Crosby and Hannahan must go. I don’t want to debate that. But how do we turn things around for 2009? Solutions can be found in all sorts of places, near and far. Some of these are:
1) Top prospects that could be available
2) Not so top prospects that might surprise
3) Young major leaguers redundant on their teams
4) Old veterans
5) Minor league veterans.
I looked at the Top 100 preseason prospect lists of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America, as well as the John Sickels’s Top 20 organization prospect lists. I then looked at the Peak Translations for minor leaguers available at Baseball Prospectus for information on their performance in 2008. Then I looked at free agents during the upcoming off-season. Finally I looked at the rosters of each major league club to find interesting players who are redundant on their teams. Altogether I put 70+ guys into my simple spreadsheet, including the incumbents. If anyone wants to see it I can e-mail it to you, but don’t expect much. It's a summary, not an analysis.
Here are the names that jumped out at me, listed roughly in my order of preference.
Brandon Wood, 23, SS, Angels – The best peak (.286) EqA by PECOTA of any prospect that I found other than Andy LaRoche. Everybody liked him in Preseason, almost as much as LaRoche. Having a very good year at AAA, still strikes out a ton. Doesn’t seem to fit the Angels offensive small ball philosophy. Doesn’t depend too much on BA, which means he might do just fine in Oakland. Would the Angels deal him to us though?
Neil Walker, 22, 3B, Pirates – Caught between LaRoche and Pedro Alvarez. Rated in the lower part of the Top 100 lists, good year at AAA
Reid Brignac, 22, SS, Rays – Rays will probably promote him when he’s ready, but Tim Beckham’s in the rear view mirror. Paul Thomas isn’t impressed with his stagnant MLEs.
Matt Antonelli, 23, 2B, Padres – Highly rated in Preseason, but having a terrible year at AAA. Padres still need a 2B, so if they trade him, it means they really don’t like him
Brent Lillibridge, 24, SS, Braves – Stuck behind Yunel Escobar. B-Pro liked him better than BA in preseason. Terrible year in AAA
Most likely unavailable – Elvis Andrus, Andy LaRoche, Jed Lowrie, Mike Moustakas, Ian Stewart
Not really an infielder – Chris Davis, Mat Gamel, Beau Mills, Angel Villalona
Also considered -- Adrian Cardenas, Chris Coghlan, Matt Dominguez, Alcides Escobar, Wilmer Flores, Todd Frazier, Wes Hodges, Peter Kozma, Chris Nelson, Sean Rodriguez, Bill Rowell, Carlos Triunfel, and Josh Vitters
Not so top prospects
Hu Chin-lung, 24, SS, Dodgers – Mavens liked his glove a lot, not so much his bat. Demoted for hitting while blind. DeJesus coming up from behind.
Ivan DeJesus Jr, 21, SS, Dodgers – High OBP, low SLG hitter having a great year in AA. Not touted by mavens in pre-season. Dodgers may want to keep him over Hu.
Dan Murphy, 23, 3B, Mets – A surprisingly great year in AA, now promoted to the majors. Sickles and Kevin Goldstein of BB-Pro listed him toward the bottom of their Mets top prospect lists. Stuck behind David Wright (EDITED -- thanks rfloh)
Luke Hughes, 23, 3B, Twins – Came out of nowhere to post excellent numbers in AA. Recently promoted to AAA.
Pete Ciofrone, 24, 3B, Padres – Lost behind Headley and Kouzmanoff, but an excellent year in AAA
Allen Craig, 24, 3B, Cardinals – On Sickles’s radar before 2008. An excellent year at AA, but old for his levels and Troy Glaus isn’t going anywhere. Loved by Nico.
Also considered -- Scott Campbell, Eric Duncan, Travis Denker, Jason Donald, Chris Getz, Tyler Greene, Diory Hernandez, Brandon Hicks, Chris Johnson, Trevor Plouffe, Josh Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Ryan Rohlinger, Matt Tuiasosopo, Chris Valaika, and Luis Valbuena
Young major leaguers
Wilson Betemit, 26, 3B, Yankees – Formerly highly rated prospect. Pretty good numbers with Braves and Dodgers, but not so much with Yankees. Stuck behind Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Numbers say defense good in 2005-6 but not in 2007-8. Inconclusive (EDITED -- thanks rfloh)
Asdrubal Cabrera, 22, SS, Indians – Helped them to the ALCS last year and sunk like a stone in 2008. Did a lot better after demotion to AAA. They probably still want him.
JJ Hardy, 25, SS, Brewers -- Projections coming into 2008 were worse than Cabrera, but he's lapped Cabrera's production this year several times. FA after 2010. ZR thinks he's a below average defender. (ADDED -- thanks vignette17, I totally missed him)
Ben Zobrist, 27, SS, Rays – Solid defensive reputation but he’s no Jason Bartlett. Decent hitting projections, comparable to Brignac. Lost in the Bartlett, Brignac, Beckham shuffle
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 26, 3B, Padres – Good hit, mediocre field. Could move to LF for Chase Headley or vice versa
Bill Hall, 28, 3B, Brewers – Formerly productive player but terrible in 2007-8. Could be replaced by Alcides Escobar or Mat Gamel. Owed $15.2MM in 2009-10
Also considered -- Brian Buscher, German Duran, Mike Fontenot, Chase Headley, Omar Infante, and Andy Marte
Rafael Furcal, 30, SS, Dodgers -- Out of the blue career year in 2008 before getting hurt. Back problems scare me, and I don't think he'll have to take a short term contract. Also he's likely to be overrated because of his great half year.
Russell Branyan, 32, 3B, Brewers – Power threat at 3B as a stopgap. Unexpectedly great year in 2008 in limited playing time. Not much defensive reputation
Miguel Tejada, 34, SS, Astros – Great career and AN favorite, but not any better than Bobby Crosby in 2008. Owed $13MM in 2009.
Aubrey Huff, 31, 3B, Orioles – OK he’s really a DH, but he can stand at 3B. PECOTA thinks he should be declining, but he’s had a great 2008. Owed $9MM in 2009.
Nomar Garciaparra, 34, 3B, Dodgers – Supposed to be done, but posted pretty good numbers when healthy this year. Free agent after 2008.
Also considered -- Bobby Crosby, Joe Inglett and Ramon Santiago
Minor league veterans
Jack Hannahan, 28, 3B, Athletics – Very good preseason projections but a terrible year in 2008 as his vulnerability to the fastball was exposed. Repeatedly.
Jamie D’Antona, 26, 3B, Diamondbacks – Stuck behind Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds, having a great year in AAA
Dallas McPherson, 27, 3B, Marlins – Stunning raw HR numbers, but park effects and his age make them a lot less impressive
Mike Hessman, 30, 3B, Tigers – Sounds like Graham Koonce, but could be a stopgap I suppose
Pedro Castellano, 38, 3B, Rojos del Aguila – Having an awesome year in Veracruz. Last played in the majors in 1996 with the Rockies. A September callup might be fun.
Also considered -- Jeff Baisley, Andy Green, Dionys Cesar, Tug Hulett, Victor Rodriguez and Freddy Sandoval
I've come to hate the word "undervalued". A lot. So I guess I’d take Dan Murphy or Luke Hughes if offered for very little, but I wouldn’t be excited by them. Remember, Hannahan projected better than any of these guys.
My votes go to:
SS – Brandon Wood. This guy would be great for us. It would be like having Cust at SS. Doesn’t depend on batting average so he won’t be overly demoralized by the Coliseum
I’m not sure what the Angels want but I’d get it for them. If they won’t deal with us, I’d fall back on Brignac, Hu, DeJesus or even Zobrist.
3B – Wilson Betemit. A slightly worse offensive projection than Kouzmanoff and a much worse offensive 2008, but his playing time has been sporadic. Betemit came to the majors as a very young player which I like, and his defense seems like it should be better than Kevin. Prospects don't seem ready yet.
The Yankees would most likely be interested in starting pitching prospects, and we’ve got lots of those. We’ve also got lots of reserve outfielders. Plus Alan Embree should be ready to take his second tour around the majors. If nothing can be worked out I’d be OK with Kouzmanoff . Neil Walker is probably my third choice, mainly because he didn't really break out in 2008, although he had a pretty good year.
Did I underrate someone? Do my answers not make sense? Is there someone out there that I didn't consider? I’d very much like to see what you all think. Oh and sign Manny!