Hope everyone had a good weekend, no notes on the World Series because I'm not watching it. But let me just say that keeping Luis Castillo should be a huge priority for the Marlins. Today I'm going to be writing about team's with job vacancies, the Reds, Mariners, and Mets. Each situation provides difficulties for the new general manager, with little economic resources to do so.
Reds- Dan O'Brien
Mariners- Mike Port
Mets- Omar Minaya/Jim Duquette
The Reds were a pitiful team during the second half, going only 26-43. The team had injuries in the entire outfield, along with the third base and shortstop positions. The end of season rotation was completely different than the one that began the year, and half the bullpen had been dealt away. The team sold out, trading Aaron Boone, Jose Guillen, Kent Mercker, Gabe White, and Scott Williamson. Dan O'Brien's job will be the same as his predecessor, Jim Bowden: find pitching.
Offense is not something the Reds have a problem on. Their outfield of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, and Austin Kearns is one of the best in the game when healthy. Dunn should have a very good 2004, and Kearns should establish himself as one of baseball's true threats. It's anyone's guess what to expect from Griffey, if anything. And for that reason, and his gaudy contract, it is virtually impossible to deal Junior away.
If the team is focused on deals, trading Sean Casey is the best option. Casey doesn't hit like a first basemen should, and some of his antics (although he's a fantastic leader) haven't been great PR. It will be difficult to deal him unless the team takes on someone else's bad contract, preferably that of a pitcher. One name that comes to mind is Livan Hernandez, whom the Expos might need to deal this winter. Outside of Montreal, there aren't many other places Casey could go. The Giants might spend money if the price was cheap, or the Braves could swing a deal. But trading Casey is an easy way to land pitching, and save some money.
The infield remains a big question for the Reds. D'Angelo Jimenez played fantastic after being acquired from the White Sox, and he will be the second basemen and leadoff man. The team also found Ryan Freel from their AAA club, whom proved to have a bat capable of handling the shortstop position. So O'Brien must be able to push Juan Castro and Ray Olmedo aside, and give the job to Freel and occasionally Barry Larkin. At third, go with Brandon Larson. Sure the last two seasons Larson has been unable to put his minor league stats onto paper...he's a great hitter. At first put Adam Dunn, whom would move in from left. And in his left field position, split time between Wily Mo Pena and Steve Smitherman.
One thing O'Brien won't lose sleep over is his bullpen. First-Round pick Ryan Wagner looks to be a fantastic reliever, and I believe is the Majors' next Troy Percival. The team went with Chris Reitsma in the closer role late, but he is better suited for middle relief. Failed starters Danny Graves and John Reidling will return to the bullpen, where they've had considerably more success. And Phil Norton, a southpaw acquired from the Cubs, played very well in September.
But it will be the rotation that holds the Reds back, not allowing the team to make a run at the division. Jimmy Haynes is under contract, and can be an ineffective innings-eater at the back end of the rotation. Hopefully the prize for Sean Casey will be a Major League starting pitcher, one that the team can thrust into action. Jose Acevedo pitched fantasically in four starts, and will be all but handed a starting role. Brandon Claussen and Aaron Harang, acquisitions from deadline deals, will have chances at jobs along with homegrown products John Bale and Josh Hall. I would also reccomend this team tries to find a diamond-in-the-rough, because an Esteban Loaiza would really help this club.
Pat Gillick put great teams on the field the last two seasons in Seattle, yet couldn't find a club capable of reaching the postseason. Call it his lack of deadline acquisitions or team's without depth, there have been problems with the M's. Gillick's replacement must be ready to deal at all times, and provide Bob Melvin with a lot of options.
The Mariner offense will be hurting in 2004, as both Edgar Martinez and Mike Cameron are expected to walk away. This will leave Bret Boone as the only condierable power source, which provides a big need in left field. While the team always thought Chris Snelling would be their player, signing a Raul Ibanez-type player would be a good idea. This would push Randy Winn into centerfield, where he is better suited for.
Limiting Jeff Cirillo's playing time is important, so grabbing a shortstop (so Guillen plays third) is a must. The team has Japanese owners and a huge Japanese following, so signing Kaz Matsui is very likely. He should be a doubles hitter in the Majors, also capable of stealing twenty or thirty bases. The DH position will have a huge hole, as Edgar Martinez has been so important for the team the last five seasons. Ellis Burks is an option, and he's had an OPS over .900 three of the last five seasons.
Stud Rafeal Soriano will make his presence heard in the rotation next year, becoming the first of many starter prospects to reach the Majors. He will join Jamie Moyer, Joel Piniero, Gil Meche, and Ryan Franklin in a very formidable rotation. Freddy Garcia will either be traded or non-tendered, with emphasis on the latter. He proved to be way too inconsistent, and Bryan Price was unable to fix his problems. If Meche or Franklin struggles, Rett Johnson, Clint Nageotte, or Travis Blackley will be up immedietly.
Much of the Seattle bullpen may walk during this winter, including Armando Benitez, Arthur Rhodes, and the all-important Shigetoshi Hasegawa. It's very important the team signs Hasegawa, although both Benitez and Rhodes won't be huge losses. Julio Mateo pitched fantasically in the second half, and should replace Benitez in the set-up role. Sasaki will be healthy next season, and must pitch like the closer we saw during his rookie year. J.J. Putz, Aaron Looper, Aaron Taylor, and Brian Sweeney are all in-house options to fill the remaining spots. Signing a LOOGY somewhere off the market might be important too.
More on the Mets tomorrow...