[MLB] Riding the Pine

“I get criticized a lot for the things I say and the words I use to say it, but that’s who I am… If I curse in front of women and they don’t like it, sorry.”
–White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on his language when around reporters (Chicago Sun-Times).

The Rumors
Manny Ramirez has demanded a trade again; the Angels are the front-runners and could offer either Steve Finley or Darin Erstad, but would also have to part with Ervin Santana…The Reds have talked about moving Adam Dunn to the Cardinals for Jason Marquis and Adam Wainwright…The Padres have made a contract offer to Trevor Hoffman…The Yankees are looking for relief pitching (BJ Ryan, Julian Tavarez) and a center fielder (Torii Hunter, Milton Bradley); to do this, they want to chop about $10-15 million off the payroll…The Yankees are going to test the market for starter Carl Pavano…Chad Tracy has been drawing interest from several teams, including the Red Sox…The Astros are interested in catcher Ramon Herndanez, outfielder Juan Encarnacion, and pitcher Kenny Rogers…The A’s are listening to offers for Barry Zito…Jim Thome is expected to be targeted by numerous AL teams needing DH and first base help; the Twins, Orioles, and White Sox could be interested…The White Sox are expected to buy out Frank Thomas’ contract option.

Manager Hot Seats: Bobby Valentine has been the 9th person to interview for the Devil Rays managing position…Most teams are taking their time to find replacement managers, coaches, and GMs.

Free Agent – The National League
Here is a quick rundown of each team, their free agents, and what they should do.

Rockies
The NL’s worst team needs to go for pitching. They are rumored to be interested in players like Shawn Estes and Pedro Astacio, both of whom have had success in the thin air. Jeff Francis is an ace in the making, but he needs veteran guidance. The position players are in a rebuilding state, but they have a few veterans that could help in the rebuilding. Trading Todd Helton would make sense, as he could bring some good players in return and would clear a lot of payroll. Ryan Shealy is ready to take over first base (he won’t be Helton, but he is good).

Pirates
The Pirates have a few minor moves to make, but are close to a winning record. First, let the free agents walk. Darryl Ward will be replaced at first by Brad Eldred. Mike Gonzalez will take over the closers role from Jose Mesa. What they do need is a third baseman that can play everyday. Rob Mackoviak is better in the super sub role and Ty Wigginton can’t be an everyday player. They also need an experienced starter to go with the crop of pitching prospects coming into the majors (Zach Duke, Ian Snell, etc).

Dodgers
The Dodgers have already made their first mistake of the off-season by firing GM Paul Depodesta. He had made some questionable moves, but injuries and under-performances killed this team last year. They need a third baseman, so dealing for Mike Lowell could be an option. They also need pitching help, but they should have players for the minors coming up by at least midseason. Resigning Jeff Weaver is a must. They need to bring in a manager that can motivate the players, while keeping the peace (Art Howe).

Reds
The Reds should let their free agents walk (Rich Aurilia, Chris Booker, Jacob Cruz, D’Angelo Jimenez, Luis Lopez, Ramon Ortiz, Ben Weber). The field is pretty much set, but the pitching is the concern. See if there are any takers for Eric Milton. They could trade a spare outfielder for a decent starter. The Reds have some decent pitching prospects, but it may be a few years before they develop. I don’t see the Marquis/Dunn deal working out since they are in the same division.

Giants
This veteran team will already be better since Barry Bonds will be healthy for the whole season (or so they are hoping). They will also have Randy Winn for the full season. To increase their chances, the Giants need pitching help. They, like a few other teams, have tons of pitching prospects; most won’t be ready until mid-season. Matt Morris would be a good fit with their ballpark. The bullpen was horrible without Armando Benitez to anchor it. They need to bring in an experienced set-up man or two to help out.

Diamondbacks
The team isn’t losing anyone critical. What they need to do is find a taker for Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz. Glaus could be moved (high contract, but good players) to a few different teams, and they don’t need to get much back. Moving him would free up third base for Chad Tracey and first base for prospect Conor Jackson. Ortiz was signed to a bad contract, one that may not be movable. With what they are saving, the team could make a run for a solid starter (Esteban Loaiza) and bullpen help (Billy Wagner, Eddie Guardado, Julian Tavarez).

Cubs
With Todd Walkers option picked up, half of the middle infield is settled. The Cubs will look at getting a shortstop, saying goodbye to Nomar Garciaparra. Rafael Furcal would be the logical choice, filling the leadoff whole. Former leadoff hitter Corey Patterson should be dealt, and either a) give a current centerfielder a one year deal or b) bring up Felix Pie. The starting pitching is fine, and the bullpen started to come into it’s own at the end of the season.

Nationals
The Nationals need 1 thing: hitters. Most of their games were 1 run games, and late in the season they were on the wrong end of them. They need upgrades at second and shortstop (Jose Vidro is getting old, and Christian Guzman was the worst regular player in the Majors last year). Ryan Zimmerman, their first round draft pick from last year, is ready to take over third base. They also need to get Loaiza back, since he was the go to starter for the team.

Brewers
The Brewers, believe it or not, are only a piece or two away from competing for the post-season. They have a sought after commodity, a power hitting first baseman. The need to move Lyle Overbay so Prince Fielder can play everyday. They have a hole at third base and Russell Branyan isn’t the fulltime answer. One unlikely option would be signing Garciaparra to a short-term deal to play third. They also need a starter; Jarrod Washburn would be nice. Lastly, they could easily move Geoff Jenkins, since they have 2-3 outfielders at Triple A ready for the big leagues.

Padres
I think the Padres have decided to let Hernandez walk, so they should focus their attention on Molina. They also are losing Brian Giles and Joe Randa. Gile may be hard to replace, but they have several outfield prospects that are ready to move in. To help the outfield situation, they should move Ryan Klesko (preferably to an AL team to DH); one idea is trading him for Steve Finley of the Angels. Both are declining, but Finley can still play in the outfield. Another starter and resigning Trevor Hoffman could get them first place in the West again.

Mets
I expect the Mets to land Ramon Hernandez, since they will throw the most money at him. He would be a good pick-up, since his numbers will be similar to this past season (similar ballparks). They will most likely part ways with Mike Piazza. They need a first baseman. Mike Jacobs could do something, but I don’t project him as an everyday player. A deal for Overbay would work. The starters are fine, as long as Glavine pitches decent. What ever they do, they shouldn’t deal Aaron Heilman; he needs to be in the rotation. The bullpen shouldn’t change too much, but a real closer would be nice (BJ Ryan). The last hole is second base, and they could try to pry Alfonso Soriano from the Rangers. Kaz Matsui should not be brought back

Marlins
The Marlins have their top 2 pitchers back, but if they want to compete, they will need more. A good veteran, like Kevin Millwood or Weaver, could definitely help Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett. They also need to move Lowell (Boston could be interested if they can’t resign Billy Mueller) and have Miguel Cabrera as the third baseman. They would need to find a corner outfielder or two, but they are always available (Jeromy Burnitz, Jacques Jones). Lastly they need some bullpen help. Todd Jones had a nice system, but he isn’t the long-term answer. I would look to Guardado as a closer, while there are plenty of setup guys around.

Phillies
Billy Wagner is the most important thing to the Phillies. They will sorely miss him if he leaves. They also need a decent centerfielder. They could easily work a deal with the Twins: Jim Thome and cash to the Twins for Torii Hunter. They need an improvement at catcher and third base, but both positions have declining players attached to them (Mike Lieberthal and David Bell respectively). They will most likely stick with both. The starting pitching is fine (especially if they move the left center wall out like they are talking about) and the relievers are ok (after Wagner).

Astros
The big question will be to rebuild or to try one more time. Declining catcher Brad Ausmus is a free agent, but they could try to bring in Bengie Molina to help the offense. They already re-inked Craig Biggio to play second, pushing Chris Burke to the outfield or the bench. Ideally, they would move Lance Berkman to first base, use Jeff Bagwell of the bench, and sign an outfielder (Jones, Reggie Sanders, Giles) who can hit. They need to re-sign Roger Clemens, or find someone who can fill one of his shoes (Weaver, Loaiza).

Braves
The Braves need a true closer; losing Kyle Farnsworth will hurt, but he’s not a true closer. They should look at Ryan and Wagner. They will also have a hole at shortstop if Furcal isn’t resigned. Wilson Betemit has shown he may finally be ready to take over the position; if they go that route, they should have a veteran backup ready (Neifi Perez). The biggest thing they have going for them is a surplus of pitching prospects and a logjam at catcher (trade Johnny Estrada and start Brian McCann).

Cardinals
The Cardinals have several things to correct to get back to the post-season. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek should be brought back (the man was involved in more double plays than any other infielder in baseball). While Abraham Nunez has a good season, he is Tony Womack part 2, and the Cards should let him walk. The outfield in another concern; they are losing Sanders to free agency and Larry Walker to retirement. While John Rodriguez and John Gall were adequate, they aren’t the answers. Ideally, the Cards should look at Giles and Jones. Also, they have pitching to make a trade. The pitching may be another question. Morris is as good as gone. Jason Marquis may have complained his way out of town. If Marquis is gone, they need to pick up Suppan’s option; he was solid in his 2 seasons in St. Louis. Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright could be in the rotation. The bullpen needs helps since Al Reyes will be down for the year (and a free agent) and they could possibly lose Julian Tavarez and Cal Eldred.

AFL Update
Through 11/03/2005.
American Division Standings
1. Surprise Scorpions (13-13)
2. Mesa Solar Sox (12-13)
3. Peoria Saguaros (7-19)

National Division Standings
1. Phoenix Desert Dogs (19-7)
2. Peoria Javelinas (16-10)
3. Grand Canyon Rafters (10-15)

League Leaders
Avg – Brendan Harris (Saguaros) – .397
Runs – Eric Duncan (Rafters) – 25
HRs – Brandon Wood (Scorpions) – 12 (tied AFL record)
RBIs – Brandon Wood (Scorpions) – 28
SBs – Charlton Jimerson (Scorpions) and Josh Anderson (Scorpions) – 8
Wins – Allan Simpson (Solar Sox) – 4
Saves – Casey Daigle (Desert Dogs) – 4
ERA – Adam Loewen (Javelinas) – 0.82
Ks – Scott Mathieson (Scorpions) and Bill Murphy (Desert Dogs) – 33

Links
RotoChamps can take care of all your fantasy needs.
Phillip has part 1 of his look at the NBA.
Todd tells you which fantasy players to look at.
Patrick has a teaching rant (and calls me out of my DVD review – it’ll be up this weekend).
Nick recaps last weekends football action. Watch for his other column today.
The Forums

E-mail or post questions, trade scenarios, and comments. Thanks.