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Up next in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Rays. Here’s how they’re set up.
C – Dioner Navarro
1B – Carlos Pena
2B – Akinori Iwamura
SS – Jason Bartlett
3B – Evan Longoria
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – B.J. Upton
RF – Cliff Floyd/Rocco Baldelli/Jonny Gomes
DH – Cliff Floyd/Rocco Baldelli/Jonny Gomes
SP – Scott Kazmir
SP – Jamie Shields
SP – Matt Garza
SP – Andy Sonnanstine/Edwin Jackson/Jeff Niemann/Jason Hammel/J.P. Howell
SP – Andy Sonnanstine/Edwin Jackson/Jeff Niemann/Jason Hammel/J.P. Howell
Setup: Al Reyes
Closer: Troy Percival
The ’07 Rays ranked 8th in the league in OBP and 4th in SLG. How can they find the needed OBP improvement? Delmon Young‘s sub-par OBP is gone, replaced with the Gomes/Floyd/Baldelli rotation. Let’s consider any Baldelli contribution as gravy and just look at what Gomes and Floyd will provide. Gomes had a .322 OBP last year and owns a career mark of .335. He draws plenty of walks, between 9-13% of his plate appearances. To become an above average Major Leaguer he is going to have to make better contact and get his batting average up. Floyd had a fine .373 OBP in ’07 and has a .359 career mark. I think the planned three-man RF/DH rotation is a fine idea for a team not quite ready to contend. It would be very interesting to see the Rays bring Bobby Abreu back next winter though.
Navarro was insanely bad before the break in ’07 but had a solid .815 OPS after. He’s just 24 in February. Another improvement should come with Iwamura spending all year at second base. More of him plus Longoria’s projected .350 OBP instead of Ty Wigginton push this team’s OBP even higher. No more Josh Wilson, more games for Upton, and the addition of Willy Aybar are other sources of OBP. The ’08 Rays are primed to reach base more often.
While the metric isn’t perfect, the Rays’ 5.20 starter ERA tells you something. However, hope is on the way. The rotation is already fronted by sub-4 ERA beasts Kazmir and Shields. New addition Garza should remain above average. Then the goal is to find the best of Hammel, Jackson, Sonnanstine, Howell, and Niemann. While these aren’t household names there’s a lot of talent in that group. The pitching pipeline is stacked with five-star prospects David Price and Wade Davis plus a four-star Jacob McGee. The "need" for ’08 is to let young pitchers get their big league reps in. The Rays don’t need a veteran free agent stealing valuable innings – instead save the money and bring in a difference-maker for ’09.
The Rays’ bullpen was league-worst in ’07, but they’ve already taken steps to address it. The last piece of the puzzle may be to find a lefty like Trever Miller. But this ‘pen will be much improved with Percival, Eduardo Morlan (acquired in the Delmon Young trade), a full year of Dan Wheeler, and the starting pitching runoff (Niemann could be interesting). Maybe the big move for a Lidge/Nathan/K-Rod makes sense next winter.
Let’s see here. The best farm system in baseball (aided by all the losing) has the Rays overflowing with young talent. Pitching, hitting, you name it. Oh, and they have the #1 pick again this summer (read about some options for that here). You can never have enough pitching, so the Rays should probably just keep all the arms. A healthy Baldelli would be an interesting trade chip. Bartlett or Iwamura could become expendable if Reid Brignac makes strides.
The other luxury for Tampa Bay is payroll flexibility. They have no bad contracts. They could make a couple of big-time signings in the winter of 2008-09 and still have one of the lowest payrolls in the game. ’08 is where the Rays finally crack .500. ’09 is where they start showing the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays that they’re not messing around, and reach the playoffs for the first time. This bandwagon is picking up steam.
Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Reds. I realize the timing of this series wasn’t ideal, doing a bunch and then tailing off. It’s something I can improve next time around, but it still seems people would like to see the remaining teams reviewed. Anyway, here’s how the Reds are set up:
C – Dave Ross
1B – Joey Votto/Scott Hatteberg
2B – Brandon Phillips
SS – Alex Gonzalez
3B – Edwin Encarnacion
LF – Adam Dunn
CF – Ryan Freel/Norris Hopper/Jay Bruce
RF – Ken Griffey Jr.
SP – Aaron Harang
SP – Bronson Arroyo
SP – Matt Belisle
SP – Homer Bailey
SP – Edinson Volquez/Johnny Cueto
Setup – David Weathers
Closer – Francisco Cordero
The Reds had a middle of the pack offense in ’07, same as ’06. Last year the Reds had below league-average offense at catcher and third base. I think Encarnacion will be fine, so one need might be to upgrade over Ross behind the plate. Would it make sense to acquire Michael Barrett for peanuts, to see if he can return to form?
The Reds have enough depth in center field to stand pat. Even if Bruce needs a few more months in the minors, Freel can probably hold down the fort.
One could envision the ’08 Reds cracking 800 runs if everyone stays healthy in ’08, which would probably be top five in the league.
Not shockingly, the Reds’ big need is on the run prevention side. Let’s start with defense – they were third from the bottom in defensive efficiency in ’07. Maybe a bit more of Gonzalez will help on that front, but the Reds are mostly locked in with their position players. They are not in a position to give up offense for defense.
The Reds allowed 853 runs in ’07, 15th out of 16 NL teams. Their bullpen was awful and the rotation was below average. If the Reds push their runs allowed all the way down to 780, they’re still probably just an 83 win team. Now, if they get the runs allowed down to 750, that’s 86 wins. A dash of luck and they’re in the playoffs. To allow 750 runs would be league average or maybe a touch better.
Cordero helps the Reds’ previously terrible pen, but this rotation isn’t good enough to get to 750 runs allowed. The Mets were at the 750 level last year, the Dodgers the year before. You generally need three solid 30-start guys, not two and a bunch of question marks. The Reds have a huge incentive to get Erik Bedard – with him, they’re a playoff contender, without him they’re not. They are a team on the fringe, and Jon Lieber or Brett Tomko won’t push them over the edge. Add an ace, you can sniff 90 wins.
Dunn and Griffey might be gone after the ’08 season, and the Cordero signing was a win-now move. Jonathan Mayo wouldn’t give up Bruce for Bedard, but that might be the only way the Reds make the playoffs this year. It would be a huge gamble, and depends on whether the team is trying to win right now or in 2009-10. Can’t have both.
Bruce isn’t really a luxury, since the team traded Josh Hamilton and their corner outfielders may leave after ’08. Trading near-MLB ready pitchers like Bailey and Cueto doesn’t help the win-now cause though. Six years of Bruce is a ton to surrender, but Bedard is the ace they need. A one-for-one offer should be seriously considered.
You could call guys like Hatteberg and Freel luxuries, but neither is going to net anything particularly useful.
Let’s take a look at the Braves’ needs and luxuries (many requests for this one). Click here and scroll down to read other entries in the series.
C – Brian McCann
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Kelly Johnson
SS – Yunel Escobar
3B – Chipper Jones
LF – Matt Diaz/Brandon Jones
CF – Josh Anderson/Jordan Schafer
RF – Jeff Francoeur
SP – John Smoltz
SP – Tim Hudson
SP – Tom Glavine
SP – Chuck James
SP – Jair Jurrjens/Jo-Jo Reyes/Mike Hampton/Jeff Bennett
Setup – Peter Moylan
Closer – Rafael Soriano
I think we have to view center field as a need for the Braves. The 2007 Major League Equivalency for Josh Anderson: .223/.257/.277. When a guy can barely crack a .700 OPS in the minors he’s obviously not big league material. Schafer hasn’t played above High A ball yet. Even with strong defense he seems a reach right now.
Mike Cameron seems like a great fit for these Braves, even if they have to give him a two-year deal.
Assuming Frank Wren’s bullpen remains respectable I don’t see any other needs for this team. They’re in very good shape.
The Braves have a strong offense and a respectable-looking rotation. They seem to have a decent fifth-starter competition going. However I would not go as far as to call pitching a luxury (James should not be dealt). After giving up a lot of prospects to get Teixeira, I also probably would not look to trade for a veteran starter or center fielder and further damage the farm system.
To sum it up, just sign Cameron and go for it.
Next up in the Needs and Luxuries series, the White Sox.
C – A.J. Pierzynski
1B – Paul Konerko
2B – Danny Richar/Juan Uribe
SS – Orlando Cabrera
3B – Joe Crede/Josh Fields
LF – Carlos Quentin
RF – Jermaine Dye
DH – Jim Thome
SP – Javier Vazquez
SP – Mark Buehrle
SP – Jose Contreras
SP – John Danks
SP – Gavin Floyd
Setup: Scott Linebrink
Closer: Bobby Jenks
The Sox had the worst OBP in the AL at .318. Everyone knows they need a good strong dose of on-base percentage. Their .404 team SLG ranked 12th of 14, so some added pop is needed as well. The pop may come from more Fields and less Erstad/Podsednik.
Center field is pretty much the only position at which the Sox aren’t committed. I suppose they could upgrade second base too. So let’s see…center fielder who can get on base…that rules out Juan Pierre and Coco Crisp straight off. Honestly the Sox have backed themselves into a corner by not having OBP at catcher, second base, shortstop, third base, or right field. I will say that I loved the acquisition of Carlos Quentin. And Thome is an OBP monster. Anyway I recommend signing Kenny Lofton or trading for David DeJesus.
I know Kenny Williams and Dayton Moore get along well, though the price for DeJesus will probably be the shred of starting pitching left in Chicago’s farm system. So how ’bout Lofton, who played for the Sox back in ’02? But here’s the kicker of my plan: pair him with Ryan Freel. Freel couldn’t touch lefties last year but the two previous years he had OBPs over .400 against them.
Stay with me here…taking Lofton’s ’07 vs. righties and Freel’s ’06 vs. lefties and creating one hybrid Frofton Monster, you get a .311/.394/.444 hitter. Even better, Freel can help out at second base when righties are on the hill. And Sox fans will love his style! He can’t be that hard to pry away/buy low from the Reds, can he? I admit this idea didn’t give much consideration to CF defense, but hey, I’m just spitballing here.
Every team needs starting pitching, but I feel the White Sox are right to just go with what they’ve got here and hope for the best. Gio Gonzalez is a decent prospect who might be able to help by summertime if Danks, Floyd, or Contreras really craps out. If two of them crap out, Kenny Williams has to make a deal. As for the bullpen, I wouldn’t throw more money at that even if it’s not perfect.
Joe Crede, who should cost $5MM or so in the last year of team control, is the team’s main luxury. Strong defense, good pop, weak OBP, weak third base market. Still, his trade value isn’t huge right now coming off back surgery. One nice fit could be the Halos, who have extra outfielders. Crede isn’t a match for Reggie Willits; the White Sox would have to kick in something really nice to pull that off. The Giants could send Rajai Davis over, who could be a decent platoon partner for Lofton in center. The Brewers could maybe flip a starting pitcher over. The Phils don’t seem to match up with Chicago’s needs.
Relievers David Aardsma and Nick Masset are out options, so they might be thrown in to spice up a deal. The Sox also have Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney, a couple of center fielders they may be ready to give up on. Hopefully for Kenny Williams quantity means quality and he can throw together a bunch of these guys to get one player who can really help the ’08 team.
As promised, here is the Padres’ entry in the Needs and Luxuries series.
C – Josh Bard
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Matt Antonelli
SS – Khalil Greene
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff
LF – Scott Hairston
CF – Jason Lane
RF – Brian Giles
SP – Jake Peavy
SP – Chris Young
SP – Greg Maddux
SP – Justin Germano
Setup: Heath Bell
Closer: Trevor Hoffman
The 2007 Padres were 15th of 16 NL teams with a .322 OBP. They were 12th with a .411 SLG. Those numbers may be misleading – looking only at road games, the Padres were 6th in OBP and 3rd in SLG. Still, you’d like to have a few regulars top a .760 OPS at home next year (no one pulled it off in ’07).
Center field, left field, and second base are question marks heading into ’08. There are viable in-house options. Antonelli was named "the best second base prospect in the game" by Kevin Goldstein after a breakout year. He played college ball; he’ll be 23 in April. He’s only got 49 games of Double A experience under his belt, so the Padres could bring in some veteran competition this spring.
Hairston and Lane are both interesting outfield candidates, perhaps for a left field platoon. If Hairston can stay healthy he may finally establish himself as a regular. Kouzmanoff could enter the LF mix as well with third base prospect Chase Headley coming on strong. Intriguing one-year option: Barry Bonds.
As for center field, that’ll be filled from the outside. Kosuke Fukudome could play there for a year and shift to right field after that. Kevin Towers may make a huge one-year offer to Andruw Jones; Boras has scoffed at the one-year idea but you never know. Trading for Coco Crisp doesn’t make sense; the Friars need to add offense. Aaron Rowand could be a consideration.
It’ll be interesting to see how Kevin Towers fills his fifth starter spot. He could sign Josh Towers if he’s non-tendered. He could go for rehab projects like Matt Clement, Mark Prior, or a million others.
Towers continues to create solid relievers out of nowhere. Many have seen success vanish after San Diego, but there will still be a market for guys like Heath Bell (1.46 ERA in 49 road innings). The Padres could use Bell to pursue Adam Dunn or Jason Bay. It would take more, but that could be a starting point.
Kouzmanoff or Hairston could also be expendable. Chase Headley hit .330/.437/.580 in 433 Double A at-bats and plays solid defense (Kouz does not, by most accounts). Kouzmanoff has more value than Hairston right now, and this is a great time to have an extra third baseman. The Twins and Phillies could have interest. After an awful April, Kouzmanoff hit .303/.355/.504 in 110 games.
The Padres entered ’07 with a $58MM payroll, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see $10-12MM added to that. Expect one major acquisition this winter, with Fukudome the favorite.
Here’s a look at Baltimore’s current setup for 2008.
C – Ramon Hernandez
1B – Kevin Millar
2B – Brian Roberts
SS – Miguel Tejada
3B – Melvin Mora
LF – Jay Gibbons
CF – Jay Payton
RF – Nick Markakis
DH – Aubrey Huff
SP – Erik Bedard
SP – Jeremy Guthrie
SP – Daniel Cabrera
SP – Adam Loewen
SP – Brian Burres/Garrett Olson/Hayden Penn
Setup/Closer: Jamie Walker/Chad Bradford
Take a look at that starting lineup again. The Orioles are a train wreck, and need to be blown to smithereens and rebuilt. Their need is pretty easy to assess – they need cheap, young, talented players. Sure, all teams need those, but the O’s need to abandon any pretense of winning in 2008.
The ’07 Orioles were below average in every regard. The long-term Orioles need corner infielders, a left fielder, and a center fielder at minimum. If you don’t think they can win in by 2009, then they need middle infielders too.
The O’s need another reliable starter to complement the Bedard-Guthrie tandem. They need to be patient with Cabrera, who at least set a career high in innings and starts. They need some homegrown or otherwise cheap relievers with a pulse.
Most of all, the Orioles need fiscal responsibility. Hopefully Andy MacPhail will bring it.
The Orioles have frontline talent in Tejada, Bedard, Roberts, Markakis, and Matt Wieters. The last two are cornerstones.
Tejada is not a part of the long-term future. Despite signs of decline, he can still be dealt for a nice bevy of young players. Maybe not a Teixeira-sized bounty, but two quality players. The Tigers, Phillies, Red Sox, White Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, and half of the NL Central ought to be interested. Tejada is the team’s most tradeable asset and he absolutely must be cashed in this winter.
The O’s are at a crossroads with Bedard and Roberts. They’re locked in through 2009, and would have a lot of value on the trade market. The Orioles have to at least listen on these guys. Bedard is going to cost a king’s ransom to sign long-term, and Roberts may prefer to leave for a winner.
Then there’s the veteran riff-raff. The Orioles have tons of expendable veterans with moderate to questionable trade value: Hernandez, Millar, Mora, Gibbons, Payton, Huff, Walker, and Bradford. Gibbons and Mora are un-tradeable, but the rest should be swapped out for the most interesting 0-3 players available. The Orioles must remain open to eating salary if they can in effect purchase some quality prospects.
Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Mets.
1B – Carlos Delgado
2B – Ruben Gotay
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – David Wright
LF – Carlos Gomez
CF – Carlos Beltran
RF – Lastings Milledge
SP – Pedro Martinez
SP – Orlando Hernandez
SP – Oliver Perez
SP – John Maine
SP – Mike Pelfrey/Philip Humber
Setup: Aaron Heilman/Duaner Sanchez
Closer: Billy Wagner
The Mets had a strong offense in ’07, basically the third best in the NL. Their starting pitching was above average, and their bullpen was roughly in the middle. They ranked second in the league in defensive efficiency.
As you can see above, the Mets have vacancies at catcher, second base, left field, and perhaps in the rotation. That’s because Paul Lo Duca, Ramon Castro, Luis Castillo, Moises Alou, and Tom Glavine could all be playing for different teams in 2008.
It’s probably time to move on from Lo Duca, who stopped hitting. The viable free agent options are Jorge Posada, Castro, Michael Barrett, and Miguel Olivo, in that order. Overpaying to lure Posada is an interesting idea. Otherwise, you go for a bargain with one of the others. Trade options include Gerald Laird, Kelly Shoppach, Bengie Molina, and Ramon Hernandez. The latter two would be salary dumps, so the price in players might be negligible.
I discussed the Castillo situation here. I’d probably bring him back, but I’d first learn the asking price for Orlando Hudson, Mark Ellis, and Freddy Sanchez. The first two are free agents after the ’08 season.
Left field, you gotta exercise Mo at $7.5MM (effectively $6.5MM). Easy choice, and Endy Chavez is a nice fourth outfielder. Right field is Milledge’s, no questions asked. I wouldn’t go after a center fielder and then try to shift Beltran over. That sets the outfield in my mind, though Mike Nichols of MetsBlog advocates an Adam Dunn trade.
A starting pitcher is a must, as no one in the ’08 rotation pitched 200 innings. Glavine is OK, but he already declined a $13MM option to stay. He’s probably not worth much more than $10MM. I think the goal is a big, grand starting pitcher acquisition like Johan Santana. I imagine Milledge, Maine, or Gomez would have to be part of such a deal, and the Mets would require a window for an extension.
A solid alternative would be to sign Curt Schilling, though that is a fairly brittle rotation. I’m recommending Schilling for a lot of teams, because he’s still effective and comes on a one-year deal. Not too many guys fit that description (Clemens might be the other, but I don’t like him for the Mets). Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects from the free agent market. And we’ve discussed the trade candidates many times before: Garland, Blanton, Lowry, Willis, Burnett, Igawa, Robertson. Can’t see the Astros making Oswalt available.
Some have advocated the Mets signing a Francisco Cordero type to anchor the pen and succeed Wagner. Signing Cordero or Mariano Rivera seems extravagant; the team has bigger needs. Maybe Omar can dip his feet in with a Troy Percival or someone like that. Good pens are usually built on the cheap. Plus, Duaner Sanchez should be back.
The Mets’ biggest luxury is probably money. Thing is, the free agent market doesn’t offer many star players to suit their needs. Posada and Schilling might be the only "star" players the Mets can acquire without giving up players.
The other luxury is prospects. Gomez’s star is still bright, while those of Pelfrey, Humber, Mike Carp, and Fernando Martinez have faded a touch. Gomez in particular might become a star, and could fetch one of the better players listed above. Omar Minaya’s been in a bit of a slump; can he spin some magic this winter?
Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Mariners.
C – Kenji Johjima
1B – Richie Sexson
2B – Jose Lopez
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
3B – Adrian Beltre
LF – Raul Ibanez
CF – Ichiro Suzuki
RF – Adam Jones
DH – Jose Vidro
SP – Felix Hernandez
SP – Jarrod Washburn
SP – Miguel Batista
SP – Cha Seung Baek
SP – Ryan Feierabend/Brandon Morrow
Setup: Sean Green/George Sherrill
Closer: J.J. Putz
Let’s start with the offense. The Ms placed seventh with a .337 OBP and seventh with a .425 SLG. Their offense could not have been more average.
Seems like we can stick a fork in Sexson after his .205/.295/.399 performance. I’ve heard people try to explain why his $14MM salary for ’08 wasn’t dumped on the Tigers when that team claimed him, and haven’t heard a convincing answer. At the least, the Ms shouldn’t feel compelled to play Sexson because of his salary.
That leaves first base open for Ibanez and maybe Vidro. Getting Ibanez out of left improves the outfield defense no matter who replaces him (I wouldn’t re-sign Jose Guillen, who’s got to be asking for more than 3/30). I wouldn’t mind seeing Wladimir Balentien get a shot as a regular, but then there’s the whole "two rookies in the outfield" problem. Maybe if Guillen asks for too much the Ms try to find another bargain outfielder on the free agent market, like Milton Bradley, Cliff Floyd, or Geoff Jenkins. Barry Bonds makes a ton of sense as the DH and part-time LF, but it appears the Mariners will pass.
Lopez just did not hit, and signing a Tadahito Iguchi wouldn’t be a bad move. I’d just hate to see Mark Loretta come in and offer the same subpar production level as Lopez. The Ms wanted to trade for Loretta this summer.
It seems the Mariners need to conjure up one starting pitcher. Their starters ranked 12th with a 5.16 ERA. That should come down with less Jeff Weaver/Horacio Ramirez, who combined for a 6.58 ERA in 244.6 innings. Better defense will help as well. The Ms may venture into the free agent pool again, despite the odds stacked against them. Carlos Silva, anyone? An innings-eater with a sub-5.00 ERA would be nice. Seattle scouted Jason Jennings and Livan Hernandez this summer. Curt Schilling would be a nice signing.
There may be some clamoring for a reliable eighth-inning bridge to get the ball to the game’s best reliever, J.J. Putz. If the money’s there and the other holes have been filled, I’m on board. A flyer on Octavio Dotel or Kerry Wood could work. Wood might want a contract with some incentives for starting, if his shoulder allows it.
The Mariners have two prospects who may not have roles with the ’08 club – Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien. If one or both are used in a trade, it’ll be for a decent starter. This year the club has been connected to Kei Igawa, Dontrelle Willis, Jon Garland, and Jose Contreras. A simple Wlad for Contreras swap might work for both teams. The Marlins could use a guy like Clement. The Yanks have no place for Igawa. Trading makes more sense than free agency.
Ibanez could definitely be considered a luxury; the Ms could live without him if Nate Robertson came in return. Ibanez is signed affordably at $5.5MM in the last year of his deal.
Next up in the series, the Rangers. You can view all of the Needs and Luxuries posts here. A note about this series: I’m choosing teams randomly, and only those not currently alive in the playoffs.
C – Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Gerald Laird
1B – Frank Catalanotto
2B – Ian Kinsler
SS – Michael Young
3B – Hank Blalock
LF – David Murphy
CF – Marlon Byrd
RF – Nelson Cruz
DH – Jason Botts
SP – Kevin Millwood
SP – Vicente Padilla
SP – Brandon McCarthy
SP – Kason Gabbard
SP – Edinson Volquez
Setup: Joaquin Benoit
Closer: C.J. Wilson
Jon Daniels has quite a bit of work to do. Basically the Rangers need a first baseman, at least one corner outfielder, and probably a center fielder. Most teams need reliable starting pitching, none more than Texas.
The Rangers were 11th in OBP and 6th in slugging out of the 14 AL clubs this year. Their starters had a league worst 5.50 ERA, while the bullpen was a bright spot with a third-ranked 3.69 ERA.
Let’s start with first base. The general consensus from what I’ve read is that the Rangers’ long-term replacement for Mark Teixeira is already in-house. Double A third baseman Chris Davis had a monster year, and is expected to move to first base or even DH when he arrives in late 2008 or early 2009. For that reason, the Rangers will find a stopgap for first base – Brad Wilkerson, Ben Broussard, Dan Johnson, Catalanotto – something like that.
A slugging corner outfielder would be nice. Maybe John Mayberry becomes that guy, maybe not. Let’s face it – the Rangers probably aren’t playing for 2008, so they don’t need to go nuts with stopgaps. Murphy and Byrd on the corners would be far from ideal, but they might as well get their reps in ’08.
The Rangers seem to be itching to sign a big-name elite center fielder, with Torii Hunter at the top of the list. Such a move would breathe life into the franchise, and Hunter would help the team win in ’09. If they get a hometown discount (ie, five years, $75MM), I’m OK with it.
The Rangers badly need starting pitching, but they’ll be better next year. They’re intrigued by Gabbard and Volquez in their last two slots, and have Eric Hurley on the rise. The veterans at the front are locked in, like it or not. Millwood was much better post-hamstring injury, while Padilla is just crazy. The McCarthy/Danks swap was a head-scratcher at the time, and Danks may officially pass McCarthy next year. McCarthy averaged only 4.5 innings per start for the Rangers. Even if the trade was a bad idea, they’ll give McCarthy many chances to succeed.
It’s hard to picture this rotation being in the top half of the AL, even if you adjust for Ameriquest. But the Rangers need to see what they have rather than waste money on the Carlos Silvas of the world.
Hmmm. Do the Rangers have a surplus of anything?
They might want to ditch Padilla and the $24MM owed to him over the next two years, but he’s no hot commodity.
Benoit is a free agent after 2008, and he’s already 30. Even if Wilson is to become the future closer, the Rangers should stick with Benoit in that role, pump up his value, and trade him in July. Or they should seriously consider trading him this winter.
Laird may be a luxury as well, with Salty the catcher of the future. We’ll have to see how the free agents sort out and determine which teams are looking for a more defensive-minded backstop.
The Rangers really have to use 2008 to sort out what they have, rather than give precious playing time to guys who won’t be a part of the next winning team. Maybe that’s why they’ve already distanced themselves from Barry Bonds. Nor does Sammy Sosa make sense, as Botts needs a legitimate continuous shot (and don’t try to sell me on the idea of Sammy providing veteran guidance).
Next up in the series, the Cubs. You can view all of the Needs and Luxuries posts here. A note about this series: I’m choosing teams randomly, and only those not currently alive in the playoffs.
C – Geovany Soto
1B – Derrek Lee
2B – Mark DeRosa
SS – Ryan Theriot/Ronny Cedeno
3B – Aramis Ramirez
LF – Alfonso Soriano
CF – Felix Pie
RF – Jacque Jones/Matt Murton
SP – Carlos Zambrano
SP – Ted Lilly
SP – Rich Hill
SP – Jason Marquis
SP – Sean Marshall/Mark Prior
Setup: Carlos Marmol/Bob Howry
Closer: Ryan Dempster
The Cubs ranked 9th in the NL in OBP (.333) and 8th in SLG (.422). As you would expect, that made for a middle of the pack offense. With most positions locked in, how can the Cubs fill the need for more offense?
One place to start is catcher, where a group of six guys posted an aggregate .239/.304/.369 line this year. While it was his third season at Triple A, Soto hit a massive .353/.424/.652 in 110 games. Some of that has to translate.
Another deficiency is shortstop, where fan favorite Ryan Theriot hit .266/.326/.346 in 537 ABs. Let’s face it: the guy is a backup. The free agent market for shortstops stinks. That leaves Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada, and Alex Rodriguez as three possibly available players who would add 5+ wins for the Cubs. Renteria would be a fine addition. I imagine John Schuerholz would want more than Sean Marshall, but Rich Hill seems too much. Perhaps the MacPhail connection in Baltimore will re-open the Tejada discussions this winter.
My solution: another try with Ronny Cedeno. He’s now amassed about a full season’s worth of time at Triple A with an OPS well above .900. ’06 was a learning experience for him, but he’s simply a better player than Theriot or any of the free agents.
More offensive gain might come by moving Soriano down in the order and putting DeRosa or Murton in the leadoff spot.
It would be fair to suggest the Cubs need to remove Dempster from ninth inning duties. Between Wood (likely to return), Marmol, Howry, and Wuertz, I think it’s an internal change. Dempster could join the rotation or become trade bait. Francisco Cordero is intriguing if new ownership has money to throw around.
The outfield situation can be sorted out without external additions. Felix Pie is fresh off a .362/.410/.563 line in Triple A as a 22 year-old, and is a breakout candidate for ’08. If he starts to get it, you shop Jones. Otherwise, Jones and Murton work for me.
The rotation is pretty well set. The front four combined for 133 starts, leaving one slot to play around with. Marshall seems like one of the best fifth starters in the league (he could swap "slots" with Marquis next year). For ’08 I would run with this group, while also tendering a contract to Mark Prior to add depth. The Cubs can’t have him become their Chris Carpenter (as in, Toronto’s gaffe).
If the Cubs aren’t worried about Marquis’ post-ASB ERA of 5.73, perhaps they shop Marshall. But as with most teams, it’s a stretch to call starting pitching a luxury. I’d hold onto Sean Gallagher as well. It’d be surprising to see the front four make 130 starts again next year.
Besides the aforementioned Dempster, I can see the Cubs shopping Eric Patterson. There’s already a bad vibe as the Cubs sent him back to Iowa quickly after his September call-up as punishment for tardiness. Patterson is a talented second baseman with some statistical similarities to Julio Lugo. He could be part of a Tejada or Renteria deal, or perhaps used to add more starting pitching depth.
I realize my plan has unproven youngsters at three key up-the-middle positions. So what? I’ll take talent over experience any day. It could make for a quiet offseason, though.