2007 Team Outlooks Rumors

2007 Oakland Athletics

Next up in our refreshed team outlooks, the A’s.

Billy Beane’s contract obligations:

C – Jason Kendall – $8MM
C – Adam Melhuse – $0.815MM
1B – Dan Johnson – $0.38MM
2B – Mark Ellis – $3.5MM
SS – Bobby Crosby – $2.5MM
3B – Eric Chavez – $9.5MM
IF – Marco Scutaro – $1.55MM
IF – Antonio Perez – $0.5MM
LF – Nick Swisher – $0.38MM
CF – Mark Kotsay – $7.5MM
RF – Milton Bradley – $4MM
OF – Bobby Kielty – $2.1MM
OF – Shannon Stewart – $1MM + incentives
DH – Mike Piazza – $8.5MM

SP – Esteban Loaiza – $7MM
SP – Dan Haren – $2.2MM
SP – Rich Harden – $2MM
SP – Joe Blanton – $0.38MM 
SP – Joe Kennedy – $2.8MM

RP – Alan Embree – $2.25MM
RP – Kiko Calero – $1.6MM
RP – Jay Witasick – $1.5MM
RP – Justin Duchscherer – $1.1875MM
RP – Chad Gaudin – $0.38MM
RP – Huston Street – $0.38MM
RP – Brad Halsey – $0.38MM

On the fringe: Halsey, Perez, Lenny Dinardo, Ryan Goleski, Jay Marshall

It appears to be a $72MM payroll.  As you’ll notice, the A’s have a bit of a roster crunch if everyone is healthy.  I’ve listed 26 players because I’m not sure who gets sent down or dealt.  It seems one of Halsey or Perez won’t break camp with the team, as the A’s don’t want Piazza as the backup catcher.  One injury or trade may solve this problem.  Two injuries/trades could clear space for an interesting Rule 5 project like Goleski.      

Johnson seems the favorite to earn the first base job, and maybe correction of his double vision can help him return to average 1B production.  I know he’s got it in him.  If I’m wrong, Erubiel Durazo or Daric Barton will get a shot.

The position players are otherwise locked in, but how many times will we see that starting eight on the field at once?  Johnson, Kendall, and Swisher may be the only guys to avoid the DL this year out of the group.  To be fair, Kotsay is always kind of day-to-day with his back but he’s stayed on the field the past few seasons.  As for Chavez – is he the picture of health or are his injuries a major concern?  Both those articles came out on the same day.  And you know all about the issues of Crosby, Ellis, and Bradley.  The team’s defense appears well above average when the regulars are on the field.

Haren and Blanton are the two starters who can be counted on for 30+ starts.  Loaiza doesn’t scare me much, and Kennedy can be replaced by numerous candidates if he can’t handle the switch to starting.  Jason Windsor might be able to hurl some 85mphers past Vlad and co as the sixth man.  Harden is the wild card.  He’s got ace potential but has been derailed for years since a blister rippled into a sprained elbow ligament.  He’s the difference maker, as this is a pitching and defense team in my opinion.

The bullpen is deep; this team should be involved in plenty of low-scoring games.  A power core of Swisher/Piazza/Chavez can be quite good, with a solid supporting cast.  It’s true the A’s had some bad luck on certain injuries last year, but they’ll need a similar amount of career years healthwise to be an AL superpower.

2007 Chicago Cubs

A reader suggested that during this slow rumor period, with 30+ days until the season starts, I do Team Outlooks once again.  Sounds like a good idea to me; a lot has changed with most teams.  Let’s kick it off with the Cubs.

Jim Hendry’s contract obligations:

C – Michael Barrett – $4.5MM + $0.133 of signing bonus = 4.63MM
C – Henry Blanco – $1.8MM
1B – Derrek Lee – $13MM
2B – Mark DeRosa – $4.33MM
SS – Cesar Izturis – $4.15MM
3B – Aramis Ramirez – $8MM + $1MM of signing bonus = $9MM
IF – Daryle Ward – $1MM
IF – Ryan Theriot – $0.38MM
LF – Cliff Floyd – $3MM + incentives/Matt Murton – $0.38MM
CF – Alfonso Soriano – $9MM
RF – Jacque Jones – $4MM
OF – Angel Pagan – $0.38MM

SP – Carlos Zambrano – $12.4MM
SP – Ted Lilly – $5MM
SP – Rich Hill – $0.38MM
SP – Jason Marquis – $4.75MM
SP – Mark Prior – $3.575MM
SP – Wade Miller – $1.5MM + incentives

RP – Ryan Dempster – $5MM
RP – Bob Howry – $4MM
RP – Scott Eyre – $3.5MM
RP – Kerry Wood – $1.75MM + incentives
RP – Will Ohman – $0.9MM
RP – Neal Cotts – $0.825MM
RP – Mike Wuertz – $0.38MM

I know I’ve got a 13-man pitching staff and 26 total players here, but we can safely assume one of these pitchers will be on the DL at any given time.  I have the 2007 payroll around $99MM.  Notice how the Cubs backloaded contracts for guys like Ramirez, Soriano, Lilly, and Marquis.  They have a clear win-now strategy and could probably add one more impact $10MM player via trade if a large need surfaced.  Could be trouble in ’09 though.

OBP issues notwithstanding, I think the Cubs’ offense is clearly above average.  Just looking at league positional averages, only Izturis seems obviously below.  DeRosa should be about league average at 2B.  They didn’t just add Soriano over Juan Pierre – they’re replacing crap 1B production with an apparently healthy Lee.  Left field could be improved as well.

Defense will be a concern with this club.  Izturis and Lee can certainly handle their positions, but the rest are not known for glovework.  Soriano is completely untested at a key defensive position, and Jones wouldn’t be great either.  If Felix Pie can give the Cubs league average CF offense right now, they should play him in center and ship Jones out for whatever.  Lilly and Hill would be forever thankful.   

The starting rotation should be the key to the Cubs’ success. If this group can manage a collective 4.50 ERA, they’ll be in the top half of the league.  I have the Cubs coming in around 4.15, which is probably on the optimistic side.  It’s because I have Hill at 3.55 and 120 innings of Prior at 4.00.  Then again, I don’t expect Marquis/Miller to be much below 5.00 if at all.  I don’t think the Cubs need to rely on Prior/Miller.  Sean Gallagher, Angel Guzman, or Sean Marshall could fill in capably as the #5 if neither rehab project pans out.  I like the depth, and it’ll be a good staff if Zambrano, Lilly, and Hill are healthy.

The Cubs seem to have a decent bullpen.  I don’t want to say above average, but I see the potential.  Last year’s relief signings turned out well and aren’t showing scary signs of decline.  The underrated Wuertz and Ohman give the team four solid relievers.  A healthy Wood or effective Cotts/Dempster would be big lift and could lift the pen to above average.  Larry Rothschild and the Cubs’ training staff can make the difference.    

If the Cubs don’t give Dempster too long of a leash, are bold with Pie, and Hill’s second half promise carries over, they should be at least a wild card contender all year.  Those are my three ifs for the ’07 Cubs.

2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays

A few of you have reminded me that I’ve ignored the Nats and D-Rays in the 2007 Team Outlooks.  No offense intended.  Check out Rays Index for your D-Rays blog needs.

Andrew Friedman’s contract obligations:

C – Dioner Navarro – $0.38MM
C – Josh Paul – $0.475MM + raise
1B – Ty Wigginton – $0.75MM + raise
2B – Jorge Cantu – $0.38MM
SS – Ben Zobrist – $0.38MM
3B – Akinori Iwamura – $1.8MM + $1.1375MM posting fee = $2.9375MM
IF/OF/DH – Greg Norton – $0.8MM
LF – Carl Crawford – $4MM
CF – Rocco Baldelli – $0.75MM + $0.45MM bonus = $1.2MM + incentives
RF – Delmon Young – $1.16MM
OF – B.J. Upton – $1.3MM
DH – Jonny Gomes – $0.38MM

SP – Scott Kazmir – $0.38MM
SP – Jamie Shields – $0.38MM
SP – Jae Seo – $1.2MM
SP – Casey Fossum – $2.2MM (September shoulder surgery, should be ready for spring training)
SP – Brian Stokes – $0.38MM
SP – Jason Hammel – $0.38MM
SP – J.P. Howell – $0.38MM
SP – Jeff Niemann – $1.68MM

RP – Dan Miceli – $0.65MM
RP – Shinji Mori – $0.7MM (torn labrum rehab, should not be ready for spring training)
RP – Seth McClung – $0.38MM
RP – Edwin Jackson – $0.38MM
RP – Ruddy Lugo – $0.38MM
RP – Chad Orvella – $0.38MM
RP – Tim Corcoran – $0.38MM

Non-roster invitees:
1B – Hee Seop Choi – $0.975MM

This payroll should be under $25MM, even with some raises, incentives, and the possible inclusion of Choi or Neimann.  And that even includes Iwamura’s posting fee broken up over four years, which may not count against payroll.  It’s a great core, and if built up carefully the D-Rays could make the AL East a very interesting division towards the end of the decade.

The catching situation is set, with Navarro the main man.  The Rays only had to give up a couple of unwanted vets to get Navarro and Seo.

As of right now, Wigginton is the favorite to play first.  He could have two challengers in Choi and Elijah Dukes.  I don’t have Dukes listed above because I don’t see how he fits in at the moment.  But given a 12-man pitching staff there is room for one more position player, one of these two.

Despite his clunky defense and lost 2006, some teams should have interest in Cantu.  Moving him would free up some much-needed space in the infield.  Iwamura can bounce to second if needed, but it seems unlikely that the B.J. Upton-at-third experiement would resume.  Right now Zobrist is the only shortstop candidate, but the Rays might try to upgrade via trade.  As long as it’s not an outfielder, I get the impression Friedman will just try to get the best available player(s) in a deal.

Norton will split some time with Gomes at DH, though I could see Gomes running away with it if healthy.

The outfield is set at Crawford/Baldelli/Young.  That leaves no room for Upton or Dukes if they are viewed as outfielders.  Both deserve starting gigs, so something has to give.  I know the team doesn’t want Upton on the bench with the big club but he’s had enough time at Triple A.

Trade rumors have swirled around Upton, Cantu, and even Crawford, but Baldelli is the name everyone’s talking about currently.  If the Marlins really offered Scott Olsen, the Rays should take it.  Looks like Friedman will just sit back until a team bowls him over with a couple of top shelf prospects.  John Schuerholz, for one, has never been afraid to deal his.  Nor has Kenny Williams. 

Kazmir, Seo, and Shields are locks for the rotation.  Same for Fossum, if his shoulder is OK by spring.  That means one vacancy goes to Stokes, Hammel, or Howell.  Niemann probably needs a half season in the high minors before forcing his way in.  The Rays could still sign a vet off the scrap heap to fill a spot, especially if they don’t have faith in Fossum’s recovery.

The bullpen probably needs one veteran signing, but targets Russ Springer and Octavio Dotel are off the market.  David Riske, perhaps?  The team doesn’t want to go into spring training with McClung closing.

Right now the D-Rays are cheap and supremely talented but at least a year off from competing.  Management seems intelligent now, with some decent trades in the books and reasonable veteran signings.  If guys like Norton, Iwamura, or Wigginton are playing well they could be dealt off for more youth in coming years.

2007 Kansas City Royals

It wouldn’t be kind to ignore the Royals in my 2007 Team Outlooks.

Dayton Moore’s contract obligations:

C – Jason LaRue – $2.5MM
C – John Buck – $0.38MM
1B – Ryan Shealy – $0.38MM
2B – Mark Grudzielanek – $4MM
SS – Angel Berroa – $3.25MM
3B – Mark Teahen – $0.38MM
IF – Esteban German – $0.38MM
LF – Emil Brown – $1.775MM
CF – David DeJesus – $2MM
RF – Reggie Sanders – $5MM
OF – Joey Gathright – $0.38MM
DH – Mike Sweeney – $11MM

SP – Odalis Perez – $1.7MM
SP – Luke Hudson – $0.38MM
SP – Jorge de la Rosa – $0.38MM
SP – Runelvys Hernandez – $1.225MM
SP – Zack Greinke – $0.38MM

RP – Jimmy Gobble – $0.38MM
RP – Ambiorix Burgos – $0.38MM
RP – Todd Wellemeyer – $0.38MM
RP – Andy Sisco – $0.38MM
RP – Joel Peralta – $0.38MM
RP – Joe Nelson – $0.38MM
RP – Ryan Braun – $0.38MM
RP – Ken Ray – $0.38MM
RP – Brandon Duckworth – $0.38MM

Injured players:
SP – Scott Elarton – $4MM (recovering from August shoulder surgery, targeting June 1 return)

Departed players:
RP – Elmer Dessens – $1.7MM

I know I’ve listed 26 active players here, but I’m not sure which reliever isn’t a part of the 2007 Royals.  The team is going to take payroll to the $50-55MM range, a franchise record.  They’ve got about $38.5MM tied up, but Brown, Hernandez, Gobble, Duckworth, and Wellemeyer are all eligible for arbitration.  I’ll ballpark it at $15MM left to spend this winter.

This outlook reflects the current state of the roster, as if the season started tomorrow.  Here’s what could happen between now and Opening Day to change the picture:

– Moore finds a decent offer for Emil Brown at the winter meetings, freeing up left field for Mark Teahen.
Alex Gordon is starting at third by May and is the team’s best hitter.
– Injuries to Sweeney, Sanders, or both opens up playing time for German, Shane Costa, or even Billy Butler.
– At the very least, the Royals acquire one Tier 2 starter, perhaps pushing Hernandez to the pen.
– A veteran reliever is acquired, and a couple of the guys I’ve listed go to Omaha.

I just had to get that out of the way before jumping into a closer analysis.

The Royals aren’t paying much for LaRue, so hopefully they spin him into something decent before the trading deadline and turn back to Buck.  Why wouldn’t a team like this just stick with Buck?

The right side of the infield is pretty well set, and not too shabby.  Berroa is just awful at short, but it would take a sly trade by Moore to find a replacement.  Teahen is said to be the team’s third baseman at present, even with super prospect Alex Gordon nearly ready to launch.  One of the two will shift to an outfield corner this spring once Moore figures out how to unload one of Brown/Sanders.  Brown is obviously more marketable.

German probably fills the Chone Figgins role.  The outfield is pretty much in a complete state of flux, as any success by Gathright would push DeJesus to left permanently.  Teahen could play right with Butler as the DH of the future.  That’ll be fun, but Gathright could flop plus the Royals are still stuck with Sanders, Sweeney, and Brown at the moment.

The first three spots in the rotation appear penciled in as Perez-Hudson-de la Rosa.  De la Rosa is nobody’s idea of a #3, but hey, why not give him a good ten starts and a little security to work with. Everyone would love Greinke to succeed and to start, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  Elarton won’t return until June at the earliest.  Hernandez made more starts in ’06 than any current Royal, but he posted a 6.48 ERA.  He probably gets the boot once Moore brings in a free agent.

Those targets include Gil Meche, Miguel Batista, and former Royals Jeff Suppan and Mark Redman.  My money is on Batista unless Brown can bring in a comparable guy.

The bullpen will obviously not consist of all nine guys listed.  Nelson, Ray, Wellemeyer, Gobble, and Peralta are probably in.  One veteran Joe Borowski type will be imported as well.  The Denver Post reports that Octavio Dotel has received offers from three teams to close games; the Royals are one team in a position to make that offer.

With Moore in charge, Royals fans are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Shealy, Teahen, DeJesus, Gordon, and Butler make for a strong, affordable offensive core.  Moore will continue hoarding young pitchers; hopefully top pick Luke Hochevar‘s shoulder strain last month in the AFL was nothing serious.  For 2007, it would be ideal if vets like Brown, Sanders, LaRue, and Sweeney stay healthy and relatively productive to allow Moore to get some starting pitching back.    

2007 Colorado Rockies

Time to break down the Rockies for 2007.  Many thanks to the fine Rockies blog Purple Row, a helpful resource.

Dan O’Dowd’s contract obligations:

C – Chris Iannetta – $0.38MM
C – Yorvit Torrealba – $1MM
1B – Todd Helton – $16.6MM
2B – Kaz Matsui – $1.5MM
SS – Troy Tulowitzki – $0.38MM
3B – Garrett Atkins – $0.38MM
IF – Jamey Carroll – $0.7MM
IF – Clint Barmes – $0.38MM
LF – Matt Holliday – $0.7MM
CF –
RF – Brad Hawpe – $0.38MM
OF – Cory Sullivan – $0.38MM/Jeff Baker – $0.38MM

SP – Jason Jennings – $5.5MM
SP – Jeff Francis – $0.38MM
SP – Aaron Cook – 3.05MM
SP – Byung-Hyun Kim – $2.5MM
SP –
SP – Ubaldo Jimenez – $0.38MM

RP – Brian Fuentes – $3.5MM
RP – Jeremy Affeldt – $1MM
RP – Denny Bautista – $0.38MM
RP – Ramon Ramirez – $0.38MM
RP – Manuel Corpas – $0.38MM
RP – David Cortes – $0.38MM
RP –

By my estimate the Rockies have $40.6MM locked up before raises, so let’s say $45MM for now.  Holliday alone could see his salary increase by $4MM in arbitration.  They entered the 2006 season with a $41.2MM payroll.

The Rox appear to have a capable tandem behind the plate with rookie Iannetta and 28 year-old Torrealba.  However, the team is still concerned with Torrealba’s strained shoulder, which dates back to September.  There has been talk of importing either Bengie Molina or Rod Barajas to split time with the promising but green Iannetta.

First base is set through 2011 with Helton.  His ’06 offensive performance ranked 12th among first basemen.  Maybe not worth the price, but not many guys can give you a .400 OBP.  He is taking up 35% of the payroll, however.  Helton has an out clause after ’07, but I don’t see him abandoning $69MM for four seasons. 

The middle infield is good to go, with Tulo and Matsui seemingly the main guys and Carroll playing the utility role.  Atkins trailed only Miguel Cabrera for the best offensive season for a third baseman in 2006.  He progressed beyond expectations by hitting a robust .329/.409/.556 in almost 700 PAs.

Can’t go wrong with Holliday and Hawpe at the corners, especially for the price.  I’m not sure what the plan is for 25 year-old outfielder Jeff Baker, but some projections like him quite a bit for next year.  He may steal some time from Hawpe, according to Clint Hurdle.

Of course the big need for this team is center field.  A slew of candidates have been mentioned: Aaron Rowand, Dave Roberts, Chris Burke, Jay Payton, Darin Erstad, Brady Clark, Steve Finley, Coco Crisp, and even Clint Barmes.  The only free agent I haven’t seen connected in print to Colorado is Kenny Lofton.

If O’Dowd prefers, that CF could come via trade.  Jason Jennings is generating some buzz, and reports say that the Rockies are listening to offers.  He averaged over 6.6 innings per start this season and posted a 3.78 ERA.  He’ll be just 28 in 2007.  However, free agency is around the corner and Jennings could easily post a 4.50 ERA in ’07 based on his peripherals. 

Jennings is still a hittable pitcher with subpar command right now.  I would shop him aggressively for the next month and definitely trade him before the season begins.  Last winter, Kevin Towers’s Adam Eaton situation was comparable to this.  He snagged Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez in that deal.  It’s a shame Jennings didn’t win nearly as many games as he deserved to, or his market value would be even higher.

Elsewhere in the rotation, the Rockies have talked about several guys to fill out the last slot: Josh Fogg again, Rodrigo Lopez via trade, Carl Pavano trade, or free agents Bruce Chen or John Thomson.  Thomson wouldn’t cost much and he came up through the organization.  The Rox sent Thomson to the Mets in an ’02 trade for Jay Payton.

For the sixth starter type spot, hard-throwing 23 year-old Ubaldo Jimenez could work after a fine 13 start effort at Double A this year.  Chin-Hui Tsao, rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery, could work his way back into the mix.

The pen has some live arms, but the Rockies are looking for help.  Many players have the team’s interest: Octavio Dotel, David Riske, Dan Kolb, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Williamson, Scott Schoeneweis, Justin Speier, and even Eric Gagne.  Look for a low-level signing or two.

To sum it up, the Rockies have a center fielder and a couple of relievers in their sights.  I have my doubts that the Rockies would lock Jennings up for four or five years at $10-12MM annually, so a trade this year seems likely.  Pretty much every team wants pitching, and there are plenty good young CFs available.

Matt Holliday is Rockie property through 2009, though he hired Scott Boras this year and will probably go year-to-year for the duration of his Rockie career. The Rox had looked to lock him up last winter until he switched to Boras.

2007 Detroit Tigers

I realized that I still haven’t written up the Tigers for my 2007 Team Outlooks.  That’s about to change, I guess.

Dave Dombrowski’s contract obligations:

C – Ivan Rodriguez – $11MM
C – Vance Wilson – $0.95MM
1B –
2B – Placido Polanco – $4.6MM
SS – Carlos Guillen – $5MM
3B – Brandon Inge – $3MM
IF – Neifi Perez – $2.5MM
LF – Craig Monroe – $2.8MM
CF – Curtis Granderson – $0.38MM
RF – Magglio Ordonez – $12MM
OF – Marcus Thames – $0.38MM
DH – Gary Sheffield – $13MM

SP – Jeremy Bonderman – $2.3MM
SP – Justin Verlander – $1MM
SP – Kenny Rogers – $8MM
SP – Nate Robertson – $0.4025MM
SP – Mike Maroth – $2.95MM

RP – Joel Zumaya – $0.38MM
RP – Todd Jones – $5.5MM
RP – Fernando Rodney – $0.385MM
RP – Andrew Miller – $1.35MM
RP – Jason Grilli – $0.38MM
RP – Wil Ledezma – $0.38MM
RP – Zach Miner – $0.38MM

I realize this leaves off Chris Shelton, Omar Infante, and Roman Colon.  But I’m trying to adhere to a 25-man roster here so cut me some slack.  Before raises, the Tigers have about $79MM tied up.  Inge, Monroe, Bonderman, Maroth, Robertson, and Rodney should all get raises, perhaps putting us in the $85MM range.  Some deferred Sheffield money may cut that back, but you get the general idea.  Detroit opened the 2006 season with an $82.6MM payroll, by comparison. 

Now that Sheffield is in tow, the Tigers only main acquisition should be a first baseman.  They aren’t going to get ridiculous and acquire another hitter of Sheffield’s stature.  Dombrowski could chase one of these mediocre free agents, or use Shelton as a trading chip.  But then, why not just play Shelton?  I understand that he tanked after an incredible April, but he did some good work in 2005 and he’s just 26.  Personally I would just put Shelton in a low-pressure spot in the order and see if he progresses.  At least for a couple of months.

The Tigers have a surplus of no-stick middle infielders after Neifi – Ramon Santiago and Omar Infante.  They’ve also got five guys who can play the outfield. That should afford flexibility and rest for the more fragile guys.

Maroth had bone chips taken out of his elbow this summer and never fully recovered.  If he’s OK by spring, I think he has the fifth starter’s spot on account of his salary.  Should one of the five falter, Ledezma or Miner should be capable replacements.  And Miller is a starter by trade, though he could end up in the minors or the bullpen in 2007.  You can see how the Tigers felt they had the depth to trade Humberto Sanchez.

The pen looks to be solid.  Perhaps Zumaya should be moved into the ninth inning role, but regardless, Leyland has plenty of weapons.

The Tigers are pretty well set; just look for that first base acquisition (Kevin Millar?) and maybe one reliever.  Detroit should again be right in the thick of things in the AL Central.  They’ve even got the depth to cover some unforeseen circumstances.

Well, that’s all you’re getting for tonight – off to my bachelor party!

2007 Florida Marlins

Any Marlins fans out there?  Let’s take a look at the team’s setup for 2007.

Larry Beinfest’s contract obligations:

C – Miguel Olivo – $0.7MM
C – Matt Treanor – $0.38MM
1B – Mike Jacobs – $0.38MM
2B – Dan Uggla – $0.38MM
SS – Hanley Ramirez – $0.38MM
3B – Miguel Cabrera – $6MM
IF – Alfredo Amezaga – $0.38MM
LF – Josh Willingham – $0.38MM
CF –
RF – Jeremy Hermida – $0.38MM
OF – Joe Borchard – $0.38MM
OF – Cody Ross – $0.38MM

SP – Dontrelle Willis – $7MM
SP – Josh Johnson – $0.38MM
SP – Scott Olsen – $0.38MM
SP – Anibal Sanchez – $0.38MM
SP – Ricky Nolasco – $0.38MM

RP – Taylor Tankersley – $0.38MM
RP – Sergio Mitre – $0.38MM
RP – Logan Kensing – $0.38MM
RP – Yusmeiro Petit – $0.38MM
RP – Renyel Pinto – $0.38MM
RP – Randy Messenger – $0.38MM
RP – Jason Vargas – $0.38MM

I see the payroll landing in the $21MM range once Willis and Cabrera get their raises.  The figures I have above are estimates; if Cabrera got $6MM I believe that would be a record for a first-year arbitration player.  If anyone deserves more than Jeter/Gagne received, it’s Miggy.

Among position players, the team is almost entirely locked in.  Around the infield, the only position Beinfest might consider upgrading is first base.  But Jacobs’s .798 OPS wasn’t that far below league average for the position, and he could improve entering his age 26 season.

It’s well known that the Fish are searching for a reliable center fielder for 2007.  Back in October, Joe Capozzi wrote a list of possible targets:  Chris Duffy, Willy Taveras, Matt Kemp, Rocco Baldelli, and Elijah Dukes.  Florida has a surplus of young starters to send the other way. 

Should Houston sign Gary Matthews Jr., the Taveras to Florida rumors will intensify.  Taveras will be 25 next year and he plays solid defense.  He wouldn’t be bad at the bottom of the lineup.  Juan Pierre wouldn’t mind returning, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Marlins.  One guy who could work is Reggie Willits of the Angels.  He’ll be 26 next season and posted a .448 OBP in Triple A this year.      

While Hermida disappointed in right field, he is only 22 and he skipped Triple A.  Plus, he dealt with hip flexor and ankle problems for much of the season.  He’ll be a walk machine with good power before long.

As for the rotation, Dontrelle and the Kids somehow came up with the third best ERA in the National League (4.22).  I expect various health issues and some decent regression for Sanchez, but there’s nothing to tinker with this offseason.  One of Mitre, Petit, Pinto, and Vargas should be able to step up if needed as all are starters by trade.

Willis, as the face of the team and veteran leader, should not be traded.  There’s no rush to do so.  The Marlins only have two players making more than a million bucks; their cost per win is astronomically low.  No one is picking Beinfest’s pocket with some kind of Brian Bannister and Alex Ochoa package or something. 

Right now the ‘pen looks like a slew of kids with Mitre as the elder statesman.  Time for another veteran reclamation project!  Danny GravesDustin HermansonDan KolbShawn Chacon? Cliff PolitteMike DeJean? Hideki IrabuJohn Rocker?  OK, the last two were jokes, but all these guys have closing experience.  Always fun to see who the Marlins resurrect.  Maybe Ugueth Urbina will get out on parole or something.

Bottom line, the Marlins are awesome.  It is just cool to see so many young guys on one team doing surprisingly well.  While players like Uggla and Sanchez could take a step back in ’07, there’s no telling how things will play out.  Just a ton of uncertainty with this group.  One thing’s for sure – everyone will take this club seriously in 2007. 

2007 Baltimore Orioles

It was suggested I take a look at the Orioles’ prospects for 2007, so here we go.

Mike Flanagan’s contract obligations:

C – Ramon Hernandez – $6.5MM
C – J.R. House – $0.38MM
1B –
2B – Brian Roberts – $3.075MM
SS – Miguel Tejada – $12MM
3B – Melvin Mora – $8MM
IF – Brandon Fahey – $0.38MM
LF –
CF – Corey Patterson – $2.8MM
RF – Nick Markakis – $0.38MM
OF – David Newhan – $0.55MM
OF – Adam Stern – $0.38MM
DH – Jay Gibbons – $5MM

SP – Erik Bedard – $1.4MM
SP – Daniel Cabrera – $0.385MM
SP – Kris Benson – $7.5MM
SP – Jaret Wright – $3MM
SP – Rodrigo Lopez – $3.75MM
SP – Adam Loewen – $0.8MM

RP – Chris Ray – $0.38MM
RP – Todd Williams – $0.775MM
RP – Hayden Penn – $0.38MM
RP – John Parrish – $0.6125MM
RP – Kurt Birkins – $0.38MM
RP – Brian Burres – $0.38MM
RP – Brian Finch – $0.38MM
RP – Sendy Rleal – $0.38MM

The contracts should be in the ballpark of $52 million after accounting for some raises.  The club entered 2006 with a $72.5MM payroll, so there is money to burn.  The Orioles have been somewhere between contention and rebuilding for a few years now, kind of like the Cubs.  They can’t seem to commit, and this offseason looks like no exception.

Plenty of options to fill the first base void; the O’s were a bit below average at the position in ’06.  Free agent options: more Kevin Millar, maybe Nomar, Aubrey Huff, Craig Wilson, or Shea Hillenbrand.  The trade market could include Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Chris Duncan, Chris Shelton, or Adam Dunn.

Many of the above-mentioned names would be suitable solutions in left field as well.  Left field also opens up the following possibilities: Alfonso Soriano, Pat Burrell, Moises Alou, Carlos Lee, David Dellucci, Frank Catalanotto, Geoff Jenkins, Kevin Mench, or Luis Gonzalez.  Of course we know that Burrell has said he won’t waive his no-trade for the Orioles.

There’s even talk of moving Melvin Mora to left field.  He last played there in 2003.  That opens up still more options to find that big-name slugger.

Some of these names are inspiring, others make Orioles fans wince.  Ken Rosenthal recently spoke to a GM who thought the O’s would win the Soriano derby at 6/94.  Personally I wouldn’t be surprised to see something less splashy, like Millar, Alou, Dellucci, or Gonzalez.  The O’s have been left standing in the game of free agent musical chairs in recent years.  On the other hand, this is the same club that signed Miguel Tejada and Albert Belle.

Lopez will be offered arbitration, and Benson did not demand a trade.  The rotation currently has six pitchers at the moment.    Change is likely – Lopez could be moved (perhaps to the NL) and a mid-tier free agent could be signed.  I could see Jeff Suppan.  Baltimore will also need both Cabrera and Loewen take a step forward (entirely possible) to have decent starting pitching.   

The O’s will need a lot of bullpen help, as most of their starters don’t average six innings.  Maybe a deal for an innings eater like Salomon Torres or Scot Shields could work.  Darren Oliver, Ron Villone, or Jamie Walker could be added via free agency.   

To me, this Orioles club is fairly Cub-like.  A few stars, some foolish long-term deals, a promising core of young pitching.  The Cubs don’t have a Markakis type position player, though.  In my opinion neither club should be trying to compete in 2007, especially the one in the AL East.  With some luck and shrewd moves the Orioles might find a way, yes.  Is this really a shrewd front office though?

2007 New York Yankees

Yankee fans have been emailing me for a 2007 Team Outlook.  There’s not a lot for me to figure out here because the Yanks don’t have many openings.  But here we go.

Brian Cashman’s contract obligations:

C – Jorge Posada – $12MM
C –
1B – Gary Sheffield – $8MM ($5MM deferred)
2B – Robinson Cano – $0.381MM
SS – Derek Jeter – $20MM
3B – Alex Rodriguez – $16MM
IF – Andy Phillips – $0.38MM
IF –
LF – Hideki Matsui – $13MM
CF – Johnny Damon – $13MM
RF – Bobby Abreu – $15MM
OF – Melky Cabrera – $0.38MM
DH – Jason Giambi – $21MM

SP –
SP – Randy Johnson – $14.5MM
SP – Chien-Ming Wang – $0.38MM
SP – Jaret Wright – $7MM (player option)
SP – Philip Hughes – $0.38MM
SP – Carl Pavano – $10MM

RP – Mariano Rivera – $10.5MM
RP – Kyle Farnsworth – $5.25MM
RP – Mike Myers – $1.25MM
RP – Scott Proctor – $0.38MM
RP – Brian Bruney – $0.38MM
RP –

SP – Mike Mussina – $1.5MM

Payroll stands at roughly $176MM.  The Yankees entered ’06 at $194MM.

2007 could be Posada’s last season as a Yankee.  Or not.  He had a resurgence at age 34, hitting .278/.375/.494 and playing 142 games.  If Cashman were to let Posada walk perhaps Michael Barrett would be signed.  Anyway, the Yanks will need to find a backup this winter, maybe someone like Todd Pratt or Henry Blanco.

We all know Sheff doesn’t want to play first base in 2007 unless he gets a three-year extension.  Will this play out like Alfonso Soriano‘s position change last year?  Any threat to retire may ring hollow as Sheffield needs just 45 HRs for 500.  The trade market for Sheffield seems strong despite his whining, as possible .900 OPS outfielders on one-year deals don’t grow on trees.  The Cubs should offer Bob Howry and/or Scott Eyre and a decent prospect and try to get something done.  If they do trade Sheffield, the Yankees can try some patchwork solutions at first base, as their offense can stand it.

We’ve also got a possible situation with A-Rod.  Scott Boras is adamant that Rodriguez will not be traded, and of course the player has veto power here.  Given Boras’s profession and reputation, everyone is taking that assertion with a grain of salt.  If Rodriguez is dealt, I really don’t see him moving back to shortstop.  The White Sox seem like the best fit, as they can offer Joe Crede and a starter.  That starter won’t be an ex-Yankee, which leaves only Mark Buehrle or Freddy Garcia.   

Miguel Cairo or someone similar will be signed to back up Jeter and Cano. 

The Yanks have an outfield surplus, with promising 22 year-old Melky Cabrera serving as the fourth.  He had a strong rookie showing in ’06; it’s a shame he won’t be playing full-time in ’07.  Cashman could use Cabrera to acquire a starter, but why not just hang onto him for right field in ’08?  The retention of Hughes this summer may indicate a willingness to break in some young guys.

It seems likely that Mussina will work something out with Cashman after his option is bought out.  That’ll leave the rotation with three or four solid options, but perhaps not a shut-down ace.  If Cashman’s scouts think Daisuke Matsuzaka is that ace, I can’t see how he lands anywhere else.  Yes, they were burned by Hideki Irabu – but these are two completely different pitchers.

20 year-old Philip Hughes posted sick numbers in Double A and will probably be up before June.  He may be the best pitching prospect in the game – this time, the New York hype is justified.   

Someone’s going to have to replace Ron Villone‘s 80 innings in the bullpen.  Could be Darren Oliver or even another go-round with Mike Stanton.  I’m pretty sure one overpaid veteran reliever will be imported. 

Plenty of offseason drama as usual with the Yankees.  Best guess is that Sheffield goes and A-Rod stays.  Sheff is used to acquire a good reliever.  Mussina comes back and the Yankees win the Matsuzaka derby.  With Matsuzaka and Hughes fronting the rotation this summer, the Yankees could be World Series favorites. 

2007 Milwaukee Brewers

Let’s give the Brew Crew some attention in our next 2007 Team Outlook.  I have to give a nod to Brew Crew Ball, the best blog for this club. I definitely read up there before working on this post.

Doug Melvin’s contract obligations:

C – Damian Miller – $2.75MM
C – Mike Rivera – $0.38MM
1B – Prince Fielder – $0.38MM
2B – Rickie Weeks – $2MM
SS – J.J. Hardy – $3.5MM
3B – Corey Koskie – $2MM
IF –
LF – Bill Hall – $0.42MM
CF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – $0.38MM/Gabe Gross – $0.38MM
RF – Corey Hart – $0.38MM/Geoff Jenkins – $7MM
OF – Kevin Mench – $2.8MM
OF – Brady Clark – $3.8MM

SP – Ben Sheets – $10MM
SP – Chris Capuano – $0.45MM
SP – Dave Bush – $0.38MM
SP – Doug Davis – $2.7MM
SP – Carlos Villanueva – $0.38MM
SP – Dana Eveland – $0.38MM
SP – Yovani Gallardo – $0.38MM

RP – Francisco Cordero – $5.4MM
RP – Jose Capellan – $0.38MM
RP – Derrick Turnbow – $2.3MM
RP – Brian Shouse – $0.775MM
RP – Matt Wise – $1MM
RP – Chris Spurling – $0.38MM
RP – Grant Balfour – $0.38MM

The Brewers have roughly $54MM committed before arbitration raises go to Mench, Davis, Capuano, Hall, and Shouse.  Word is that the team will push payroll past the $60MM mark.  Hopefully that means $70MM, because they could reach $60 mil with the raises.  Of course, guys like Mench, Davis, and Jenkins could be traded this winter to free up money.  Team owner Mark Attanasio is looking for a "$10 million puzzle piece."

The catching situation looks set.  Yes, Miller slipped drastically in the second half, but Rivera was a capable backup in ’06. 

Don’t forget that Fielder will be just 23 next year.  There’s a good chance he will improve on his solid rookie showing of .271/.347/.483.  Similarly, Weeks will be 24 and more power should develop. 

One key to success will be healthy years from Weeks, Koskie, and Hardy.  When one is hurt, Hall must move back to the infield and a lesser player will occupy a corner.  Hardy is still young and his ankle should be fine for spring.  Koskie hit pretty well before his concussion in July.

Another fun situation is that Milwaukee has seven outfielders.  Seriously.  Seven.  However, three of those guys are overpaid and/or undesirable: Jenkins, Mench, and Clark.  Clark should stay on as a fourth outfielder.  Melvin will do everything he can to trade Jenkins this winter.  Just eat half his salary and get him out of there. 

Do you even offer Mench arbitration?  A major piece of the Carlos Lee trade, Mench was terrible after joining the Brewers.  He still stands to make $3MM or more next year.  Tough call here.  If Hart and Hall are to occupy the corners, there’s no room for Mench.

Gross, Gwynn Jr., Hall, Hart, and Laynce Nix all saw time in CF in 2006.  It appears that Gwynn is the favorite after hitting .300/.360/.396 in 112 Triple A games.  I’d prefer Gross, personally, if his defense would hold up.

The pitching rotation is deep, though if I had to guess that’s where this "$10 million puzzle piece" would come into play.  Davis is after a three-year deal to compensate for his better years, which are behind him. 

If Davis stays and Sheets remains healthy, only one spot is available.  That will initially go to a fifth-starterish guy like Villanueva.  Maybe Eveland joins the ‘pen in that case. 

The fifth starter would just be a placeholder for Gallardo, who took a huge leap to eat Double A for breakfast.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein named Gallardo the sixth-best right-handed starting pitching prospect in the game, citing three plus pitches.  Will Inman is also very promising.

The back end of the bullpen will again be assembled from minor league free agents and whatever spare parts Melvin can dig up.  He’s adept at this, so it should be a solid group.

Brew Crew Ball names some minor league free agents that Melvin could pursue for the bullpen or perhaps a bench spot.

It’s going to be a fun offseason of trading in Milwaukee. This is a team with a lot of promise that could easily take the Central Division if they can keep guys healthy and expel some veterans.  Despite the promise of more spending, I don’t really see a glaring need with this club.