Thursday, June 20, 2013
White Sox, Phillies, Brewers must rebuild
By Jim Bowden
|The White Sox should begin rebuilding and trade Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Jesse Crain. |
With the addition of an extra wild-card team, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for GMs to decide whether their teams are contenders, so I’ve decided to do it for them.
Wednesday I examined three teams on the edge of contention, and explained why the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians should reload for 2013. Today we look at a trio of clubs who should use the July 31 trade deadline to rebuild instead of chasing postseason aspirations that in all likelihood won’t become reality.
The following three teams are in "rebuild" mode because they do not possess a strong enough core of players to allow them to compete this year even 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.
For some clubs, it was easy to diagnose them as non-contenders even before the season started. The Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs are all in full rebuild mode. The White Sox should join that list now.
They are no longer good enough to contend for a divisional title and the farm system does not have enough prospects at the upper levels to help them get better this season.
This team does possess some valuable trade assets. Using those assets in blockbuster deals that net young major league talent or good prospects who are close to the big leagues, Chicago could quickly rebuild itself back into a contender within the next couple of seasons.
The strategy must be to aggressively listen to offers on every player not named Chris Sale or Addison Reed. They need more young position players and starting pitching prospects. To do this they must part with clubhouse leader Paul Konerko, as well as other veterans such as Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and relievers Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. General manager Rick Hahn has a lot of pieces to deal and certainly has a real opportunity to put this organization in a much better position for 2014 and beyond.
RHP Jake Peavy: When his ribs heal, he’ll be one of the most sought-after trade targets.
OF Alex Rios: Has only one year remaining on his contract; could hold him.
1B Paul Konerko: Konerko likely will not be re-signed; Dayan Viciedo will eventually replace him.
RHP Jesse Crain: One of AL Central's top setup men, Crain neutralizes the seventh inning.
LHP Matt Thornton: Can’t close, but has been a tremendous setup man.
Potential trade partners
Rangers: They won't get Jurickson Profar, but guys like Mike Olt and lower-level prospects such as Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro and Lewis Brinson are possibilities.
Tigers: Detroit needs bullpen help, so Crain and Thornton could be fits, but it's tough to trade within the division.
Orioles: Frankly, any team that needs a reliever is going to be calling the South Side.
Pirates: Pittsburgh is going to make some moves, though it's unclear if there is a good fit here. The Pirates could use Peavy, but don't need another injury-prone pitcher, and their pen is a strength.
Jake Peavy and Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers for Justin Grimm, Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson and Joey Gallo.
In Peavy, the Rangers solidify their rotation behind Yu Darvish with a fearless veteran who still can miss bats and keep the ball on the ground. If he remains healthy, he can consistently pitch into the sixth, allowing the Rangers’ relief corps to shut down the last three frames. The White Sox need solid pitching prospects and former Georgia Bulldog Justin Grimm gives them a sturdy right-hander who could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. The other prospects are still in Class A or below, so all provide ceiling while being far from a sure thing.
Milwaukee Brewers | Fifth place | NL Central | 16 GB
The Brewers are last in the National League in ERA, runs allowed and WHIP. Despite its formidable offensive and defensive capabilities, Milwaukee has no hope of climbing back into contention with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates until its starting rotation is fixed.
The overanxious blunder of signing right-hander Kyle Lohse cost them a first-round pick, which is just what this weak farm system needs. However, they might be able to recoup that loss if the Brewers can flip him to a contender for young pitching. By dealing veterans such as Aramis Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee could quickly rebuild its rotation.
The Brewers should try and repeat what they did last year when they dealt Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels in a package deal that included top young shortstop Jean Segura and minor league righty Johnny Hellweg. Trading the two best proven starting pitchers on their roster -- Gallardo and Lohse -- to get 3-for-1 returns might be the fastest way to rebuild the rotation.
Bats like Jonathan Lucroy, Ramirez and Weeks also should bring back a good group of young arms. Even a veteran reliever like Francisco Rodriguez should net at least one solid pitching prospect.
RHP Yovani Gallardo: Down year for staff ace. Still just 27 and controlled through 2015.
RHP Kyle Lohse: Despite 2-6 mark, 3.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP suggests he’s still effective.
3B Aramis Ramirez: Clutch hitter has hit .303 at Dodger Stadium -- a potential fit?
C Jonathan Lucroy: Gutty but injury prone. When healthy, a good contact hitter.
2B Rickie Weeks: Regressed badly in 2012 but still possesses 20-home run power.
Possible trade partners
Giants: As mentioned Wednesday, the Giants could use help in the rotation and they also have some arms to deal.
Dodgers: Another team that could use a starter.
Orioles: Their starters have a 4.76 ERA, which ranks 27th in MLB. Pretty sure Gallardo or Lohse would help them.
Yovani Gallardo, Francisco Rodriguez and Aramis Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Zach Lee, Chris Withrow, Ross Stripling and outfielder Alex Castellanos.
Lee, Withrow and Stripling should all develop into starting rotation stalwarts in time, with Lee having the biggest upside. Gallardo is in his prime and gives the Dodgers the best four-man rotation in the division for the next several years with Clayton Kershaw, Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Aramis Ramirez teams with Hanley Ramirez on the left side of the infield. Of concern is Gallardo’s health; his velocity has been down all season.
While the Phillies could try to go for a postseason run, this team is in third place and is a .500 squad even at its best. Sure, GM Ruben Amaro told Jayson Stark he had "no desire to trade those guys," referring to Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, but the fact is the Phillies would be chasing a postseason ghost.
Despite their subpar record, the Phillies still possess a strong nucleus of solid veterans and blossoming youngsters. Hamels, Lee and Kyle Kendrick give the Phillies a solid three starters while Jonathan Pettibone is quickly developing into a quality fourth starter. Papelbon remains one of the best closers in the game, while Michael Stutes, Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo are solid setup men. That is a pitching staff to reload and build around. The Phillies also have two promising young outfielders in Ben Revere and Domonic Brown, who is having a breakout season. Revere should develop into an elite leadoff hitter in time.
In a perfect world, Amaro would do what the Red Sox did last summer: Shed some salary and talent to get younger and free up payroll without completely blowing up the core, and then add pieces in the offseason to contend again next year.
The infield is experiencing age and decline. So getting younger is imperative. A complete makeover would be the best result, but Ryan Howard is going nowhere because of his contract, which guarantees him $85 million after this season. They also need to acquire another corner outfielder, but Amaro probably is better off waiting for free agency this fall when someone such as Shin-Soo Choo becomes available.
So Philadelphia’s only solution is to maximize either Lee or Papelbon’s trade value, as well as deal a couple of second-line aging veterans to restock a farm system degraded by attrition and free-agency compensation.
LHP Cliff Lee: Salary and 21-team no-trade protection makes landing spots for Phillies ace limited.
RHP Jonathan Papelbon: Dominant closer could fetch elite prospect like Tigers’ 3B/OF Nick Castellanos.
3B Michael Young: Leadership and DH bat could be valuable to Baltimore.
2B Chase Utley: Impending free agent is 34. Get what you can for him now.
C Carlos Ruiz: Rays could use him, but Phillies catching prospects are struggling.
Possible trade partners
Rangers: It's possible that the Rangers would consider giving up Profar in a deal headlined by Lee, who had great success in Texas and is signed through 2015 with a club option for 2016.
Red Sox: Similarly, the Red Sox would have to think about giving up top prospect Xander Bogaerts if Lee was made available.
Tigers: This seems like an obvious landing spot for Papelbon, but would Detroit part with Castellanos for an expensive closer? Considering the Tigers' problems in the ninth inning, they might.
Cliff Lee to Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar and/or Jonathan Papelbon to Detroit Tigers for Nick Castellanos.
There are very few teams that could take Lee’s salary as well as have the elite prospects Philadelphia would want. The same holds true for Papelbon, who is still signed for three years and $39 million. But if the Phillies trade both Lee and Papelbon, Castellanos or Profar must be part of the return. Certainly if the Tampa Bay Rays could get Wil Myers for James Shields, then the Phillies should be able to ask for a similarly elite prospect for Lee or Papelbon, if not more.
As a former GM, I can remember taking the same position as Amaro, refusing to trade core players, that is until an elite prospect was dangled. Funny how those strong positions GMs take can change when the right offer heads their way.