Congratulations to the newest member of the Hall of Fame Barry Larkin and onwards with the belated second part of my series on how contenders can use the remaining free agents to fill key gaps on their rosters:
Need: Centre field
They might not be targeting a new centre fielder, they seem quite content with giving Chris Coughlin the job, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need one. I like Coughlin as a hitter but absolutely don’t see him as being anything close to a major league centre field, either in health or ability. Where else he plays with the current construction of the Marlins roster is difficult to say but between Coughlin, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez they do have some depth from which to make a trade. The only free agent that has a chance to plug this gap is the almost mythical Yoenis Cespedes who the Marlin will probably be amongst the bidders for.
Taking a flyer on a reliever or two to take some of the pressure and workload off of the O’Flaherty/Venters/Kimbrel late innings combo would appear to be a good idea but then what team couldn’t stand to add an arm to their bullpen? More importantly, the Braves could do with a solid right handed hitter to counter the fact that all of their best hitters are port-siders. Martin Prado should be better in 2012 than he was last year but the only right handed hitter who fits onto the Braves roster is Cody Ross who, as the winter goes on, gets more and more likely not to be handed a silly contract. And besides, Ross to the Braves has seemed almost inevitable since the last pitch of 2011 was thrown.
Papelbon for Madson is more or less a straight swap at the back of the bullpen but the group in front of them is an unpredictable bunch. While they won’t get a particularly reliable arm via free agency at this point, picking up a Brad Lidge, Rich Harden or Mike Gonzalez type and hoping it pays off is probably the most advisable approach.
Need: Ryan Braun
His appeal might be pending but we haven’t seen a PED suspension overturned yet. All-Star/MVP level players on the market that the Brewers can afford are not plentiful.
St Louis Cardinals / Cincinnati Reds
Need: Not a lot
Not that either of these teams are perfect or even necessarily the best in the NL, but there’s not many other teams out there, save perhaps the Phillies, with a more settled projected roster.
San Francisco Giants
No my caps lock isn’t broken. The Giants have two excellent hitters: Sandoval and Posey. The concern is that Posey doesn’t make a full recovery from injury, furthering exposing a weak line up. Their third best hitter will probably be there opening day first baseman…at Triple-A. Why Brandon Belt doesn’t get a long look in this terrible line up is one of the great mysteries of our time. Melky Cabrera will help but expecting him to replicate his 2011 hitting performance is ambitious. Wilson Betemit would be a nice pick up as a super utility / first bat off the bench type player.
As always the Rockies are in need of arms. If they really can’t fit someone like Kevin Millwood into their budget then I really don’t know where there going to find what they’re looking for.
Doing the senior circuit half of this series I was surprised to see how locked into their current rosters so many contenders were. As contenders you wouldn’t expect them to have gaping holes to fill but I was anticipating a bit more flexibility than appears to be available. What this means for the likes of Ryan Madson, Prince Fielder and Edwin Jackson is anyone’s guess. The only exceptions to this are the Washingtion Nationals who may not be contenders now but could take that step up very quickly with their young talent and could justify signing someone like Fielder.