The GM's Office: Will Middlebrooks

Will MiddlebrooksRon Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWill Middlebrooks will get a lot more at-bats if Stephen Drew isn't around.
General managers use the offseason to improve their team at various positions via free agency, trades and waiver claims. Some of these moves are significant upgrades, others are slight improvements.

Yet some general managers simply aren’t able to improve a position because they don’t match up well enough to get a trade done with the other clubs, or they don’t have enough money in their budget to persuade free agents to sign with them.

When this happens, a number of players get second chances or an opportunity to win the job in spring training. Here are five players who might benefit this season because their teams didn’t make a move:


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Five trades for David Wright

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
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David WrightSteve Mitchell/US PresswireDavid Wright is the face of the Mets, but it's feasible that he could be somewhere else next season.
After the New York Mets picked up David Wright's $16 million club option for 2013 earlier this week, the club is officially on the clock. The Mets have exactly one year of control left to lock down the face of their franchise. In essence, Wright is to the team what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees or Chipper Jones was to the Atlanta Braves.

However, Wright’s long-term future in New York is hardly guaranteed.

First, discussions between Wright’s agents -- Sam and Seth Levinson -- and the Mets have been slow and grinding. Most negotiations with this team usually plod along, but the Mets also have shown the same cavalier attitude they demonstrated in the failed Jose Reyes negotiations in 2011. Not a good sign.

Second, for those who think the Mets won’t let the face of the franchise walk away, remember that current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the one who said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman while in San Diego. Alderson also allowed then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy to depart for the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, where he would go on to win two World Series titles. In 1992, Alderson also traded Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers in a blockbuster that was headlined by Ruben Sierra. Arguably the best trade of Alderson’s career might end up being the swap of All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants at the July 2011 trade deadline for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who should join the Mets’ starting rotation in 2013.

Needless to say, Alderson isn't afraid to trade star players.

That said, I still think the Mets and Wright will have a news conference sometime between now and the winter meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., to announce a seven-year extension in the range of $18 million per season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, they don’t need to worry because most other teams will be. To trade Wright, the assignee club would have to ask for a window to sign him first because no team will fork over top prospects to the Mets without the assurance that Wright will sign a long-term deal.

Just in case the negotiations fall apart with the Mets, here are five trade partners that would make sense for Alderson.

1. Boston Red Sox


The Red Sox have money off the books after trading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Wright’s swing would be ideal for Fenway Park, and he would instantly change the culture with his leadership ability. He would give the Red Sox a new, fresh franchise face to go with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The discussion by Alderson would have to start with young third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's top starting pitching prospects, such as Allen Webster, who recently was acquired from the Dodgers, or Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’s first-round selection in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.


2. Los Angeles Angels


This conversation would have to commence with top first-base prospect C.J. Cron, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. Cron possesses incredible power and has a chance to be an impact bat with the ability to drive in 100 runs. The second player in the deal would have to be fleet-footed outfielder Peter Bourjos, who became expendable with the emergence of Mike Trout. Bourjos has Gold Glove defensive ability with special range. However, how much he’s going to hit is still debatable. Of course, with a deal like this, the Mets would then have to try to trade incumbent first baseman Ike Davis for another need.


3. Arizona Diamondbacks


The Diamondbacks have tremendous depth in young starting pitchers. The roll call is impressive: Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy. Therefore, they might be willing to make former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer available for Wright, especially given that some of the Arizona field staff is frustrated with Bauer’s stubbornness and work plan.

Bauer has struggled with his command and control in the zone, and it might take time before he reaches his full, unlimited potential. To acquire an arm of this caliber and team it with Matt Harvey and Wheeler would establish an impressive young rotation capable of competing with the Washington Nationals’ elite young starters. The Mets should ask for a second player, as well, possibly center fielder Adam Eaton, a player who’s not blessed with special tools but can hit and really play the game with blue-collar grittiness.


4. Kansas City Royals


The Royals could use a veteran leader in the clubhouse to develop all of their great young players such as Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Wright would bring them that leadership. Alderson could start the conversation asking for young third baseman Mike Moustakas, who could give the Mets a minimum of 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at third base for minimal cost.

However, a second player in the deal would be the key. Although Kansas City can’t afford to trade any of its top young pitching prospects or top position prospect Wil Myers (unless it was getting front-line pitching back), the Royals might be willing to include Cheslor Cuthbert or 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon to make a deal like this. However, given that the Royals’ only real need is starting pitching, it is doubtful they would want to spend this type of money -- or trade this kind of talent -- on anything but starting pitching.


5. Texas Rangers


I know this does not look like a fit because the Rangers already have the best overall third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. However, if Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leave in free agency, Texas will have to add another impact bat for the middle of its lineup. The Rangers have never been afraid to ask players to change positions -- just ask Michael Young -- so it’s probably worth making the phone call to see whether they would consider a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal for Wright. Olt would solve third base; Holland would improve the rotation; and Gentry would give them a tremendous defensive center fielder with blazing speed and a bat that is still developing.

To be sure, the possibility of any of these five trade ideas actually coming to fruition is slim. Indeed, 98 percent of all deals that are discussed are never made, but the Mets must do their due diligence and Alderson must do himself that favor and explore all possibilities to maximize Wright’s value and price tag. If Wright’s value is highest by returning to the Mets -- and I think he'll re-sign when all is said and done -- you can count on that price tag to be in the neighborhood of seven years and $126 million.

And for Mets fans, who can’t stand the thought of the face of their favorite franchise in another uniform, that’s a bargain.

You know them, though you might not remember them. We’re talking about rookie flashes in the pan -- Joe Charboneau, Bob Hamelin and Bobby Crosby, to name a few. However, you remember the rookies who go on to Hall of Fame careers, guys like Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter.

This year's class of rookies includes five players who have lasting power and -- barring injury -- should enjoy Hall of Fame or near Hall of Fame careers. Here is a quick glance at the five rookies possessing the best long-term futures, ranked in descending order of future greatness:

5. Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers
Darvish has been as good as advertised since coming to the major leagues from Japan. He’s gotten off to an impressive start, going 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 starts. His 66 strikeouts in just 61 innings against major league hitters illustrate his ability to miss bats with an assortment of pitches, from two- and four-seam fastballs, a slow curve, hard curve, slider, cutter and changeup.


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Five moves to fix the Red Sox 

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
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Kevin YoukilisElsa/Getty ImagesTrading Kevin Youkilis wouldn't be popular, but he could fetch some youth and pitching.


The basement is an unappetizing venue for the Boston Red Sox.

At 5-10, they sit at the bottom of the American League East behind a number of excellent teams. But unlike last year, when the club also started 5-10, the 2012 team is not good enough to make a dramatic turnaround as last year’s team did when it went on a torrid 45-25 run from May through July. Coupled with manager Bobby Valentine’s media miscues last week, pressure is mounting for rookie general manager Ben Cherington to make a move to help his ballclub.

Valentine is getting blamed for everything, but the fact is this team came into the season with major flaws in the outfield, starting rotation and bullpen. The Red Sox also had areas that needed upgrades at shortstop and catcher. They also have incurred major injuries. But most importantly, this team simply cannot pitch right now. And when your team can’t pitch, all the other problems become magnified.

So here are five moves that could solve some of those problems and help the Red Sox climb out of the AL East cellar. The overwhelming theme here is that with each move, the Red Sox not only get better, but they also get depth for the bullpen, starting rotation and outfield positions -- something they’ve sorely lacked and a major reason for their late-season collapse in 2011.

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The 13th anniversary of the XM All-Star Futures Game this weekend in Phoenix is a unique opportunity for general managers, assistant GMs, scouting directors, scouts and top evaluators to see the best major league prospects in baseball in one game. During my years as a GM, I always sent at least two of my top evaluators to the game and made it a must-watch for myself for the years I attended the games, starting with the first Futures Game in 1999 at Fenway Park in Boston. Last year, a record 38 All-Stars were alumni of the Futures Game. Seven players who have appeared in this special game were part of an AL or NL All-Star team the next year, including players like Jason Heyward, Evan Longoria and Neftali Feliz.

This game is also an opportunity for “sellers” to scout key players for the trade deadline, which is just three weeks away. The media and fans always tend to focus on the players who could be traded at the deadline from the major league level, like this year’s rumors that surround the Padres’ Heath Bell, the Mets’ Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez or the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez. However, those teams are hoping to acquire in return future major league All-Star-caliber players who might be one to four years from playing in the major leagues.

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