With pitching at a premium, it's time to add a bat
Posted: Thursday July 21, 2005 1:11PM; Updated: Thursday July 21, 2005 9:00PM
The Yankees could use Randy Winn's glove in center field.
Say a deal for A.J. Burnett -- any deal, pick a deal -- never comes off. Say Jason Schmidt stays in San Francisco. Say Mark Redman goes to Cincinnati or someplace like that, where he never is heard from again. At least not in a good way.
Say every other pitcher on the market -- Shawn Chacon, Tom Glavine, Jose Contreras, somebody that nobody's even mentioned yet, that no one's even thought of mentioning-- can't be had. What does a contending team in need of pitching -- the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers and three or four other clubs -- do then?
They stock up on bats, of course. They load up on lumber and try to bludgeon their way into the postseason.
Take the Yankees, for example. Their pitching is a mess. Wednesday, they used journeyman right-hander Aaron Small, who hadn't started in the big leagues since 1996. Kevin Brown still has a bad back. Carl Pavano may not return to the rotation until next week. Randy Johnson has been inconsistent. The Yankees, whose starters went into Wednesday's game with a 4.92 ERA, better than only Kansas City and Tampa Bay in the American League, need pitching.
But say they can't get it, which is entirely possible, maybe even probable. The Yankees, the highest-scoring team in baseball (5.5 runs a game), need to get a little more potent. They need to fill that troublesome center field position with someone like former Oakland outfielder Eric Byrnes (now with the Rockies) or the Mariners' Randy Winn. The upgrade in defense from either of those guys wouldn't hurt, either.
That's how it will have to work for many contending teams with weak pitching staffs. If you can't stop 'em, or get the guys to stop 'em, out-run 'em.
It might not be the brightest plan once the postseason rolls around. But it could be the only way a lot of teams get there.
Here's how a few other teams that need pitching can get better without it. (All these contending teams are in the bottom half of their respective leagues in starters' ERA):
The Sox trail only the Yanks in runs, but Boston could improve in a few spots. First baseman Kevin Millar has only four homers -- and all of those were hit in Fenway Park. The Sox would like to see more pop from third baseman Bill Mueller (four homers) too. But no position needs more of a boost than second base; Mark Bellhorn is hitting just .216 with seven homers and a galling 109 strikeouts and is now on the disabled list with a sprained thumb while Tony Graffanino fills in.
As for Millar and Mueller, there is no shortage of potential replacements on the market. Boston could go after Cincinnati's Joe Randa or Philly's David Bell, both third baseman. K.C. first baseman Mike Sweeney or Cincinnati's Adam Dunn could be brought in to play first. But those trades won't be easy to make for the Red Sox, who may have to give up some of their better prospects.