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February 4, 2009

Triple Fix

American League

by Baseball Prospectus

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

Free-Agent Fix #1, Chicago White Sox: Given the grim PECOTA forecasts of Bartolo Colon (77 1/3 innings and a park-neutral Equivalent ERA of 4.90), Clayton Richard (137 2/3 innings, 5.86 EqERA), and mid-season cavalryman Jose Contreras (5.13 EqERA), the Sox really need a League-Average Innings Muncher (LAIM) to help them field a credible rotation behind their big three. Enter Braden Looper, whose 374 innings and 4.52 ERA over the last two years are as LAIM as the remaining market offers. The most ground ball-oriented of the remaining starters (1.61 GB/FB last year), Looper's a good fit for the South Siders' homer haven of a home, and well capable of bettering his PECOTA forecast (4.98 EqERA).-Jay Jaffe

Let's Make a Deal #1, Cleveland Indians: Names and sheer numbers in the rotation don't necessarily equal answers for a team that needs to shore up its annually fragile bid at contention. The track records of Carl Pavano, Anthony Reyes, and Jeremy Sowers have all been tales of woe in different keys, with health, performance, or the absence of upside representing problems for each. Dealing for somebody who's had his moments in a rotation but might nevertheless be available at relatively low cost before the season might sound tough to pull off, but the Cubs' Chad Gaudin is essentially stuck in an insurance policy-oriented middle-relief role, and would be worth trading for to provide the Tribe with a more reliable front five capable of delivering winnable games if the lineup's humming again.-Christina Kahrl

Free-Agent Fix #2, LA Angels of Anaheim: Having reviewed the marginal gains to be had among the potential suitors of Manny Ramirez, it's quite apparent that the Angels occupy a sweet spot. They've got money, given that their $160 million offer to Mark Teixeira was spurned and wasn't really spent elsewhere. They've got need, given that their .413 slugging percentage was ninth in the league even with Teixeira's strong two months, and that neither Kendry Morales nor Juan Rivera profile as robust additions to the lineup. And they've got a vacancy at DH, which is likely to be Manny's best defensive position in the coming years.-Jay Jaffe

Free-Agent Fix #3, New York Yankees: One free agent who's received surprisingly little mention, particularly given this situation, is Jim Edmonds. Even with a miserable first month in San Diego, he hit a combined .235/.343/.479 with 20 homers in 401 plate appearances. Though no longer an everyday player, PECOTA thinks he's capable of building on his Cubby exploits in his age-39 season, projecting him for a .265/.363/.491 line in 370 plate appearances, albeit with subpar defense. The hitch is that Edmonds' huge platoon split (.169/.233/.293 against lefties over the past three years) is a poor fit with potential caddies Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and even Nick Swisher, who are all better against right-handers as well.-Jay Jaffe

Let's Make a Deal #2, Oakland Athletics: While the Crosby-sized problem at short is expensive enough as is, and given the fragility of Eric Chavez at third and even Mark Ellis' tendency to get banged up at second, to capitalize on getting Matt Holliday and make a run on this season underscores the need for a multi-positional utility infielder better than last year's options when some of these same breakdowns recur. In a Holliday-like single-season rental of another free agent-to-be, Billy Beane might see if the Nationals would move Ronnie Belliard after his nifty work in Washington in a utility role in 2008. While shortstop isn't a spot Belliard could handle, second or third are, and even if his hitting heads back down around his 2007 level of performance-we're projecting a park-neutral .270/.339/.428 clip-he'd be an improvement on who they had to plug in last season, and at $1.9 million, his 2009 contract's not too big for the budget-conscious A's.-Christina Kahrl

Let's Make a Deal #3, Seattle Mariners: Making room for an additional salary-or even the off chance that a return engagement with Ken Griffey Jr. might sells some tickets-will almost certainly involve moving one of the expensive veteran hurlers cluttering up the staff. Whatever arbitration-related raise that Erik Bedard gets won't matter nearly as much as his showing people that his shoulder's sound, and that will have to wait until well into March before he starts making reasonable skeptics into bubble-market believers. If Bedard does that for the Mariners, targeting teams with realistic playoff aspirations and farm systems loaded with live arms at the lower levels-notably the Rangers and Dodgers-would have Zduriencik in his element as an industry-recognized scouting legend.-Christina Kahrl

Give Us the Kids #1, Tampa Bay Rays: They found lightning in a bottle twice last year in filling their closer role, beginning the year with Troy Percival there, and then finishing it with power lefty David Price, the best pitching prospect in the game, getting key outs in the post-season. With Price likely moving to the rotation in 2009, the Rays might try to strike gold again with another electric arm in their warehouse of top-flight prospects, as righty Wade Davis has mid-90s heat and a nasty power curveball, leaving many scout to wonder if the current starting pitcher prospect could just flat-out dominate in shorter bullpen stints.-Kevin Goldstein

Give Us the Kids #2, Texas Rangers: Now that the brief soap opera involving Michael Young's slide over to third base is over, the Rangers are still deciding what to do at shortstop. On a grand scale, the move was designed to make room for prospect Elvis Andrus, but is he really ready for a big-league job? Obviously, it takes a prodigious talent to hit nearly .300 at Double-A as a teenager, but there are also significant holes in his game should the Rangers rush him up. He'll never be much of a power threat, and an overly aggressive approach prevents him from profiling as a hitter at the top of the order as well. His speed, range, and arm will produce plenty of Web Gem-worthy plays on defense, but he's also the kind of player who frequently boots the routine play, averaging 45 errors per 162 games over the last three years. He's just not ready yet, which means signing Omar Vizquel could be a one-year fix to provide defensive stability while giving Andrus the perfect role model since Vizquel's a personal hero.-Kevin Goldstein

Give Us the Kids #3, Toronto Blue Jays: Free-agent defections and injuries have left the rotation in shambles, meaning someone in the minor leagues is going to have to step up. The Jays don't have a big-time pitching prospect for an easy solution, but they have a group of three solid left-handers, one of whom could end up surprising people this spring. The first shot might be given to Ricky Romero, the sixth overall selection in the 2005 draft (one pick in front of Troy Tulowitzki), who has above-average stuff for a lefty, but he's seen his progress through the minors slowed by injuries and control problems. Behind him, 2007 first-round pick Brett Cecil has more upside but is less ready, but the sleeper might be Brad Mills, who had a 1.95 ERA across three levels last year. He's a pure finesse type who projects as no more than a fifth starter, but many scouts think he's already there.-Kevin Goldstein

Related Content:  The Who,  Kevin Goldstein,  Christina Kahrl

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