[MLB] Riding the Pine…

The steroid talk has started to die down a little again (calm before the storm maybe), but the Ozzie Guillen show has resumed. All is right in the baseball world. Ok, may not with Detroit playing like it was 1983. The trade deadline is a month away, so lets look at what could happen, if I ran the teams.

What Needs to Happen
(I’ve listed them by how the last power ranking should have been through last Thurday. They were typed up, but lost when my computer automatically updated and restarted).

Detroit Tigers (Record 29, Pythagorean 30, Minors 18, Total 77)
Detroit is a piece or 2 from sticking at the top. While I don’t think Jeromy Burnitz is a solution, it is the right direction. If they could pick up a decent bat and an extra bullpen arm, they will contend until the end.

Los Angeles Dodgers (R 22, P 27, M 27, T 76)
The Dodgers need a starting pitcher and a miracle that can get Gagne to stay on the field for more than a week. Packaging Odalis Perez with a prospect could get a decent starter. Everything else, including the young guys, are starting to gel.

Chicago White Sox (R 28, P 25, M 17, T 70)
The defending champs have a huge hole, and that is centerfield. While Aaron Rowand is hitting well (when not running into walls), the Sox are stuck using Brian Anderson, who is not ready for the big leagues. Ken Griffey Jr rumors have already started again. Also, keeping Ozzie quiet could help too.

Arizona Diamondbacks (R 21, P 19, M 29 T 69)
One thing Arizona has missed in their entire existence is a true closer. Byung-Hyun Kim, Matt Mantei, and Gregg Olsen couldn’t do it long term; apparently Jose Valverde can’t. Jorge Julio isn’t any better. They could also use another starter, since they wised up and dumped Russ Ortiz.

New York Yankees (R 26, P 28, M 12 T 66)
While the Yanks started the season with quite a few starters, very few seemed like they could stick; Wright has battle injuries, Pavano hasn’t stepped on the field, Chacon has been up and down, and the real Aaron Small returned. Add in that Randy Johnson has gotten old, and that makes for a shaky rotation after Mike Mussina. Another top notch starter could be had for top prospect Phil Hughes, like Barry Zito or Dontrelle Willis (if/when either team falls out of contention). The outfield is starting to settle, with the emergence of Melky Cabrera, but another real player could help put Terrance Long where he belongs.

New York Mets (R 30, P 29, M 6, T 65)
Dealing Kris Benson doesn’t look so smart now. Neither does dealing Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Now the Mets need a starter. They do have a solid option in house: Aaron Heilman. He is wasting his talent in the bullpen. The Mets won’t do that though. They do have an extra outfielder to trade now, but not the one teams want (Lastings Milledge).

Cleveland Indians (R 12, P 23, M 28, T 63)
The tribe is closer than people think. They are just in a funk, kind of like last season when they surged in the second half. Once Cliff Lee pitches like he can, and the rest of the team starts to hit, they should be alright. Don’t be surprised if they do pick up a spare pitcher.

St. Louis Cardinals (R 27, P 26, M 9, T 62)
The 2 biggest things the Cardinals needed they got Thursday; the promotion of Anthony Reyes and the return of Phat Albert. They still have some major holes: both outfield corners, second base, and, just recently, starting pitching. Juan Encarnacion and the hot player out So Taguchi, John Rodriguez, and the Memphis player of the week aren’t cutting it. Aaron Miles shows why he was exiled from Colorado. Jason Marquis doesn’t listen to what he should do when he pitches. Mark Mulder is injured. Sidney Ponson won’t run wind sprints. They have some bait in the minors, but they don’t have what it takes to get an elite player.

Boston Red Sox (R 25, P 17, M 20, T 62)
Mix what I said about both New York teams, and you have the Yankees (as far as pitching). David Well’s knee started to get better until a line drive knocked him back out, maybe for good. Bronson Arroyo was a spare part at the beginning of the season and was traded for Wily Mo Pena. They have called up Jon Lester, their top pitching prospect, and have what it takes to get a starter; one better than Jason Johnson.

Toronto Blue Jays (R 25, P 24, M 7, T 55)
They are damned if they don’t make a move and they are damned if they do. They aren’t knocking of Boston or New York this year, but they have too good of a team to throw in the towel.

Texas Rangers (R 20, P 22, M 13, T 55)
The division is theirs for the taking at this time. If they can build a slight lead, they could hold on to it. They need to get some help in the bullpen. They lost one of the most important pieces with Akinori Otsuka started to close for the struggling CoCo Cordero. They could also use some help with their bench and someone to help Mark Teixeira find his mojo (which some have been calling steroids).

Colorado Rockies (R 16, P 13, M 24, T 53)
Colorado is using a lot of temporary players until their system is ready to turn out a competitive team. Most guys won’t get traded though, because teams are starting to learn about the Coors effect (I’m looking at you Vinny Castilla). Like every year, they could use some pitching help; like the teams who won’t take a bat out of Colorado, pitchers have learned not to go there too.

Houston Astros (R 18, P 11, M 16, T 45)
Like last year, this team needs offense. First base is fine this year when Lance Berkman is player their. Willy Taveras is in a sophomore slump. Jason Lane has turned invisible. Preston Wilson is a shell of his former, Colorado self. They could also use a pitcher or 2, but having the Rocket back is huge.

Cincinnati Reds (R 23, P 20, M 1, T 44)
Like most years, the Reds are streaking out of the gate only to pull up lame at the end. They need some pitching; not starting or relieving, rather both. After Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang, they don’t have much. The bullpen is also a committee for closing, and we know how that normally goes.

Los Angeles Angels (R 8, P 6, M 30, T 44)
Stick a fork in them, ‘cuz they are done. They don’t have team that could compete this year, so they should jettison the veterans and start the call ups. Kennedy out, Kendrick in. Jeff Weaver goes, Jered Weaver comes. Darin Erstad traded, give Chone Figgins center. They could even be bold and move Vladimir Guerrero (could be, but that would be going too far). The last thing they would want to do is go the opposite way and trade prospects for rental players.

San Francisco Giants (R 15, P 18, M 10, T 43)
The Giants have great, young pitching but old, tired hitting. They need to move as many fielders as they can for some worthy prospects to the field can catch up with the pitching. It could be a rough few years for Giant fans.

Milwaukee Brewers (R 13, P 4, M 26, T 43)
Injuries and slow starts have killed this team. Losing Ben Sheets and JJ Hardy for most of the season has hurt, especially since Bill Hall is in one position rather than using him to rest everyone. They don’t have much to deal, and they have a lot to bring up. If they fall too far out, look for Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee to be packing their bags.

Minnesota Twins (R 11, P 7, M 25, T 43)
The Twins are doing what the Angels should do. Out goes Juan Castro, Rondell White, and Ruben Sierra; in come Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. They are giving Francisco Liriano every 5th start. Johan Santana is rounding into his normal form. As soon as Scott Baker get things straightened out, they will be in good shape.

Oakland Athletics (R 19, P 16, M 5, T 40)
The best team in the second half just has to sit back and wait. They have numerous player who play better after the break, so it’s almost like trading a crappy player for a good player. They could move Barry Zito if they fall out of contention, which I don’t see happening.

San Diego Padres (R 17, P 21, M 2, T 40)
Last years NL West champs are still playing like it was last year, but a record slightly over .500 won’t win it now. Their best bet is to scrap it now and play for next year. They have pieces that could get them a few young players to go with some of the young guys they already have up. They don’t have the prospects it takes to make a deal, so they should be on the other end.

Philadelphia Phillies (R 14, P 15, M 11, T 40)
The Phillies should be a better team than this. Since they aren’t, look for changes. Shane Victorino is ready for an everyday job; Pat Burrell and/or Bobby Abreu become expendable. The pitching is mostly in place for some time, so they really need the Giant treatment, except they do have a few notable, young players (Utley and Howard).

Atlanta Braves (R 9, P 12, M 19, T 40)
This could officially be the end. I’m not writing them off yet, but many already are. If they fall any further out of it, they have plenty to shop. Andruw Jones could be a haul from a contender since he is a free agent after the season. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson don’t appear to be in the long term plan, so either one of them could be packing it up.

Baltimore Orioles (R 7, P 5, M 23, T 35)
They have a good minor league system, so they should start to utilize it. Move Kevin Millar, Melvin Mora, Javy Lopez and anyone else who won’t be around in the next 3-4 years and start over. Nick Markakis should be playing everyday. Look for solid pitching to start coming up and working out their kinks with Leo Mazzone.

Florida Marlins (R 5, P 8, M 22, T 35)
Besides Joe Borowski, the Marlins don’t have much they need to do. They won’t win this year; that is a given. In the next 2 years, they will be back in the playoff hunt with this team, led by Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Willis won’t and shouldn’t be traded because he is the face of the franchise; trading him would kill any chance of getting stadium financing.

Seattle Mariners (R 10, P 14, M 4, T 28)
This is a franchise that is lost. They want to compete now, so they sign Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre, bring back Jamie Moyer, and give a shot to Matt Lawton. They also want to build for the future, so they give Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Felix Hernandez, and Jeremy Reed every opportunity to play. This formula doesn’t work. They need to decide to go one way or the other (IMO go with the youth).

Tampa Bay Devil Rays (R 4, P 2, M 21, T 27)
They are beginning the garage sale already. Moving Gathright wasn’t a good idea, but they were dealing from depth, so it isn’t that bad. They have Travis Lee, Julio Lugo, Aubrey Huff, Damien Hollins, plus interchangeable pitchers that most contenders would be interested in. The problem is they want an arm and a leg to get a minor player. Many of these guys could be gone already if they knew the real value of some of these guys.

Pittsburgh Pirates (R 2, P 10, M 14, T 26)
The Pirates have this down to an art. Sign veterans to 1 year deals and either trade them at the deadline, or let them walk and get a draft pick. The only problem is they don’t get any quality when they trade the guys. This year’s dump should include Sean Casey, Jeromy Burnitz, and Craig Wilson, among others.

Chicago Cubs (R 3, P 3, M 15, T 21)
You don’t know how excited I am to see the Cubs down. I respect the team and their fans, but I love this. They have parts that won’t be back, and some that shouldn’t have been their in the first place. Moving Todd Walker won’t be too hard, considering he is having a pretty good year, but moving un-necessary parts like Neifi Perez and Jacques Jones could be a little harder. Juan Pierre could also be an attractive player at the deadline.

Washington Nationals (R 6, P 9, M 3, T 18)
With new owners coming in, the Nats are selling the high priced parts. Most buzz will go to Alfonso Soriano, but Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen will also be pieces to go. They need help in the minors, since they don’t have much to help at all.

Kansas City Royals (R 1, P 1, M 8, T 10)
I can only recommend starting over. They are going to try the Pirate plan with Mark Grudzielanek, Reggie Sanders, and Doug Mientkiewicz, but they won’t get anything worthwile; look at what they pulled in for guys like Carlos Beltran (Mark Teahan, John Buck, Mike Wood) and Johnny Damon (Angel Berroa, AJ Hinch, Roberto Hernandez).

I’ll be back next week with new power rankings.