AL Central Hot Stove Preview (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday October 31, 2007 10:59AM; Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2007 1:12PM
What They Should Do: Strong Sell. Is this team strong enough to compete if it re-signs Hunter and treads water elsewhere? Possibly, depending on the performance of the young pitchers. More likely, however, it would be about the sixth-best team in a league where four teams make the playoffs, and the revenues probably are not elastic enough in the old ballpark to warrant the risk. Once you let Hunter go, the cascade begins. Trade Santana, whose value is absolutely huge right now and who could potentially fetch two long-term cornerstones. And trade Joe Nathan too, who probably gets you another key long-term asset. That gives you a core of Mauer, Justin Morneau, Garza, Slowey, plus at least three other very attractive young assets for your honeymoon season in the new ballpark in 2010, and also your bachelor party season in the HumpDome in 2009. This is not a five-year rebuild, it's a two-year retrenching job.
What They Will Do: Strong Sell. This is a pretty obvious plan.
Chicago White Sox
What They Should Do: Strong Buy. The White Sox picked their direction during the season when they re-signed both Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye to long-term contracts rather than trading them for prospects. Having done so, they have little choice but to complete the cycle and field a team that should have a median expectation somewhere in the 88-win range. That scenario will probably require signing at least two "name" free agents. The alternative is being stuck in the middle, and spending a lot of money while undermining the reservoir of support they built up in 2005.
What They Will Do: Weak Buy. When you combine Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams, no direction would be entirely surprising, but this is one of those cases where going 72-90 might ultimately have been better than 80-82, because it underscores the fact that the team must spend money to improve. The guess here is that the White Sox go far but not quite far enough, trading Jon Garland for an offensive piece, and signing one mid-tier free agent.
Kansas City Royals
2007 Record: 69-93, fifth place
What They Should Do: Strong Sell. I don't think there's quite enough long-term talent here to make the Royals a legitimate contender in 2009 through 2011. Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar had disappointing seasons, and a team centered around those two plus Mark Teahen, Billy Butler, Brian Bannister, David DeJesus, Gil Meche, and Joakim Soria is probably going to peak at about 78 wins. So what do you do? You flip Meche, whose contract will now look like an asset to at least 15 or 20 teams, to the losers in the Johan Santana derby (although Meche does have a no-trade clause, unfortunately). You trade Bannister, who isn't all that young and whose low ERA was a DIPS-induced fluke. And you see what you can get for Grudzielanek in a middle infield market that should be fairly fluid this winter.
What They Will Do: Hold. Teams that exceed expectations like the Royals just did tend to be holders, whereas teams that fail to meet expectations are usually either buyers or sellers. I suspect that Dayton Moore fails to see the opportunity he has on his hands with Meche and Bannister.
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