Hot Stove advice (cont.)
Phillies: Re-sign Jayson Werth
There's no need to reinvent the wheel. With top outfield prospect Domonic Brown a left-handed hitter and perhaps a year or two away from being an everyday starter, the Phillies are looking for a power-hitting righty bat that can play right field. Well, the best one available has been on their roster since 2007.
Yes, Werth will require a lot of money to keep, but given that the Phillies are in their prime window of contention, revenues are at an all-time high given their three straight trips to the NLCS or World Series and that a huge chunk of payroll is scheduled to come off the books after 2011, Philadelphia should make a play to retain Werth.
Among those whose contracts expire after next season are Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibañez, Brad Lidge, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson -- a quintet who will make more than $53 million in 2011. Thus, in a year the Phillies will receive payroll relief and an open corner outfield position for when Brown is ready to assume it.
Rays: Re-sign Joaquin Benoit and install him as your closer
Tampa Bay won't be able to afford the contract that free-agent closer Rafael Soriano will command on the open market, but re-signing Benoit ought to capably fill that void at a much lower salary. Benoit was a revelation for the Rays as a setup man last year, leading all AL relievers who pitched at least 50 innings in ERA (1.34), batting average against (.147) and WHIP (0.68); he was third in strikeouts per nine innings (11.2). He has just nine career saves in nine seasons but has all the tools to be a great closer.
Reds: Trade for Zack Greinke
That the Reds need an ace became apparent when they resorted to starting Edinson Volquez -- he of the PED suspension and minor league demotion last year -- in NLDS Game 1. With Aaron Harang's hefty contract coming off the books, Cincinnati should try trading for the Royals' ace, who has stated a preference for playing outside one of the game's biggest markets.
The Reds aren't likely to increase payroll much, but they've been relieved of the burden of Harang's $12.5 million, while Greinke is scheduled to make an affordable $13.5 million in each of next two seasons. The club will face some hefty arbitration raises for Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Volquez, but surely that money can be found somewhere. The Reds already picked up starter Bronson Arroyo's $13 million option for next season, but a deal for Greinke would allow them to scrap costly extension talks.
Cincinnati also has some young positional talent it can trade, while managing a small hit to an offense that led the NL with 790 runs last year. In Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey, it has three outfielders for two positions, and top minor league hitting prospect Yonder Alonso -- a first baseman and corner outfielder -- is blocked at the major league level, so a package with Alonso and Stubbs could go a long way toward landing Greinke.
Admittedly, Alonso's top three AL positions -- first base, left field and designated hitter -- are projected to be filled in years to come by the Royals' cadre of Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Kila Ka'aihue and, eventually, Eric Hosmer, but that ought to be less of a concern for a team like Kansas City, which isn't knocking on the door of the playoffs yet.
Twins: Pursue Paul Konerko
After two straight postseasons of being swept by the Yankees -- the Twins mustered just 13 runs in those six games -- it would behoove Minnesota to shake up the lineup. Signing Konerko to be its new full-time DH instead of Jim Thome would add a needed right-handed bat to break up lefties Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel; provide insurance at first base for Morneau, who missed 108 games in the past two seasons; and weaken the White Sox, their chief rivals in the division. It's not likely that Konerko, who has a strong bond with Chicago owner Jerry Reinsdorf, would leave for a division rival, but for Minnesota the worst-case scenario of showing interest in Konerko is simply driving up the price that the Sox have to pay to keep him.
Yankees: Don't sign a designated hitter
No matter how tempting or affordable it might be to sign a player like Nick Johnson, as the Yankees did last year, they ought to keep the DH slot open to rotate aging hitters Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. (Presuming, of course, they re-sign Jeter.)
With Johnson's injury last year, manager Joe Girardi filled his lineup card with Marcus Thames (34 starts), Posada (28) and Lance Berkman (21) as his most regular DHs, but with Thames and Berkman gone, Girardi should more strictly use the spot for his longtime veterans. Tuesday's Gold Glove results notwithstanding, neither Jeter, Posada nor Rodriguez are the defenders they used to be. Infielder Eduardo Nunez, a Double-A and Triple-A All-Star the past two seasons, and catcher Jesus Montero appear ready for regular playing time.