2007 Team Outlooks Rumors

2007 Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are next up on our 2007 Team Outlooks.

Wayne Krivsky’s contract obligations as he remakes the Reds in the Twins’ image:

C – David Ross – $0.5MM
C – Javier Valentin – $1.25MM
C – Jason LaRue – $5.2MM
1B – Scott Hatteberg – $1.5MM
2B – Brandon Phillips – $0.33MM
SS –
3B – Edwin Encarnacion – $0.3325MM
IF – Juan Castro – $0.925MM
LF – Adam Dunn – $10.5MM
CF – Ken Griffey Jr. – $6MM (another $6.5MM is deferred)
RF – Ryan Freel – $1.7MM
OF – Chris Denorfia – $0.327MM

SP – Aaron Harang – $2.35MM
SP – Bronson Arroyo – $3.8MM
SP – Kyle Lohse – $4MM
SP – Eric Milton – $9MM
SP – Elizardo Ramirez – $0.33MM
SP – Homer Bailey – $0.33MM

RP – Rheal Cormier – $2.25MM
RP – Gary Majewski – $0.352MM
RP – Matt Belisle – $0.3435MM
RP – Todd Coffey – $0.339MM
RP – Bill Bray – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Shackelford – $0.33MM
RP – Jason Standridge – $0.33MM


SP – Paul Wilson – $0.85MM
IF – Rich Aurilia – $0.2MM


SP – Brandon Claussen – $0.37MM (shoulder surgery August 2006)

I have the Reds at about $54-56MM depending on arbitration raises.  They entered 2006 with a $61MM payroll.  So, not that much to play with unless bigger salaries like Dunn or LaRue are unloaded.

On the catching situation: LaRue just had an awful year, basically becoming Aaron Harang‘s personal catcher and nothing more.  He’s being paid like a #1, and would like to regain his job or be traded.  If the Reds eat some salary maybe the Phillies would have interest.  Ross posted some surprising career bests in 250 ABs; it probably can’t hold up over another 400.  He’s only got three years of service time so the Reds should have his rights for a while.

With a heavy dose of right-handed pitching, Hatteberg bounced back with an .826 OPS.  He’ll keep the seat warm for a good price until Joey Votto is ready.  Votto is one of the game’s very best 1B prospects.  Hatteberg seems to be Krivsky’s only acknowledgement of the importance of OBP.

Phillips certainly looks like a capable 2B and a great find by Krivsky.  There’s been some talk of using him at shortstop; he played the position as recently as Triple A in 2005.  He only got a brief trial there in ’06 with the Reds; my feeling is that he’ll remain at second and the team will import a shortstop. 

Let’s just hope that Castro doesn’t spend too much time as the starting SS.  Interestingly, the Reds asked about Miguel Tejada in July.  For Tejada to fit in the payroll, I think Adam Dunn would have to be involved.  I haven’t heard any specific names, but some other options at short include Julio Lugo, Jack Wilson, Alex Cintron, and Alex Gonzalez.  It might’ve been nice to have Felipe Lopez around.

Encarnacion looks like a future star at 3B, and Rich Aurilia probably won’t be around to take any starts over there.  Aurilia isn’t much of a starting SS, so he’ll probably price himself too high for the Reds to keep him as a backup.

The outfield is pretty well set, with Denorfia finding plenty of work when Griffey is hurt.  Jerry Narron would prefer to move Freel around and play him four days a week, so Denorfia can find PT in right as well.

The front of the rotation looks solid, with Arroyo and Harang placing #1 and #3 in innings pitched in all of baseball.  40% of the time, those guys will take a load off a weak bullpen.  Lohse wasn’t awful as a Red, showing decent command.  You’d rather have him as your fourth starter, but that’s life.  The Reds only have endure one more year of the Milton Mistake.

Ideally the Reds can work in superprospect Homer Bailey in place of the worst of Lohse, Milton, or Ramirez.  Until that’s sorted out a bullpen intro to the bigs wouldn’t be a horrible idea.  Last year’s 138 pro innings was a career high for the 20 year-old phenom.  If he can keep the walks down, Bailey should be very tough to score upon even as a rookie.

The Reds hope midseason acquisitions Majewski and Bray are healthy and effective in ’07. If so, it has the potential to be a decent ‘pen.  The Reds are still lacking that one shutdown reliever to use in the ninth inning, however.  There’s nothing on the closer market, so the Reds will have to hope someone can step up. 

Cincinnati has a middle-of-the-pack offense right now.  A full season without Austin Kearns or Felipe Lopez plus a possible trade of Dunn could weaken it even further.  The pitching looks mediocre as well, especially factoring in some regression for Arroyo.  The Reds are not a bad team, but they would probably need one more good starter, an impact hitter, and a bullpen ace to be favored in the division in 2007.

Instead of trying to compete in 2007, the Reds might be better off shooting for ’08.  Votto, Bailey, and other prospects will have had time to develop.  Encarnacion could be a star.  Milton and LaRue will be off the books.  The 2008 club could be a few wise expenditures away from contention.


2007 Los Angeles Dodgers

I received several requests for the Dodgers to be covered in the next 2007 Team Outlook.

Ned Colletti’s contract obligations:

C – Russell Martin – $0.33MM
C –
1B – James Loney – $0.33MM
2B – Jeff Kent – $9MM
SS – Rafael Furcal – $13MM
3B – Wilson Betemit – $0.345MM/Andy LaRoche – $0.33MM
IF – Olmedo Saenz – $1MM
LF – Andre Ethier – $0.33MM
CF – Jason Repko – $0.338MM/Matt Kemp – $0.33MM
RF – J.D. Drew – $11MM
OF – Marlon Anderson – $0.925MM
OF – Jayson Werth – $0.355MM

SP – Derek Lowe – $9.5MM
SP – Brad Penny – $7.5MM
SP – Hong-Chih Kuo – $0.3275MM
SP – Chad Billingsley – $0.33MM
SP – Mark Hendrickson – $2MM

RP – Brett Tomko – $4.1MM
RP – Jonathan Broxton – $0.33MM
RP – Elmer Dessens – $1.7MM (paid by KC)
RP – Yhency Brazoban – $0.345MM
RP – Takashi Saito – $0.33MM
RP – Greg Miller – $0.33MM
RP –

RP – Eric Gagne – $1MM
OF – Jose Cruz Jr. – $0.3MM

Nontender candidates:
C – Toby Hall – $2.5MM

Injured players:
3B – Bill Mueller – $4.5MM (hopes for an experimental knee treatment to allow him to play)

Ballpark estimate: $70MM tied up.  This team came into 2006 with a $98MM payroll, so money will be spent again.

I put down Hall as a nontender candidate as most teams don’t pay a backup catcher that much money.  He did hit surprisingly well in his very limited Dodger sample.  Perhaps they’ll keep him and make a trade?

Try Loney at first, or resign Nomar?  It’s worth noting that Garciaparra’s big comeback season was exactly league average for first base.  Plus he only played three-quarters of the team’s games.  I think Loney will be worse than that, but not terribly so.  If you choose the kid, you’ve got to upgrade in a few of the other open spots.

One of those open spots is 3B.  Bill Mueller looks like a no go for 2007, so we’re looking at some combination of Betemit and young Andy LaRoche.  The Dodgers hope LaRoche will be fully healed from labrum surgery of the throwing shoulder by spring training. 

They probably don’t want to block LaRoche for four years, which takes A-Rod out of the picture.  If you use that logic, though, Aramis Ramirez becomes unlikely as well.  Perhaps Colletti would sign Ramirez and worry about LaRoche later.  In that case he’ll be competing with the Angels and several other clubs for the best free agent 3B.  Yet another route would be Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura, said to be admired by the Padres. 

The Dodgers have similar situations in left and center field: kids who might be capable but could have growing pains.  What to make of Ethier’s second half (.277/.337/.429)?  Fine for a young kid but probably not the starting left fielder on a big budget team.  (Matt Murton, ahem).  Kemp’s CF defense has been panned, and Repko/Werth don’t look like starters. 

Should Colletti deal Scott Elbert or one of his other talented prospects, perhaps the Dodgers could acquire Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones for center field.  Otherwise Jim Edmonds seems like a reasonable signing.

With the quasi-openings at 1B, 3B, LF, and CF, Colletti will probably bring in several veteran free agents as he did for 2006.  I can’t see the Dodgers going with young players in more than two of those four spots.

For the starting rotation, we know that Colletti would like to bring Maddux back for a full season. Such a move would probably push Hendrickson to the pen.  A related scenario: trade the frustrating Penny to fill a position, and then go after Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito.  How about Penny to Houston for Morgan Ensberg?  To the Rangers for Hank Blalock?  To Cincy for Adam Dunn?  Tell me your ideas in the comments. 

Should a starter struggle or get hurt, the Dodgers will have Hendrickson and Tomko at the ready to fill in.  And if Elbert harnesses his control he could join the rotation by summertime.

The bullpen looks solid, and the Dodgers don’t need the frustration of Eric Gagne.  For a big-time discount, maybe, but they’ll be fine without him assuming Saito stays and Brazoban is healthy.  Tomko is a candidate to be dealt, as he’ll probably be unhappy as a middle reliever.

With $30MM to spend, Colletti might be able to acquire Edmonds, Schmidt, and someone like Rich Aurilia to play some third and first.  If youngsters like Kemp, LaRoche, and Loney prove worthy they can get plenty of ABs too for this fragile team.

2007 San Diego Padres

Alright, time for another one of these Team Outlooks.

Kevin Towers’s contract obligations:

C – Josh Bard – $0.3534MM
C – Rob Bowen – $0.33MM
1B – Adrian Gonzalez – $0.3275MM
2B – Josh Barfield – $0.327MM
SS – Khalil Greene – $0.405MM
3B –
IF – Russell Branyan – $1.25MM
LF –
CF – Mike Cameron – $7MM
RF – Brian Giles – $9MM
OF – Terrmel Sledge – $0.3475MM
OF – Ben Johnson – $0.3275MM

SP – Jake Peavy – $4.75MM
SP – Chris Young – $0.6MM
SP –
SP – Clay Hensley – $0.329MM
SP – Mike Thompson – $0.33MM
SP – Cesar Carrillo – $0.33MM

RP – Trevor Hoffman – $6.5MM
RP – Scott Linebrink – $1.75MM
RP – Cla Meredith – $0.33MM
RP – Jon Adkins – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Sweeney – $0.33MM
RP – Scott Cassidy – $0.33MM
RP – Justin Hampson – $0.33MM
RP – Mike Adams – $0.335MM

C – Mike Piazza – $0.75MM
1B – Ryan Klesko – $0.5MM

It seems that the Padres have a mere $36MM tied up after entering 2006 with a $70MM payroll.

Behind the plate, the Padres got enormous production from the Piazza/Bard combo.  Bard’s previous body of work may not be starting catcher-worthy, but it should be worth a shot.  Of course, if Piazza wants to play for one year and $3-5MM, you can’t turn that down.  He was a steal at $1.25MM in ’06.

Powered by a huge June-July stretch, Adrian Gonzalez finally justified his first overall selection in the 2000 draft.  Kevin Towers made out like a bandit in the Adam Eaton deal, netting Gonzalez and Chris Young.  This isn’t hindsight, either – the deal was a clear win for San Diego the day it was made.

With Barfield at second, it’s important to remember that he’ll be entering his age 24 season.  He’s solid, he’s cheap, and he should keep getting better.

The Pads didn’t get any offense from the shortstop position – a .699 OPS in total.  If Greene’s finger heals up this winter, he should get one more chance to establish himself as a healthy, productive player.

Another glaring hole is, of course, third base.  Reasonable solution: Japanese player Akinori Iwamura.  Like Kenji Johjima last winter, Iwamura looks like a bargain from where I sit.  You can forget silly A-Rod fantasies, but there are other decent options.  Adrian Beltre has been on the radar for a while now, and a swap for Mike Lowell is feasible.  Of course, that means giving up talent and decent money for league averageish production at the position.  Like I said – Iwamura.

The Pads are also in need of a decent backup infielder.  Tony Graffanino, Craig Counsell, and others are floating around.

Left field: Dave Roberts did a decent job as the team’s leadoff hitter this year.  But given the free cash, I think the Padres should inject this power position with, well, power.  Here I have 16 impact hitters listed who could be acquired.  Setting the sights a little bit lower, there’s Moises Alou, David Dellucci, Luke Scott, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Frank Catalanotto, and Luis Gonzalez.  Adding one of these guys over Roberts would sacrifice some defense, however.

In the rotation, there’s a need for at least one guy – two if you don’t want to give a spot to Thompson or Carrillo.  Carrillo, one of the team’s better prospects, is currently rehabbing a sore elbow. 

The Padres seem to be the favorites for Barry Zito, but don’t expect their usual hometown discount.  I think this would be a good signing.  Right right, he’d be overpaid.  But the Padres have the need and the money.  Sometimes you have to overpay.  Peavy/Young/Zito would be a fearsome front three, and Hensley is an above average #4.

Really can’t complain about the bullpen.  Linebrink might get relatively big bucks as a free agent after 2007, but right now it’s a solid group.

If I was Kevin Towers, I’d probably sign Zito, Iwamura, a backup infielder, and a mid-tier left fielder.  If I had money left over and Piazza was the right price I’d bring him back.

2007 San Francisco Giants

Been missing my 2007 Team Outlooks?  The Giants are next up.  This would be a good place to give a shoutout to the premiere Giants blog out there, McCovey Chronicles.  I definitely read up at this fine site before attempting my ’07 writeup.  Another fine one: El Lefty Malo.

Brian Sabean’s contract obligations:

C – Eliezer Alfonzo – $0.33MM
C –
1B –
2B – Kevin Frandsen – $0.33MM
SS – Omar Vizquel – $4MM
3B –
1B/OF – Mark Sweeney – $0.95MM
1B – Lance Niekro – $0.33MM
IF – Tomas de la Rosa – $0.33MM
LF –
CF – Randy Winn – $4MM
RF – Todd Linden – $0.33MM
OF – Fred Lewis – $0.33MM
OF – Jason Ellison – $0.33MM

SP – Matt Cain – $0.328MM
SP – Noah Lowry – $1.115MM
SP – Matt Morris – $9.5MM
SP – Jonathan Sanchez – $0.33MM
SP – Tim Lincecum – $0.33MM

RP – Armando Benitez – $7.6MM
RP – Tim Worrell – $2MM
RP – Vinny Chulk – $0.3485MM
RP – Brad Hennessey – $0.33MM
RP – Kevin Correia – $0.33MM
RP – Scott Munter – $0.334MM
RP – Jack Taschner – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Wilson – $0.33MM
RP – Billy Sadler – $0.33MM

Buyouts/deferred money:
SP – Jamey Wright – $0.3MM
CF – Steve Finley – $1MM
SP – Kirk Rueter – $1.28MM
RF – Moises Alou – $1.5MM
LF – Barry Bonds – $5MM

Injured players:
C – Mike Matheny – $2.25MM + $1.5MM deferred

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that this payroll estimate is spot-on.  It’s an estimate based on what I could dig up.  Fortunately, the deferred money comes out of a different budget and the Giants are planning for an $85MM payroll in 2007.  That means they have around $38MM committed and $47MM to spend.  That, my friends, is some serious cash.

The Giants will need all that money given their numerous holes.  Let’s start at catcher.  Mike Matheny has post-concussion syndrome, and the prognosis is not so good.  That leaves Alfonzo as the starter if the season were to open today.  Which would be weird given that it’s October 13th. 

Alfonzo, who will be 28 next season, looked like the second coming of someone good from June 3rd to July 28th.  He had a .911 OPS over those 35 games.  In the next 45 games, however, Alfonzo posted a .654 OPS.  Alfonzo didn’t hit at all in the high minors prior to his callup.  If not for a 35 game fluke, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  The man is not a starting catcher on a good team.  There are plenty of Sabean-ish options out there; take a look at the market.  In addition, Johnny Estrada is available via trade.

The Giants pretty much have nothing going on at first base.  Lance Niekro‘s had about a full season’s worth of ABs in the bigs and Triple A just hasn’t translated.  He’ll be 28 next year.  Which free agents could play first?  Gary Sheffield, Sean Casey, Nomar Garciaparra, and Craig Wilson come to mind.  Odds of Shea Hillenbrand returning look slim.  Tradewise Sabean could chase Mark Teixeira, Todd Helton, Richie Sexson, Ty Wigginton, Tony Clark, or Ben Broussard.  Sexson seems like an attainable slugger.

Do the Giants bring Ray Ray back after a career year at age 34?  Perhaps if the terms of the deal are short enough.  Otherwise, it’s probably Kevin Frandsen Time.  Frandsen will be 25 next year and hit will in Triple A.

Third base is another problem assuming Pedro Feliz looks to cash in on his 98 ribbies.  Are GMs dumb enough to give this man $5MM?  This isn’t 1993 anymore.  .244/.281/.428 is really bad from a corner or most other positions.  Rich Aurilia played 52 games at the hot corner this season, and wouldn’t mind returning to San Fran for his age 35 season.  This is a reasonable solution for the right price.  Giants fans can entertain thoughts of A-Rod and A-Ram in the meantime.

On to the outfield.  Might as well give Linden a shot in right; he looked pretty good this year.  Winn is entrenched in center, though his .249/.296/.349 line after the break is worrisome.  As for Mr. Bonds?  Signs seem to be pointing toward his exit, but maybe all this talk is just posturing.  If Bonds would come back for anything close to $10MM, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  But I don’t sign the paychecks.

If Bonds leaves, all of this excess cash has to go somewhere.  One could see Sabean entering the Soriano/Lee sweepstakes to replace him.  He could hit the trade market for Adam Dunn, check out this OBP thing everyone’s been talking about.  Manny Ramirez might be had, as well as Carl Crawford or Pat Burrell.  I have to say, one surefire way to change the topic from Bonds would be a Manny trade.      

I don’t think much needs to be done with the rotation.  The Giants have some serious young studs and the requisite bearded innings eater.  I don’t doubt Cain, but can Sanchez and Lincecum be above average as rookies?  Can Lowry stay healthy and return to form?  These kids won’t go deep into games, so Hennessey would get plenty of work.  While I might leave the rotation alone, Sabean will probably pick up one guy.  I can see a Gil Meche or Vicente Padilla or something.  Who knows, maybe he’s saving his money for Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Bonds attention diversion #2.

The bullpen isn’t looking impressive, but whatcha gonna do?  Benitez and Worrell can’t be counted on, and the other guys are unproven/unimpressive.  Like many teams with crappy bullpens, the Giants don’t have great free agent options.  I know some would call this middle reliever free agent class deep, but it looks like a crapshoot to me.  Maybe some guys like Kline or Stanton will be resigned.  Closerwise you’re looking at Eric Gagne and even bigger question marks.

This offseason should be a fine test for Brian Sabean.  He’s got tons of money and a host of vacancies.  Will the team really get younger and healthier?  Time will tell.      


2007 Texas Rangers

Had some requests for a 2007 team outlook on the Rangers. 

Jon Daniels’s contract obligations:

C – Gerald Laird – $0.332MM
C –
1B – Mark Teixeira – $9MM
2B – Ian Kinsler – $0.327MM
SS – Michael Young – $3.5MM
3B – Hank Blalock – $4.75MM
IF – Joaquin Arias – $0.327MM
IF – Drew Meyer – $0.33MM
LF – Brad Wilkerson – $3.9MM
CF –
RF – Nelson Cruz – $0.33MM
OF – Victor Diaz – $0.335MM
OF – Freddy Guzman – $0.33MM
DH – Jason Botts – $0.328MM

SP – Kevin Millwood – $7.5MM
SP – Robinson Tejeda – $0.33MM
SP – Kameron Loe – $0.34877MM
SP – John Koronka – $0.329MM
SP – Edinson Volquez – $0.329MM
SP – John Rheinecker – $0.33MM
SP – John Danks – $0.33MM
SP – Thomas Diamond – $0.33MM
SP – Daniel Haigwood – $0.33MM
SP – Eric Hurley – $0.33MM

RP – Akinori Otsuka – $1.75MM
RP – Ron Mahay – $1MM
RP – Joaquin Benoit – $0.775MM
RP – Frank Francisco – $0.3315MM
RP – C.J. Wilson – $0.331MM
RP – Scott Feldman – $0.329MM
RP – Rick Bauer – $0.33MM
RP – Wes Littleton – $0.33MM
RP – Josh Rupe – $0.328MM

Buyouts and departed players
C – Miguel Ojeda – $0.025MM
3B – Alex Rodriguez – $7MM

If the 2007 payroll is to include the money for A-Rod and raises for Otsuka and others, the team has between $40MM and $45MM committed.  They entered 2006 with a $68MM payroll.  This is a team with tons of free agents; the Rangers will look very different in 2007.  Forget all this manager talk though: let’s get down to the important stuff.

At catcher: do you bring Rod Barajas back, or just let Laird start and find a backup for him?  Laird looked lost at the plate as a full-timer in September, but otherwise hit quite well for his position.  I think you let Barajas go and use Laird as the starter.  This team has needs, and the need for a catcher isn’t at the top of the list.  That said, perhaps a flexible solution like Mike Piazza would help.  Piazza could catch 70 or 80 games and spend the rest of the time at DH.

The Rangers are set with Mark Teixeira, who proved his first half an anomaly with a .291/.394/.604 line after the break.  The second half surge means Tex’s trade value should remain huge.  As a Scott Boras client, he makes quite a bit of money for someone with his service time.  Here’s an idea: trade Teixeira to the Pirates for pitching.  The Paul Maholm/Mike Gonzalez proposal seems a little weak; substitute Ian Snell for Maholm and you might have something. 

The Pirates wouldn’t be the only team coveting Teixeira entering his age 27 season.  How about the Orioles, Tigers, Astros, Dodgers, or Giants?  If Tex really does hit the market, you have to figure some top shelf young talent would be offered from some of these clubs.    

The middle infield seems locked in, though Young could be the trade bait instead of Teixeira.  More likely, the team tries to find something decent for Hank Blalock and re-signs Mark DeRosa to hold down 3B.  Blalock slugged just .401 this season, a career worst.  That included an awful second half, but his shoulder was bothering him and he had surgery this earlier this month.  Blalock will be 26 next year and has two years before free agency; he’s marketable.  He might have to finish his rehab first though.

If you think the infield is interesting, consider the outfield.  It’s just a mess.  The team wants to retain Gary Matthews Jr. as the center fielder, but this could be the 32 year-old’s last chance to test the market.  Brad Wilkerson bombed during his first year as a Ranger, but had shoulder surgery in August.  He could be cut loose, or he could come back and get $4MM+ in arbitration.  I assume he’d play left field in that case.  Wilkerson is a passable CF as well.  The Rangers may want to see what happens with him in ’07 as an attempt to redeem the Soriano trade a bit. 

Nelson Cruz may be too old for prospect status, but he’s a fair gamble in right field.  He didn’t hit much with the Rangers but posted a .906 OPS in Triple A this year.  He probably deserves a shot, especially if Wilkerson and Matthews are retained.

The DH spot is wide open, with Botts the frontrunner if no one is acquired.  Botts broke a bone in his hand in August.  Before that, he wasn’t hitting enough to maintain a role as the regular DH.  He’s similar to Cruz in that he’s figured out Triple A and has a good chance to become a useful regular for a few years.

Otherwise, Daniels could go a million ways with this vacancy.  He could go after the best free agent hitter, Barry Bonds.  He could offer Carlos Lee a fat five-year deal to make him a Ranger fixture (he’d play left in ’07, but DH soon enough).  He could chase Frank Thomas, Nomar Garciaparra, Dmitri Young, Moises Alou, David Dellucci, Cliff Floyd, or Gary Sheffield.  Many of those options could bolster an already strong offense.

The area that needs the most work, of course, is the pitching rotation.  Millwood and Tejeda are locked in, leaving three vacancies. One of those three spots could go to young talent like Danks, Hurley, Diamond, or Volquez.  Even so, Daniels needs to get two starters to have a real rotation. 

One of the Big Three – Zito, Schmidt, or Matsuzaka – has to end up a Ranger.  The team has scouted Matsuzaka, and he’s by far the best choice.  The local options both have their flaws; Matsuzaka’s only downside is that he’s a Major League rookie.  I’d take that risk compared to Zito’s mediocrity or Schmidt’s age.  If Daniels can get Matsuzaka signed, he can throw down some additional cash for the likes of Randy Wolf, Gil Meche, Mark Mulder, or Ted Lilly.  Or he could hold on to Adam Eaton or Vicente Padilla.  Padilla had a solid if not spectacular year, and his acquisition stands in great contrast to Eaton’s (Chris Young would look awfully nice slotted as the #2 starter).

The bullpen actually did OK this year, so those guys will get their raises and the group should remain mostly intact.  There’s been some Kerry Wood chatter, but Wood has said he wants to remain a Cub. 

After big seasons by Alfonso Soriano and Chris Young, some of the shine came off kid GM Jon Daniels.  To be fair, the Soriano deal only looks bad in hindsight.  On the positive side, he did acquire Tejeda, Padilla, Cruz, and Otsuka in 2006.  This offseason, Daniels will have his own manager, free cash, and the chance to create the Texas Rangers squad he wants.

2007 Cleveland Indians

The Tribe is next up in our 2007 team outlooks.

Mark Shapiro’s contract obligations:

C – Victor Martinez – $3MM
C – Kelly Shoppach – $0.327MM
1B – Ryan Garko – $0.33MM
2B –
SS – Jhonny Peralta – $0.75MM
3B – Andy Marte – $0.33MM
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff – $0.33MM
IF – Hector Luna – $0.34MM
IF – Joe Inglett – $0.33MM
LF – Jason Michaels – $1.75MM
CF – Grady Sizemore – $0.75MM
RF – Casey Blake – $3.75MM
OF – Shin-Soo Choo – $0.33MM
OF – Franklin Gutierrez – $0.33MM
DH – Travis Hafner – $3.75MM

SP – C.C. Sabathia – $8.75MM
SP – Paul Byrd – $7MM
SP – Jake Westbrook – $5.6MM
SP – Cliff Lee – $2.75MM
SP – Jeremy Sowers – $0.33MM
SP – Jeremy Guthrie – $0.625MM

RP – Rafael Betancourt – $0.3653MM
RP – Matt Miller – $0.3374MM
RP – Fernando Cabrera – $0.3308MM
RP – Fausto Carmona – $0.33MM
RP – Jason Davis – $0.33MM
RP – Tom Mastny – $0.33MM
RP – Brian Slocum – $0.33MM

I have the payroll at less than $50MM at this point, including raises.  The Indians entered 2006 at $56MM.  All we know about ’07 is to expect a significant payroll increase.  That’s gotta mean at least 10%, so they should go past $60MM.  $70MM would not be surprising at all, and that buys more than just a closer.

The Indians will go with Garko and Marte at the corners, at least unless some obviously better option presents itself.  The average AL 1B hit .280/.352/.467 and the average AL 3B hit .269/.338/.442.  Garko and Marte can approach this level next year.  Given how far above average Hafner, Sizemore, and Martinez are for their positions, it still makes for a dangerous offense.

Shapiro will definitely acquire a second baseman, with Ron Belliard, Adam Kennedy, Mark DeRosa, Ray Durham, and Mark Loretta the top free agent options.  Shapiro hopes to improve the infield defense as well as find a player to push Peralta a bit. The perfect solution: Craig Counsell.  Counsell is one of the best defensive 2Bs in the game and plays a decent shortstop.

To continue with Jason Michaels as the everyday LF would be a certain concession of below average offense.  Choo and Gutierrez could push him.  Given all the purported free cash, I’m surprised the Indians haven’t made noise about acquiring a decent-hitting veteran LF.  The coolest answer would be Barry Bonds, but Frank Catalanotto, David Dellucci, and Moises Alou would all represent improvement.  If Pronk could play 1B for 30 games in 2007, that’d go a long way toward resting other fragile players.

The rotation is set, with Carmona probably acting as the sixth man.  Carmona finished strong in three starts, and there’s been speculation of trading Byrd.  Byrd isn’t exactly coveted, so hopefully that’d be a situation where the money saved goes toward a marquee signing.

The Indians won’t look internally for a closer.  Free agent options are slim though: Joe Borowski, Danys Baez, Dustin Hermanson, Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke, Miguel Batista, David Weathers, and Eric Gagne have experience.  It might make sense to try to pry Brad Lidge away from the Astros.  Mike Gonzalez would be another fine trade option.  What’s Ugueth Urbina up to these days?  Oh, right.  When are they going to hold that trial, anyway?

The Indians are a team with $10-20MM to spend and no good way to spend it.  Given that he’s got a fine squad already, perhaps Shapiro will just add his second baseman and closer and save some money for a midseason deal.

2007 Pittsburgh Pirates

The next 2007 Team Outlook is the Pirates.  Many thanks to Dejan Kovacevic for writing a fine summary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  In addition, Bucco Blog always has great inside info.

Dave Littlefield’s contract obligations:

C – Ronny Paulino – $0.38MM
C – Ryan Doumit – $0.38MM
1B –
2B – Freddy Sanchez – $0.38MM
SS – Jack Wilson – $5.25MM
3B – Jose Bautista – $0.38MM
IF – Jose Castillo – $0.38MM
LF – Jason Bay – $3.25MM
CF – Chris Duffy – $0.38MM
RF – Xavier Nady – $0.427MM
OF – Nate McLouth – $0.38MM
OF – Jody Gerut – $0.875MM

SP – Zach Duke – $0.38MM
SP – Ian Snell – $0.38MM
SP – Paul Maholm – $0.38MM
SP – Tom Gorzelanny – $0.38MM
SP – Yuslan Herrera

RP – Salomon Torres – $2.6MM
RP – Mike Gonzalez – $0.38MM
RP – John Grabow – $0.38MM
RP – Jonah Bayliss – $0.38MM
RP – Matt Capps – $0.38MM
RP – Marty McLeary – $0.38MM
RP – Juan Perez – $0.38MM
RP – Josh Sharpless – $0.38MM
RP – Shane Youman – $0.38MM

RF – Jeromy Burnitz – $0.7MM
RP – Damaso Marte – $0.25MM

That’s about $20.5MM locked up before raises, which is impressive.  The team entered the season with a $46.7MM payroll.  I usually don’t factor in more than $5MM for raises, but Kovacevic estimated $10MM in his article.  Even throwing in a few mil for Herrera, the Bucs could have over $30MM left to spend.

25 year-old catcher Ronny Paulino hit .310 this year.  If he can rediscover the power he had in 2005, the Bucs might really have something here. Plus his defense is sound.  Paulino might just be keeping the seat warm, as BP’s Kevin Goldstein calls Neil Walker one of the few minor league catchers with "star potential."  Walker’s a ways off, though, and could find his way into another position before long.

Nady will end up at first or in right, depending on who the Pirates acquire.  A left-handed power hitter is the target; Kovacevic suggests Aubrey Huff.  Though he hasn’t played first since ’97, I could see the Bucs signing Luis Gonzalez and putting him there.  Trade options could include Jacque Jones, Adam Dunn, and Geoff Jenkins.

Should the Pirates shift Sanchez back to second, 3B will need some fixin’.  Internal options Bautista and Castillo seem to be the favorites. As for the outfield, Gerut will try to squeeze his way in if he is recovered from knee surgery.  That assumes the team offers him arbitration after his ’06 medical grievance.

In Gorzelanny, Duke, and Maholm, the Pirates have a trio of promising southpaws.  There’s also righty Ian Snell, whose season was much better than it looked.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a better young foursome outside of Florida.  With Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera in the fold, the Bucs may look to trade Maholm.  A couple of teams have come knocking this winter.   

The idea is to use some of that free cash to add a veteran righty starter to anchor the staff.  Popular names include Jason Schmidt, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, and Jeff Suppan according to Kovacevic.  Miguel Batista or Jeff Weaver could also qualify.  The return of Schmidt may be more than just a pipe dream

The trade market could include Jason Jennings, Jake Westbrook, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Javier Vazquez.  There could be a fit with the White Sox, as they’re looking for relievers.

As for the bullpen, it is seen as a surplus for the Pirates.  Torres is more expensive, but Gonzalez maybe more effective (and younger).  Personally I’d trade one of them in hopes of getting one premium 1B or RF (Austin Kearns would’ve been perfect).  Are Torres and Gonzalez really going to be a part of the next Pirates championship team?

It may not seem interesting to some, but I am very curious to see how this offseason unfolds for the Pirates.  They usually spend their cash poorly.

2007 Arizona Diamondbacks

Next up, the D’Backs.

Josh Byrnes’s 2007 contract obligations:

C – Chris Snyder – $0.341MM
C – Miguel Montero – $0.33MM
1B – Conor Jackson – $0.328MM
2B – Orlando Hudson – $2.3MM
SS – Stephen Drew – $1.5MM
3B – Chad Tracy – $2.75MM
IF – Alberto Callaspo – $0.33MM
IF – Robby Hammock – $0.33MM
1B – Tony Clark – $1MM
LF – Eric Byrnes – $2.25MM
CF – Chris Young – $0.33MM
RF – Carlos Quentin – $0.33MM
OF – Jeff DaVanon – $1.25MM club option
OF – Scott Hairston – $0.33MM

SP – Brandon Webb – $4.5MM
SP – Livan Hernandez – $7MM
SP – Claudio Vargas – $1.275MM
SP – Juan Cruz – $0.575MM
SP – Brandon Lyon – $0.83MM
SP – Edgar Gonzalez – $0.33MM
SP – Enrique Gonzalez – $0.33MM
SP – Micah Owings – $0.33MM
SP – Ross Ohlendorf – $0.33MM
SP – Casey Daigle – $0.33MM
SP – Dustin Nippert – $0.33MM

RP – Jose Valverde – $0.359MM
RP – Luis Vizcaino – $1.775MM
RP – Randy Choate – $0.75MM
RP – Greg Aquino – $0.342MM
RP – Jeff Bajenaru – $0.33MM
RP – Brandon Medders – $0.327MM
RP – Tony Pena – $0.33MM
RP – Doug Slaten – $0.33MM

May depart
C – Johnny Estrada – $2MM (trade?)
IF – Andy Green – $0.33MM (sold to Japan?)
RP – Jorge Julio – $2.525MM (trade or nontender?)

Already gone, counted against payroll
SP – Russ Ortiz – $7.5MM
RF – Shawn Green – $5.8MM

The Diamondbacks started 2006 with a $72.5MM payroll, but hope to be in the $60MM range in 2007.  By my calculations (assuming Estrada, Green, and Julio do not return) the D’Backs have less than $50MM tied up including raises.  Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic arrives at the same figure – the team has around $10MM to spend.

The catching situation looks good and cheap with Snyder/Montero.  Johnny Estrada is doing everything he can to burn his bridges, anyway.  Luckily for Josh Byrnes, Estrada had a fine offensive season at .302/.328/.444.  A return to Philly is possible if they don’t want to try Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste next year.  Other teams that may be in the market for a backstop include the Blue Jays, Angels, Astros, and Cardinals.

The infield is pretty much locked down, unless the right deal comes along to upgrade at third base.  Most likely, the D’Backs will just hope Tracy can bounce back.

The outfield is set as well.  The team will move Byrnes to left to accomodate for Chris Young.

That’s it for the offense, right?  Maybe not.  The possibility of acquiring a hitter was raised in this Jack Magruder article. As Magruder says, some kind of shakeup would be required.  One name I’ve seen is Pat Burrell.  Of course, it would require Burrell’s approval and the dollars could be difficult.

And then there’s the rotation.  Webb and Hernandez are locks, and Vargas seems likely to remain at the back end.  There are a host of kids with varying degrees of promise.  There’s Brandon Lyon, who was once a starter.  The larger plan, as has been publicly stated, is to acquire a frontline guy via trade. 

Magruder names some pitchers of past interest such as Jake Westbrook, Brian Bannister, Jason Windsor, and Dontrelle Willis.  Westbrook, who just had his option exercised, was a target at the trading deadline.  His groundball style mirrors that of Webb, and he’s a smart choice.  Juan Cruz could be trade bait; he’s said to interest Philadelphia.  The aforementioned Estrada and Scott Hairston could be dealt as well. 

Another good acquisition would be Jason Jennings.  Jennings improved his control and strikeout rate to post his best season yet.  He’ll be a free agent after ’07.  Another possibility, which I found via the comments on an AZ Snakepit post, is Mark Mulder.

Byrnes has mentioned that he will also "tweak" the bullpen.  He has a strong preference for trading, so maybe he’ll target an Aaron Heilman or Ryan Madson

Last year, Byrnes’s wheeling and dealing brought in Miguel Batista, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizcaino, Chris Young, and Johnny Estrada.  And that was all in December.  I’ll be very interested to see how this winter plays out.  The D’Backs are a few moves away from contending.

Updated 10-14-06 – Mike Koplove and his $1.175MM salary are gone as he cleared waivers and became a free agent.

2007 Chicago White Sox

Next up: a 2007 Team Outlook for the White Sox.

Kenny Williams’s contract obligations:

C – A.J. Pierzynski – $5.5MM
C –
1B – Paul Konerko – $12MM
2B – Tadahito Iguchi – $3.25MM (club option)
SS – Juan Uribe – $4.15MM
3B – Joe Crede – $2.875MM
IF/OF – Pablo Ozuna – $0.5MM
1B/OF – Ross Gload – $0.35MM
LF – Josh Fields – $0.33MM, Ryan Sweeney – $0.33MM
CF – Brian Anderson – $0.33MM
RF – Jermaine Dye – $6MM
DH – Jim Thome – $8.5MM
OF – Rob Mackowiak – $2.75MM

SP – Jose Contreras – $9MM
SP – Mark Buehrle – $9.5MM (club option)
SP – Jon Garland – $10MM
SP – Freddy Garcia – $10MM
SP – Javier Vazquez – $12.5MM
SP – Brandon McCarthy – $0.332MM

RP – Bobby Jenks – $0.34MM
RP – Mike MacDougal – $0.43MM
RP – Neal Cotts – $0.4MM
RP – Matt Thornton – $0.355MM
RP – Charlie Haeger – $0.33MM
RP – Boone Logan – $0.327MM
RP – Sean Tracey – $0.33MM

RP – Dustin Hermanson – $0.5MM

Arbitration-eligible; could be nontendered
LF – Scott Podsednik – $1.9MM
IF – Alex Cintron – $1.6MM

Assuming Podsednik, Cintron, and Hermanson are not invited back, the Sox have about $100MM tied up.  Throw in raises for Crede and others and you’re probably around $105MM.  The Sox entered 2006 a touch under $103MM, and the payroll shouldn’t be significantly higher than that.  Keep in mind that the subtraction of a starter would free up some cash.

The Sox will need a decent backup catcher, but some of the better options like Vance Wilson and Mike Redmond have been locked up.

Around the infield: Iguchi’s option is a no-brainer.  But what to do with Juan Uribe?  The man had the worst OBP in baseball (though he continued to hit for good power).  His glovework is top five in the game for sure.

Kenny Williams could trade Uribe and acquire someone better to play shortstop (if perhaps in a separate deal).  Some Sox fans are clamoring for a Michael Young trade if possible.  Young, however, is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.  It would be exchanging Uribe’s OBP problem (and a ton of young prospect talent) for another problem.  You’d still probably rather have Young, but not at the price.

Baseball Prospectus rates Uribe’s ’06 performance at 2.6 wins, and his 2004 peak at 5.1 wins.  Aside from giving up the farm for Miguel Tejada, the Sox could sign Julio Lugo or trade for Orlando Cabrera.  It won’t be easy if Williams tries to upgrade at short.

Crede’s been doing one-year deals, and could go up to five or six million after arbitration.  If he elects not to have back surgery, the team may be reluctant to ink him to a multiyear contract.  Plenty of teams need third basemen, so feel free to concoct wild trade scenarios.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If the Sox do trade Crede, Josh Fields probably becomes the third baseman.  He’d be a step down but might be able to get the job done following a .305/.379/.515 line in Charlotte.  Fields did have a weak offensive second half for the Knights though.  And you wouldn’t want to replace both Crede and Uribe, as the left-side infield defense would be severely weakened.  The Sox may very well stand pat at both positions.

Depending on who you ask, something may have to be done about center field.  Brian Anderson has his supporters for another shot at center, though he still wasn’t league average offensively for his position in the second half.  And league average for a CF isn’t asking much.  We know Ozzie and Juan Pierre have mutual affection, but Williams doesn’t feel the love.  Other options include Jim Edmonds and Gary Matthews Jr. and, to a lesser extent, Dave Roberts or Kenny Lofton.  Maybe a deal for Ryan Freel?  No acquisition could top Vernon Wells, but competition will be fierce if he’s available.  There’s no easy answer here, of course.

Left field is more of an agreed-upon problem.  The Sox have probably had enough of Pods, so they’ll either nontender or trade him.  Should Crede stay, Fields and Ryan Sweeney could get a look.  Otherwise there’s Cliff Floyd (a Chicago native), Moises Alou, David Dellucci, Luis Gonzalez, or maybe even Alfonso Soriano.  Or maybe Kenny peddles his one possible surplus, starting pitching, as part of a deal for Manny Ramirez or Carl Crawford.  If the Sox want to make another deal with Philly, Pat Burrell is available for peanuts but would have to approve a trade. 

The rotation, of course, is six deep.  Assuming Williams’s six-man rotation idea doesn’t fly, someone has to go to make room for McCarthy.  Popular opinion is Garcia, who could interest the Mets (and would succeed in the NL).  But Buehrle and Vazquez are certainly fair game.  KW is good at what he does, and he’ll find a way to turn one of these starters into a good outfielder.  How about Matt Murton or Luke Scott, to toss out a few names?  I’m sure Kenny can do better.

Williams has pledged to add a reliever.  Haeger should join the pen if he’s not traded; his knuckler would certainly be a change from flamethrowers like Jenks and MacDougal.  Hermanson could return at reduced pay, but at least one other proven guy will be imported.  Aaron Heilman could be available via trade.  Justin Speier could be on the radar.  Various free agents fit the bill.  Maybe the Sox will get creative, grab a guy like Byung-Hyun Kim or Kerry Wood.

It looks like another fun offseason in Chicago, as the Sox have all sorts of ways to play this hand. What would you do?


2007 Atlanta Braves

Next up in the 2007 Team Outlooks we have the Atlanta Braves.

John Schuerholz’s contract obligations:

C – Brian McCann – $0.3335MM
C – Brayan Pena – $0.33MM
1B – Adam LaRoche – $0.42MM
2B – Marcus Giles – $3.85MM
SS – Edgar Renteria – $6.333MM
3B – Chipper Jones – $11MM
IF – Pete Orr – $0.34MM
IF – Willy Aybar – $0.33MM
IF – Martin Prado – $0.33MM
LF – Matt Diaz – $0.33MM, Ryan Langerhans – $0.345MM
CF – Andruw Jones – $13.5MM
RF – Jeff Francoeur – $0.3845MM
1B/OF – Scott Thorman – $0.33MM

SP – John Smoltz – $8MM
SP – Chuck James – $0.327MM
SP – Mike Hampton – $14.5MM
SP – Tim Hudson – $6MM
SP – Horacio Ramirez – $2.2MM
SP – Kyle Davies – $0.3335MM
SP – Anthony Lerew – $0.33MM

RP – Bob Wickman – $6.5MM
RP – Chris Reitsma – $2.75MM
RP – Oscar Villarreal – $0.4625MM
RP – Lance Cormier – $0.345MM
RP – Macay McBride – $0.332MM
RP – Kevin Barry – $0.33MM
RP – Blaine Boyer – $0.336MM
RP – Joey Devine – $0.33MM
RP – Wayne Franklin – $0.33MM
RP – Chad Paronto – $0.33MM
RP – Ken Ray – $0.33MM
RP – Tyler Yates – $0.33MM

RP – John Foster – $0.35MM (TJ June ’06)
RP – Kelly Johnson – $0.336MM (TJ June ’06)

With some raises, my ballpark estimate for the payroll is $85MM.  The Braves were at $90MM on Opening Day 2006.

The Braves intend to trim $4MM by trading Giles this winter.  They’ll go with Prado and Aybar at second base.  A more sensible plan would’ve been to keep Wilson Betemit instead of trading him for Danys Baez, but what’s done is done.  By the way, an analysis of Giles led to this conclusion by Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus:

"If the Braves do indeed move Giles this winter, as has been whispered, then some new team might have themselves a second baseman who is still within his peak productivity, and may even get him at bargain-basement pricing, considering his "off" year. Considering this winter’s weak free agent class, adding a player of Giles’ caliber would be a serious upgrade in a market that doesn’t offer very many of those."

Moving along – the idea of trading Chipper has come up, but the Braves probably can’t find anything that makes sense.  Jones is shooting for 150 games in 2007 after playing only 110 in 2005 and again this year.  Most likely, Braves fans will be seeing plenty of Aybar at third and the team won’t have an alternative to Prado at second while Jones is out. 

At .282/.352/.433 this year, the Braves’ left field platoon has been affordable but below average in slugging for the position.  Schuerholz needs to bring someone in.  The team hasn’t had a power hitter in left since Chipper played there in ’03.  The norm has been names like Diaz, Langerhans, B.J. Surhoff, Bobby Bonilla, Reggie Sanders – veteran retreads or overexposed fourth outfielders.  Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Lee are the difference makers available.  The Braves aren’t going to make a huge free agent signing, but a trade for Crawford is possible.  Chuck James would enjoy that outfield defense.

Smoltz and James are locked into the first two slots in the ’07 rotation.  Smoltz will be 40 and James is due for a regression, but it’s a good start.  Hampton recently threw batting practice after returning from Tommy John surgery.  Yes, the Braves are paying the full $14.5MM for him in ’07.  The thought that Tim Hudson will bounce back is probably wishful thinking.  His peripherals have been steadily unimpressive for two seasons now, and that spells an ERA at 4.50 or worse. 

The fifth starter will probably be Davies or Ramirez.  Davies, at least, has the potential to pitch better than a fifth starter.  He’ll be 23 and healthy, and I think he’ll rightfully be the favorite. 

The rotation has a chance to be solid if not spectacular.  The Braves will be fortunate to get league average work from Hampton, Hudson, and Davies, but there are no huge holes.

Schuerholz gave Wickman the big bucks to finally end the team’s closer problems.  It seemed like a necessary evil.  One would expect the usual cast of no-names, kids, and retreads rounding out the pen behind Wickman and Villarreal.  I can’t say I disagree.

The Braves are saddled by some large salaries on guys who won’t earn them – Chipper, Hampton, Hudson.  Chipper has already restructured his contract to free some dollars for the club.  If the Braves only have $5-10MM to spend this winter, they should use it on a power-hitting left fielder.  The time is now for the Braves, who may be without Smoltz and Andruw Jones in 2008.