Posted: Friday January 27, 2006 12:34PM; Updated: Friday January 27, 2006 2:27PM
A center fielder for the Red Sox
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This little problem could be fixed any minute now, especially if the hard-up Sox hand over right-hander Manny Delcarmen in the stalled deal for Indians outfielder Coco Crisp. But say, for argument's sake, that the Crisp trade doesn't go through. Say, just for yuks, that the Indians are having second thoughts about trading their popular left fielder. Say, just for saying ... ahh, forget it. No way the Sox are going into the season with Adam Stern in center. If the Indians don't want to cough up Crisp, the Sox will trade for somebody else.
A shortstop for the Red Sox
GM Theo Epstein says he made a mistake -- deal with it -- in signing Edgar Renteria to a four-year, $40 million deal last winter. So Theo and his front office friends tried to rectify it by sending Renteria off to Atlanta -- which, very possibly, could be another mistake. Whatever, they're left with an empty lineup spot at shortstop (nothing personal, Alex Cora), where they're trying to put Florida free agent Alex Gonzalez. He, by the way, is nowhere near the player that Renteria is. Mistake No. 3 coming up?
A closer for the Braves
The great Dan Kolb experiment flopped last season, and when Kyle Farnsworth took the Yankees' money this winter, the Braves were left holding the resin bag. All the best closers (and even some not-so-good ones) have long since been snapped up, so the Braves will see if Chris Reitsma (15 saves in '05) can do for them what Kolb couldn't. And if Reitsma can't handle the pressure, maybe they'll give already battered Joey Devine, their first-round draft pick last year who gave up grand slams in his first two outings, another chance. Or maybe they'll go to Plan F. Once they figure out a Plan F.
A center fielder for the White Sox
It's hard to pick on a team as loaded as the Sox, who are easily better than they were last season, when they won 99 regular-season games (more than anyone in the American League) and that little postseason tournament everyone gets so excited about. But, despite all of GM Kenny Williams' upgrades, the position where the Sox probably are worse is center field. Williams swapped last year's starter, Aaron Rowand, to get DH Jim Thome, leaving the spot to prospect Brian Anderson, who had wrist surgery in November. Anderson batted .176 in 34 at-bats with the White Sox last season after posting a respectable .829 OPS at Class AAA and is rated by Baseball America as the organization's second-best prospect (closer Bobby Jenks is No. 1). The Sox are really good, so good that they can carry an unproven youngster as an everyday player. But with the ever-pressing Williams in charge, and the Indians charging, the Sox won't want to carry Anderson for too long.
A catcher for the Padres
When the Padres swapped still-serviceable second baseman Mark Loretta to the Red Sox in December for 35-year-old catcher Doug Mirabelli, they figured they were getting a good, solid, relatively cheap backup. Only now it looks as if Mirabelli will be forced into the lineup. The NL West champs have undergone an extreme makeover, but finding a new starting catcher to replace the departed Ramon Hernandez hasn't been part of it. Mirabelli's fine -- if he can handle Tim Wakefield's knuckler, he can handle just about anything -- but the problem is he's never caught more than 80 games in a season. And he's a career .241 hitter (.328 OBP). Piazza has been mentioned in San Diego, and Orioles catcher Javy Lopez is grumbling about wanting to leave Baltimore (Hernandez has taken over there). But, for right now, the ever-changing Padres are stuck with a backup as their starting backstop.