2007 Team Outlooks Rumors

2007 Oakland A’s

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

Billy Beane’s contract obligations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Houston Astros

The Astros are due for the next Team Outlook. 

Tim Purpura’s contract obligations:

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

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

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

SP – Brandon Backe – $0.4425MM
1B – Jeff Bagwell – $7MM buyout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Minnesota Twins

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

Terry Ryan’s contract obligations:

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

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

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

SP – Francisco Liriano – $0.38MM

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Chicago Cubs

Updated 12/07/2006

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

Jim Hendry’s 2007 contract obligatons:

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

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

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


RP – Kerry Wood – $3MM

Injured players:

RP – Glendon Rusch – $3.25MM

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

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

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

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

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

2007 St. Louis Cardinals

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

2007 contract obligations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 New York Mets

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

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

Omar Minaya’s contractual obligations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Seattle Mariners

Next up, those Seattle Mariners.  Many thanks to the fine Mariners blogs U.S.S. Mariner and Lookout Landing for their work.  It’s always good to consult the experts before doing a writeup on their team. 

Bill Bavasi’s contract obligations:

C – Kenji Johjima – $5.2MM
C – Guillermo Quiroz – $0.3275MM
1B – Richie Sexson – $14MM
2B – Jose Lopez – $0.335MM
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt – $0.4MM
3B – Adrian Beltre – $11.5MM
IF – Willie Bloomquist – $1MM
LF – Raul Ibanez – $5.5MM
CF – Ichiro Suzuki – $11MM
RF – Chris Snelling – $0.3285MM
OF – Jeremy Reed – $0.375MM
DH – Ben Broussard – $2.5MM, Eduardo Perez – club option, est. $2MM

SP –
SP – Felix Hernandez – $0.34MM
SP – Jarrod Washburn – $10MM (estimated)
SP – Jake Woods – $0.332MM
SP – Cha Seung Baek – $0.332MM

RP – J.J. Putz – $0.415MM
RP – Rafael Soriano – $0.5MM
RP – George Sherrill – $0.335MM
RP – Francisco Cruceta – $0.33MM
RP – Mark Lowe – $0.33MM
RP – Julio Mateo – $1MM

It seems that the club has roughly $70-75MM tied up for 2007.  The Opening Day 2006 payroll was about $88MM.  There are all sorts of ways Bavasi can prove his mettle with the ’07 club.

The catching situation is well accounted for, and that’s a feather in Bavasi’s cap.  It’s probably time to let Quiroz back up Johjima, which is not a big risk because Johjima is out there almost 85% of the time.

In perusing Lookout Landing, speculation was that the Ms could attempt to trade Sexson this winter coming off a resurgent second half.  Given his salary, age, and profile, that’s a fine idea.  In the meantime, we’ll pencil him in.

The middle infield looks OK.  Jose Lopez appeared to be breaking out this year, but pitchers adjusted and he hasn’t responded.  Next year will be his age 23 season, so there’s hope for more growth.  Betancourt’s stepped it up a little bit and will hopefully continue to do so as a 25 year-old.

Since June, Beltre’s been quite good at .284/.343/.521.  Mark Teahen is the only 3B in the league who outhit him over that time period.  Beltre could still be moved; Bavasi might get a good return given the weak free agent class. 

Ibanez is solid in left, and Ichiro’s finally moved to CF to help the club.  It looks like Snelling can hit like a league average RF (.287/.350/.472).  It would be wise to keep Jeremy Reed around as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement rather than deal him with his value at a low.

The Brourez DH monster hasn’t worked out well in Seattle, surprisingly.  At least part of it should be back for ’07, if for nothing else than to justify the price paid for Perez and Broussard.

Skipping ahead to the bullpen – it looks like one of the game’s best and at a ridiculously low cost.  If the medical staff can keep these guys healthy Mariner games will become six inning affairs.

Obviously the big need in Seattle is starting pitching.  Woods and Baek should maybe be competing for the fifth slot, but both will probably struggle given full-season exposure.  Both pitchers might be penciled into rotation slots to begin 2007, but it won’t end that way.  In reality, the Ms need one ace and one mid-level guy to field a competitive team next year.  Ryan Feierabend looks promising, but may not be ready until 2008. 

Maybe the Japanese connection will help the Mariners snare Daisuke Matsuzaka, or perhaps Jason Schmidt or Adam Eaton will be persuaded to pitch near home.  Getting the Japanese star in addition to Schmidt/Zito could never happen given the number of teams looking to spend money on pitching.  Bavasi should do everything he can to get Matsuzaka, and then try a Miguel Batista/Byung-Hyun Kim/Jeff Weaver type as well.  Last year, the Mariners came in second in an attempt to sign Wade Miller.  They could renew interest this winter.         

2007 Philadelphia Phillies

People seem to be enjoying these 2007 outlooks I’ve been doing by team, so I’ll keep ’em coming.  Check out the new 2007 Team Outlooks link to see all of the past ones. 

Here are the current contract obligations for the Phillies.  I should also add that I utilized the terrific Beerleaguer Phillies Blog as a resource to learn some details about the team’s plans.

C – Carlos Ruiz – $0.33MM
C – Chris Coste – $0.33MM
1B – Ryan Howard – $0.355MM
2B – Chase Utley – $0.5MM
SS – Jimmy Rollins – $7MM
3B –
1B/OF – Jeff Conine – $2MM mutual option
IF – Abraham Nunez – $2.1MM
LF – Pat Burrell – $13MM
CF – Aaron Rowand – $3.25MM player or $5MM club option
RF – Shane Victorino – $0.33MM

SP – Brett Myers – $3.3MM
SP – Cole Hamels – $0.33MM
SP – Jamie Moyer – $6MM
SP – Jon Lieber – $7.5MM
SP –

RP – Tom Gordon – $7MM
RP – Ryan Madson – $0.4MM
RP – Geoff Geary – $0.35MM
RP – Fabio Castro – $0.327MM
RP – Clay Condrey – $0.33MM
RP – Matt Smith – $0.33MM
RP – Eude Brito – $0.33MM

Current obligations, once raises come in, look to be a touch over $60MM.  The Phils began last season with an $88MM payroll, so there should be money to spend this winter.

Mike Lieberthal‘s finally off the books, and it does not seem like the Phils will bring him back in a part-time role.  Pat Gillick hasn’t fully committed to it, but he is open to the idea of going with the low-cost Ruiz/Coste tandem.  Ruiz will be 28 next season, and he hit a robust .307/.389/.505 at Triple A this year.  He’s gotten only 59 big league ABs to prove himself this year.  Coste is a minor league lifer who bombed in a Triple A stint this year but had a great July and August for the Phillies.

The Phils have a great infield core, but have lacked a league average third baseman since David Bell‘s 2004.  They’ll probably look to the free agent market for their next 3B.  Options include Pedro Feliz, Aubrey Huff, Joe Randa, Nomar Garciaparra, Shea Hillenbrand, and perhaps Aramis Ramirez.  Not all of those guys can post an .820 OPS (league average) as well as handle third base regularly.  Gillick will just have to do the best he can; I can see him ending up with Hillenbrand.  If Ramirez hits the market, it will be tough to outbid the Angels and Dodgers.  The longshot solution: trade for Alex Rodriguez.

Pat the Bat has an untradeable contract and a no-trade clause, so the Phillies will have to be happy with Burrell in left.  Maybe Gillick can get creative and make something work, but the odds are against it.  Though Burrell’s 2006 may seem disappointing, it’s been very similar to his ’05.  He’s still hitting better than the average NL LF.

Some Phils fans envision Victorino in center and Rowand moving to right, but the above arrangement seems most likely.  Gillick will have to choose between using Victorino as a subpar offensive RF or a very good fourth outfielder.  In a perfect world, he’d sign a better RF and choose the latter option.  The market does contain some useful right fielders like Jose Guillen or Gary Sheffield.  This could be a creative way to compensate for the weak 3B market.

Pitching staff: the current version of Jon Lieber isn’t a great way to spend $7.5MM, but it’s been an inflated pitching market for years.  You could do worse for your fourth starter.  A front two of Myers and Hamels is impressive.  When he traded for Moyer, Gillick worked out a mutual option for 2007 with him.  I guessed around $6MM.  Right now it’s just a possibility that Moyer returns.  Given the short-term commitment and Moyer’s success, the Phils really need him to stay.

If Moyer stays, the Phillies can get by trying Brito, Gavin Floyd, or a retread in the fifth starter slot.  Carlos Silva‘s name has also been mentioned.  If Moyer leaves, they need to hit the market and spend some money.  The market offers options aplenty, depending on what Gillick wants to spend.  Big names, medium names, former Phillies, it’s all there.  The club could opt to retain Randy Wolf, but I don’t see it.   

The bullpen looks fine to me.  Gordon, the emergence of Geary, the re-establishment of Madson – they should be OK.  Maybe one low-level signing.


2007 Los Angeles Angels

So Arte Moreno has guaranteed big changes in Los Angeles this winter.  Let’s explore his current obligations and needs.

C – Mike Napoli – $0.35MM
C – Jose Molina – $1.25MM
1B – 
2B – Howie Kendrick – $0.35MM
SS – Orlando Cabrera – $7.5MM
3B –
IF – Robb Quinlan – $0.365MM
IF – Maicer Izturis – $0.35MM
LF – Juan Rivera – $2.025MM
CF – Chone Figgins – $3.5MM
RF – Vladimir Guerrero – $13.5MM
DH – Garret Anderson – $11MM

SP – Bartolo Colon – $14MM
SP – Kelvim Escobar – $8.5MM
SP – John Lackey – $5.5MM
SP – Ervin Santana – $0.35MM
SP – Joe Saunders – $0.35MM
SP – Jered Weaver – $0.35MM

RP – Francisco Rodriguez – $3.775MM
RP – Hector Carrasco – $2.75MM
RP – Scot Shields – $2.1MM
RP – Brendan Donnelly – $0.95MM
RP – Kevin Gregg – $0.36MM
RP –
RP –

This club has about $80MM committed for ’07, and we can tack on another $5MM or so for raises.  But I haven’t seen any particular payroll limit mentioned, so they may be willing to take on another $40MM for next year.

The needs are fairly obvious: big bats at the corners.  I’m sure they’re praying Aramis Ramirez opts out of his contract, because then there’d be a bona fide slugger available for third base.  Assuming he doesn’t, there’s always the Miguel Tejada option.  The Angels are stacked with enough starting pitching and position prospect depth to get a deal done.  Even if the Orioles are difficult.

Another good option at third would be Joe Crede, should the White Sox make him available.  Guys like Hank Blalock and Adrian Beltre could be had, but no one knows if they’ll bounce back.  Morgan Ensberg is a name you don’t hear a lot in connection with the Angels, but he’d be a decent fit.

First base doesn’t offer many top tier choices, though Gary Sheffield would be interesting.  And really, who can’t play first base?  The Angels could make room for Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, or even Jim Edmonds if they had to.  Also, given the fragility of Garret Anderson and Mike Napoli‘s abysmal second half performance, signing Mike Piazza would be a smart move.

While most free agent signings mean overpaying, it may be a better option for L.A. than trading top-tier prospects like Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood, Erick Aybar, or Hank Conger.  The team is also stocked with lesser but still interesting talent like Kendry Morales, Reggie Willits, Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Terry Evans, and Sean Rodriguez

One could practically assemble a team of "failed" Angels prospects.  I’m sure the club expected the corners to be a strength when McPherson and Kotchman were on the rise.  McPherson will be 27 next year and took a step backward at Triple A, so his star is dimming quickly.  Though Kotchman lost this season to mono, he’ll only be 24 next year and has quite a bit of promise.  And Mathis?  He had a 12 game trial before his demotion.  He’s only 23, and he posted a decent .763 OPS in Triple A this year.  Morales got less than 200 ABs to establish himself at age 23.

Moreno has pledged to shake things up, so we are going to see trades, signings, and veteran acquisitions.  Personally, I’d rather see the team try Wood at third, Kotchman/Morales at first, and Mathis behind the plate.  I’d sign Piazza in case Kotchman/Morales/Mathis doesn’t work out, and acquire a third baseman midseason if Wood proves he’s not ready.  Given the rotation depth and young talent, I don’t see the need for a huge expenditure.

If I had to spend money, I’d give Sheffield a two-year deal to play first and let Kotchman re-establish himself in Triple A.  Then I’d use him as primary trade bait to fill any midseason needs.  Trading a starter like Saunders or Santana could prove shortsighted, as Colon and Escobar are not entirely reliable.  Colon, for one, is recovering from a torn rotator cuff.  Ask Mark Prior how that worked out.  Flashback to February: "My shoulder is perfectly healthy."


2007 Boston Red Sox

Recently, I took a look at how the 2007 Blue Jays might spend their money this winter.  Let’s give the Red Sox the same treatment.

Under contract for 2007:

Expected 2007 payroll: $120-140MM (Olney)

C – Jason Varitek – $9MM
1B – Kevin Youkilis – $0.4MM
2B – Dustin Pedroia – 0.3MM
SS –
3B – Mike Lowell – $9MM
LF – Manny Ramirez – $18MM
CF – Coco Crisp – $3.5MM
RF – Wily Mo Pena – $2.5MM, Eric Hinske – $5.625MM
DH – David Ortiz – $12.5MM

SP – Curt Schilling – $13MM
SP – Josh Beckett – $6MM
SP – Tim Wakefield – $4MM
SP – Jonathan Papelbon – $0.35MM
SP –
SP – Matt Clement – $9.5MM
SP – Jon Lester – $0.35MM

RP –
RP – Julian Tavarez – $3.1MM
RP – Craig Hansen – $1MM
RP – Manny Delcarmen – $0.35MM
RP –
RP –
RP – Craig Breslow – $0.3MM

The Red Sox have about $100MM committed by my estimate; you can add in a few more million in case they hang on to Hee Seop Choi or Carlos Pena

The team’s decision with Jonathan Papelbon will be interesting because it will determine the area of pitching on which they need to focus.  If he goes to the rotation, the team can get by without a major free agent signing.  I’m assuming Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, and Papelbon enter spring training healthy.  The team could use spot starters like Kyle Snyder to fill the fifth spot until one of Matt Clement or Jon Lester is ready to step in.

Taking Papelbon out of the bullpen leaves us with Julian Tavarez and a cast of even bigger question marks.  The free agent market offers no reassurances.  The Red Sox can bring back guys like Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, Alan Embree, or Mike Timlin, but those are expensive gambles.  They can risk millions on Danys Baez, Eric Gagne, Bob Wickman, or Joe BorowskiAs I mentioned before, a trade for Brad Lidge might make sense in this scenario.  Boston is going to have to stockpile relief pitching depth somehow.  One outside the box solution would be to go after Japanese closer Hirotoshi Ishii.

I figure the club can go with Dustin Pedroia at second base to save some cash, making shortstop the only obvious remaining hole.  Alex Gonzalez would be no worse a solution than he was last year.  Otherwise there’s Craig Counsell or maybe overpaying for Julio Lugo.  The answer here won’t be pretty.

As far as trades go, speculation has been that the Red Sox will attempt to unload some of Mike Lowell, Coco Crisp, and Matt Clement.  This is where Theo Epstein has the chance to be creative and find some relievers for cheap.  Crisp and Clement would be selling low, so the Red Sox could wait until they show something in ’07 before making a deal. 

Lowell’s had a nice bounceback season; he’s been a touch above league average for his position.  Given a weak free agent 3B class the Red Sox might get some value back by taking on a portion of his $9MM salary.  The Sox could use Kevin Youkilis at third base and then try some combo of Hinske, Choi, and Pena at first.  The Twins, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, or Padres could match up in a Lowell trade.

If ownership really does want to expand the payroll past $120MM, they could make another attempt to bring Roger Clemens in as a midseason reinforcement.  Buster Olney, for one, sees this happening.