Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Dodgers, Giants, Indians must reload
By Jim Bowden
If the Giants want to win their third title in four years they must make some moves.
With the addition of an extra wild-card team, it's becoming increasingly difficult for GMs to decide whether their team is a contender, so I've decided to do it for them.
Over the next two days I will be looking at six teams on the edge of contention, and explain whether they should reload for 2013 or take a long-term view and eschew 2013 contention in favor of rebuilding.
The following three teams are in "reload" mode because they all possess a strong enough core of players that will allow them to compete this year if they add a couple of complementary parts. For each club I have outlined their trade deadline strategy, trade chips and targets, as well as their dream deal.
The Dodgers got a big boost from rookie Yasiel Puig, whose promotion might not have happened without the injuries to Kemp and Crawford. Puig has taken over right field and it’s unlikely he’ll ever give it back. When healthy, an outfield of Puig, Kemp and Crawford will give the Dodgers one of the best power/speed combinations in baseball. The odd man out: Andre Ethier.
Reload strategy The Dodgers need upgrades at shortstop or third base, closer and/or bullpen depth and starting pitching. Ethier is in only the first year of his six-year, $95.95 million contract, so if the Dodgers are willing to eat enough of it (perhaps up to $5 million per year), they could get a significant prospect in return. Teams that should want Ethier include the Yankees, Mariners, Mets and Blue Jays.
This deal could nearly solve all of the Dodgers’ ills in one fell swoop. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti deals from his surplus of outfielders and utilitymen to a team looking to get younger. With impending free agent Paul Konerko’s departure likely, Dayan Viciedo moves to first, opening left field for Ethier until Pederson is ready. (Ethier becomes DH when Adam Dunn's deal expires next year.)
For the Dodgers, Hanley Ramirez at third base alongside Alexei Ramirez at short solidifies the problematic left side of the Dodgers’ infield.
With Billingsley lost to Tommy John surgery, Peavy would join Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke to give the Dodgers perhaps the NL’s best starting four.
Overview The Giants have won two of the last three World Series, and in each of the last three seasons they have been aggressive at the deadline. With Angel Pagan's nagging hamstring injury and Tim Lincecum's continued struggles in the rotation, this team can use help in the outfield and rotation. General manager Brian Sabean is never shy about dealing prospects, so expect him to make some moves in an effort to move the Giants ahead of the pack in the NL West and try to turn them into a true "dynasty."
Reload strategy The one deadline deal that Sabean might live to regret is sending Zack Wheeler to the Mets in 2011 for a half-season of Carlos Beltran. Although Beltran played well down the stretch, the Giants missed the playoffs and the Giants have nothing to show for him. As a result of that deal, don't expect Sabean to deal his elite prospects, which means right-handers Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton are off-limits. The system falls off a bit after that, so most of their other prospects are fair game.
Trade chips RHP Chris Heston: Great feel for pitching.
LHP Mike Kickham, Clayton Blackburn: The former has a nasty curve, the latter is still in A ball but offers more upside.
RHRP Heath Hembree: Closer stuff but questionable command.
OF Gary Brown: Prospect with lots of speed but questionable hit tool.
SS Joe Panik: 2011 first-rounder has low ceiling, high floor.
Dream deal(s) Kickham and Heston to Miami for Nolasco, Blackburn, and Hembree to Minnesota for Willingham and Burton
If the Giants can acquire a starter like Nolasco, they can move Ryan Vogelsong into the No. 4 spot in the rotation and bump Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, and as we saw in the 2012 World Series, he can dominate in that role. Willingham -- as long as his balky knee checks out -- gives them some outfield insurance if Angel Pagan can't recover from his hamstring injury. And if he does come back, Gregor Blanco goes back to being a fourth outfielder, which is really his ideal role. Both Willingham and Burton are signed through 2014, which makes this more than a half-season rental for the Giants and would make them more willing to give up decent prospects. Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy love to lean on veterans, and Willingham and Burton fit that mold.
Another possibility would be looking to make one big deal with the Cubs to bring on Garza and Soriano. They would give up less in terms of prospects, but Garza is a free agent after this year and Soriano is not playing nearly as well as he did last year when he vetoed a trade to the Giants. (For the record, I think he would accept that trade this season.)
Overview Under Terry Francona’s guidance the Indians were completely rebuilt in the offseason. They significantly improved their outfield defense while adding speed and power, as well as high-energy, enthusiastic players.
However, the Indians continue to hover around .500, and the major problem remains starting pitching. The rotation simply is not at the level needed to get to the postseason.
Reload strategy Justin Masterson is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter, but the club needs at least two more quality arms to reach October. The trick for them is to find a way to improve this season while not sacrificing long-term success. Believe it or not, the best trade chips they have to accomplish such a feat are probably Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez, two big contributors on their big league club.
Trade chips SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Dorssys Paulino: With Francisco Lindor on his way, Cabrera could net a top pitching prospect; Paulino is struggling in low Class A but is just 18 years old, has big tools and is blocked by Lindor.
RHP Chris Perez: His trade value when healthy can’t get any higher. He should attract contenders.
Dream deal(s) Asdrubal Cabrera to St. Louis for Carlos Martinez, and Pete Kozma. Then deal Chris Perez to the Detroit for Drew Smyly.
The model for the kind of trade the Indians should be making is the offseason deal they made with the Reds and Diamondbacks that cost them Shin-Soo Choo but netted them Trevor Bauer and Drew Stubbs. They knew they could not re-sign Choo when he becomes a free agent after after this season, so they moved him for Bauer, a potential ace who they can control for six years, and Stubbs, a great defensive outfielder with power.
Trading Cabrera to the Cardinals would accomplish similar goals. Kozma could hold down the fort until Lindor is ready, and Martinez could help them in the bullpen this year and at the top of the rotation in years to come. Cabrera is a free agent after the 2014 season, and the Tribe won't re-sign him due to cost and Lindor, so they might as well trade him to a team that could use a shortstop upgrade and has a deep system.
Speaking of need, the Tigers desperately need a closer, and Smyly is the odd man out in their rotation. Perez gives them a closer and Smyly would join Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister to give the Indians good rotation depth.