Hot Stove Preview: NL Central
There is right-handed power in the lineup, depth in the infield (especially with
This is a team that lacks lineup balance. In the NLDS matchup with the Dodgers their right-handed-heavy lineup was exposed. Given that they have re-signed
Like it or loathe it, acquiring reliever
Because of so many no-trade clauses (not just Fukudome, but also with declining
They need pitching, especially starting pitching. Despite pushing their way into the playoff picture the last two seasons the Brewers' bid on future contention is highly contingent on their ability to retain or replace at least one of their free-agent aces, Sabathia and
They'll offer every cent they can to try and keep Sabathia, because Sheets won't fill the bill, nor will any of the other realistic alternatives on the market. Failing that, 2009 becomes a bit of a re-gearing year for the franchise. Either way they'll dangle Escobar because they already have a slick-fielding shortstop with some sock in
The general perception is that it's a stars-and-scrubs roster that will go as far as
They could use more baling wire, because staying in contention will require extra work, and GM
They were hoping to lock up
Just like last year, suggesting that they tear down would be the easy, lazy, rational analysis, but however much sense it might seem to make on paper they aren't going to convert Oswalt into a package of blue-chip goodies. The problem is that the farm system has been tapped already, so there's no foundation to blast down to -- yet. If the Astros want to walk the walk as well as talk the talk about contending, deficit spending should be the order of the day. Assuming that McLane's still liquid, for this team as with few others a big package thrown toward free agent starters
They've got the best hitter and arguably the best player in baseball in
The Cardinals won't be in on this winter's big-name players, but they have the potential to sneak up on people with a few mid-market moves. They could use one or two starting middle infielders, with a shortstop being the more obvious need, but no one in-house is really all that reliable an option at second. A starting pitcher would make sense, because even if they have semi-useful utility pitchers like
Never underestimate the power of familiarity: The Cardinals need a shortstop, and ex-Redbird
They can skip shopping for a closer, leave Wainwright in the rotation and give the job of logging saves to Perez. They'd do well to bring in Wilson instead of Renteria to solve the shortstop problem for defense and then sign
There are a few relatively young veterans who might provide a solid foundation -- second baseman
A shortstop who can remain in action and play the position for years to come would help; papering over it with an ill-considered contract to
Of the two young veteran hurlers, they might shop Arroyo (because he had the better year) to the teams that lose out on the Sabathia sweepstakes and sensibly shrink from throwing big money at A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets. Arroyo's signed through 2010 for $20.5 million, with a 2011 option for $11 million more, and while that's more than a few pretty pennies, it's not ridiculous as compensation packages go in the current market.
While they could use an additional bat to play an outfield corner for them, most of the choices are too old and/or too expensive and/or too familiar (
There is a crowd of starting pitchers to sort through, but nothing you'd call a surplus or something you might deal from to address other issues. They have a La Roche too many, but that's because they don't simply want to move
This will take time, which they've got plenty of, but they also need to find suitors, ideally someone interested in merely adequate middle infielders Sanchez and Wilson, both of whom are under contract for one more year, and both with 2010 options.
They'll evince plenty of sympathy for the teams that don't get the middle infielders they want from the market, and then ask them if they've reflected on the virtues of the guys stationed in Pittsburgh, and whether or not they might have a nice rind of cheese or crust of bread to spare for the poor old Pirates. In other words: try to trade Wilson or Sanchez.
Exploiting the Rule 5 draft to the fullest and stocking the back end of the bullpen with other people's roster overflow might be beneficial, because this is an organization with space on the 40-man and not a ton of talent in the till. Put one of these two veteran infielders in somebody else's uniform, preferably Sanchez in order to give the pitching staff an assist by making space for a better fielder at second base. They could see about making Adam La Roche an Angel if