Team-by-team NL winter meetings outlook
Here’s a team-by-team look around the majors, with the winter meetings set to begin Monday:
American League | National League
News and notes
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have their fingers on the pulse of the MLB offseason news. Get all the
Arizona: After a disastrous 2009 season, the Diamondbacks might be a starter or two away from contending next year. They would like to add a veteran to the rotation and slot him behind Dan Haren, a (supposedly) healthy Brandon Webb and Max Scherzer. (Could Atlanta be a trading partner?) Arizona’s payroll could increase at a time when the Dodgers are tightening theirs, an encouraging sign for the Diamondbacks. Catcher Chris Snyder is available.
Atlanta: The Braves have already addressed two bullpen needs, signing closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito last week. Now GM Frank Wren can continue his search for a slugger, with starter Derek Lowe his preferred trade chip. Atlanta needs to add run production at first base and left field. Free agent Mike Cameron — a LaGrange, Ga., native — would be a popular choice in the outfield. Do they want to bring back Adam LaRoche as a free agent?
Chicago: The Cubs can’t begin improving their club in earnest until they deal away Milton Bradley, so look for GM Jim Hendry to seek a quick resolution this week. One bit of information obscured somewhat by the Bradley rumors: Ted Lilly, arguably the Cubs’ best pitcher this year, will miss the start of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery. And it doesn’t look like Rich Harden is going to be back. This team needs an outfielder and rotation help.
Cincinnati: Walt Jocketty got an early start on his offseason shopping — as in July, with the addition of third baseman Scott Rolen. If the Reds have Rolen, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in their lineup for a full season, they should be better in 2010. But their rotation is iffy, which is why it would be very difficult for them to move Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang, despite reports of their availability. If anything, they should try to add a low-cost starter.
Colorado: The Rockies will bring back most of the players responsible for this year’s surprise wild-card berth, although Jason Marquis seems likely to sign elsewhere. (Colorado should be able to replace him with a healthy Jeff Francis.) The Rockies will need to invest in a new setup man and catcher if Rafael Betancourt and Yorvit Torrealba depart via free agency. Dan O’Dowd will try to deal Garrett Atkins, but he’s almost certainly going to be non-tendered.
Florida: The Marlins are in a familiar position, needing to move arbitration-eligible contracts in order to arrive at their desired payroll. Dan Uggla is the Marlins’ biggest trade chip at the moment, and the second baseman is convinced he’s going to be dealt. Florida needs to add pitching but might trade closer Matt Lindstrom and/or setup man Leo Nunez. That’s life in South Florida until the new ballpark opens.
Houston: Ed Wade is without a closer and setup man, although he did offer salary arbitration to Jose Valverde, who has saved 116 games over the past three seasons. If Valverde signs elsewhere, rebuilding the bullpen will become Wade’s foremost task. If the Astros upgrade their lineup, they will probably do so on the infield; they have little pop at second base, third base and shortstop.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers didn’t offer salary arbitration to free-agent starter Randy Wolf, a telltale sign their finances may be going haywire because of the McCourt divorce. Look for GM Ned Colletti to stay focused on low-cost signings and cash-neutral trades until further notice. The Dodgers have a decent (but expensive) trade chip in Juan Pierre that they hope will net a starting pitcher.
Milwaukee: Doug Melvin has acquired a center fielder (Carlos Gomez) and catcher (Gregg Zaun) without spending much money. If the Brewers intend to win the division in 2010, now is the time to invest more liberally in a starting pitcher. The rotation isn’t very exciting after Yovani Gallardo, but there is enough talent in the Milwaukee farm system (Mat Gamel?) to bring back a quality starter. The Brewers have three players — Gamel, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee — for two infield positions, creating a nice surplus for trades.
New York: Give the Mets credit. They are trying. But this rebuilding project is far from completion. It’s hard for the Mets to trade for top talent, because their farm system is thin. And it’s hard for them to sign top talent, because they had such a lousy 2009 season. Their biggest acquisition will probably be a starter on the order of Randy Wolf, Ben Sheets, Joel Pineiro or Jason Marquis. Mets second baseman Luis Castillo is available on the trade market — along with his big contract.
Philadelphia: The Phillies have already signed three free agents: Placido Polanco, Juan Castro and Brian Schneider. That suggests the franchise’s treasury and reputation among players are both very healthy. Now, they need to upgrade their bullpen with a setup man who is also capable of closing. (Brandon Lyon is reported to be the No. 1 target.) The Phillies could also use another veteran starter — but no, Halladay isn’t a realistic option any longer.
Pittsburgh: This just in: The Pirates haven’t run out of veterans to trade. Catcher/first baseman/possible outfielder Ryan Doumit is the strongest candidate to be shipped out this week. Starters Paul Maholm and Zach Duke may also be dealt — but if they stay, the Pirates’ rotation should be much improved next year. A shortstop and power bat are on the wish list; they made a bid for shortstop J.J. Hardy before Milwaukee dealt him to the Twins.
St. Louis: Eventually, the Cardinals will find out whether Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, both or neither will return. And then they can get on with the rest of their offseason business. Would they be better off with Holliday in left and a rookie at third … or Jermaine Dye in the outfield and Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre or Pedro Feliz at third? Tough question. And if Joel Pineiro departs as a free agent, it will be time to find another top candidate for the Duncan School.
San Diego: Jed Hoyer is one GM to watch this week. Much like Jack Zduriencik last year, he has taken over a team with some tradable assets. Adrian Gonzalez is the most obvious, but Hoyer has closer Heath Bell and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, too. (Chris Young, injured this year, will need to re-establish his value this spring.) Maybe the Padres will give a veteran starter the chance to bounce back — a frequent strategy for the Red Sox, Hoyer’s former employer.
San Francisco: Giants officials prefer Pablo Sandoval start the season at third base, not first, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. So unless the team changes that approach and signs Adrian Beltre, San Francisco’s big offensive upgrades will need to come at first base and in left field. Nick Johnson (first) and Mark DeRosa (left) are among the free-agent possibilities, and I’m not counting out the Giants on Jason Bay. San Francisco must also add a catcher; Yorvit Torrealba, who began his pro career with the organization, is one strong option.
Washington: The Nationals have added a number of good baseball men, young and old, to their front office this winter. Now it’s time to upgrade the on-field product, too. A veteran starter is first on the shopping list — and there is mutual interest with John Smoltz, according to our Ken Rosenthal. Look for left fielder Josh Willingham to be a popular trade target among the power-starved teams that fail to land Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.