Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The All-Trade Bait Team

In honor of the recently lapsed trade deadline - I bring to you my "All-Trade bait Team". There's quite a haul of hitting talent on the team, but a definite lack of defensive ability. While some of these players were actively shopped, others were only dangled out there for a short period of time in fits of desperation. So, without further ado, the starting line-up:

C: Javy Lopez. Sure, he can't really catch anymore, but let's not let technicalities get in the way. The market was barren for catchers, and with the sinking Orioles trying to rid themselves of certain contracts, Lopez was available.

1b: Ryan Shealy OR Sean Casey. I like Shealy, but at least Casey has a track record in MLB. Neither is fantastic defensively.

2b: Ronnie Belliard. There were some solid, but not spectacular, 2b on the market, including Mark Loretta, Tony Graffanino, Todd Walker, and Ronnie Belliard. I took the latter. He's got a little pop and isn't as limited defensively as some of the other options.

3b: Mike Lowell. He has cooled off a little bit, but has slugged this season, while hitting for a solid average, being a positive presence in the clubhouse, and playing very well at 3b.

SS: Julio Lugo. I know Miguel Tejeda was on the market, but his range is so abysmal right now that scouts around the league think he needs a positional change, or to take over as fulltime DH. So I'm going with Julio Lugo who can swing the bat with some power, as well as flash the glove. However, who know what he'd do in an actual pennant race, he hasn't exactly had a lot of experience there . . .

LF: Alfonso Soriano. This was a tough call with Carlos Lee available, but he slots in later . . . As for Soriano, the man has feasted in the NL, and would be wise to stay in the weaker league where he doesn't see as many breaking balls (which added to his K totals) when he resigns somewhere as a free agent.

CF: Andruw Jones. He's still in his prime, despite being in the league for a decade! Jones is an above-average CF who would be hitting better if placed in a lineup where he wasn't required to be then ENTIRE offense.

RF: Bobby Abreu. He's had a tough season power-wise, but the atmosphere in Philly seems to be a huge component in their losing ways. His defense isn't as good as hyped, but he sure can hit and get on base.

DH: Carlos Lee. This was tough because I was tempted with Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejeda, among others. But in the end I like that Lee has phenomenal success with very little production around him at times.

SP: Roger Clemens. While he wasn't made available because of the owner, he would have approved a trade to one team - the Boston Red Sox. Clemens' record doesn't relay his continued dominance because of the poor offense, but he's still dealing.

SP: Roy Oswalt. He was dangled for a slugger, via the Red Sox. Oswalt has a track record of success and is still young.

SP: Greg Maddux. Maddux is a professional, through and through, and has had a successful season for an awful squad.

SP: Kip Wells. Wells has had some success as of late. He was also better than the majority of the pitching options that were made available.

SP: Jake Westbrook. The Indians briefly dangled him, but there wasn't much coming back. Westbrook is average, but has had some runs of success.

RP: Aaron Heilman
RP: Scott Linebrink
RP: Rheal Cormier
RP: Bob Wickman
SU: Tom Gordon
CL: Brad Lidge. He's had a tough time this year, but he's got some serious stuff. I'd take a risk that all he needs is a change of scenery.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Buy or Sell - NL WEST

Sorry for the delay folks - between a couple of ball games, a concert, a new job, and some unbelievable family issues (really, they are unbelievable), I've not been able to sit down and work on this. I'll try harder, though!

The NL West is an odd beast where parity within the division rules (all teams are within 5.0 games of first). But with even competition, there is no decisively better team, nor is there a particularly good team (all are .500ish teams), which makes for excitingly boring playoff race - if such a thing is possible. To put it frankly, I don't see any NL West team as capable of winning the World Series, or even making it that far.

San Diego: Buy

Needs: San Diego has gotten decent pitching from most of their rotation, with the notable exception of Jake Peavy. They need him to turn it around in the 2nd half. The Padres need an infusion of power in the infield, including 3b (there have been whispers of interest in Mike Lowell and Shea Hillenbrand before the latter was picked up by rival SF). Giles has had pedestrian power numbers, and as a result, the OF could use a boost in power from an outside source.

Chips: Peavy has made it into whispers, though he is extremely unlikely to be moved because of his age, talent, and contract. Reliever Linebrink has been talked about as someone they could dangle to add a bat, and has probably become expendable with the acquisition of Scott Williamson from the Cubs. Klesko will be available upon his return from the DL.

San Francisco: Buyer

Needs: This team needs someone to protect Bonds in the lineup, provided Bonds is still between the lines and not behind bars. The starters aren't great, but the offense makes it hard for any pitcher to win. This team's window is closing after this season, with Schmidt and Bonds free agents and a very old squad with little depth in the ill-tended system. They could use some added mobility in the OF, as well as more power from the CFer. The Giants could use a little more depth in the bullpen, like everyone else, especially with the troubles of Benitez. The team helped itself by acquiring Shea Hillenbrand from the Blue Jays for pitcher Accardo.

Chips: Schmidt is their biggest chip and San Francisco should take the best deal on the table for him, rather than settle for a draft pick if he leaves. Chances are he'll still be a Giant after the deadline passes, though. The Giants have a solid young catcher, Alfonzo, who has performed well in limited time (5 HR in 99 ABs)

Los Angeles: Buyer

Needs: Furcal has not lived up to his lofty 2005 season, but there aren't many replacements on the market. The Dodgers haven't gotten any power out of their 3b since Bill Mueller went down, but Garciaparra has played like his old self at 1b and drastically outperformed his 2004 and 2005 seasons. Lofton could be upgraded should anyone hit the market (LA can afford just about anyone). The Dodgers have endured injuries in the rotation and the bullpen (namely, Gagne), and could use help in either department.

Chips: Los Angeles has the farm system to acquire just about anyone if the seller is looking for young talent. Andy LaRoche, Joel Gonzalez, Chad Billingsley (currently on the team) and Russell Martin (on MLB team) are several prospects prospective sellers will ask for in exchange for top talent. The out-of-grace Odalis Perez has also been shopped to pitching-hungry teams

Arizona: Hold

Needs: Arizona jumped out of the gates looking like a young contender, but either inexperience or clubhouse dramatics (ahem, Jason Grimsley) have slowed them as of late. Arizona has possibly the best feeder system in the bigs and has several young players learning on the big stage. They don't really have a need for the time being, just a need for players to get some experience under their belts.

Chips: Again, the Dbacks really aren't sellers because their team is so young. Luis Gonzalez has had some issues with ownership and could be had if a team is willing to take on his contract. Shawn Green is another veteran outfielder on the market that could help an ailing contender (LAA, NYY, DET?). The DBacks will not move any of their young talent and would be wise to hang onto a veteran or two to teach the youngsters.

Colorado: Seller

Needs: The Rockies need a better campaign from their SS than they have seen this year - Barmes was much better in his rookie year before injuring himself in shady circumstances. Many of their young players are playing exceptionally well, but the power numbers have yet to develop in most of them. The Rockies need help at catcher.

Chips: Any of their rotation members could be moved (Jennings, Francis, Cook, Fogg, Kim) to a contender needing a #3-#5 starter. Because Helton is an immovable contract, prospect Ryan Shealy should be moved to a team who can play him, especially since he's getting older and has torn up every level of MiLB and deserves to be in the bigs. There has been talk between the Red Sox and Rockies revolving around a bullpen arm for Shealy, who the Sox have been interested in since last year's ill-fated Shoppach for Shealy swap. Ray King has also been thrown around as a trading chip.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Buy or Sell - NL CENTRAL

St. Louis - Buy or hold

Needs: St. Louis just acquired Jeff Weaver, an innings eater, to help bolter the rotation, but really needs Mulder to return healthy as the #1 starter. The bullpen has been plagued by inconsistency or consistent mediocrity - including from their closer, Jason Isringhausen. The production from 2b has been lackluster and could certainly use a boost if someone hits the market. They could stand for a catching upgrade, especially if it adds some pop (which could use some bolstering) to the line-up.

Chips: The Cardinals have received decent production from back-ups such as Hector Luna and John Rodriguez and could use that depth to upgrade a starting position. However, other than pitching, the Cardinals don't have any deep needs that justify weakening some other aspect of the team, so I really expect them to hold and maybe make a few waiver claims or small trades using bit MiLB players to acquire a role player for the big club.

Cincinnati - Buy

Needs: Like every team, the Reds could sure use some pitching. Arroyo has over performed and one has to wonder if he'll fall back to Earth as teams become accustomed to him. They really need an upgrade to the 4th slot and a 5th starter. Acquiring Guardado was a smart, low-risk move for an awful bullpen in dire need of assistance. The Reds could use more production from their 3b, and a boost from SS and Catcher.

Chips: The Reds don't have a particularly strong farm system, but could use their OF depth to improve the team if they really want to be a serious contender. Freel is a very solid back up, and Kearns, Dunn and Griffey Jr. are always thrown around as trade possibilities. Homer Bailey (P) has been stellar for Chattanooga (0 Earned runs in 17.0 innings), but should be off limits for all but the best available talent (Willis, Zito?). OFer Jay Bruce is doing really well for Dayton, but other prospects have struggled in 2006.

Milwaukee - Buy or Hold

Needs: Milwaukee is in a weird place - they need to get hot to make the playoffs, but they aren't really a seller, so I expect they'll make some token moves, but nothing that will put them over the edge. I know, it's like a broken record - they need more pitching and a consistently healthy Ben Sheets to pair with a solid Capuano. The rumor mill has Milwaukee inquiring about old-timer Maddux - only a puddle-jumper away in Chicago. Rickie Weeks has been a great help as a hitter, but is incredibly weak as a defender, but probably won't be traded because he's young; likewise for the currently injured J.J. Hardy at SS. The bullpen is terrible

Chips: For the most part, the Brewers won't part with more than a 'name' player who is underperforming (BP guy?) and some token minor leaguers because this is a team that finally has a direction and the players ready to take the reigns (Fielder, Hardy, Weeks, Clark, Capuano, Sheets). Veterans who could be moved include Cirillo (though that will weaken the team) and Jenkins. Strongest bet to leave? Carlos Lee has drawn some interest because of his strong campaign and is probably their most valuable available chip to improve the team for the long-term.

Houston - Buy

Needs: Unless the Astros have a huge drop in the standings, they'll buy because the core of this team is getting older and their window is vanishing quickly. They should be able to get by with their pitching, but they REALLY need hitting (Roger, don't you wish you went to Boston?). An easy way to help would be some power in the meager OF. The Astros should be playing Lamb more than Ensberg at 3rd. Ausmus seems like he's more suited to a back-up role at this stage in his career. Maybe a trade for Lugo would help at SS.

Chips: Lidge has struggled this season, and I don't think he's untouchable - though I doubt he'd be traded unless it netted a significant part for this team. I think other teams would still have interest in the still-young Lidge. Preston Wilson always seems to be available at this time of year. If the Astros skid after the All-Star break, you will hear whispers about Clemens being available, though he may only be available to the Yankees or Red Sox. The Astros could trade a BP arm in a package deal.

EDIT: Since I wrote this, the Astros have traded for a bat for the OF, Aubrey Huff.

Chicago - Sell

Needs: A new start. It's no longer a matter of 'if' Dusty will get canned, it's just a matter of time. The Cubs need a way to keep Wood and Price healthy and need more help in the rotation. Pierre was a terrible mistake as a leadoff guy and has moneyball GM's, and any GM with a brain, laughing. The Cubs should resist the urge to play veterans when young guys should be getting experience (Murton and Pagel in the OF). Cedeno isn't the answer at SS.

Chips: Veterans should be made available. Maddux has been thrown around as a possibility. Todd Walker is having a solid season and could certainly help a contender with a hole at 2nd. Jones is having a better season than should be expected and they should sell high. Prior and Wood aren't as untouchable as they have been in years past - Prior will cost a fortune and is unlikely to be moved, while Woods shouldn't get much interest with his contract and injury history.

Pittsburgh - Sell

Needs: A solid coaching staff throughout the organization, a better minor league overseer, and attention to investments (young talent). Pittsburgh needs to get some MLB-quality upgrades at Catcher, CF, RF and P. The team needs to build around Jason Bay and stop thinking Jack Wilson is a solid answer at SS. Duke and Perez have shown flashes of brilliance that were inexplicably met with the Pirates suggesting the young pitchers alter their deliveries - both pitchers have struggled ever since.

Chips: Craig Wilson has drawn a lot of interest, and now that Huff (Tampa Bay) has been moved, I expect teams like the Yankees to pursue him a little more aggressively. Casey could be moved, but his average distracts from almost non-existent power. Damaso Marte will draw interest. Kip Wells had team interested in him going into the season, but has been awful this year. Jose Castillo, Freddy Sanchez, and Joe Randa have had decent seasons thus far and could be interesting. The Pirates shouldn't trade Perez, but he's no longer unavailable. It's surprising that a team that has been so bad for so long is unable to establish a solid farm system, but I suppose that reflects on the poor management and lack of interest in the farm that has plagued this franchise for quite some time now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Buy or Sell - NL EAST

It looks like it's time for a change, both for some teams and the division. Atlanta's ridiculous reign on the NL east is all but over with the New Kings on the Block winning not only the battle of the back pages in NYC, but the division. Philly could contend, but with a new GM who wants to his mark on the team, and a woefully performing squad with little heart, it's time for change. Florida is doing what we have grown to expect after a World Series, having a changing of the guard. The young squad, composed of many Futures Game graduates, is exciting to watch. With all major salary concerns shed, Florida should stand pat for the most part.

New York - Buy

Needs: New York is desperate for pitching, especially with Martinez, Zambrano and Bannister on the DL - how much do you think they wish they could reverse the ill-fated Kazmir trade? There has been a lot of talk about acquiring Hernandez, which would help, but also cost a ton. If the Mets want to stand a chance against the AL, they need a more potent offense and could stand to improve by upgrading LF or RF with a power hitter, perhaps Soriano if the Mets can put together enough in return, but it's not their biggest need. With the over hyped Reyes hurt, the Mets would be better with some power at SS (Lugo?), even if it meant shifting Reyes back to 2nd upon his return, which would strengthen the IF production offensively and defensively.

Chips: Lastings Milledge will be the asking price for any team the Mets talk to. Beyond that, the system is pretty barren after off-season trades. Heilman could be of use and some teams still see him as a #3 or #4 starter, and Nady is still pretty young with solid power potential. The Mets best bet for a trade is taking on unwanted salaries.

Philadelphia - Sell

Needs: Philly needs to sack up and sell - this team needs a complete overhaul from the top on down. There is a chance they could contend for a Wild Card, but that has been the case for several years with the same result - the Phillies don't have the heart to compete and are far too content to lose (as phormer-phil Wagner noted recently). Philly needs pitching, preferably pitchers that don't beat their wives and then get trotted out to pitch the next day (this also illustrates the need for change throughout the organization). The bullpen is okay, but they need to drop Rhodes down to lower-leverage innings. They could use a catcher with Lieberthal a perennial DL tourist. On paper, this team looks good though, so it's mind boggling that they consistently underperforms expectations. This team needs heart, passion, and competitive drive.

Chips: Philly should put everyone on the market except Howard, Utley, Floyd, Gordon, Howard, and Rollins. The Phillies won't get talent back for Abreu and Burrell without eating money, which will be hard to justify since they are largely footing the bill for an MVP candidate (Thome) to play elsewhere. Cormier is having a great season, and there will be contenders in dire need of a solid lefty BP arm; I would imagine the Phillies could get a solid catching or OF prospect for Cormier, possibly even a pitcher. Dellucci is a solid player that could help teams in need of a 3rd or 4th OFer and a good bat off the bench. The Phillies can sell BP arms to contenders, as they almost always fetch more in return than they are worth.

Atlanta - Sell or Hold

Needs: Some of the best analysts out there say Atlanta will be a buyer, but I just don't see it. This is a team out of the division, and 7.5 back in the Wild Card - that doesn't sound like a buyer to me. Combine their mandate to pare payroll, an already-young team, and futile playoff hopes, and I expect that some of their veterans will be available for the right price. The biggest need of this team is experience, with so many 1st, and 2nd year players in integral roles. The underperformance of LaRoche and Giles in the IF has been part of the reason for Atlanta's struggles, but don't need replacing since they are both relatively young with decent upside. Langerhans has had some youthful trouble as well in LF, and pitchers seem to be using Francoeur's aggressiveness against him. The rotation is average, but the bullpen is absolutely brutal and allows teams to approach a game with the intent to get through the starter and attack the bullpen.

Chips: There has been a lot of talk about Smoltz being moved, but the price will be high, and rightfully so. Atlanta needs a top pitching prospect to part with any of its starters. Though the rumors aren't fully heated up about Hudson, he could fetch quite a ransom with a track record in the AL and an incredibly cheap deal - though the asking price would dissuade all but the most talent-rich teams and moving him would be quite the blockbuster deal. Jones is a free agent after next season and a top centerfielder who has struggled having to carry the bulk of the offensive weight this year. Like Hudson, he's signed to a bargain and would only be involved in a blockbuster - which is a nice way of saying I don't see it happening unless a team like the Dodgers or Angels are willing to part with prized prospects.

Florida - Hold

Needs: Florida needs experience right now, with the majority of their roster still wet behind the ears. The Marlins could use some help in CF and LF down the line, and should target appropriate prospects should they make any moves. The rotation is young, but average, and should improve with seasoning. The bullpen and infield are strengths.

Chips: Willis is the big chip most talked about, though the Marlins aren't in any rush to move him. They will not move him without extracting some serious talent in return and have continually suggested talks will only start if they are offered a pitcher as good as Willis, but cheaper and younger. Which is to say, it's not going to happen. None of their young arms will be moved, but veterans Herges and Borowski are having solid seasons in the bullpen and could be moved to a contender. Back-up corner IF Helms should be available if there is any interest.

Washington - Sell

Needs: Washington's 2005 season is similar to KC's 2003 season - it probably did more harm than good by convincing the Nats that they were ready to compete. This team needs to get healthy, with nine Nats on the DL (including and incredible EIGHT pitchers). They have several starters who should be bench players or worse, including their SS (Neither Guzman, on the DL, or Clayton should be starting), CF (Jackson is a career back-up), and Guillen. The Nats' back-ups should be in AAA or lower. Schneider, while superior defensively, is decidedly lacking with the bat in 2006. The rotation needs an overhaul beyond the workhorse Hernandez.

Chips: Soriano is talked about daily by teams needing some added pop in the line-up, but the Nats are asking for top pitching talent in return for a rental. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels could certainly use him, among other teams. Hernandez has also been thrown around by any team needing pitching (Read: every contending team). Chad Cordero has been a solid closer and could help a contender in the same role, or as an above-average set-up man. Mike Stanton has had a mid-season change of address 4 times in his career and would be of interest to a team looking for a lefty out of the pen. Majewski has been good, but I don't know if the Nats would be willing to move him. Previous to his DL stint, Armas, Jr. had been scouted by several teams looking to bolster their rotations, and may switch teams depending on his performance upon returning.