- Plenty if you're smart, aggressive and think outside the box:
Stuck in the middle between the "have and spend" teams like the Yankees and the "take and hoard" nightmares like the Pirates, are teams with a reasonable payroll to compete (around $100 million) who don't jump into the stratospheric financial regions of the Yankees and Red Sox, but are willing to dive into the free agent market for the big names.
Two of these teams are the White Sox and Angels. Both have generous ownerships; smart GMs; a definable "way" of doing things (that are pretty much opposite from one another); and both are contenders every year without going over-the-top financially.
Let's take a look at the wants, needs, desires and possibilities for the White Sox and Angels----both of whom had disappointing years in 2010.
Chicago White Sox:
What they need: To keep or replace Paul Konerko at first base; a catcher; a solid starting pitcher; bullpen help/a closer; a power bat at DH or in the outfield; an infielder who can hit.
Players to pursue via free agency: Russell Branyan; Adam Dunn; Aubrey Huff; Adam LaRoche; Lyle Overbay; Ty Wigginton; Orlando Hudson; Juan Uribe; Adrian Beltre; Grant Balfour; Miguel Batista; Dan Wheeler; Joaquin Benoit; Jesse Crain; Matt Guerrier; Chad Durbin; Kevin Gregg; Chad Qualls; Scot Shields; Rafael Soriano; Carl Crawford; Jayson Werth; Johnny Damon; Marcus Thames; Jim Thome; Vladimir Guerrero; John Buck; Victor Martinez; Miguel Olivo; Jason Varitek; Aaron Harang; Hiroki Kuroda; Jorge de la Rosa; Doug Davis; Jon Garland; Carl Pavano; Brandon Webb.
Players to pursue via trade: Jose Reyes; David Wright; Carlos Beltran; Francisco Rodriguez; Mark Reynolds; Stephen Drew; Ben Zobrist; Ryan Doumit; Joba Chamberlain; Jonathan Papelbon; J.D. Drew; Aaron Hill; Juan Rivera; Dan Uggla; Colby Rasmus; Prince Fielder; Hunter Pence; Ryan Ludwick; Adrian Gonzalez; Heath Bell; Russell Martin; Casey Blake.
It's no secret that the White Sox were a disappointment in 2010 despite an 88-74 record. Getting off to a horrific start led to entreaties to clean out the house and bag the season----something the brilliant GM Kenny Williams refused to do. A hot streak brought them into contention, but they were unable to beat the Twins down the stretch; much of it was due to a lack of hitting brought on by a conscious decision not to bring in a necessary basher to be the DH.
Built on a deep starting rotation, they did improve that aspect by acquiring Edwin Jackson; but a shaky bullpen and that offense undid the White Sox.
For a good team, the White Sox have a lot of off-season questions. Konerko had an MVP-quality season and is the club leader, but he's an in demand free agent and they have to have a contingency plan in place if he leaves. Williams is always ready to do something aggressive and there are first basemen/DHs available. Linked with Dunn last season, they could revisit that idea. There are other options like Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder; then the lower level, but productive Lyle Overbay.
They need a bat for the outfield or DH in addition to the concern of keeping or replacing Konerko. Jayson Werth is from Illinois and the White Sox are an under-the-radar team who could jump into the scrum for his services.
It's unknown whether Pierzynski is going to be back with the White Sox and Ramon Castro can't be counted on to catch every day (nor has he ever shown the desire to); they'll need someone who can either combine with Castro (Castro bats righty), or a full replacement. Asking about Martin of the Dodgers could work.
There have been rumors that Beckham is available at the right price, but it would have to be a big name coming back in any deal for him. He's young, versatile and cheap; I can't see the White Sox trading him. With Alexei Ramirez and Beckham shiftable around the infield, the White Sox could go for a shortstop (Stephen Drew, Reyes); a third baseman (Wright, Reynolds); or come to some other permutation to bolster the offense.
Jenks's days as White Sox closer appear over; I think Matt Thornton can do the job, but if any team is going to make a move on Papelbon, I'd have my eye on the White Sox; absent of that, they could be a landing spot for Soriano.
Williams will explore anything and everything; doesn't care what anyone says or thinks of him; and will take the steps necessary to fix the current problems and fill the holes.
Los Angeles Angels
What they need: Bullpen help; a power/speed bat in the outfield; a bashing DH; an infielder who can hit; starting pitching.
Players to pursue via free agency: Carl Crawford; Paul Konerko; Jayson Werth; Carl Crawford; Aubrey Huff; Cliff Lee; Adam Dunn; Jim Thome; Vladimir Guerrero; Hisanori Takahashi; Hiroki Kuroda; Adrian Beltre; Johnny Damon; Grant Balfour; Dan Wheeler; Joaquin Benoit; Rafael Soriano; Scott Downs; Jason Frasor; Joe Beimel; Pedro Feliciano; Matt Guerrier; Jesse Crain; Randy Choate; Dan Meyer.
We all know the story that the Angels won't deal with Scott Boras. After the way the Mark Teixeira negotiations were played, Angels owner Arte Moreno was livid and has yet to go back on his insistence that he and the Angels don't want to have anything to do with Boras unless it's absolutely unavoidable. There's been speculation that they may have to back down from this directive due to circumstance----they need a power bat for the outfield and one of the glossier names is Jayson Werth; Werth is represented by Boras.
I don't believe the Angels are going to deal with Boras in that way. They might make a trade for a Prince Fielder to fill their need for a power bat, but they won't jump into another of Boras's diabolical forays in using one team as leverage against the other to get what he wants regardless of locale.
The Angels always have a plan and a series of backup plans. They're said to be in on Lee and I included him because they always stockpile starting pitching, but do the Angels need Lee as much as they need a power bat (or two)? With Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro? No. They're not going to be able to get rid of Kazmir and the best they can hope for with him is the beckoning riches of free agency spurring him to a healthy, productive season; I can't see the Angels ending up with Lee.
They're heavily infatuated with Crawford and he's being recruited by Torii Hunter. If that fails, they could make a trade for a bat and see if the Mets are open to talking about Reyes or Wright; then there's Gonzalez about whom the Padres are willing to talk.
A lefty out of the bullpen is a necessity for the Angels and among the stack of names Feliciano, Beimel, Choate, et al. the Angels will get one.
Years ago, the Angels came close to a deal for Konerko from the White Sox in exchange for Santana; it fell apart, but Konerko is a free agent and could fill the hole in the Angels lineup.
- Viewer Mail 11.12.2010:
The Phillies won't go after Cliff Lee? Oh joy. One less competitor for his services.
The Phillies would be foolish not to check in on Lee, but they don't have the money free to do what it's going to take to get him. But that rotation with Lee? Everybody run!!!
DaGodfather writes RE Jimmy Rollins:
I don't disagree with the notion of trading Jimmy Rollins, there is merit to that. However, your reasons why are wrong. First, I highly doubt he'll "squawk" at being on the last year of his contract. He's always talked about playing for Oakland before his career was over. Second thing is that you said he has a no trade clause, that is true but he is a 10 and 5 guy so he can veto any trade.
I completely forgot about Rollins's 10 and 5 status; I need to be locked up for a spell. You're right about that and it's doubtful he'd okay a trade anywhere while he'll be able to bolster his free agent bonafides in another post-season.
As for the squawking, let's see what happens if Rollins arrives in great shape, stays healthy and has an All Star first half and the club doesn't broach the subject of an extension; he's going to let them know he's unhappy. Watch.
That said, the Phillies made a mistake in exercising Rollins's 2011 option so early in the 2010 season; and they gave Ryan Howard that deranged contract extension; they might extend Rollins if he plays well early in the season so we won't get a chance to find out how he's going to react.
Gabriel (Acting Underboss) writes RE Jonathan Papelbon:
I didn't look at Papelbon's salary. You're right, Anthopoulos wouldn't invest that much in a closer, mostly because I think their perception is that the Jays need a big bat at first base.
Aaron Hill is a fine player, and if the Mets want him, I'd ask for Ruben Tejada or Fernando Martinez.
The Blue Jays are running their team correctly for the most part; I wouldn't worry about a closer; they'll find or develop someone.
If I'm the Mets, I do a deal of Tejada or Martinez for Aaron Hill without a second thought.
In my perfect world, Amaro goes after Lee. Hard.
AND DOESN'T GET 'EM!
Ruben Amaro's embarrassments concerning Lee would never, ever end.
Part I & II ~ Prince Fielder in Chicago would be insane; a lot of broken windows across the street.
I'm absolutely committed to Thole but would welcome any of those names as a back-up.
I think there's going to be a lot of changes in BeanTown this winter.
And the Tigers strike me as the most interesting team.
Fielder's a rental unless someone steps up and pays him; and he's repped by Boras.
I like Josh Thole, but the Mets can't dismiss any and all possibilities.
The Red Sox are going to take the steps they need to be a legitimate World Series contender again----watch.
- Sunday Lightning Preview:
I'm writing a preview two days in advance. Sue me.
Sunday will be a regular posting and not a team-related analysis of needs.
I'll have some stuff on Moneyball and how the goalposts aren't being moved----they're being dismantled. Plus Derek Jeter's contract status; the transitory nature of beliefs; and, of course, the media; plus the Roberto Alomar story moves on, sadly and strangely.
I was on with Sal at the Sportsfan Buzz 9 days ago (it's still relevant!!) talking about the World Series; Cliff Lee; Derek Jeter; and other stuff. You can listen directly here; or download it from I-Tunes on Sal's site here.