Posted on: November 24, 2008 8:22 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2008 1:12 am
1. Do not under any circumstances expect Chris Carpenter to be healthy. Plan for him to not pitch at all and if he does come back strong it's like an ace at the deadline that gives added depth to the team. He should be considered the 6th starter when putting next year's team together.
2. Sign Oliver Perez, 4 years $42 million. This may seem odd, but Dave Duncan always seems to get the best out of his starters and Perez has as good of stuff as any free agent available. I'm not saying Duncan will turn Perez back into the 2004 version of himself with a 2.98 era and 234 K's, but a small increase in command could cause a large increase in results for someone with that kind of stuff. Plus, he's left handed, and which LHP other than Sabathia is better than Perez on the free agent market?
3. Trade Rick Ankiel to the Rays for a package including Jeff Niemann. It's going to cost a lot to fill both middle infield slots with above league average options and saving money by dumping an arbitration eligible player is probably a requirement to do it. Niemann is the most major league ready pitcher in the minors (I'm not saying the best, just the most ready). He should easily fill a 5th starter role in the weak NL. He also is a former top 5 pick with good stuff, I'd be surprised if he struggled with Duncan as his pitching coach.
3a. Play Colby Rasmus in CF. He might start slow but he will play above average defense and has power and speed. It will be an up and down year but when he gets hot it will be something to watch up.
4. Sign Trevor Hoffman to a 1 year deal $6 million (probably with a club or mutual option). He'll want a two year deal, but in this market flooded with closing options no one is going to give him one. Chris Perez is the future but he isn't ready yet. Let him learn from the all time saves leader and then take over in 2010.
5. Sign Rafael Furcal, 4 years $52 million. This was the hardest decision for me to make. Furcal is the only top player at the position, and he's going to be overbid due to the scarcity at the position. But look at the other options. Renteria's declining defense and .239 average against RHP isn't appealing. Honestly, this deal is better than 3 years $24 million for Orland Cabrera isn't it? Beyond that is a bunch of glove first and career utility players. They need to do something to add the offense and this is probably the only place to do it. Plus, he give a legit leadoff man, which is something the team lacks.
6. Sign Ramon Vazquez. 2 years $6 million. Overspending at SS will cost some at 2B. The market was thin behind Hudson anyway (and again, the Furcal contract would be a better deal than giving Hudson 8 figures). Aaron Miles is a switch hitter who hit both lefties and righties well. Make it his job to lose. Vazquez can play 2B, 3B and SS behind three question marks, and is coming off a good offensive season. Even if they all stay healthy a left handed utility man is always useful.
I think I stayed around budget, they had a little over $30 million coming off the books and I moved a 2nd year arbitration player in Ankiel. with either/both big contracts being slightly backloaded they should be around the same payroll for next season. Wainwright, Perez, Lohse, Wellemeyer, Niemann, Carpenter and Jaime Garcia make up a pretty deep group of starters in case injuries hit the rotation again. The bullpen can't be any worse than last year and the offense is better with Furcal replacing Ankiel. There is a lot of questions but a lot of upside as well. If Furcal plays like he did to start last season hitting in front of Pujols the offense will go wild. They have 3 potential aces if Wainwright and Carpenter can stay healthy and Duncan can work his magic on Perez (I really think they'd be happy to have one ace out of the three but stranger things have happened). A healthy Pujols could simply just play out of his mind and carry the team on his own. I don't think they'll make the playoffs unless a lot of things go right, but they have the talent and the upside where they should be in the race until the end of the season.