WTNYOctober 15, 2004
Armchair GM Friday
By Bryan Smith

Can prospects cause position battles? How will some good players in the minors force their organizations GM to re-evaluate that position? Last year, the Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski to make way for Joe Mauer. There have been numerous examples of top prospects being dealt because there is just no room for them. Today I have five examples of such situations, and some guesses on just what might happen

1. Andy Marte and Jeff Francoeur- Atlantas situation is really interesting. The team has stated their top offseason priority is re-signing J.D. Drew, and with most of their rotation headed to free agency, will have the money to bring him back. Andruw Jones is not moving away from center anytime soon, so Francoeur will not be playing center or right with Atlanta. That would force him to left field, where Charles Thomas and Eli Marrero were playing this year. Well, Francoeur is better than those two, so thats not a problem, right?

No. That means Chipper Jones has to play third base, the position where top prospect Andy Marte plays. So, Chipper cant go to third, or back to left, so where? First base is filled by Adam LaRoche, who had a positive first season right in line with John Sickels prediction. To me, this means Chipper Jones, who is signed through 2006, with big options for 2007-2008, or $5M buyouts. Yikes.

If they move Chipper, they will have to land some pitching to fill out that rotation. I have mentioned the As sending one of the Big Three, though I doubt Billy Beane would ever want to take on that contract. If not Oakland, who? Seriously, any ideas?

2. Jason Kubel- According to Peter Gammons, when Terry Ryan went out looking for help at the deadline, he would not part with Kubel. This is a guy that hit better than .350/.400/.600 this year in the minors, breaking out of a shell in a big way. But, the Twins are stacked in the outfield, already using Shannon Stewart, Lew Ford, Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones in three spots. But putting Kubel on the postseason roster showed that he fits in their plans, for next year.

To do that, the Twins must finally trade Jacque Jones. Now I know he came up big in the playoffs, and has been there forever, but trade him. And if you can trade Shannon Stewart, which I doubt, do that too. An outfield of Ford-Hunter-Kubel would be in the best interest of Terry Ryan. Jones brings in the third starter that Carlos Silva only sometimes is, and moves Kyle Lohse where he belongs: the five-hole.

3. Casey Kotchman- Mike Scioscia has recently called Darin Erstad, and I think I heard this on Fox TV, one of the best first basemen hes ever seen. Whats funny, is that Casey Kotchman has always drawn comparisons to Mark Grace, a former Gold Glover. With an outfield stacked with Guillen-Anderson-Guerrero, there is no clear setting for Erstad. And wasnt it in some Gammons column where Scioscia said he would quit if Erstad wasnt on that team.

Well luckily for Bill Stonemann, a September situation answered this conundrum. Jose Guillens run-in with the Angels was enough to get traded, which sends Erstad back to center, Garret Anderson to left, and Kotchman to first. And remember, this is the same team that is putting Dallas McPherson at third base, while letting Troy Glaus go. Furthermore, they could dump both Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein, and instead use a middle infield of Nomar-Figgins.

4. Ian Kinsler- Now listen, Im not the biggest believer in Ian Kinsler. Sickels said hes going to give the former Missouri Tiger a grade of B+ or better, a rating that I hardly concur on. Kinsler could be an average Major League shortstop, but pardon me, I dont see a lot more than Rich Aurilia here. But, thanks for the memorable Midwest League season Ian.

Well, the 2004 Texas Rangers sported a solid middle infield of MVP candidate Michael Young, and the solid Alfonso Soriano. To me, there are 2 options for John Hart. First, finally move Soriano to the outfield, where he joins Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. Then, put Young back at second, using Kinsler as the shortstop. Secondly, save the $6M on Sorianos arbitration, and trade him for some pitching. This, after seeing that Ryan Drese and Kenny Rogers were the Rangers best starters, appears to be the best option.

5. Joel Guzman- Go over to Dodger Thoughts, and read Jon Weismans recent post on the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Its damn good, I wish every team had someone to do this. To summarize, Weisman stresses the fact that Los Angeles should take the risk and re-sign Adrian Beltre. This, mixed with Cesar Izturis good season at short, prevents Joel Guzman from having a future in Los Angeles.

Guzman, all of 6-6, is said to have outgrown the shortstop position. Im not sure I buy that, and think the Dodgers should give him a try there. My plan? Start the 2005 season with Beltre at third, Izturis at short, and Antonio Perez at second base. When Guzman is ready, move Izturis over to second, and send Perez to the bench. Should Guzman not look good up the middle, send him packing in a deadline deal. If he plays well with Izturis, trade Antonio Perez.

And then before long, youll see Delwyn Young cause a position battle with Cesar Izturis

Five more quick problems:
- Ryan Howard in Philly- With Jim Thome, there is no spot for Howard. They are trying him at left, but there is no way a team can have Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell as their corner outfielders. It just cant work. Look for Howard to get traded.
- Eric Duncan in the Big Apple- Baseball America claims that Eric Duncan, a Yankee product, does not have the athleticism for second base. They suggest first, a spot I believe will be filled by Mike Lowell in the offseason. Duncan is a great talent, and if the Yankees hold onto him for another year, might have the best trade bait in the minors.
- Hanley Ramirez in New England- Orlando Cabrera is coming back, I can guarantee it. Boston also loves Mark Bellhorn, at second base. What to do with Hanley, who looked like he finally started to put it together at the start of the year? Well, I would spend 2005 teaching Ramirez the second base position, with the plan of inserting him there in 2006.
- Aaron Hill in Canada- Youll see when I come out with rankings at a later date, Im a fan of Aaron Hill. He started to look better at years end, and I think he could be a special hitter. Some are calling for him to move to third, with Hinske being run out of town, and Orlando Hudson staying. Instead, Ive always supported the notion of trading Hudson, and moving the small Russ Adams to Orlandos spot.
- Joe Blanton in Oakland- He was toying with a 5.00 ERA in the PCL at some point, but finished in the low-4.00s. Blanton is ready to be a Major League pitcher, and should give Billy Beane enough leg room to trade one of the Big Three. If I was in charge of Oakland, and that aint happening soon, here would be the 2005 lineup:

C- Damian Miller
1B- Dan Johnson
2B- Mark Ellis
SS- Bobby Crosby
3B- Eric Chavez
LF- Chipper Jones
CF- Mark Kotsay
RF- Nick Swisher
DH- Erubiel Durazo

Yeah, that would work. Bummed that the World Series will have St. Louis and New York, this is armchair GM Bryan Smith, signing out


Oh, c'mon, Joel Guzman has no future in Los Angeles if the Dodgers keep Beltre and Izturis at 3B and SS respectively? Guzman is 6 foot 6 (some reports say 6 foot 7) and is commonly compared by scouts to Juan Gonzalez; it has bordered on the ridiculous that the Dodgers have played him -- up till now -- somewhere other than 1B or an outfield corner (and his great arm and athleticism would be wasted at 1B). Shawn Green's albatross of a contract (he makes $16 million this year) expires after 2005, and nobody expects him to be re-signed by DePodesta. If the Dodgers re-sign Beltre, I expect Guzman to be the Dodgers' opening day RF in 2006. Guzman would basically be following in Miguel Cabrera's footsteps: Cabrera played first SS and then 3B in the minors, and never the outfield, but with Mike Lowell in place in Florida, Cabrera has had to move to RF in the majors. At any rate, DePodesta is not going to turn his best position prospect, a guy considered a likely star in the bigs who will be relatively cheap for six years, into bait for a trade deadline deal. How stupid do you think DePodesta is?

I got the sense that Bryan meant that Guzman didn't have an immediate future in Los Angeles - not that he had no future. Don't want to speak for Bryan, but I don't think he'd disagree with much of what you're suggesting.

The only quibbles I'd have with what Bryan wrote is that I can't imagine anyone moving Izturis from short, and I am a little skeptical of Guzman making a Cabrera-like (or Beltre-like) rush to the majors in 2005.

"...prevents Joel Guzman from having a future in Los Angeles." "Future" is pretty open-ended; it does not sound like Bryan was just considering 2005, or the "immediate" future.

Yes Richard, I could see Guzman moving to the outfield a la Cabrera. I, like Jon, am not sure that Guzman even reaches the Majors in 2005. Before this season, the reports on Guzman's defense were always good, which is why I am skeptical he has to move. But, we'll see, and if he ends up playing right, I wouldn't be shocked either.

It's interesting that you bring up the Chipper to Oakland thing you have been saying because i brought up the same idea on the Braves Blogs the last couple of days. I feel the contract of chipper would also be the biggest problem here

Instead of Howard, why don't the Phillies just move Pat the Bat? His contract looks like an albatross for them anyway. A team like Seattle could really use someone like Burrell. Or Baltimore for that matter.