s not, they’ve got money in the coffers to compensate for a big-name addition like Adam Dunn or Jermaine Dye should they become available.

I feel that the Padres have the best starting rotation in the league, beating out the Brewers.  The staff has very good control, especially if Maddux can teach Hensley some things and Young bounces back.  If healthy, top pitching prospect Cesar Carrillo could jump right in as the sixth man and post a 4.50 ERA from the start.

The bullpen is a clear strength as well; the crew should be at least top five and maintain an ERA under 4 again.

I’ve yet to give the other NL West teams an in-depth analysis, but the Padres have a well-balanced attack and quietly improved over the offseason.  This looks like a playoff team.

Need more Padres previews?  Geoff Young of Ducksnorts has done two – one at Hardball Times and another at CGBB.




2007 Cleveland Indians

Next up, the Tribe.

Mark Shapiro’s contract obligations:

C – Victor Martinez – $3MM
C – Kelly Shoppach – $0.38MM
1B – Casey Blake – $3.75MM + incentives
2B – Josh Barfield – $0.38MM
SS – Jhonny Peralta – $0.75MM + incentives
3B – Andy Marte – $0.38MM
IF – Hector Luna – $0.4083MM
IF – Ryan Garko – $0.3831MM
LF – David Dellucci – $3.75MM
CF – Grady Sizemore – $0.75MM
RF – Trot Nixon – $3MM + incentives
OF – Jason Michaels – $2MM + incentives
DH – Travis Hafner – $3.75MM + incentives

SP – C.C. Sabathia – $8.75MM + incentives
SP – Paul Byrd – $7MM
SP – Jake Westbrook – $6.1MM
SP – Cliff Lee – $2.75MM
SP – Jeremy Sowers – $0.3848MM

RP – Joe Borowski – $4MM + incentives
RP – Roberto Hernandez – $3.3MM
RP – Aaron Fultz – $1.5MM + incentives
RP – Rafael Betancourt – $0.84MM
RP – Jason Davis – $0.67MM + incentives
RP – Matt Miller – $0.56MM
RP – Fernando Cabrera – $0.3918MM

Minors:

RP - Tom Mastny – $0.38MM
RP – Tony Sipp – $0.38MM
SP – Adam Miller – $0.38MM
RF – Shin-Soo Choo – $0.3831MM


It’s roughly $60MM committed; Shapiro has operated carefully to assemble such an affordable contender.  He seemingly has room to add some players in the summer, especially if he discards some of Byrd’s salary.

Will the offense be second best in the AL again?  I believe so.  Their stars, Sizemore, Hafner, and Martinez, should maintain their levels.  Hafner could be even better in sum if he can top 130 games played.  Looking at some revamped positions: the Tribe could take a small step back at first base, and steps forward at the other three infield positions (youth is served and Aaron Boone is gone).  With Dellucci getting most of the PT in left, they’ll blow past last year’s .258/.311/.393 from that corner.  RF should hold steady or improve.  It would be tough to spar with the Yankees for the game’s best offense but it’s not unfathomable.

Defensively the team looks OK if not spectacular.  Improvement from Peralta would go a long way.

The rotation looks borderline top five to me.  The Tribe had a collective 4.31 starter ERA last year, good for third best. This year, the lack of Jason Johnson plus some Jeremy Sowers regression should mostly balance out.  Potential gains come in the form of 32 starts from Sabathia (a Cy Young candidate) and replacement of Paul Byrd with Adam Miller (4.64 ERA according to PECOTA) or Fausto Carmona (4.04 ERA).

The bullpen is the clear question mark, and Borowski/Hernandez/Fultz may not help at all despite the money spent.  Two of the team’s seven best relievers may start the year in Triple A in Sipp and Mastny.  If Shapiro is not afraid to dump a guy like Hernandez for Sipp if performance calls for it, the Indians can improve upon last year’s 4.66 relief ERA.  Betancourt and Cabrera could be a nasty pair if things come together.  It might make sense to overpay for a reliever with a young outfielder, if none of the above work out.

I should add that the team has great depth; they’ll be forced to leave Major League quality players in Triple A to start the season.  The Indians look like a World Series contender to me, though wins could be sacrificed to play certain veterans over kids.


2007 Milwaukee Brewers

Brew Crew time!  Let’s check out everyone’s favorite "sleeper" pick for this year.  I should give a shoutout to the two best Brewers blogs, Brew Crew Ball and Al’s Ramblings.  Both were instrumental in this estimate of the 25-man roster.

Doug Melvin’s contract obligations:

C – Johnny Estrada – $3.4MM + incentives
C – Damian Miller – $2.75MM
1B – Prince Fielder – $0.415MM
2B – Rickie Weeks – $1.22MM (estimated)
SS – J.J. Hardy – $0.38MM
3B – Tony Graffanino – $3.25MM/Craig Counsell – $2.8MM
LF – Geoff Jenkins – $7MM
CF – Bill Hall – $3MM
RF – Corey Hart – $0.38MM
OF – Brady Clark – $3.8MM
OF – Kevin Mench – $3.4MM
OF – Gabe Gross – $0.38MM

SP – Ben Sheets – $10MM
SP – Jeff Suppan – $6MM + $0.25MM signing bonus = $6.25MM
SP – Chris Capuano – $3.25MM
SP – Claudio Vargas – $2.5MM
SP – Dave Bush – $0.38MM

RP – Francisco Cordero – $5MM
RP – Derrick Turnbow – $2.3MM + incentives
RP – Brian Shouse – $0.975MM
RP – Matt Wise – $1MM
RP – Jose Capellan – $0.38MM
RP – Greg Aquino – $0.38MM
RP – Carlos Villanueva – $0.38MM

Injured/Minors:

3B – Corey Koskie – $2MM (post-concussion syndrome)
3B – Ryan Braun – $0.38MM
3B – Vinnie Rottino – $0.38MM
RP – Grant Balfour – $0.415MM
SP – Yovani Gallardo – $0.38MM

It’s about $62MM worth of players, up about $5 mil from Opening Day last year.  The payroll has been managed well, and I think management would be willing to make a midseason trade to put the team over the hump.

The middle infield combo just needs to stay healthy for a full season; no one doubts their ability to hit.  Because of the injury possibility, the Crew went out and got Counsell this winter.  They might not have wanted Graffanino to accept arbitration, but he gives them depth to cover third base until Ryan Braun is ready.  Braun has a robust PECOTA forecast of .283/.341/.504.  He should be up by May if he sore elbow is OK.  Koskie, meanwhile, is nowhere near game ready and may never be. It’s not a particularly impressive defensive infield, but the bats should compensate.

The outfield will have Hall and Hart as full-timers.  I’ve currently got six outfielders listed for the Brewers, but a trade of Mench seems in the cards.  That’d clear left field for Jenkins, leave Clark as the CF backup, and open a spot for Gross to make the team.  The division has all sorts of virgin CFs in Hall, Alfonso Soriano, and Chris Burke.  Griffey might move to right, also.   

The Brewers had a poor offense last year.  They’ll get more out of the catcher spot with Estrada, a step forward from Fielder, and a slight downgrade in left compared to Carlos Lee.  A big year from Hart plus a healthy middle infield would move the offense toward the middle of the pack.

The rotation is set, and a major strength.  Sheets will be one of baseball’s best if he’s healthy, and he’s looked good so far.  The team isn’t completely screwed if he goes down – Carlos Villanueva and Yovani Gallardo can step in admirably.  Gallardo doesn’t get a ton of hype, but his PECOTA calls for a 3.92 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 141 innings as a rookie.  That’s ROY material. 

The bullpen was lousy last year.  It can’t help but improve with the subtractions of Dan Kolb, Geremi Gonzalez, Zach Jackson, Jorge de la Rosa, and Dana Eveland.  A full season of Cordero and a shorter leash for Turnbow should also help.

The Brewers have a good chance of winning the NL Central on the strength of their starting rotation.  If the offense comes together, a core of Fielder/Weeks/Hardy/Braun/Hall/Hart could be above average.  If anything is missing by July, a major trade and the promotion of Gallardo could push them into the playoffs.



2007 Seattle Mariners

Obviously I’ve fallen a bit behind on these team outlooks, but I’ll keep them going even as they extend into the season.  Today we have the Mariners.

Bill Bavasi’s contract obligations:

C – Kenji Johjima – $5.2MM + $0.33MM signing bonus = $5.53MM + incentives
C – Rene Rivera – $0.38MM
1B – Richie Sexson – $14MM + 1.5MM signing bonus = 15.5MM
2B – Jose Lopez – $0.38MM
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt – $0.4MM + $0.3275MM signing bonus = $0.7275MM
3B – Adrian Beltre – $11.5MM + 1.4MM signing bonus = $12.9MM
IF – Ben Broussard – $3.55MM
IF – Willie Bloomquist – $0.825MM + $0.05MM signing bonus = $0.875MM
LF – Raul Ibanez – $5.5MM
CF – Ichiro Suzuki – $11MM + $1.5MM signing bonus = $12.5MM + incentives
RF – Jose Guillen – $5MM + incentives
OF – Jeremy Reed – $0.38MM
DH – Jose Vidro – $7.5MM – $2MM from Nats = $5.5MM

SP – Felix Hernandez – $0.42MM
SP – Jarrod Washburn – $8.75MM
SP – Jeff Weaver – $8.325MM + incentives
SP – Miguel Batista – $8.33MM
SP – Horacio Ramirez – $2.65MM

RP – J.J. Putz – $2.2MM + $0.5MM signing bonus = $2.7MM
RP – Chris Reitsma – $1.35MM
RP – Julio Mateo – $1MM + $0.075MM signing bonus = $1.075MM
RP – George Sherrill – $0.38MM
RP – Jake Woods – $0.38MM
RP – Arthur Rhodes – $0.38MM
RP – Jon Huber – $0.38MM

Injured/Minors:

RP – Mark Lowe – $0.38MM
RP – Aaron Small – $0.38MM
SP – Cha Seung Baek – $0.38MM
3B – Sean Burroughs – $0.45MM + incentives

Maybe someone can tell me whether signing bonuses are typically spread throughout the life of the contract.  That’s what I’ve done here (the Mariners seem to love signing bonuses).  By my calculations this is a $104MM Opening Day payroll.  You can’t call the team cheap.

The Ms offense was the second-worst in the league last year.  They made two change.  Jose Vidro, while a subpar DH and lousy acquisition, can’t help but improve upon the lackluster performance of Carl Everett and Co. last year.  And with Ichiro sticking in center, the Ms are essentially replacing the offense of Reed and Bloomquist with Guillen.  The offense appears to have the potential to reach the middle of the pack.

The Mariners have some trade candidates in Reed and Broussard, but given Bavasi’s track record, I’d be surprised if he made deals with them to improve the team.   

As for the rotation, not giving 25 starts to Joel Pineiro should help.  They’re going for a mostly groundball approach with this staff, and it should be better.  Last year’s starters posted a cumulative 4.88 ERA.  Lack of Pineiro and a step forward from Felix might be able to put them around 4.50.

Replacing Rafael Soriano with Chris Reitsma in the eighth inning will damage the club.  And it’s not a big deal yet, but lights out closer J.J. Putz is nursing a tender elbow this spring.  The pen could fall apart in a hurry.  Last year’s group had a 4.04 ERA.   

To me, the Mariners have very little chance of making the playoffs this year. I suppose they could pull off an upset with some career years in the rotation, no injuries, and great leaps forward from Lopez and Betancourt.  Still, the odds are stacked against them.


   


2007 New York Mets

The Mets are featured today in our team outlooks.  You can click here to see past outlooks.

Omar Minaya’s contract obligations:

C – Paul LoDuca – $6.5MM
C – Ramon Castro – $0.85MM
1B – Carlos Delgado – $14.5MM – $1.75MM from FLA = $12.75MM
2B – Jose Valentin – $3.8MM
SS – Jose Reyes – $2.5MM
3B – David Wright – $1MM
IF – Julio Franco – $1.1MM
IF – Damion Easley – $0.85MM
LF – Moises Alou – $7.5MM
CF – Carlos Beltran – $12MM
RF – Shawn Green – $9.45MM – 6.45MM from ARI = 3.05MM
OF – Endy Chavez – $1.725MM
OF – David Newhan – $0.575MM

SP – Tom Glavine – $7.5MM
SP – Orlando Hernandez – $4.5MM $0.5MM bonus = $5MM + incentives
SP – Oliver Perez – $2.325MM + incentives
SP – Chan Ho Park – $0.6MM + incentives
SP – John Maine – $0.38MM

RP – Billy Wagner – $10.5MM
RP – Scott Schoeneweis – $3.6MM
RP – Jorge Sosa – $1.25MM
RP – Duaner Sanchez – $0.85MM + incentives
RP – Aaron Heilman – $0.38MM
RP – Ambiorix Burgos – $0.38MM
RP – Pedro Feliciano – $0.38MM

Injured/Suspended/Minors:

SP – Pedro Martinez – $14MM (could return from rotator cuff surgery in July)
SP – Mike Pelfrey – $1.65MM
SP – Aaron Sele – $1MM + incentives
SP – Alay Soler – $0.93MM
RP – Guillermo Mota – $1.8MM – $0.55MM from steroid suspension = $1.25MM
RP – Dave Williams – $1.25MM (out til June from neck surgery)
RP – Jon Adkins – $0.38MM
RP – Juan Padilla – $0.38MM
OF – Ben Johnson – $0.38MM
OF – Lastings Milledge – $0.38MM

That’s my take, with the fifth outfielder job and perhaps last bullpen spot unsettled.  The payroll seems to be about $110MM, not terribly different than last year.

The Mets were third in runs scored in 2006, and that should continue.  Moises Alou replacing Cliff Floyd is a nice touch.

The defense looks pretty good overall, with only Delgado and Alou as the obvious weak spots at their offense-minded positions.

Much ado has been made about the Mets’ rotation, which appears to lack a "#1" starter.  I don’t see this as a big regular season problem given a strong offense and bullpen.  Rather than throw down a billion dollars on Barry Zito, Omar Minaya spread his risk among many starters.  He’s got low-upside Sele types but also the potential of Pelfrey and Perez.  If nothing’s working when July approaches, Lastings Milledge could make excellent trade bait.  Anything Pedro gives them late in the summer is gravy.

As I mentioned earlier, the bullpen looks deep. Even with Sanchez a question mark, the Mets will get through the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.  They’d love for Burgos to step in and be a lights out seventh inning option, and a step forward in control plus the National League could get his ERA under 4.

Right now I have a hard time picking the Mets or Phillies to win the NL East.  The Phils should have a better rotation and comparable offense.



2007 Minnesota Twins

Next up we have the Twins, who have an uphill battle in a tough division.

Terry Ryan’s contract obligations:

C – Joe Mauer – $3.75MM
C – Mike Redmond – $0.95MM
1B – Justin Morneau – $4.5MM
2B – Luis Castillo – $5.75MM
SS – Jason Bartlett – $0.38MM
3B – Nick Punto – $1.8MM
IF – Jeff Cirillo – $1.5MM + incentives
IF – Luis Rodriguez – $0.38MM
LF – Rondell White – $2.5MM
CF – Torii Hunter – $12MM
RF – Michael Cuddyer – $3.575MM
OF – Lew Ford – $0.985MM
DH - Jason Kubel – $0.38MM

SP – Johan Santana – $12MM
SP – Carlos Silva – $4MM
SP – Ramon Ortiz – $3.1MM
SP – Sidney Ponson – $1MM + incentives
SP – Boof Bonser – $0.38MM

RP – Joe Nathan – $5.25MM
RP – Juan Rincon – $2MM
RP – Dennys Reyes – $1MM
RP – Jesse Crain – $0.5MM
RP – Pat Neshek – $0.38MM
RP – Matt Guerrier – $0.38MM
RP – J.D. Durbin – $0.38MM

They have about $69MM worth of players on this projected 25-man roster, up about $5MM from last year’s Opening Day payroll.

I think the offense will probably be about average, with a chance to be a touch better if Kubel comes through.  I don’t have big concerns about Mauer and Morneau dropping off.  They’re not getting adequate production at power positions like 3B, LF, or DH though.

If you’re going to beat the Tigers, Indians, and White Sox with an average offense, you’ll need above average starting pitching and defense.  As presently constructed, the Twins don’t have this.  Teams like the Indians and White Sox will knock the non-Santana starters around.  My off-the-cuff review says the defense is decent but not spectacular.

The ridiculous part is that the Twins are again going with veteran crap instead of their kids, and it will cost them wins again.  Said Aaron Gleeman:

"It’s possible that the rotation at Triple-A Rochester will include Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey, which has a good chance of being a better foursome that the non-Santana starters the Twins leave spring training with."

I don’t get this. The games in April and May count, right?

The bullpen can at least make up for the rotation’s misgivings.  It looks to be quite strong again.  I went with Guerrier and Durbin for the last two spots at the advice of Seth Stohs.  Seth mentions that Durbin is out of options, increasing the chances the Twins carry him.  He also notes that the team could go with 11 pitchers.

If Kubel breaks out, the rotation turns over quickly, and the Twins trade for Adam Dunn at the deadline, the could win the division.  More likely to me is that they’re out of struggling to stay in contention in July and are faced with trading Torii Hunter.



2007 Pittsburgh Pirates

Next up in the team outlooks, the Pirates.  Click here to view all the team outlooks.

Dave Littlefield’s contract obligations:

C – Ronny Paulino – $0.38MM
C – Humberto Cota – $0.537MM
1B – Adam LaRoche – $3.2MM
2B – Freddy Sanchez – $2.75MM
SS – Jack Wilson – $5.25MM
3B – Jose Castillo – $1.9MM
IF/C – Ryan Doumit – $0.38MM
IF – Jose Bautista – $0.38MM
LF – Jason Bay – $3.25MM
CF – Chris Duffy – $0.38MM
RF – Xavier Nady – $2.15MM (stomach pain)
OF – Luis Matos – $0.38MM
IF/OF – Jose Hernandez – $0.38MM

SP – Zach Duke – $0.38MM
SP – Ian Snell – $0.38MM
SP – Paul Maholm – $0.38MM
SP – Tom Gorzelanny – $0.38MM
SP – Tony Armas Jr. – $3.5MM

RP – Salomon Torres – $2.6MM
RP – Damaso Marte – $2.45MM
RP – John Grabow – $0.8325MM
RP – Jonah Bayliss – $0.38MM
RP – Matt Capps – $0.38MM
RP – Dan Kolb – $1.25MM
RP – Shawn Chacon – $3.825MM

Injured/Minors:
RF – Jody Gerut – $0.85MM
OF – Nate McLouth – $0.38MM
RP – Shane Youman – $0.38MM
RP – Josh Sharpless – $0.38MM

There’s the Opening Day roster as I see it, with a huge assist from Jake at Bucco Blog.  Some things could definitely play out differently.  We still don’t know the cause of Nady’s stomach problems, and if he misses time then McLouth and Matos can both make the club.  Even if he doesn’t McLouth can still beat out Matos.  The fifth starter job could go to Chacon or Armas; I feel like Armas has the edge right now.  An injury to a kid could make it a moot point.  And some combo of Youman and Sharpless could be in the pen instead of Kolb and Bayliss.

Anyway, the payroll looks to be in the $40MM range, with maybe another $5MM going to buyouts and some players not listed.  If the Bucs find themselves in a magical season, one player away, I think they have the payroll flexibility to add a $10MM guy via trade.  They could import a difference-maker like Ichiro or Carlos Guillen.

It looks like Sanchez will play second base, if for no other reason than Wilson won’t play alongside Castillo.  Castillo will try to win the third base job and wait to see if Wilson can be dealt.

LaRoche was a big-time addition, and a move I liked.  LaRoche, Bay, and Sanchez may be the only regulars providing above average offense.  Paulino and Duffy could join that group, but I don’t think anyone can really say that with any certainty right now.

It follows that this club will have to rely on its starting pitching to win. If all four kids stay healthy and show typical growth, it could be a damn good and affordable staff.  Contact guys like Duke and Maholm can post nice ERAs if they get good defense behind them.

The starters may need to go deep into the games, as the pen was weakened by the trade of Mike Gonzalez.  Without getting too deep in the numbers, the 2007 bullpen for this team looks subpar.  On the other hand, relievers are quite volatile. 

I can only see starting pitching as a clear strength for this club.  Well, that and a lack of huge contracts.  The team could make a run for the division but probably won’t; they should focus on keeping the young starters healthy.  Andrew McCutchen could add some star power in ’08, and the Bucs could selectively purchase some free agents heading into that season.



2007 Washington Nationals

Ah, I bet you thought I wouldn’t come through with this one today, eh?  Time to take a look at those lovable Washington Nationals.

Jim Bowden’s contract obligations:

C – Brian Schneider – $3.5MM
C – Jesus Flores – $0.38MM
C/1B – Robert Fick – $0.38MM
1B – Larry Broadway – $0.38MM
2B – Felipe Lopez – $3.9MM
SS – Cristian Guzman – $4.2MM
3B – Ryan Zimmerman – $0.38MM
IF - Ron Belliard – $0.75MM
IF – Travis Lee – $0.38MM
LF – Ryan Church – $0.38MM
CF – Nook Logan – $0.38MM
RF – Austin Kearns – $3.5MM
OF – Chris Snelling – $0.45MM

SP – John Patterson – $0.85MM
SP – Jerome Williams – $0.5MM
SP – Tim Redding – $0.38MM
SP - Shawn Hill – $0.38MM
SP – Matt Chico – $0.38MM
SP – Beltran Perez – $0.38MM

RP – Chad Cordero – $4.15MM
RP – Luis Ayala – $1.3MM
RP – Jon Rauch – $0.38MM
RP – Ryan Wagner – $0.38MM
RP – Ray King – $0.38MM
RP – Levale Speigner – $0.38MM

Injured:

1B - Nick Johnson – $5.5MM (June return expected for broken femur)
OF – Alex Escobar – $0.53MM (May start year on DL following Sept.labrum surgery)
SP – Brandon Claussen – $0.38MM (Hopes for a May return from rotator cuff surgery)
SP – Mike O’Connor – $0.38MM (November elbow surgery)

That’s my exhausting take on the 25-man roster.  I’m no roster construction expert, but I read up on some popular Nats blogs and took my best shot.  (By the way – Nationals Power is the new kid on the block. Check it out.)  The players listed here amount to $35-36MM.

The Nats are committed to keeping Rule 5 pick Jesus Flores and want to use him as a backup catcher.  Baseball America thinks a year on Washington’s bench would hurt the slugging catcher’s development, given that he’s jumping up from A ball.  My version of the roster has Fick so that Flores won’t get overexposed.

Washington will be without perhaps their best hitter in Johnson until June or so.  Broadway appears to be the favorite to start at first, with Travis Lee and Dmitri Young also in the mix.  I’ll go with Lee for his oft-cited glovework.  It’s still an open competition at this point.

Lopez has played twelve games at 2B in his Major League career, but the Nationals will try it in hopes of getting some value out of Guzman.  Should Guzzie bomb again, Lopez moves to short and Belliard takes over at second.

It seems Church will get a crack at starting in left under a fresh manager, so he needs to make the most of it.  Snelling will provide ample competition. 

Overall, only Lopez, Zimmerman, and maybe Kearns can be expected to provide above average offense for their positions.  This team will struggle to score runs, but expectations are low anyway. On the bright side, the defense looks respectable.

You can see my guess at the rotation; the first four seem fairly likely.  Chico, a 23 year-old southpaw who came over in the Livan Hernandez deal, hasn’t pitched above Double A yet.  He’s got a four-pitch mix and sits in the low 90s.  An ERA below 5 would be a success if he makes the team.  He’s got Jarrod Washburn among his comps.

The point has been made that this motley crew of starters can’t be worse than last year’s, and I agree.  Redding, Williams, and Claussen are the right kind of gambles for the Nationals.  I think they’d be satisfied if one solid guy emerged behind Patterson for ’08.

The pen is an intriguing mix, the purported strength of the club.  Should Ayala bounce back from elbow surgery, he’ll form an underrated trio with Cordero and Rauch.  King adds character, while Speigner is a Rule 5 attempt who closed in Double A last year.

Sure, the Nats will be bad.  Still, they’ve got an impressive rookie manager and the ability to play the spoiler on certain nights.  You gotta start somewhere.