Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Thoughts on the Near Future

With the 2008 season heading around the bend, it's perfectly natural that talk of what's to be done for next year has dominated the chit chat at internet water coolers where guys like you and me gather. (Or you may be one of the eternal optimists who hasn't given up on this season, in which case I reiterate my promise not to shit on your hopes and dreams). In recent days there's been reason for hope for 2009 (Manram, I'm seriously believing there is a real possibility he could end up playing here next year) and reason for despair (McGowan, the heir apparent to AJ Burnett is out until...?), leaving us collectively wondering what we're supposed to think going forward.

Just what needs to be added to the current collection of players to get better without taking away from the club's existing strengths? At the very least, it's going to take one average to average+ arm for the rotation and one Big Scary Bat. On the former there is, of course, the prospect of throwing in a few more million dollars per year in the hopes of inducing AJ Burnett not to opt out of his contract, but that's not going to work unless you're also (unwisely) willing to add years. The most likely scenario is that JP makes enough of an effort that he can say, "well, we tried our best" without actually offering enough to induce AJ to stay. I'm fine with that. Those dollars can be spent elsewhere and hopefully the compensation pick(s?) for AJ will bring in some young talent.

I wouldn't have bet on this at all, but The Oracle says that "If J.P. is still here, the Jays will go hard after [Ben] Sheets" in the off season. Sheets is definitely one of the few A-list FA starters available after this year (CC Sabbathia being the biggest name out there and entirely unattainable) along with Burnett and it's definitely going to take coin to reel him in. It must be noted that he too comes with a spotty injury track record; this is his first healthy season since 2004. I'd expect the bidding to be fierce, but then again there was competition for AJ too back in the 2005 offseason and we won the day there.

If JP does roll hard for Sheets, would there still be enough left over for that desperately needed Big Scary Bat? The figure Wilner's been throwing out for FA cash at the end of the year is $20 million (Thomas/Burnett/Eckstein/etc. off the books offset by raises to retained players), but I find it highly unlikely that Sheets comes for anything less than 5 years, $75 million, or around $15 mil per. That pretty much eats up most of the cash JP has to play with and precludes making a run at Manny for an additional $15 million-ish per unless Rogers agrees to boost payroll by $10 million or JP can get rid of $10 million worth of current contracts.

It pains me to say it, but BJ Ryan makes precisely $10 million each in 2009 and 2010. He was money in 2006, but now he's "just" a good lefty closer whose job could probably be filled internally by Jeremy Accardo or even Scott Downs. I don't think he's untradeable in the off season, especially not with only two years remaining on this contract and the one bona fide FA closer, Francisco Rodriguez, likely to demand the moon and the stars. The Brewers paid the same money for this loser after all...

But all this is predicated on actually bringing Sheets to town and we should all know that that's no sure thing after having danced with Gil Meche and Ted Lilly in the past. The question I've been grappling with is whether or not it really worth trying to plug the hole in the rotation created by the McGowan injury with any of the lesser FA starters.

How do these B-listers strike you?

* Ryan Dempster/Jon Garland: cool if you want to pay $10 million and give too many years to an average starter; does anyone think Dempster is for real?

* Brad Penny: The injury track record of AJ Burnett without as much past success and he's only a year younger anyway. I'd much rather just extend AJ.

* Oliver Perez: totally unpredictable after 3 train-wreck seasons, one stellar one, one good one, and currently having an average one; buyer beware.

* Derek Lowe: he's probably worth a sniff and despite being 35, doesn't have too much mileage on that arm. He's also been a model of consistency since he signed with the Dodgers four years ago. However, I'm guessing that he's staying put after shacking up with former FSN West "Dodger Dugout" anchor Carolyn Hughes in a well-publicized infidelity...

I wouldn't feel comfortable putting serious money on the table for any of these guys and I can't imagine JP would either. The C-listers aren't even worth talking about because there's nary a one of them better than Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Davis Romero or probably even tomorrow's starter, North Vancouver longshoreman Scott Richmond.

As for the Big Scary Bat to DH or upgrade on Overbay at first, I'm assuming that Mark Teixeira, like Sabbathia, is simply unattainable and not worth discussing. Otherwise, the situation is roughly similar to that of adding to the rotation: there's Manny and then there are a bunch of guys who aren't Manny. These guys are:

* Carlos Delgado/Jim Thome: the obituaries on both might have been premature this spring, but do we really want an aging slugger likely to hit terminal velocity any day now after the Frank Thomas debacle? Delgado of course does have sentimental appeal, which is almost a sure indication that it's the wrong idea to consider bringing him back

* Jason Giambi: JP will not have a player named in the Mitchell Report on his team. There are lots of other reasons why this is a bad idea, too.

* Ken Griffey Jr.: just an average hitter now and might hang up the spikes after this year or go for a final lap in Seattle.

* Pat Burrell: I like him, but he'd cost you. And I figure the Bosox, who've been linked to him as a trade suitor in past years, will sign him as a replacement for Manram.

* Adam Dunn: That bridge has been burnt so thoroughly that I doubt he'd even take a phone call from JP's successor, which is a shame because he already knew what loonies are.

So, while the latter two names are desirable it'd be an extreme long shot to bring one of them here. And I certainly would not throw significant money at any of the geriatrics in the top half of the list either.

Basically what I'm saying here is that if the two primary free agent targets in the off-season are Ben Sheets and Manny Ramirez, go get Ben Sheets and Manny Ramirez. If that's not possible, batten down the hatches, go with what we've got to round out the rotation (Purcey, the Romeros, Richmond, maybe Casey Janssen and hopefully a half season from McGowan) for next year and prepare to be really, seriously competitive* with rest of the AL East in 2010. At that point we just might well be younger, cheaper, and better with a serious infusion of talent (all drafted on JP's watch) from Snider, Arencibia, Jeroloman, Cecil and Campbell.

Just please, pretty please, don't try to spacle over a couple of serious holes in this team with second rate talent and try to convince us that 2009 is the year...

-- Johnny Was

* actually able to win as many games or more than divisional rivals without resorting to counterfactuals, "would have" scenarios, or lamentations about injuries

No comments: