(I’ve had this in draft form for weeks; might as well publish it now that the FA period has started).
Before we get too deep into the off-season, I thought it’d be good to do a level set of what exactly this team is in the market for. Last year’s to-do list included a Center Fielder (Ankiel), a Right Fielder (Werth), a First baseman (LaRoche), a couple of Utility Infielders (Cora, Hairston), some veteran Starting Pitching (Gorzelanny), and some bullpen help (Coffey, Ramirez).
Based on how the team has played down the stretch and watching some players rise and fade in September, here’s what I think the team’s off-season to-do list may look like.
First, lets start with what we know we do NOT need. Here’s players that seemingly have spots already locked up for 2012:
- C: With Pudge leaving, Ramos and Flores seem set to be the 2 catchers for a while here. Flores is healthy but clearly inferior to Ramos right now both defensively and at the plate. We just added Solano and Norris for catcher cover in case someone gets hurt.
- 1B: LaRoche should be back healthy, and Morse has shown he clearly can play first if not, though that would lead to a hole in left field.
- 2B: Should be ably filled by Espinosa, or Lombardozzi if we move Espinosa to short (see next).
- SS: Desmond‘s one of the lowest qualifying OPS hitters in the league, but the team management loves him. I’m guessing he’s given one more season. Rizzo has already stated he’s not after Jose Reyes, and the Marlins seem set to over-pay him.
- 3B: Zimmerman isn’t going anywhere, despite some blogger’s statements that he should be moved.
- LF: We’re assuming that Morse is the starter in left.
- RF: As with Zimmerman, Werth is set to play right field well into the next presidency.
- SPs: Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Lannan seem locks to be in the rotation. We re-signed Wang for the #4 rotation spot. There’s some talk here and there about non-tendering Lannan; he’s a solid mid-rotation guy who is still under arbitration control who is underrated by most people outside of this area, and I believe it would be a mistake to cut him loose at this stage.
- Setup/Closer: Clippard and Storen managed to survive silly trade rumors this season and should be the 8th/9th inning tandem for at least 2012.
- Loogy: Burnett: He struggled at times in 2011. He’s also under contract for 2012 with guaranteed money. So he’s going to be back. He’s more than a loogy though, so we’ll look for the team to replace Slaten.
- Middle Relief: Henry Rodriguez and Ryan Mattheus look to return in their middle relief roles. Kimball will be on the 60-day DL until he’s proven to have regained his fastball.
That’s actually a pretty large chunk of our planned 25-man roster (17 of the 25 are already accounted for, for the most part).
So, what do we need? In rough priority order:
- Center Field: again, we go into an off season with questions about center field. Ankiel had a decent September but overall his 2011 offense was poorl. He does fit Rizzo’s defensive mind, but is he the answer? Perhaps this is the off-season Rizzo finally gets Upton or Span or someone of that ilk. Or perhaps we re-sign Ankiel to a holding deal, waiting for wunder-kid Bryce Harper to come up and take over. Or, perhaps the lineups that Johnson has been fielding in September featuring Morse in LF, Werth in CF and Nix in RF are telling enough that we can “get by” without investing in a center fielder for 2012. (I’ve got a very large CF-only post coming up, with lots more detail).
- Right-handed middle relief: we may have to go digging for one-year FA Todd Coffey types again, because Kimball is on the DL til probably July and Carr was flat out released in September. That’s it in terms of 40-man roster options for right handed relievers. An internal option could be using Peacock as a 7th inning guy in 2012; he’s shown he can bring it 95-96 and perhaps even higher in short term situations. The team doesn’t seem to trust either Balester or Stammen, meaning we need a one-year guy.
- Utility guys: we used Hairston, Cora, and Bixler as backup infielders. Hairston did a great job starting at 3B in Zimmerman’s absence; the other two were awful. So we need a couple replacements. Lombardozzi could fit in, but he’d be better served with a full season in AAA. Bixler was waived and claimed, so we’re almost guaranteed to go hunting on the FA pile.
- Backup Outfielder: Bernadina seems to have run out of chances with this team. Corey Brown has been god-awful in AAA this year and was assigned off of our 40-man to the AAA team. Nix and Gomes are FAs. We can’t possibly offer Gomes arbitration and guarantee him a $2M salary, and Nix can’t hit lefties. In any case, we look like we may need a backup outfielder from somewhere. Nix has been getting starts in RF (as mentioned above) down the stretch and certainly has enough power to feature 6th in a lineup. Perhaps he’s worth another year. The team was in preliminary talks on a 2012 contract with him but nothing official has been signed.
- Loogy: we could use a one-out guy, assuming that we need a 2nd lefty to Burnett. I’m guessing that Severino is not the answer, based on how little use he got in September. Or maybe he is. Certainly I’d prefer giving him a shot versus scraping the bottom of the reliever barrel again and finding another guy who performs as badly as Slaten.
- Starting Pitcher: We re-signed our own FA Wang, and continue to be in the mix for more of a marquee name like Buehrle and Oswalt. Do we need another starter? Signing either of these two vets will probably indicate team flexibility to trade some of our younger starting pitching cache of Detwiler, Peacock, and Milone, but also may end up blocking a guy who could be just as good for a fraction of the price.
- Long man: I’m guessing that we assign a long man from one of Gorzelanny (most likely), Detwiler (somewhat likely), Balester and Stammen (less likely). The team seems down on both the latter guys, who are probably destined for DFA when they run out of options.
So, thats a somewhat big todo list. Some spots are clearly fill-able from within, but we’re still looking at a few acquisitions.