Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Five impulse moves that could work
By Jim Bowden
With Tampa's offense ailing, is Wil Myers the panacea for the Rays?
General managers should be patient and measured. Over the course of 162 games, rash decisions don’t often portend success. A team’s slow start is worrisome, but making knee-jerk reactions can make things only worse. In 1995, when I was GM of the Cincinnati Reds, the team began the season 1-8, but I kept calm and we ended up facing the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.
That being said, a glaring hole in the lineup or rotation, a weakness in the bullpen or a major injury that continues to cost the team wins cannot be ignored, and it can’t be patched up with bit players. If there’s a viable, quality solution within the organization or via trade, it must be considered. Patience then gives way to impulse. And sometimes these moves work.
Let’s look at five contending teams that had a palpable weakness entering the regular season and now are losing games because of it. Indeed, the GMs of these teams might be tempted to do something impulsive to right the ship. These five moves might actually work if they address the problems now.
1. Tampa Bay Rays| Problem: lack of offense Solution: Promote OF Wil Myers
The Rays are last in the American League in runs scored, and their “rebuilt” offense consisting of second-division players such as James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar is not working. However, the one player they acquired in the offseason who could have an impact is Myers.
Although Rays management claims Myers is in Triple-A for developmental reasons, the truth is the Rays can secure another year before free agency if they leave him in the minors through April, and delay the arbitration process for a year if he's there through June. The problem is the Rays offense is putrid, and he’s clearly a better alternative than the aforementioned trio, as well as other players on the roster such as Sam Fuld, Luke Scott and Matt Joyce. Myers hit a combined 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season.
2. Detroit Tigers | Problem: lack of a closer Solution: Trade for RHP Huston Street When the Tigers all but anointed top pitching prospect Bruce Rondon their closer, they knew the ninth inning could be a problem if Rondon did not live up to expectations. He was so ineffective in spring training the Tigers optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. Since then the Tigers have tried left-hander Phil Coke and set-up man Joaquin Benoit as the closer. Coke failed, and Benoit’s shift weakens their eighth-inning bridge. They’ve signed Jose Valverde to a minor-league contract, but there’s no guarantee he can rekindle his past success.
It might just be a couple of weeks into the season, but for a team with World Series aspirations and talent, waiting could mean the difference in gaining home field advantage in the playoffs. The Tigers could solve this problem by offering the Padres their choice of left-hander Drew Smyly or outfielder Avisail Garcia for Street.
Street, 29, is signed through 2014 at just $7 million per year with a club-friendly team option for $7 million in 2015. He has saved at least 20 games per season for four straight years and his lifetime ERA of 3.05 and WHIP of 1.04 over a nine-year career is impressive. For the Padres, if they can get either a potential double-digit winner such as Smyly or a future 20-homer bat such as Garcia (who won’t be eligible for arbitration for three to four years), this should be a no-brainer.
3. Los Angeles Angels | Problem: Need third starting pitcher Solution: Trade for RHP Bud Norris The Angels should be able to score runs with the best teams in the AL, and with the trio of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols they should be able to hit the game’s best pitchers. However, the Angels will go only as far as their starting pitchers take them. With the injury to ace Jered Weaver, the Angels are at least one quality starter short of being a legitimate threat in the AL West.
In time, top pitching prospect Garrett Richards eventually can be a quality No. 2 or No. 3 starter. But can the Angels afford to wait? Norris could help immediately, and a prospect package centered around Richards could be enough.
Norris could slot in between C.J. Wilson and Jason Vargas. In the long run, the Astros probably win this trade, but the Angels’ World Series window could close rapidly if no pitching help comes.
4. San Francisco Giants | Problem: Tim Lincecum’s ineffectiveness Solution: Move him to the bullpen; trade for RHP Ricky Nolasco The two-time Cy Young Award winner endured the worst season of his career in 2012, finishing with the NL’s worst ERA (5.18). Spring training was even worse. His first three starts this year haven’t been much better. His fastball velocity is now in the low-90s and the command has disappeared with the velocity. Simply, he’s no longer the impact starter he once was, and even as a fifth starter he is below average.
However, the bullpen is another story. He was so effective last postseason, giving up just three hits and posting a 0.69 ERA, 0.38 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in just 13 innings of work. Clearly pitching just one or two innings at a time should increase his velocity and make him effective again. The problem is, the Giants don’t have a fifth starter to replace him in the rotation. A trade with the Miami Marlins for a workhorse like Nolasco would improve the Giants’ rotation, and Lincecum would bolster the bullpen. A package revolving around closer prospect Heath Hembree should get the deal done.
I think Matheny should give Rosenthal the job. I understand that Matheny would rather give the job to a more experienced reliever, but Rosenthal has the best stuff of any of them. Rosenthal can hit 100 mph and his hard curve ball is practically unhittable when he puts it in the right spot. He has struggled to start the year, but I’m convinced he’ll develop into one of the game’s best closers. Just Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman have better raw stuff, and with Rosenthal’s tremendous makeup and character there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be able to embrace this role.