Trio of California teams need to add another slugger
Posted: Monday June 18, 2007 11:31AM; Updated: Monday June 18, 2007 12:01PM
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On a recent visit to Southern California, I noted that all three teams in that area were virtually the same: strong in pitching and close to World Series worthy, but missing the element of power. Between the Dodgers, Angels and Padres, it's possible that whichever team adds a significant power hitter will have the best chance to emerge from the pack of contenders.
That power won't come without pain, though. Considering the paucity of legit home-run hitters, the price will be high. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Reds' asking price of the Angels for powerful-yet-flawed Adam Dunn was a big-league starting pitcher, a big-league infielder and a top prospect, which sounds like about three times too much for the player who is a poor fielder and inconsistent in the clutch, and whose $13 million team option for 2008 goes away if he's traded, making him a free agent after this season.
Dunn seems to know he's done in Cincinnati (since we reported in this space a week ago that he's being shopped around, Triple-A prospect Joey Votto has been moved from first base to left field, yet another good clue), but it remains uncertain whether any of these other sluggers will stay or go: Mark Teixeira, Miguel Tejada, Troy Glaus, Jermaine Dye, Scott Rolen and Ken Griffey Jr. Rolen's Cardinals may have a hard time playing their way out of the race in the weak NL Central, Griffey has veto power over any trade, and for all the scuttlebutt, most baseball insiders still see Glaus staying in Toronto. "[Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi] still thinks they're in it," one competing executive says.
Teixeira is going to be the most intriguing story of all. The Rangers are believed to be interested in young pitching and outfielders and have their eye on the Orioles' Nick Markakis and Eric Bedard. But one competing GM says, "I don't see the Orioles even doing Markakis straight up." Teixeira, who's recovering from a quad injury, can become a free agent after '08 and is seen as unlikely to sign an extension before then. That GM says, "[Rangers GM Jon Daniels] is in a tough spot with Teixeira."
Whatever the price tag, and it will be high for any of these players, the Dodgers and Angels have plenty to offer in the way of prospects. "The Angels are in the best position to acquire a bat," one American League executive says. "The Angels have got a lot of minor-league guys who can play."
The Dodgers have some young studs as well -- including a few who are already with the big club -- and so it's the Padres who are going to have trouble competing in trades. San Diego's system is so bereft of prospects that everyone who calls continues to request star setup man Scott Linebrink, a key man on a superb pitching staff. For San Diego to beat its neighbors to the punch for added power, it may have to rely on the creativity of its GM, Kevin Towers, who has made a string of smart trades in recent seasons (acquiring Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, Cla Meredith, Josh Bard and Heath Bell, among others).
Meanwhile, the Angels have several young players of interest, including infielders Brandon Wood and Erick Aybar, catcher Jeff Mathis, and pitchers Joe Saunders and Nick Adenhart. Their pitching depth is so good that they might even again consider offering Ervin Santana, as they did last year along with Aybar for Miguel Tejada before Orioles owner Peter Angelos nixed the deal.
The Angels are awfully good but still too reliant on Vladimir Guerrero. And GM Bill Stoneman will have to loosen his vice-like grip on his top prospects to have a chance at any of the available power.
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