Needs and Luxuries Rumors

Needs and Luxuries: Los Angeles Dodgers

Next up in the series, the Dodgers.  You can view all the Needs and Luxuries posts here.


C – Russell Martin
1B – James Loney
2B – Jeff Kent
SS – Rafael Furcal
3B – Andy LaRoche/Nomar Garciaparra
LF – Andre Ethier
CF – Juan Pierre
RF – Matt Kemp

SP – Brad Penny
SP – Derek Lowe
SP – Chad Billingsley
SP – Esteban Loaiza
SP – Jason Schmidt/Mark Hendrickson/Hong-Chih Kuo

Setup: Jonathan Broxton
Closer: Takashi Saito

Needs

The Dodgers need some power; their .406 team SLG ranked 13th in the NL.  $108MM should buy better than that.  Fortunately, power will be added without acquiring anyone.

Rafael Furcal should slug better than 2007′s .355 mark.  He was at .445 in ’06 (.564 after the break).  Furcal sprained his ankle in a March ’07 game, and it bothered him all year.  He’s a tough guy, and played through it.  He won’t have surgery, but an offseason of rest and an upcoming walk year should get him back to normal for ’08.

Luis Gonzalez slugged only .433, not enough for a corner outfielder.  He won’t be back; his absence should allow Matt Kemp to reach 500 ABs (Kemp slugged .521 this year).

Nomar Garciaparra was pitiful at .371.  He did slug .463 in the second half, so maybe he can return to respectability.  Grady Little needs a quick trigger finger to go to LaRoche, whose 2008 SLG is projected at .483 by PECOTA.

So, I question the notion that the Dodgers need a power bat.  However, it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt.  How about having Ethier becoming one of the game’s most capable fourth outfielders, and importing a left fielder with power?  Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, Barry Bonds, or Manny Ramirez could be blockbuster acquisitions.  What about A-Rod?  As with any team that can afford him, he’d be the best possible acquisition.

Kent’s on board for $9MM in ’08, but there has been speculation that he might not return.  Not sure if that means retirement or a trade demand.  But if second base opens up, Tony Abreu seems a capable replacement.  For this reason, Kent could almost be considered a luxury (he’d be easier to trade if he was a better clubhouse guy).

Luxuries

I like the front end of the bullpen a lot, even more so with Jonathan Meloan close to contributing.  No need to sign pricey relievers, though I wouldn’t trade from this strength.

The Dodgers had an above average rotation in 2007 despite injuries.  Penny, Lowe, and Billingsley is an excellent playoff core.  The Dodgers hope to recoup some of the Schmidt investment.  Loaiza is making $7MM, so he gets first crack at the fifth starter job.  Hopefully, as with Nomar, Little isn’t overly patient because of salary. 

Wild card: the Dodgers have the two best left-handed starting prospects in the game in Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw.  Elbert is more of a question mark given June arthroscopic shoulder surgery.  Kershaw could definitely make an ’08 impact.

Randy Wolf wants to come back on the cheap, and Ned Colletti shouldn’t pass that up.  More starting pitching depth is always a good thing.  That said, I wouldn’t start dealing from this possible strength either.

The emergence of Chin-Lung Hu as one of the game’s top shortstop prospects may make Furcal expendable.  Furcal is still plenty valuable despite an off-year.  As I said earlier, a healthy Furcal in his walk year should really bounce back.  It makes sense to trade Furcal in June if he re-establishes his value and Hu keeps hitting at Triple A.  At that time, Colletti can assess his biggest need, perhaps getting that power bat if someone’s hurt or underproducing.

This is a strong team that should win a lot more than 82 games if the young players aren’t benched for inferior veterans.


Needs and Luxuries: St. Louis Cardinals

I’ve had several requests for the Cardinals in this series, so here we go.


C – Yadier Molina
1B – Albert Pujols
2B – Adam Kennedy
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Scott Rolen
LF – Chris Duncan/Ryan Ludwick
CF – Jim Edmonds
RF – Rick Ankiel

SP – Adam Wainwright
SP – Braden Looper
SP – Chris Carpenter (half season at best)
SP – Mark Mulder
SP – Brad Thompson/Anthony Reyes/Todd Wellemeyer

Setup: Ryan Franklin
Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Needs

For starters, the Cards might need a shortstop.  25 year-old Brendan Ryan is hitting .302/.355/.426 in 169 ABs, better than his Triple A performance (.272/.328/.341 in 323 ABs).  I spoke to Viva El Birdos‘ Larry Borowsky on this topic today.  Assuming Tony La Russa is around, Larry doesn’t expect Ryan to get starting gig at short next year.   You may recall La Russa’s benching of Ryan recently for swinging at a 3-0 pitch and his general lack of patience with youngsters.

Larry speculated that David Eckstein would be allowed to walk and the team would try to make a splash by acquiring a shortstop via trade, perhaps Rafael Furcal or another go-round with Edgar Renteria.  Makes sense.  The Cards have some interesting young players: Duncan, Ankiel, Reyes, Colby Rasmus, Bryan Anderson, Jamie Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Jarrett Hoffpauir, and Mark Hamilton.  Obviously you don’t want to gut the farm system for one year of a decent veteran shortstop.  Reyes is a young player who is out of options and has had some chances already.  I could see him with the Braves.

The other need is, of course, starting pitching.  The Cardinals revamped their rotation this year, and the two bullpen converts stuck.  They can hope for but not count on Carpenter and Mulder.  They can fill the fifth slot with whoever.  Don’t pencil in Joel Pineiro‘s $4MM player option for ’08 just yet – he might prefer to hit the open market.  It seems that one or two decent starters must be imported.  Borowsky discusses trade candidates here, and here’s the free agent list.  It’d be nice to sign a healthy free agent, but Kyle Lohse is going to want $40MM.  There are many other intriguing gambles among the free agent starters.

Luxuries

I’m not confident that the Cardinals have a surplus of anything.  It’s true that they have a lot of outfielders, but they all have issues.  Duncan can’t hit lefties or play defense. Ludwick is a 29 year-old journeyman. Ankiel has the HGH stigma.  Edmonds is old, expensive, and ineffective.  Encarnacion’s terrible injury may be career-threatening.  Rasmus isn’t ready.  Still, if a big trade is made, it might have to include Duncan. 

As I said earlier, Reyes is out of options and a prime candidate to be dealt.  He turns 26 soon; plenty of clubs would like to try to turn him around.  He might be part of a package for a shortstop or veteran starter.

In any other division I’d recommend this team cash in its chips and go for a full-blown rebuild.  But this is the NL Central, and if a few offseason gambles work out they can be right back in the thick of things.


Needs and Luxuries: Kansas City Royals

Next up in our Needs and Luxuries series, the Royals.  My projected 2008 setup is below.


C – John Buck
1B – Ross Gload/Billy Butler
2B – Mark Grudzielanek
SS – Tony Pena Jr.
3B – Alex Gordon
LF – Joey Gathright
CF – David DeJesus
RF – Mark Teahen
DH – Billy Butler/Mike Sweeney

SP – Gil Meche
SP – Brian Bannister
SP – Zack Greinke
SP – Kyle Davies
SP – Jorge De La Rosa/Billy Buckner/Luke Hochevar/Luke Hudson

Setup – David Riske
Closer – Joakim Soria

Needs

You have to like what Dayton Moore is doing with this club.  They’re looking to have their best record since ’03 and definitely appear on the way up.  Of course, like any rebuilding team, they have some needs.

One need the Royals have is power.  They’re dead last in the AL with a .392 SLG. To be fair, their stadium is not receptive to the longball.  But the Royals don’t hit for power on the road either.  The good news is that Gordon and Butler both project as 30 home run guys in the near future.  And Buck can hit 20.  The bad news is that Mark Teahen‘s ’06 power surge now looks like a mirage and the cupboard is otherwise bare.  I don’t think the next contending Royals team will have its corner outfielders combining for 16 home runs.

The Royals also need an injection of OBP but I’m less worried about that.  Gordon will pick it up, and Emil Brown will hopefully be non-tendered.  I also think Gload should be less of a regular and more of a bench player, so the team needs to decide if Butler can handle first base.

The team’s 4.47 ERA isn’t too bad; it’s barely worse than that of the Yankees.  Of course, most teams need pitching.  The Royals should continue to stock up on young hurlers however possible.  I liked the way Moore turned the Octavio Dotel rental into Davies.  Maybe they can try it again with Milton Bradley, Mike Piazza, Matt Clement, Jon Lieber…I could go on.  Hell, they could just sign Dotel again and flip him. 

Luxuries

Rebuilding teams aren’t known for having surpluses.  That said I do like DeJesus and Riske as candidates to be flipped this winter or at the ’08 trade deadline.  DeJesus is signed reasonably through 2011, while Riske’s ’08 option for around $3MM will certainly be picked up.  Both have their flaws but neither will kill you.  The targets should be more young pitchers and maybe a corner type with pop.  Perhaps Moore could get the Braves interested in DeJesus for Scott Thorman or Kala Kaaihue.  Or if he can do better, fantastic.

Hopefully teams will look at DeJesus and Riske as lower cost alternatives to the free agent center fielders and late inning relievers.

I suppose another luxury could be an excess of first base types lacking the offense for the position, like Gload, Ryan Shealy, and Justin Huber.  But the market for those guys is surely weak.  Maybe a Thorman type would only add to that.

You can’t call the starting pitching a luxury at present but you have to like the core of Meche, Bannister, and Greinke for the next few seasons.  If Moore gets a third cheap guy to pan out, he can make a big free agent splash for one more veteran arm when the team is ready to contend.



Needs and Luxuries: San Francisco Giants

Time for a look at the 2008 Giants.

C – Bengie Molina
1B – Dan Ortmeier
2B – Ray Durham
SS – Kevin Frandsen
3B – Rich Aurilia
LF – Fred Lewis
CF – Dave Roberts/Rajai Davis
RF – Randy Winn/Nate Schierholtz

SP – Matt Cain
SP – Tim Lincecum
SP – Barry Zito
SP – Noah Lowry
SP – Kevin Correia/Jonathan Sanchez

Setup: Brad Hennessey/Tyler Walker
Closer: Brian Wilson


Needs

The Giants rank 13th in the league in OBP and 15th in SLG – and that includes 500 plate appearances of Barry Bonds.  Take Bonds out of the picture in ’08 – a legitimate possibility – and you’re looking at the worst offense in the league.

Durham, Roberts, and Aurilia have been offensive black holes for the Giants, and they’ll be eating up $18.5MM as members of the ’08 club.  Feliz and Vizquel have been terrible as well, but at least their contracts are up.

I have to stop right here and say that this team absolutely must write off 2008 as a complete rebuilding year.  There’s just not enough offensive talent, young or old, to field a competitive team.  When teams fully commit to a rebuild, like the Devil Rays, Marlins, or Nationals, unexpected good players typically emerge.  The Giants need to find the next Dan Uggla or Carlos Pena

In the infield, you’ve got two dead weight veterans and an open left side of the infield.  I say you just use Frandsen at short all year.  He may not have the arm for it but he could have a nice little Ryan Theriot season before shifting to second in ’09.  Don’t give up on him if he has a bad two months.  Stick Aurilia at third for lack of a better option, and use Ortmeier at first all year.  Let him get comfortable at the position and not worry about losing his job. 

The outfield is a jumble of bad veteran contracts and mildly promising youngsters.  Here’s my plan.  Ship off Winn and the $16.25MM remaining on his contract for 2008-09.  He had a .775 OPS in ’07, respectable if he’s used in center.  Eat $6MM of the contract – it’ll be worth it to free up precious playing time for players who will be part of the future.  Once Winn is gone, relegate Roberts to firm fourth outfielder status when he’s healthy.  (I’d say move his contract too, but let’s not get greedy). 

That leaves some power in Schierholtz, a speed/power combo in Lewis, and blazing speed in Davis.  Give these guys much-needed Major League reps and don’t be a slave to your own bad contracts.

So the 2008 need for the Giants is to truly commit to giving as much playing time to young players as possible.  They have to find some cheap position players who are at least league average.

Luxuries

If we use the term luxury generously, we can label a few vets as such.  Those would be Molina and Winn, who have bad contracts but played OK in ’07.  If these guys can be moved for a positive return, it’s a no-brainer.  If Sabean could duplicate his Matt Morris feat and unload the entire contracts, it would be huge.

The one true luxury, though, is starting pitching.  You aren’t going to find many young 1-2 punches in baseball that are decidedly better than Cain/Lincecum.  These two are the future – the main goal for ’08 is to not wreck their arms.

Lowry should’ve been traded at the deadline.  I know McCovey Chronicles has been pushing for this for a while.  Lowry had a 3.92 ERA this year despite a ton of baserunners.  He’s doing an OK job trying to become a groundball/contact pitcher.  He’s 27 and signed reasonably through 2010.  The problem is that an elbow strain may cause other GMs to view him as damaged goods.  That’s a shame, because he might’ve extracted one or two very good and much-needed position players given the terrible free agent market.  Could Garrett Atkins, Brent Lillibridge, Edwin EncarnacionSteven Pearce, Conor Jackson, or Jeff Clement be acquired?  If Lowry can re-establish his health, that’s the route I attempt.

I don’t think the bullpen is terribly important for ’08.  I’d like to see what Wilson can do with a closer job.  Sanchez should be brought along in the rotation.  Maybe make an Octavio Dotel-type signing, someone you can spin off in July.


Needs and Luxuries: Toronto Blue Jays

Today, let’s dissect the Jays.  A look at their 2008 setup:

C – Gregg Zaun
1B – Lyle Overbay
2B – Aaron Hill
SS – John McDonald
3B – Troy Glaus
LF – Reed Johnson/Adam Lind
CF – Vernon Wells
RF – Alex Rios
DH – Frank Thomas

SP – Roy Halladay
SP – A.J. Burnett
SP – Dustin McGowan
SP – Shaun Marcum
SP – Jesse Litsch/Josh Towers/Gustavo Chacin

Closer – B.J. Ryan
Setup – Jeremy Accardo


Needs

In general, the Jays’ main deficiency this year has been offense.  Their .326 OBP ranks 12th in the AL, their .422 SLG is 8th.  The lineup has plenty of underachievers – Wells, Overbay, Lind, and Johnson to name the chief culprits.  Johnson seems like a non-tender candidate.  But the other three are simply better than they’ve shown in 2007.  Wells has been playing through a shoulder injury this year, and surgery will be considered after the season.  Overbay broke a bone in his hand in June; he was hitting .256/.332/.464 up to that point.  Residual soreness after the surgery has led to a .223/.303/.326 line since.  Getting Wells and Overbay 100% healthy for ’08 is crucial.  As unpopular as it would be, the Jays should probably shut them both down right now.

If Wells does have shoulder surgery, a stopgap CF like Kenny Lofton might be a wise move.  But the obvious need for the Jays is shortstop.  No use pining for the should’ve-been-drafted Troy Tulowitzki.  The free agent market is weak – David Eckstein, Cesar Izturis, Juan Uribe, and Omar Vizquel.  J.P. Ricciardi has to hit the trade market.

His primary options: Edgar Renteria, Jack Wilson, Miguel Tejada, and Rafael Furcal.  The last two may be just wishful thinking for various reasons.  And J.P. had this to say regarding the Wilson rumors back in July: "We have absolutely no interest in Jack Wilson.  None."  Maybe a new GM in Pittsburgh can change his mind.  Renteria seems the best choice; would the Braves trade him for Burnett?  The oft-injured righty may opt out of his contract after 2008.         

Luxuries

If the Jays have an abundance of anything, it’s pitching.  They have the second best ERA in the league at 3.96.  As I mentioned earlier, trading Burnett could make sense.

Ricciardi should seriously consider moving Marcum at the peak of his value.  The homer-prone hurler has a 3.45 ERA in 130 innings as a starter, based heavily on an unsustainable low rate of hits allowed.  I like him – he’s plenty useful and has done a great job this year.  But this would be a prime example of selling high.  Maybe the Dodgers would part with Chin-lung Hu.

Towers stands a decent chance of being moved if he’s not non-tendered.  As we’ve discussed here before, he can help an NL team.  Perhaps the Bucs would swap Wilson for him.

The bullpen should probably be left untouched.  The Jays could assemble an elite crew with Ryan, Accardo, Janssen, League, and others.  The volatility of bullpens and players coming back from injuries might be reason to keep the apparent surplus.


Needs and Luxuries: Houston Astros

Today, we’ll take a look at the Astros.  They’ll install a fresh regime this winter and may do some major retooling.  It’s about time.

C – J.R. Towles
1B – Lance Berkman
2B – Chris Burke
SS – Adam Everett
3B – Ty Wigginton
LF – Carlos Lee
CF – Hunter Pence
RF – Luke Scott

SP – Roy Oswalt
SP – Wandy Rodriguez
SP – Woody Williams
SP – Chris Sampson
SP – Brandon Backe/Matt Albers/Troy Patton/Juan Gutierrez

Closer – Brad Lidge
Setup – Chad Qualls


Needs

Houston’s needs aren’t as bad as I originally suspected, but they still have some holes.  Can J.R. Towles take over as the full-time catcher in 2008 despite just 11 games in Triple A and a month in the bigs?  He plays good defense, mashed at Double A this year, and is athletic for a catcher.  He’s had some injury problems and it’d be asking a lot for him to handle the pitching staff as a rookie.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Brad Ausmus return strictly as a backup or a defensive-minded backup like Jose Molina signed.  The kid will need some tutelage but they can’t keep going back to Ausmus. 

Biggio is retiring, and he’s been a drain on the offense this year.  But Burke hasn’t been much better.  I like the idea of importing a veteran, hopefully one with more pop than Loretta.  Tadahito Iguchi would be a nice fit and his solid presence would help the team move on from Biggio.

Everett has been mentioned as a non-tender candidate.  It takes a whole lotta defense to support a .600 OPS, and he’ll have to regain his stride after breaking his leg this season.  It seems kind of cruel to cut him, but hey, this is a business.  Nice guys finish last.  The problem is that the free agent market for shortstops is bleak.  Tim Purpura had many trade discussions about Miguel Tejada; will the new GM resume those talks?  That kind of acquisition would really get people talking in Houston; a package could center around Troy Patton or Wandy RodriguezEdgar Renteria would be another fine option.

Luxuries

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the outfield situation a luxury, but I think the Astros are fine here.  Lee is entrenched in left field.  I feel Scott is underrated.  Pence has obviously arrived.  While he’s better suited for right field, playing him in center again isn’t the end of the world.  Scott has been named as trade bait in the past but he’s a good player and his loss would create a new hole to fill.  An ugly April has masked his work since: .266/.362/.529 in 263 ABs.

The closest the Astros have to a luxury might be starting pitching, something I never expected to be saying after their losses of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.  Oswalt is the rock.  Wandy makes a nice #3, Williams a respectable #4.  In my mind there’s no real #2 (Jason Jennings was supposed to fill that role).  But they have a lot of respectable options for the last two spots in Sampson, Albers, Backe, and Patton.  Sampson hasn’t been talked about much this year but he was doing a nice job until a sprained elbow ligament got the best of him in July.  There’s talk of bringing Jennings back on a one-year make good deal, an idea I like. 

It’s true that you can never have too much pitching but if the Astros have to part with Wandy, Albers, or Patton to get Tejada or Renteria I support it.  A new regime could make the Astros’ offense respectable again just by plugging in some league average bats.  It’ll be addition by subtraction to ditch Loretta, Ausmus, Biggio, Burke, and Everett.  This year those five combined for 1675 ABs.  The highest OPS of the bunch was Loretta’s .688. 


Needs and Luxuries: Oakland Athletics

Let’s try a new feature here at MLBTR.  I’ll start going through teams and identifying positions they need to fill as well as positions that might be considered surpluses.  For lack of a better name it’ll be called Needs and Luxuries.  We’ll begin with the A’s.

For each team I’m going to set up the roster as seen below.  I won’t include backups for position players.  I won’t go into the full pitching staffs to keep it simple. 


C – Kurt Suzuki
1B – Daric Barton/Dan Johnson
2B – Mark Ellis/Donnie Murphy
SS – Bobby Crosby/Marco Scutaro
3B – Eric Chavez
LF – Travis Buck
CF – Mark Kotsay/Chris Denorfia/Chris Snelling
RF – Nick Swisher
DH – Jack Cust

SP – Dan Haren
SP – Joe Blanton
SP – Chad Gaudin
SP – Lenny DiNardo
SP – Rich Harden/Dan Meyer/Colby Lewis/Dallas Braden

Closer – Huston Street
Setup – Alan Embree/Justin Duchscherer

Needs

The A’s are an interesting club in that they’re trying to compete on a small-time payroll.  Realistically I could say that they need a solid, healthy center fielder to give some stability at that position.  I see Swisher and Buck as future corner guys.  But we know the A’s are not going to make a major signing to fill center field.  They’ll try to eke some value out of Kotsay in the last year of his deal.  They’ll hope Snelling can somehow stay healthy.  I think their best long-term bet is Denorfia, who will be recovered from elbow surgery by next season.  He could be a quiet steady presence in the coming years, and should have the defensive chops.

The A’s have some options in center but I think they should look outside of the organization for a shortstop.  A healthy and productive Crosby seems a long shot at this point.  He’s signed through ’09, so I think you just do what you can with that ugly contract and bring someone else in.  Maybe sign Juan Uribe on the cheap and give him a fresh start.  Perhaps try to match up with the Braves by offering up a Joe Blanton for Yunel Escobar.  The less adventurous and most likely option is to just go with Marco Scutaro.

Luxuries 

First baseman Dan Johnson is a luxury, sort of.  He seems like he might be able to muster up an .800 OPS and help some team like the Twins at DH.  Even though Johnson isn’t great the A’s need to make sure Barton is ready before unloading him.  Barton seemed on the verge after hitting .454 in Triple A in June, but he was very disappointing in July and August.  First base might be a surplus for the A’s at some point but it isn’t right now.

We can probably call starting pitching a luxury for the A’s.  While the cast has changed, Oakland has typically had a strong rotation in recent years.  Even if you’re not sold on Gaudin and DiNardo as 4.00 ERA guys, we have to assume Billy Beane can dig up more of these types.  And if Beane’s best at finding unappreciated starters, then he might be able to part with Blanton or Haren.  Haren is signed cheaply through 2010; Blanton hasn’t reached arbitration yet.  The discussion for either would begin with two top-flight prospects, hopefully position players.  The A’s could revamp the left side of their infield with say, Andy LaRoche and Chin-Lung Hu.  The Angels have the goods as well but don’t match up well.  Almost any team in baseball would have interest in Blanton or Haren.  Beane should shoot for a shorstop, third baseman, and top pitching prospect.

I wouldn’t call Eric Chavez a luxury, though the A’s may shop him because of his contract.  Trading him would require a third baseman in return, or else they’d just open up another hole.  There are no top prospects nipping at Chavez’s heels.

Thoughts on Oakland’s needs and luxuries as well as the new feature?