I'm going to update these with extra categories as they come to me, I may eventually go back and break down the first few into this manner as well.
Untouchables on the MLB roster:
Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden,
Elite Prospects (for these I will only be listing those not on the major league roster):
Justin Smoak, Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Michael Main, Martin Perez (the Rangers probably have the top farm system right now, helped a lot by the fleece of Atlanta in the Teixeira trade. The last 3 are in the low minors but are potential aces dominating their leagues)
Holes to fill:
SP, RP, Closer
Potential major losses:
Major Free Agents after 2009:
Hank Blalock, Vincente Padilla, (probably) Kevin Millwood.
Kevin Millwood, 2 years $23 million left, can be voided after this season if Millwood pitches less than 180 innings saving $12 million.
Vincente Padilla, 1 year $13.75 million left (including buyout).
Michael Young, 5 years $80 million left, no trade thru 2009, limited no trade (8 teams) thru May 2011 when he becomes a 10 and 5 player.
Large arbitration increases:
No salary's are likely to increase more than $1-2 million thru arbitration
The infield is filling fast. Ian Kinsler is one of the best offensive 2B in the league. Chris Davis looks like a real power option at 3B (not his ideal defensive position but its where his future fits). Hank Blalock will likely keep 1B warm for a year until Justin Smoak is ready to make an impact. Michael Young is an established (allbeit overated) star at SS, with a good prospect in Joaquin Arias major league ready, and an elite prospect in Elvis Andrus a year away. It's probably time to explore trading Michael Young.... Catcher is set with a veteran in Laird behind a group of top young talents in Teagarden, Max Ramirez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is likely wearing another uniform on opening day. The other 3 can share C and DH duties with Max Ramirez serving as Hank Blalock's backup at 1B.
Josh Hamilton is an emerging superstar with one spot locked in. Nelson Cruz put up a ridiculous line of .345 125-52-144-25 in his last 545 AB in AAA before hitting .333 with 7 HR and 26 RBI in 31 games in the majors last season. I don't think he'll be a star or put up anywhere near those numbers next season, but he is a former top prospect so the pedigree is there. He should be able to put up a strong .280, 30 HR, 100 RBI season hitting in a strong lineup in the home run haven that is Arlington. David Murphy, although not very highly touted, is a solid league average player, making close to the league minimum, who fits in well for a team that already has a strong offensive presence. Marlon Byrd is a solid defensive 4th OF, hitting .302/.361/.460 in 814 AB for Texas. Furthermore, in case there are injuries on the field, prospects Greg Golson and Julio Borbon should be ready to fill in. This team should not need to sign a replacement for Milton Bradley.
I would characterize as abysmal. Millwood and Padilla are overpaid for little production and beyond that is a group of young unproven players. Brandon McCarthy and Eric Hurley probably have the most upside, although neither figures to be a break out player. Next is a group of guys whose ceiling only reaches mid-backend types in Harrison, Nippert and Gabbard. The rotation needs a lot of work. Padilla and likely Millwood will both be off the books next season so there will be money to spend. They need to bring in at least one guy.
The bullpen is not good, like the rotation, but there is a few bright spots. Francisco is currently the closer, although he isn't suited for the job. CJ Wilson and Joaqin Benoit have both closes in the past, although they are both coming off poor injury plagued seasons, and again, neither is really suited for the job. One strong arm to close is likely a must. The three aforementioned former closers could all be suitable setup men if they can stay healthy. Also adding to the rotation could shift a starter or two into the bullpen giving an extra boost.
the moves to make
1. Attempt to trade Michael Young for major league ready pitching. He is a pretty good player yes, but there is no way he is worth $16 million a year and he is under contract until 2013 (age 36). He's more likely to be a product of his environment than a star level talent and you have two very good young players behind him. Try and trade him now while he is still considered a star, because I doubt he will be in 2-3 years. Remember the old saying, it's better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late. If he won't waive his no trade clause, wait til the end of the season and trade him to whoever will take him before his 10 and 5 kicks in and he can go block any trade. I'd love to say Young for Matt Cain but I doubt that works. Jonathan Sanchez (I wouldn't do) and James McDonald are probably the most realistic targets right now, so it may be worth waiting until next season. Note: This would also free up cash to sign one of the top pitchers from this year's market.
2. Trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia for Clay Buchholz. The Sox say they won't do it but I don't mind it. I bet they change thier mind after signing Junichi Tazawa. Hold out and they'll cave. The Rangers stole a good group of prospects for Gagne from the Sox and they can do it again.
3. Sign Ben Sheets. 3 years, $39 million. They need to get some top level pitching talent badly. CC won't go. Lowe isn't worth the cash at his age. Burnett isn't worth the risk for 5 years. That basically leave Sheets and Oliver Perez as the two pitchers left with the potential to lead a rotation.
4. Sign Mark Prior to an incentive laden deal. It could probably be a minor league contract with an invite. Again, they need pitching as badly as you can need pitching and should look everywhere for it. He's still only 28 years old.
5. Sign Mark Mulder 2 years, $4 million, with incentives, escalators and team option. Still could have some good years ahead at only 31. Is due for a giant pay cut from the $7 million he made last season.
6. Sign Kerry Wood. 3 years $27 million. From what I've heard about Kerry Wood's mindset, he is the type that would take less to play where he wants, and he has Texas ties. This probably should be up higher, but to me the rotation is more important so I left it down.
Texas has a potent offense and will have one for years to come, but the pitching is finally on its way. Holland should make an impact this season, with Main, Feliz, and Perez possible 2010 additions. This team should be ready to make a serious run at a title in 2011 if it can pick up some solid veteran pitching in the mean time (Sheets this year, Bedard, Harden, and Myers are available next). Sheets isn't the perfect fit, but he's better than the decisions they've made in the past. Would you rather pay for 120 innings very good innings from Sheets or 170 awful innings from Millwood? At least you know that when healthy he's as good as anyone (and 2011 will conveniently be a contract year). I'm not expecting either Prior or Mulder to do anything but there is very little risk in the deals for a team desperate for pitching. I don't think anyone questions the future offense built around Hamilton, Kinsler, Davis, Smoak, Andrus, Teagarden and Ramirez. By 2011 an ideal rotation could be Sheets, Buchholz, Bedard, Holland and Feliz or Perez and could be quite formidable. There is also a lot of depth in the group they would have all of those 6, plus Michael Main having frontline potential. If only 2 or 3 of the 7 pitch to their potential the team would be a strong playoff contender with a great chance to advance.
C. Gerald Laird/Taylor Teagarden
1B. Hank Blalock/Max Ramirez
2B. Ian Kinsler
3B. Chris Davis
SS. Michael Young (as much as I'd like to see him traded, next year or midseason is a more realistic target)
LF. David Murphy
CF. Josh Hamilton
RF. Nelson Cruz
Rotation: Ben Sheets, Clay Buchholz, Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla, Hurley/Gabbard/McCarthy
LHRP. CJ WIlson
Set up men: Frank Francisco, Joaquin Benoit
Closer. Kerry Wood.
5 years ago how good would Sheets, Prior, Mulder and Wood look together?