Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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2008 NL Projected Rosters

Thursday, October 04, 2007


An announcement before we begin. I've started up a blog that I plan to update daily. I'll probably be promoting it a bit over here until developing a steady stream of readers. You can find the new Strike Zone blog here.

Here's part of two of the projected rosters column, this one looking at NL teams.

Again, the trades are mostly for fun. I'm trying to be realistic in placing the free agents and in trying to guess which youngsters will enter next year with major roles. If even one or two of the trades happen, well, that'd be pretty neat.

You can argue that some of the trades are lopsided, but I think that all of them make more sense than Jason Hirsh, Willy Taveras and Taylor Buchholz for one year of Jason Jennings or Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez. It's clear that Cubs fans don't like the idea of trading Felix Pie, Carlos Marmol and Ronny Cedeno for Miguel Tejada and Hayden Penn. I feel the same way, but I can see the club overpaying for another big bat if the offense falters this month.

National League Projected Rosters

Arizona

CF Chris Young
SS Stephen Drew
2B Orlando Hudson
LF Eric Byrnes
1B Conor Jackson
3B Chad Tracy/Mark Reynolds
RF Justin Upton
C Chris Snyder/Miguel Montero

Brandon Webb
Randy Johnson
Jon Garland
Doug Davis
Micah Owings

Jose Valverde
Brandon Lyon
Doug Slaten

The Diamondbacks opened the season as a candidate to be the NL's surprise team, but for it to happen, it figured that Randy Johnson would have to turn in a quality year in his return to the NL and a few of the young hitters would have to step up and establish themselves among the league's best at their positions. Well, the Diamondbacks finished with the NL's best record, yet they got next to nothing from Johnson, as well as a combined 4.60 ERA from Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez. Plus, there wasn't one hitter on the team with an 850 OPS, unless Micah Owings counts. In all, they scored 712 runs and allowed 732. Yet, there they were at 90-72.

Arizona won't be able to count on faring so well in close games next year. However, they might not need to if the young hitters continue to develop. With Eric Byrnes locked up, the Diamondbacks' lineup should look the same next year. There was a chance Chad Tracy would be shopped, but no one is likely to offer much for him after he underwent microfracture surgery. Justin Upton will have to battle Carlos Quentin, if he's not traded, and Jeff Salazar for a starting job in right. Tony Clark could be re-signed as a backup to Conor Jackson.

Since Johnson can't be counted on and Livan Hernandez is expected to depart as a free agent, the Diamondbacks will need to add at least one and maybe two starters this winter. Bringing Curt Schilling back to Arizona could be considered, and Bartolo Colon, Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami are worthy options. The Diamondbacks could sign a free agent and then add a starter in a trade, using Quentin or Tony Pena as bait. I have them sending Pena and Dustin Nippert to the White Sox for Jon Garland.

With a strong minor league system and spending likely to increase as the Diamondbacks finally get out from under the deferred payments committed to by the old regime, there's every reason to believe Arizona will have one of the NL's top teams for the next several years. Manager Bob Melvin's crew might not win quite as many games in 2008, but the future is bright.


Atlanta

2B Kelly Johnson
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Chipper Jones
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Brian McCann
CF Mike Cameron
LF Brandon Jones/Matt Diaz

John Smoltz
Tim Hudson
Tom Glavine
Chuck James
Mike Hampton/Anthony Reyes

Francisco Cordero
Rafael Soriano
Mike Gonzalez

Barring a stunning reversal, Andruw Jones won't be back as the Braves' center fielder. Jones stepped away from agent Scott Boras' guidance when he agreed to a below-market deal with Atlanta five years ago. Perhaps there's a slight chance it could happen again, but it's doubtful Boras would still be his agent if he thought it was a possibility. Instead, the Braves will use Andruw's money and perhaps Edgar Renteria's salary to upgrade the pitching staff. The Tigers, Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox and Giants could be interested in Renteria, who is owed $9 million in 2008 (with the Red Sox paying $3 million) and has a reasonable option for 2009. Detroit wouldn't part with Andrew Miller, and the White Sox probably wouldn't give up John Danks. Renteria back to the Cardinals for Anthony Reyes and Tyler Johnson could work, though St. Louis may need to spend most of its available money on pitching.

Renteria is expendable because the Braves want to play Yunel Escobar regularly. Kelly Johnson is productive and inexpensive, so keeping him at second base is the right move. There's a slight chance that the Braves would try him in center field as a replacement for Jones, but it's more likely that they'll go outside the organization. Mike Cameron would be a rather cost-effective solution for two or three years. Another option would be to bring in a right fielder and move Jeff Francoeur to center. A starting left fielder isn't needed. Matt Diaz would be capable as a regular, and if the left-handed-hitting Brandon Jones proves ready, the Braves could get a lot of production from a $1.5 million-$2 million platoon.

If Renteria is dealt, it's more likely that the Braves will sign a closer, perhaps even Francisco Cordero. Eric Gagne and Todd Jones are also possibilities. A move to re-sign Octavio Dotel seems less likely. If Renteria stays and they just don't have the money, Rafael Soriano could do the job in the ninth, and the Braves might be willing to go with him if they think Mike Gonzalez will be ready to work the eighth.

The Braves could lose Andruw and Renteria and still have one of the NL's best offenses. The pitching will determine whether the club can return to the postseason next year. Tom Glavine seemingly would prefer to return to Atlanta if the Braves can come up with the money. Mike Hampton should be ready to pitch in spring training, but he's not someone who can be counted on. Jo-Jo Reyes could be a quality option at by the All-Star break, but it'd be for the best if he opens the year in the minors. If the Braves get another healthy year from John Smoltz and effective work from the bottom two-fifths of the rotation, they should be as good as any team in the NL next year.


Chicago

LF Alfonso Soriano
2B Ryan Theriot
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Miguel Tejada
CF Jacque Jones/Brady Clark
RF Cliff Floyd/Matt Murton
C Geovany Soto/Jason Kendall

Carlos Zambrano
Ted Lilly
Rich Hill
Jason Marquis
Sean Marshall/Horacio Ramirez

Ryan Dempster
Bob Howry
Tom Gordon

Eight games over .500 qualifies as a somewhat disappointing result for this Cubs team, especially given the competition in the NL Central, but having the game's 12th best record was good enough to get them into the playoffs. The Cubs ranked second in the NL in ERA and eighth in runs, so they should have been better than this. However, it looks like one more bat might be required to get them over the hump.

Ideally, it'd be a left-handed hitter. However, except for Barry Bonds and Kosuke Fukudome, there isn't going to be much available in free agency. If the Cubs do add, they'll probably get a center fielder or shortstop. The dream scenario would be Alex Rodriguez, but that's what it's likely to remain: a dream. Andruw Jones would fit in the middle of the order, but he might require too much of an investment with the ownership transition unlikely to be complete until 2008. The Cubs have pursued Miguel Tejada before and should do so again. Felix Pie, Carlos Marmol and Ronny Cedeno for Tejada and Hayden Penn would be a very high price to pay, but GM Jim Hendry might need to gamble in order to keep his job.

With Tejada's arrival in my scenario, I have Mark DeRosa going to Philadelphia for Tom Gordon, giving the Cubs an adequate setup man to help replace Marmol.

If the Cubs decline to make any big moves, Pie will battle Jacque Jones for the center field job. He should be ready to contribute by midseason. Ryan Theriot and Cedeno would compete at shortstop. Cedeno would probably prove to be the superior option because of his defense. Free agent Cliff Floyd can stay and platoon with Matt Murton one more time. Geovany Soto has made a positive impression this month and could enter 2008 getting the majority of the starts. The Cubs, however, shouldn't settle for pairing him with Henry Blanco. Jason Kendall could stay as a part-timer.

The top four spots in the rotation are set, and the Cubs can sign a veteran or two to compete with Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher. Ryan Dempster is signed for one more year, so he could enter the season as the closer. However, Marmol would be a huge threat to overtake him and those two would almost certainly have to be paired in fantasy leagues next year. Kerry Wood could be re-signed to help in a setup role. He's talked about going back to the rotation, but at this point, it looks like the pen is the right place for him.

Milwaukee only figures to get better, but the Cubs can outspend them again this winter and stay in front in the NL Central. Of course, it'd the only division in baseball they'd be favored in next year.


Cincinnati

CF Josh Hamilton/Ryan Freel
3B Edwin Encarnacion
RF Ken Griffey Jr.
2B Brandon Phillips
LF Adam Dunn
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Joey Votto/Jorge Cantu
C David Ross/Javier Valentin

Aaron Harang
Bronson Arroyo
Carlos Silva
Justin Germano
Homer Bailey

David Weathers
Jared Burton
Bill Bray

As usual, the Reds need pitching, preferably two starters and a closer candidate. Unfortunately, there just isn't a lot available in free agency this winter and Cincinnati doesn't have a deep minor league system to deal from. While it's true the Reds have four of the game's top prospects in Jay Bruce, Homey Bailey, Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto, they have to keep those players and they don't have a lot of second-tier guys to use to entice other teams.

So, the Reds could look to free agency first. They need to be in on both Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami, but they're more likely to end up with Carlos Silva. While he'd be overpriced at $8 million per year, he has youth, durability and his ability to get a somewhat above average number grounders on his side. They could also trade for a veteran. Daniel Cabrera would be worth gambling on, or they could go after a veteran like Esteban Loaiza or Julian Tavarez. I have them trading Jeff Keppinger for Justin Germano, adding one more rotation option.

The bullpen isn't quite so desperate of a need with Jared Burton establishing himself as a reliable setup man. David Weathers is less than ideal as a closer, but it'd be very expensive to replace him. The Reds figure to talk to Francisco Cordero, but they'll probably settle for a couple of lesser guys.

The offense should be pretty well set if Adam Dunn's option is picked up. Ryan Freel is expendable, as the Reds can go with a Josh Hamilton/Norris Hopper platoon in center. However, his value is at rock bottom because of injuries. The Reds might as well keep him as protection for Hamilton and Ken Griffey Jr. Scott Hatteberg's option can be picked up, but he needs to be a bench player behind Votto. Jorge Cantu can start at first base against left-handers and serve as a backup elsewhere. The catching situation probably won't be upgraded since both David Ross and Javier Valentin are under contract for next year.

If the Reds foolishly decline Dunn's option, they could go with Votto in left field and Hatteberg at first. They'd have a lot more money to throw at pitchers and they could become the favorites to land Cordero. However, they wouldn't be any better for it. My guess is that they'll exercise the option and then deal Dunn after he loses his no-trade protection on June 15. Either way, third place would seem to be the best-case scenario.


Colorado

CF Willy Taveras
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Matt Holliday
1B Todd Helton
3B Garrett Atkins
RF Brad Hawpe/Ryan Spilborghs
2B Josh Barfield
C Michael Barrett/Chris Iannetta

Jeff Francis
Aaron Cook
Jason Hirsh
Randy Wolf
Ubaldo Jimenez/Franklin Morales

Manny Corpas
Octavio Dotel
Taylor Buchholz

The tight-fisted approach worked well enough this year, as the Rockies overcame some key injuries late to become the surprise NL wild card. Looking to next year, the core of the lineup, the top two starters and new closer Manny Corpas are all under control. What changes the Rockies make figure to be relatively small ones.

The two players most likely to depart are Brian Fuentes and free agent Kaz Matsui. Fuentes is due about $5 million in his final year of arbitration. The Rockies should be able to afford to keep him with the help of some newfound playoff money, but they might prefer to invest in someone who would stick around for one more season. Trading Fuentes while he still has plenty of value and replacing him with Octavio Dotel or Luis Vizcaino would work. If Fuentes goes, it could be for a second baseman to replace Matsui or a third or fourth starter. I like the idea of sending him to Cleveland for Josh Barfield. To Detroit for Nate Robertson would also make sense.

Catcher Yorvit Torrealba could also go, as the Rockies may not want to match the multiyear deals he's likely to be offered. The Rockies could try to pair Jason Kendall or Michael Barrett with Chris Iannetta for a year.

The Rockies will want to add one established starter, even though both Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales have made strong cases for themselves to enter next year as starters. Morales will probably be the one to head to Triple-A for a little while. It'd be a bad idea for them to commit multiple years to Josh Fogg, though that's what they'd have to do to keep him. They should go out and get someone with a little more upside.

Before the Rockies' run, it appeared as though Aaron Cook might get the Jason Jennings treatment and be traded before his final year prior to free agency. However, the Rockies should make every attempt to get him locked up, even though it figures to take at least a four-year deal. Worse pitchers will get $30 million contracts this winter. If the Rockies are willing to spend to keep their top players, they should be contenders for a while. They have as much talent under control for 2008 as any other NL West club.


Florida

SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jeremy Hermida
3B Miguel Cabrera
LF Josh Willingham
1B Mike Jacobs
C Gerald Laird
CF Corey Patterson

Dontrelle Willis
Sergio Mitre
Rick VandenHurk
Philip Humber
Ricky Nolasco/Anibal Sanchez

Matt Lindstrom
Taylor Tankersley
Eddie Guardado

The Marlins are making pitching and defense the priority after a year in which they had the worst ERA in the NL. My way of cleaning up the mess would be to put Hanley Ramirez in center, Dan Uggla at third and Miguel Cabrera at first. That would open up two big holes in the middle of the infield, but there are usually cheap solutions at second base available and Juan Uribe and Adam Everett could be options at short. The Marlins could also trade Dontrelle Willis for help there. However, odds are again them doing anything so radical.

Instead, expect the Marlins to keep their stars at their current positions. They could then go get a speedy center fielder to start over Cody Ross and company. Ross did some interesting work as a stopgap at the end of the season, but he's just not a quality option in center. Mike Jacobs could be made available in trade talks. If the Marlins dealt him, they could put Josh Willingham at first and get a left fielder with more range, such as Scott Podsednik or Craig Monroe. Brad Wilkerson would also be a possibility.

A Willis trade could still bring in a top young position player -- Felix Pie could be one option -- but with his value down and an unexpected lack of pitching depth, the Marlins should keep him for at least another half-season. Scott Olsen is probably on the way out after a disastrous season that included a DUI arrest. Sergio Mitre should take one more rotation spot, and hopefully either Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez will make a strong comeback and begin the year in the rotation. That'd still leave two spots. A veteran to fill one and a trade to take the other, with Rick VandenHurk also in the mix, would be suitable.

To get another young starter, the Marlins should make Kevin Gregg available. He's cheap and he's sort of proven he can close, so there would be a fair amount of demand. I have the Mets giving up Philip Humber and Anderson Hernandez for him. Matt Lindstrom would be the heavy favorite to replace him in the closer's role. Olsen goers to Texas for Gerald Laird and a catcher of the future in Taylor Teagarden. Miguel Olivo gets non-tendered to make room. That's likely to happen anyway.

If the Marlins don't see themselves contending next year, maybe blowing the whole thing up would be the right strategy. Cabrera and Willis will both be free agents after 2009, and unless there's a stadium solution, it's unlikely that either will be re-signed. Cabrera alone could potentially bring in Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Jed Lowrie from Boston or Matt Cain and more pitching from the Giants. Especially with Josh Johnson out for 2008 and Sanchez and Nolasco both question marks, the temptation has to be there to start over with Hanley, Jeremy Hermida and Uggla, all of whom are still four years away from free agency.

Houston

2B Chris Burke/Mark Loretta
CF Hunter Pence
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
3B Ty Wigginton
RF Luke Scott/Craig Monroe
C Paul Lo Duca
SS Omar Vizquel

Roy Oswalt
Wandy Rodriguez
Woody Williams
Josh Fogg
Brandon Backe

Brad Lidge
Chad Qualls
LaTroy Hawkins

The future just doesn't look very promising for the Astros, who have a large amount of money tied up in three players likely to decline over the next few years and one of the game's weakest farm systems because of their unwillingness to spend on the draft. There's still enough front-line talent that the Astros could add some additional veterans and make a run in the game's worst division next year. That probably is the way to go. With Hunter Pence established, there just aren't any additional youngsters that the Astros can ill-afford to block for a year.

The lineup decisions appear to be at second base, shortstop and catcher. Bringing in a veteran to battle Chris Burke for a starting job is a good idea. Free agent Mark Loretta, who no longer seems poised to land a multiyear deal after his poor second half, could stay. The Astros have told Brad Ausmus that they only have interest in retaining him as a backup. J.R. Towles had an impressive September offensively, but he could use one more year in the minors. The Astros could add Paul Lo Duca, Michael Barrett or Jason Kendall to start. If they do go to Towles, it'd free up money for a run at David Eckstein to play short. Otherwise, the club could sign Omar Vizquel or simply keep Adam Everett. Everett's glove makes up for his bat, and the Astros should be able to live with him in the eighth spot now that they don't have the Ausmus and Craig Biggio holes to make up for.

The Astros' rotation could be a little better with Brandon Backe likely to be all the way back from Tommy John surgery. They need to add a No. 2 behind Roy Oswalt, but that's going to be very tough to pull off. Gambling on Bartolo Colon might work out. Otherwise, they could settle for someone like Josh Fogg.

I'm assuming Brad Lidge will be kept as the Astros' closer and then perhaps get traded next summer if the team falls out of contention. If Lidge is instead dealt now, Chad Qualls would be a candidate to close. However, it's more likely that Houston would bring in a veteran, possibly Todd Jones or Scott Linebrink.

Houston has a new GM and manager, but there really isn't any hope of pressing the reset button with Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Oswalt owed a combined $194.5 million. The Astros didn't even try to go young when they had commodities to move at the deadline. The potential is there for Houston to win the NL Central next year if they get lucky with some veterans and don't have to deal with many injuries. Still, it's more likely that they're going to be also-rans for at least a couple of years.


Los Angeles

SS Rafael Furcal
LF Carl Crawford
C Russell Martin
2B Jeff Kent
1B James Loney
RF Matt Kemp
3B Nomar Garciaparra
CF Juan Pierre

Brad Penny
Derek Lowe
Jason Schmidt
Nate Robertson
Daniel Cabrera

Takashi Saito
Jonathan Broxton
Al Reyes

The Dodgers needed a star hitter last winter, but instead of getting one true difference maker, they instead acquired three veteran bats and blocked younger players. Fortunately, James Loney and Matt Kemp broke through anyway. As is, the Dodgers could fill their lineup with those two, Andre Ethier in left, Andy LaRoche to share time with Nomar Garciaparra at third and either Tony Abreu or Chin-Lung Hu at second if Jeff Kent exits. Still, they really need another star and they have plenty of artillery to get one.

Barry Bonds is out and the Dodgers aren't going to get a top center fielder and bench Pierre. Acquiring Miguel Tejada to play third base would make some sense if he's willing to switch positions, but it's still hardly the best option. Miguel Cabrera for third base and then eventually left field would be ideal, and the Marlins would have to be interested if the Dodgers offered up Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw and a couple of young bats for him. Still, he might not be available. How about a deal for Carl Crawford? The Rays would have to strongly consider it if offered Billingsley, Jonathan Meloan and Abreu for Crawford and Al Reyes. That's the scenario I have here, though it's a highly unlikely one. With Crawford's arrival, Andre Ethier is expendable. He goes to Baltimore for Daniel Cabrera's high-upside arm.

Odds are that Billinglsey will stay and be the third starter. If Jason Schmidt can pull off a successful comeback, the Dodgers should have one of the NL's top rotations next year. Still, they'll likely want to dump Esteban Loaiza and try another fifth starter. The Tigers might give up Nate Robertson for him if the money was evened out. The one-two bullpen punch is set. The Dodgers will want to bring in some middle-relief help, but they should also have youngsters to break in as the year goes on. Meloan, for one, should contribute, though his command was a major problem during his September audition.

Even if the Dodgers can't land a big bat, they should be involved in another four-team battle for first place in the NL West. Kershaw could be ready as soon as June or July and make a major impact when it happens. LaRoche will prove to be a better player than Garciaparra if he can avoid further back troubles. Since that's hardly a given, it's a good thing the Dodgers have both. Kent has talked about departing, but that's sort of based on the premise that a younger Dodgers team won't contend, which is simply foolish. I don't have much faith in GM Ned Colletti getting them over the top, but this is a talented team that should be playing meaningful games in September for at least the next few years.

Page 2


Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter at matthewpouliot.
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