Eight teams struck out this winter by not spending enough
New York Mets got Jason Bay but didn't fix catching and pitching problems
An arbitration showdown looms between the Giants and Tim Lincecum
Jonny Damon would make a lot of sense batting leadoff for the Detroit Tigers
Not every team can be a winner in winter. These eight clubs have been losers, at least for the months of November through February, and while a couple of them may have had a slight problem or two with execution, the real common denominator is that they didn't spend enough money to fill their holes. Some of them are still very good teams (Cubs, Dodgers and Giants for instance), but they should all be better.
There's still time to do a little shopping, though probably not enough to rewrite these winter scripts.
Even Mets great Darryl Strawberry chimed in with an assessment of the Mets' offseason Tuesday night, diplomatically summing it up by saying it "could have been better.''
While the Mets signed the big hitter they sought in Jason Bay on a reasonable $66-million price (at least compared to Matt Holliday's $120-million deal), they mostly imported a collection of backup catchers like Henry Blanco and Chris Coste, comfortable old friends like Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis and question marks like Kelvim Escobar. The result is that they will take a paper-thin rotation into spring along with a slew of unproven catchers and tons of other questions.
They could have had Joel Piniero for $18 million over two years and surely Bengie Molina for $10 million over two (Molina was the bigger loss in my estimation, since he's a catcher with power and a rep for handling a young staff), but they played hardball with each and are left lacking at both key positions.
They were also stuck with Luis Castillo at second after spending weeks trying to trade him so they could make a run at Orlando Hudson. But the topper to a soap-operatic offseason has to be their public fight with star center fielder Carlos Beltran for having a knee surgery all sides agreed was a good idea. Now that's not a good idea.
It's never going to be a great winter when the big goal is to undo the biggest move of the winter before. They did finally get rid of Milton Bradley but had to take Carlos Silva, poster of an impossibly bad 8.60 ERA last year and one of the worst pitchers in baseball since signing for $48 million over four years, in return from Seattle. Marlon Byrd's acquisition allows them to move Kosuke Fukudome to right field, where he's excellent, although Byrd isn't exactly a Gold Glover in center. John Grabow was overpaid at $7.5 mil for two years, and Xavier Nady seems similarly fortunate to get $3.3 million (plus $2 million in incentives) given that he didn't play after April last year and needed a second Tommy John surgery. But the bigger issues were beyond their control. Ted Lilly's injury could be a big blow, and Alfonso Soriano proved to be even more untradeable than Castillo. No matter, they remain very talented and still have an excellent shot to get back to the playoffs.
The newly divided Dodgers and their divorcing owners couldn't afford to risk going to arbitration with Randy Wolf, couldn't quite afford Piniero and could do no better or their staff than bring back Vicente Padilla and Jeff Weaver, leaving plenty of rotation questions. Veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, solid-hitting infielder Ronnie Belliard, utilityman Alfredo Amezaga, catching pro Brad Ausmus, underrated outfielder Reed Johnson and rotation longshot Ramon Ortiz were signed, all useful players that are less than marquee men for the storied franchise. GM Ned Colletti wisely locked up their best young players, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Chad Billinsgley and Jonathan Broxton, avoiding any more bitterness for an organization that's run by baseball's version of the War of the Roses.
They brought in a collection of hitters -- Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe and Bengie Molina -- but ignored the two true middle-of-the-order threats that were out there (Bay and Holliday) and were badly needed. Their incredibly talented rotation should give them a chance again, but just a little more hitting could make them a real threat. Adam LaRoche inexplicably turned down a $17-million, two-year deal, leaving them with second choice Huff, whose rep is that he can be a bit of a prickly clubhouse presence. Molina became a necessity when it was determined that top prospect Buster Posey isn't quite ready for fulltime catching duties. The Giants' baseball bosses also quietly instituted two new policies that won't help their hitters one iota: 1) don't overwork, and 2) pull the ball more. Neither is an especially good idea.
Wasn't the big reason they had to trade Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee that they wouldn't be able to make any moves this winter if they kept them both? Well, good thing, because otherwise Mike Redmond wouldn't be an Indian today. In retrospect, it's safe to say that excising Martinez and Lee was just part of a rebuilding/cost cutting effort that means 2010 should be a very long season.
I love this franchise from top to bottom. But there's no getting around the fact that they lost their ace pitcher (John Lackey) and lineup instigator (Chone Fggins), two major defections for a team that's been built around pitching and speed ever since Mike Scioscia got there. Hideki Matsui ably replaces Vladimir Guerrero as DH, Fernando Rodney upgrades a beleaguered bullpen and Piniero again gives them as much rotation depth as anyone. Still the AL West favorite. But they'll miss Lackey, and especially Figgins.
Their streak of losing seasons -- 17 and counting -- appears sure to continue. Akinori Iwamura is a magician at second base, Ryan Church is an OK outfielder and Octavio Dotel still throws hard. It is possible three players could turn the Pirates around, but the three would have to be Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer and Roy Halladay, not these three. There is hope for the future, thanks to Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. But this is not their year. Again.
They were remarkably cheap this winter, and the result is a rotation diminished by the loss of Javier Vazquez and a lineup that still needs another big hitter. Melky Cabrera was the only immediate help received for Vazquez, who was brilliant last year. Troy Glaus could prove to be a $2 million bargain, and Eric Hinske seems to be a lucky charm (he played for the AL champion the past three seasons). They also got former All-Star closer Takashi Saito. Meanwhile, the real goal had been to trade Derek Lowe so they could free up money for the much-needed impact bat. Unfortunately for them, there were no takers. Billy Wagner is a fair replacement for Rafael Soriano (though at this point, I'd take Soriano). But overall, there was no discernible improvement.
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