Talk baseball all season long with SI.com's Jacob Luft in Baseball Chatter, a journal for hot topic debates, Sabermetric ramblings and reader-driven discussions.
11/10/2006 12:42:00 PM
Hot Stove preview
Who else is fired up to see the Wily Mo Pena adventure in right field?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The deadline for free agents to file is Saturday. After that, the signings will come fast and furious. Before the Hot Stove fray begins in earnest, let's take a look at which items will be on each team's shopping list. I've compiled the American League list below, ranked by order of finish in each division. For the Senior Circuit fans, I haven't forgotten you ...
CLICK HERE for the NL breakdown from SI.com's Jon Weisman. Afterward, come back to the blog and have your say.
New York Yankees Top Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, first base
Even if Mike Mussina comes back, the Yankees still have to account for the fact that Randy Johnson is done as a true No. 1 and that they may never get much or any use out of Carl Pavano or Jaret Wright. Their two best pitchers next season might be Chien-Ming Wang and Philip Hughes. That's not a bad thing, but it might not be enough to win the AL East again, especially since Wang is due for some regression next year. The bullpen needs some depth behind Mariano Rivera, Scott Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth, and first base will need to addressed now that the Gary Sheffield experiment is officially a failure.
Toronto Blue Jays Top Needs: Starting pitching, shortstop, catcher
Both their catchers -- Gregg Zaun and Bengie Molina -- are free agents and they stand to lose pitchers Ted Lilly and Justin Speier in free agency. Shortstop was a black hole for them last season and they will need to shop for a replacement. But those are minor concerns in comparison to the major challenge facing Toronto: locking up the supremely talented Vernon Wells to a long-term contract. It will be hard to take this franchise seriously if they don't do what is necessary to keep him.
Boston Red Sox Top Needs: Relief pitching, starting pitching, shortstop, second baseman, outfield
Even with Jonathan Papelbon moving into the rotation, the Red Sox will need at least one more capable starter, especially if Josh Beckett is going to post another ERA-plus of 92 (100 is average). The Sox can go cheap to fill second base (Dustin Pedroia) and right field (Wily Mo Pena), but if they really want to unseat the Yankees, it's time to open up the pocketbook and stop obsessing over value buys.
Baltimore Orioles Top Needs: Relief pitching, first base, outfield
Save for Rodrigo Lopez, the starting pitching is in good shape. The problem is the bullpen, which has to be rebuilt around closer Chris Ray. The lineup is in bad shape, too. They need to buy thumpers to fill first base and one of the corner outfield spots, and it's time to search for a replacement for Melvin Mora, who will be 35 by opening day and is coming off a poor season.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays Top Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, first base
If Delmon Young plays the whole season, they won't lose 100 games again in 2007. But if they are going to get serious, they have to develop some pitchers to go along with the young position players they have, because you know they won't go out on the market to buy any decent arms.
Minnesota Twins Top Needs: Starting pitching, outfield Francisco Liriano isn't coming back until 2008 and Brad Radke is retiring. That leaves Boof Bonser and -- gulp! -- Carlos Silva as the primary starters behind Johan Santana. Minnesota is already planning on spending a whopping $70 million on next year's club, having picked up the $12 million option for center fielder Torii Hunter. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer is solid in right field but they need some insurance for left field in case Jason Kubel can't cut it again.
Detroit Tigers Top Needs: First base, outfield
The worst thing Tigers fans can do is fall in love with Sean Casey. His big hits in the postseason aside, he's not the long-term solution for Detroit at first base. Left field is another spot they can upgrade, even if another 20-plus homer season from Four-A player Marcus Thames is possible. This team hit 203 home runs last season, so it has power. What it lacks are tough outs up and down the lineup. Last season, only Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez were capable of consistently producing quality at-bats. (UPDATE -- The Tigers have traded for Gary Sheffield. That should satisfy the need for a power-hitting outfielder.)
Chicago White Sox Top Needs: Center field, Relief pitching, shortstop
Can we all agree now that Brian Anderson isn't the answer in center field? His OPS-plus was 65 last season. I don't care how good his defense is if he is going to hit like that. (And, for the record, his glovework wasn't that great.) Relievers Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte were unsung heroes in 2005 but flopped in '06, leading to the collapse of the bullpen. Brandon McCarthy is headed to the rotation, so maybe they can flip one of their other starters for help in the 'pen or the outfield.
Cleveland Indians Top Needs: Relief pitching, outfield/first base
You know how easy it is to get a save nowadays? Well, not for these guys. The Indians converted a league-low 24 saves last season. That's hard to do, and it goes a long way toward explaining why they finished 11 games below their run differential. The other culprit was poor defense, and the Indians have already begun to address that by trading for second baseman Josh Barfield. Now if they can figure out how to upgrade from Jhonny Peralta at shortstop and move catcher Victor Martinez to first base, they're in business.
Kansas City Royals Top Needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, first base, outfield ...
The worst pitching staff in club history doesn't stand to get much better until prospect Luke Hochevar arrives and Zack Greinke resurfaces. When that happens and Billy Butler and Alex Gordon come up, then you'll see some progress.
Oakland Athletics Top Needs:Frank Thomas, outfield, starting pitcher, manager
Losing Barry Zito won't be as much of a blow as you would think because this club is loaded with pitching. Keeping The Big Hurt at DH is of paramount importance, because most of the other A's can't hit a lick. Nick Swisher's ability to play outfield and first base gives them some leeway as far as finding another useful corner bat.
Los Angeles Angels Top Needs: Outfield, third base, first base
A healthy Garret Anderson can go a long way toward solving the offensive woes for a team that ranked 11th in the league in runs last season. Even so, they need to add legitimate power at their infield corner spots and at least one outfield position (Anderson can DH). Alfonso Soriano would be a perfect fit.
Texas Rangers Top Needs: Outfield, starting pitching
The Rangers ranked in the bottom half of the AL in home runs last season. That's not acceptable for a team that plays in a launching pad for a home stadium. Carlos Lee and Gary Matthews Jr. are free agents, and they will be hard-pressed to keep either of them. Before they spend tens of millions on a blockbuster deal for a pitcher, they need to construct an offense that suits their ballpark.
Seattle Mariners Top Needs: Starting pitching, outfield, DH
They have the same problem as the Rangers -– they aren't built for their home ballpark. Playing at Safeco Field, they need to be a pitching-rich team, but last season they ranked in the lower half of the AL in runs allowed. (Predictably, they were 13th in runs scored.) They didn't have a single pitcher with an ERA below 4.00. It doesn't help that Jamie Moyer is gone to Philly and isn't coming back. Picking up another hefty bat to complement Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez in the power game should be a priority as well.
"It will be hard to take this franchise (Blue Jays) seriously if they don't lock up this guy (Wells)...
When will people learn. Vernon Wells will 29 when his current contract ends next year. Players peak at the age of 27 and plateau until roughly 30 and depreciate rapidly after 30. Vernon Wells has a career OPS of .828 and while he is a very good defensive player this makes him a good player, not a star.
So if the Jays pay this guy 15 million a year over 5-6 years, then we'll know not to take them seriously, not the other way around.
In all your rants about how bad Brian Anderson is, you forgot to mention that the White Sox also will need a left fielder/ lead-off hitter to replace Scott Podsednik, as it does not look like they are brining him back.
I think that the Jays should lock up Frank Cattalenato instead of Vernon Wells. Although they would lose some pop and fielding, we would be able to acquire a shortstop and catcher who would help us out alot more. We will not be able to lockup Vernon long term this offseason because of all the money he could have south of the border. Cut your losses and try to once again improve for later years
You say that the Jays cant be taken seriously if they dont make a valiant effort to re-sign Wells but if there is an oppurtunity to get a very good starter for Wells via trade, wouldnt it be as good (or better) to do it. Pitcing to me is more important to have even in the AL east. I believe the jays can still be an above average team offensively and a great team on the mound if wells was traded for a starter like Ervin Santana. They could also sign another starter like Meche, Padilla etc and have a very strong rotation (Halladay, Burnett, Santana, Meche/Padilla/etc, Chacin) I think a staff like that would make it easier to win in the AL east than having a potent lineup with wells in it.
the red sox's biggest need is a legit closer. now that papelbon is moving to the rotation and foulke is (washed up... and) a free agent, there is no one to wrap up the close games. timlin is in his 40's and is too inconsistent. the young guns the sox have are a few years off from assuming such a role. with the thin closer's market this year, theo will need to pull off a trade in order to get a quality closer to solidify the back-end of games.
I agree with raider, santana would be a great pick up, pitching is the most important. Santana, and including a good shortstop or second baseman that the angels have, sorts out pitching and middle infield while leaving a huge hole in center. By re-upping zaun at fairly cheap, your left with over 10 million to get a center fielder and relief pitcher, a starting 3 of halladay, burnett and santana, with chacin four or 5th would make the jays the best rotation in the east. By having 10-12 million to spend on replacing wells and gettin a reliever.... I do this trade. And don'f forget, Adam Lind had an amazing september and should be given the chance for a spot in the batting order.
I honestly don't understand how you get to write for a reputable website such as SI.com. How can you argue that the Royals need a first baseman and outfield help? Those positions and third base are the only place where the Royals actually don't need help. I know you were trying to be cool by saying that they need so much help because they're awful, but it just makes you come off looking like someone who doesn't deserve to write for the Podunk Falls Gazette, let alone a national website based on one of the greatest magazines of all time.