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Weakest links

Only one team enters 2007 without a major deficiency

Posted: Thursday January 25, 2007 12:10PM; Updated: Thursday January 25, 2007 10:27PM
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The Cubs spent somewhere around $300 million in the past few months to overhaul the disaster of '06, and they're still wondering about that big expanse of grass in center field. The Giants, if you count that $16 million earmarked for Barry Bonds, have forked over better than $200 million to get better -- and they still have to find more for all the Ben-Gay that they'll have to buy.

The Devil Rays and Royals have books and books of questions, as always. The Red Sox have a closer quandary (again!). Even the Yankees have some figuring out to do.

No matter how much offseason check-writing goes on, how much swapping and talking is done, every Major League team -- with maybe one jarring exception -- still has at least one major hole to fill. And we're only three weeks away from Spring Training, too.

Let's take 'em one by one ...

National League

The Cubs paid a hefty price for Alfonso Soriano, but he may be miscast as a center fielder this season.
The Cubs paid a hefty price for Alfonso Soriano, but he may be miscast as a center fielder this season.
Chuck Solomon/SI

• The Mets still have mostly the same lineup that won 97 games last season. But 60 percent of the rotation is 40-53 lifetime. The other 40 percent? They're both over 40.

• The Phillies' rotation may be the best in the division. The lineup has sluggers, scrappers and some speed, too. But is Wes Helms the answer at third base?

• The Braves have a bullpen now -- a year too late, as it works out -- but the right side of the infield has at least as many holes as Jeff Francoeur's swing.

• The Marlins were surprisingly good in '06. Much of that team remains. (Talk about surprises.) Who (Ricky Nolasco, Taylor Tankersley) is going to close, though?

• The Nationals are rebuilding (translation: they'll be bad). The rotation may be the worst in baseball, consisting of John Patterson and four question marks.

• The Cardinals will look mostly familiar in the field. That's OK, too, if everyone stays healthy. But that rotation, with or without Jeff Weaver, is still real fuzzy.

• The Astros tried to get more pop in the lineup by signing outfielder Carlos Lee, but they're still stuck with good guy/bad bat Brad Ausmus behind the plate.

• The Reds won't get much hitting out of new SS Alex Gonzalez, and who knows where -- or how much -- Ken Griffey plays? But the big drama: Who closes?

• The Brewers have done a good job finding rotation help, and their lineup returns mostly intact. Now if they can find a plug for that hole in Rickie Weeks' glove ...

• The Pirates' lineup has more pop with Adam LaRoche. But he cost them closer Mike Gonzalez. Are the Bucs really ready for Salomon Torres Time in the ninth?

• The Cubs spent wildly -- some good, some bad -- to fill their needs. Yet they may end up having to give newcomer Alfonso Soriano directions to center field.

• The Padres have been power-hungry forever. And they come up with Marcus Giles at second, Kevin Kouzmanoff at third and Terrmel Sledge in left. Huh?

• The Dodgers have an awesome rotation -- maybe the best in baseball -- but look iffy at third (Wilson Betemit) and defensively challenged in the outfield.

• The Giants are slow and absolutely ancient in the field, but they do have a nice, mostly youngish rotation. You wonder how Rich Aurilia will do at first, though.

• The Rockies' biggest unknown -- other than how long GM Dan O'Dowd can hang on -- is what they'll get out of rookie Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop.

• The Diamondbacks' rotation is better than you'd think, with the Big Unit back on board. But Chris Snyder's going to have to show more punch behind the plate.

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