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February 5, 2009

Triple Fix

National League

by Baseball Prospectus

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The American League version of "Triple Fix" is here.

Give Us the Kids #1, Arizona Diamondbacks: While the signing of Jon Garland didn't bump Max Scherzer from the rotation, there are many scouts who still believe that the former first-round pick is the team's best answer for their vacant closer position. That's because Scherzer has fantastic stuff, but a violent delivery and a history of arm soreness that is a concern for anyone expecting 200 innings out of him. He's also a bit of a two-pitch guy, with an outstanding fastball and a good slider, but a changeup that lags well behind qualitatively. Those that saw him come out of the bullpen in the 2007 Arizona Fall League got to see him touch 99 mph in short stints, and think he could dominate in the role.-Kevin Goldstein

Free-Agent Fix #1, Atlanta Braves: Atlanta's outfielders combined to hit just .260/.324/.367 with the majors' lowest OPS of any outfield crew last year, a serious handicap for an offense. It could be more of the same given that PECOTA doesn't hold out much hope for anyone in the left- and center-field slop-fest (Matt Diaz, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Jones) to better a .260 Equivalent Average. Having made impressive gains in the rotation this offseason, the Braves owe themselves a shot at upgrading their offense, and the most affordable quick fix may be provided by Dunn, whose park-neutral projection (.255/.387/.528) would be better than any Brave this side of Chipper Jones in the OBP and SLG departments.-Jay Jaffe

Give Us the Kids #2, Florida Marlins: The trade of Mike Jacobs created a competition at first base for the Fish this spring, but prospect Gaby Sanchez will report to camp holding the pole position. A University of Miami product, Sanchez is a career .305/.397/.487 hitter in the minors, and while he certainly can hit, scouts differ as to whether it's enough to make an impact at the position that comes with the highest offensive expectations. Dallas McPherson, former Angels prospect and 2008 minor league home-run leader (42), could be an interesting sleeper, as he's a true power threat, but also a threat to strike out 200 times with a full season of at-bats. Any solution for 2009 will function as a holding pattern while the team awaits Logan Morrison's arrival; last year's Florida State League batting title holder put on a show in the Arizona Fall League and could be ready by 2010.-Kevin Goldstein

Free-Agent Fix #2, Houston Astros: The departed Ty Wigginton wasn't the second coming of Brooks Robinson with the leather, but his combination of offense and defense clearly out-performs those currently in his place, holdover Geoff Blum and free-agent add-on Aaron Boone (who hasn't played third regularly since 2006). While PECOTA sees free agent Joe Crede as challenged in the OBP department-consistent with his .314 mark compiled last year before back woes shut him down-he trumps that level of competition. If healthy, Crede's pull power would be an especially good fit for the short-porch Crawford Boxes given that 113 of his 125 career homers have been hit to left or left-center, his excellent glove work would cover for the declining range of shortstop Miguel Tejada, and he could always be flipped to a contender if the Astros flop.-Jay Jaffe

Free-Agent Fix #3, Los Angeles Dodgers: The back-of-the-rotation derby finds the untested James McDonald, Ramon Troncoso, and Eric Stults, the all-too-tested Claudio Vargas, and the eternally-awaiting-test-results Jason Schmidt vying for the last two slots. Of that quartet, PECOTA sees only Troncoso as likely to better a 5.00 ERA, though his stamina may be a work in progress. A homecoming for Randy Wolf thus makes some sense. His 4.72 EqERA doesn't look like much, and he hasn't managed a season of more than 140 innings with an ERA better than the park-adjusted league average since 2003, but he has bookended his past two seasons with a pair of very good two-month stretches, including a 12-start, 3.57 ERA finish with Houston last year, offering hope that he may be healthier than at any time in the past half-decade.-Jay Jaffe

Let's Make a Deal #1, Milwaukee Brewers: Doug Melvin wasn't afraid to go for broke trading for CC Sabathia last season, but after striking out on keeping the hefty lefty, why not revisit that route, leverage the organization's collection of premium prospects, and make a play for Jake Peavy? While the Padres power pitcher's no-trade clause presents a stumbling block to be worked around in negotiations, there is no other ace worthy of the name left for the taking. Milwaukee's farm system is still relatively loaded and has ready or nearly-ready talents to shop around, so offering the prospect-hungry Pads a package fronted by shortstop Alcides Escobar, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and young flame-throwing right-hander Jeremy Jeffress might be sweet enough swag to get the divorce-devastated Pad people to make a move. If that doesn't work, bartering with packages that include slugger Mat Gamel (whose position is TBNL) could do the trick.-Christina Kahrl

Let's Make a Deal #2, New York Mets: Addressing the questions the Mets should have about their outfield corners might be best solved by taking things down a notch and aiming for second-tier solutions; Mets GM Omar Minaya has made deals without putting top prospect Fernando Martinez in the mix, so we'll assume that remains the case, which probably keeps Minaya from having enough stuff to make a play on someone like Jermaine Dye to provide power in the sixth slot of the lineup. Here's suggesting that he see about whether the Twins might deal from their outfield log-jam and cut costs by exchanging Michael Cuddyer (under contract for $15.25 million through 2010, with a $10.5 million club option for 2011) for third-base teen phenom Jefry Marte, first base/outfield add-on Nick Evans (to platoon with Denard Span), and the perhaps inevitable inclusion of a low-level arm as a party favor.-Christina Kahrl

Give Us the Kids #3, St. Louis Cardinals: While Tony La Russa is making no commitment yet as to who will fill his club's closer role, he does have a number of young arms who are unproven but have the much-desired label of "closer stuff." His best option is righty Chris Perez, who got a few save chances in the big leagues last year thanks to a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 mph, as well as a vicious slider. A sleeper worth keeping an eye on is Jason Motte, a converted catcher who has touched triple digits on the radar gun in the past and struck out 110 in 66 2/3 IP at Triple-A last year. He'll need to show an improved breaking ball this spring in order to get a shot, but it's hard to find that kind of velocity.-Kevin Goldstein

Let's Make a Deal #3, San Diego Padres: Moving Headley to a position he's better suited for and where his bat might help propel San Diego's lineup to something more than "good enough" should be a goal, and one way to make it happen is to put Kevin Kouzmanoff on the block (perhaps moving him to the Twins) once his shoulder proves sound, and in the meantime look for outfield options who could help them score a few runs. The absence of a quality leadoff man in their lineup might make a phone call to Oakland to see about taking the crowded-out Eric Patterson off of Billy Beane's hands a worthwhile exercise.-Christina Kahrl

Related Content:  The Who,  Kevin Goldstein,  Christina Kahrl

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