January 30, 2014
The Lineup Card
Nine Moves that Teams Still Need to Make
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mid-rotation starter/Bring back A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett was the team’s rock last year, eating up 191 innings with All-Star caliber pitching. But the 37-year-old Burnett, a free agent this offseason, has wavered between resigning with the Bucs and calling it quits altogether. Contract talks have gone silent of late, so there’s no telling when this issue will get resolved. If Burnett does decide to retire, the Pirates’ options are severely limited: Masahiro Tanaka is now off the market, and the best remaining arms—Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez—both cost a compensatory draft pick. (With the team’s recent track record of developing talent, that pick figures to be a huge obstacle to any potential deal.)
Without Burnett or a veteran to replace him, the 3-5 spots in the Pirates rotation are filled with land mines. Wandy Rodriguez is capable when healthy, but after turning 35 last week and making just 12 starts in 2013, his durability is far from guaranteed. Edinson Volquez is alternatingly electric and out of control, with recent history indicating that the latter description is more apt. Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke are both back-end starters who will suddenly be asked to perform way above their means. Asking any of these guys to throw lots of meaningful innings is a dangerous proposition, especially in the NL Central.
At this point, Pittsburgh’s interest in Santana and Jimenez is barely perceptible, if it even exists. There is some talent on the farm, but neither Jameson Taillon nor Tyler Glasnow is ready for a heavy workload on a playoff-bound team. Burnett, then, seems like the team’s best hope, which means general manager Neal Huntington better pull out all the stops. May we suggest making #STFD the team slogan? —Nick Bacarella
2. New York Yankees: Right-handed-hitting second and/or third baseman/Trade for Trevor Plouffe
The Yankees will need to find a way to acquire a player that can hit left-handed pitching, preferably at second or third base—their only two positions without an everyday player. Of course, the team may not be looking to spend much more than they already have and the farm system isn't exactly filled with assets. So, without getting too ambitious in this search, one non-sexy name to consider is Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who has done well against southpaws and could be the platoon partner with Kelly Johnson at third base. Plouffe's availability may depend on Minnesota's belief in top prospect Miguel Sano's ability to stick at third base, though. —Ronit Shah
3. Cleveland Indians: Veteran third baseman and a good luck charm
And while we're already not asking for much, let's find a better good luck charm other than the "rally chicken." Don't ask Nick Swisher for ideas either, because the answer will be sideburns, and the entire team will have sideburns, and you will only have yourself to blame. —Matt Sussman
4. Chicago Cubs: Free-agent starting pitcher/Maybe bring back Paul Maholm
Matt Garza’s four-year, $50 million deal with the Brewers is a good sign for teams in need of starting pitching, including the Cubs. The remaining “Big Two”—Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana—don’t fit the Cubs’ plan, but the team’s public image is reeling after striking out on Tanaka. If the price were right, would Theo strike? It’s possible, but Epstein isn’t going to placate unhappy fans by making a move just to make a move. The Cubs likeliest action is signing a pitcher below the level of Jimenez and Santana. Bronson Arroyo is certainly attractive enough; he brings both durability and leadership, but the soon-to-be 37-year-old is reportedly looking for a three-year deal and the Cubs wouldn’t go there, would they? That leaves the “bargain binners," Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm. Hammel regressed in a big way in 2013, giving up 22 home runs in 23 starts in Baltimore. And while bringing back Maholm might be viewed as the ultimate slap-in-the-face to fans hoping for something big, the lefty has pitched effectively in Chicago before. Of course, the urgency to sign a free-agent starter could fall to the back burner should Samardzija’s name ever re-surface in trade talks. Right now, the team simply needs a fifth starter capable of giving them innings—Clark the Cub would do it, but MLB’s pants' policy forbids it. —Alex Kantecki
5. Baltimore Orioles: Sign A.J. Burnett
6. Toronto Blue Jays: Add a starting pitcher/Maybe A.J. Burnett?
In other words, the Blue Jays need a starter. Alex Anthopoulos knows it, you know it, and the agents for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana know it. Yet the Jays have not signed either of those free agents, coming as they do with compensation-pick strings attached. Someone who can bring some velocity would be nice, given the soft-serve ways of Buehrle and Dickey; maybe a free agent veteran just looking for a comfortable place with a short-term deal. Hey, what about A.J. Burnett? He knows the territory, he’s 37, he can still throw 93 miles an hour. Plus, he would give the Jays a rotation with an R.A., an A.J. and a J.A. O.K.? —Adam Sobsey
7. Atlanta Braves: Sign Wilson Betemit to compete for a bench job
Doumit, whom the Braves acquired from the Twins earlier this offseason, hit better from the right side in 2013, though his career splits are about even. Pena thumped right-handed pitching in 2013, but his .308 True Average was compiled over 87 plate appearances—hardly a sample on which general manager Frank Wren could confidently rest his case.
That's where Betemit, who broke into the majors with the Braves in 2004, before he was traded to the Dodgers in July 2006, comes in. A fellow switch-hitter, Betemit owns a .289 career TAv when facing right-handers, and he likely won't cost much coming off of a season largely lost to a PCL sprain in his right knee. The 32-year-old's skills are limited—he lacks the versatility that Pastronicky and Pena bring, and offers no defensive value at any position—but the Braves could use another candidate to bop righties off the bench. If Doumit's 2013 splits persist or Pena comes back down to earth, they would risk being one Jason Heyward injury away from a badly skewed lineup. Adding Betemit to compete with Pastornicky (who is also coming back from a knee inury) and prospects Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich would mitigate that gamble. —Daniel Rathman
8. Kansas City Royals: Sign Bronson Arroyo
9. New York Mets: Sign Stephen Drew