Friday, April 04, 2008

Unpopular Moves That Teams Should Make - Part II

Chicago Cubs
Stop messing around with Matt Murton
Right now, Murton is possibly the Cubs' best trade asset. Their top prospects, such as Veal and Patterson, are suspect, their pitching really isn't deep enough to trade from, and their glut of interchangeable middle infielders would be appealing only to the Pirates, who like to stockpile that sort of thing. Murton's a serviceable outfielder who'd hit sixth for a lot of clubs, and fourth for the Giants. Instead of letting him rot on the bench, let him play and build up some value. Then Jim Hendry can banish him into the outer darkness for whatever reason he sees fit, and actually get some return back in the process. It's foolish - right now the Cubs are devaluing an asset, hurting their ability to improve, and costing Murton the best years of his career for no reason that anyone can fathom.

Cincinnati Reds
Deal Homer Bailey
Will Carroll called it last year. Uber-phenom Bailey might not be all that, even if most prospect mavens are still high on him. At a time when young, cheap pitching is the most valuable commodity on the trade market, Bailey would fetch a princely sum in return. Meanwhile, the Reds could still trot out a front three of Harang, Arroyo and Cueto, which ain't half bad. Right now, Bailey's a huge chip, one that seems likely to diminish in value in time, and perhaps suddenly. Hanging onto him too long might be a crucial mistake for a franchise that has plenty of needs.

Houston Astros
Blow it up and start over
There's nothing in the farm system. The rotation is Roy Oswalt and the cast of America's Got Talent. Two of the three best position players are old, slow, and tending towards what the scientists call a "gherkin-like" body shape. They may be able to squeeze one more run at contention out of this bunch, but that's about it, and in a division where the Cubs, Brewers and Reds are improving markedly, the Pirates have sharp new management, and the Cardinals have already started their rebuilding, one last Montana-as-a-Chief-style charge for glory may cause years of damage on the back end.
So blow it up. Trade Berkman for prospects. Trade Lee for prospects. Flip Tejada if you can. Refill a farm system completely devoid of arms in order to take advantage of Pence and Towles' prime years. And for God's sake, stop flipping every half-usable arm you've got in order to do a Giants-like "one more year" lunge.
You see how it's turning out for them, yes?

Milwaukee Brewers
Stop building a team around Ben Sheets
He's not going to be healthy. He's just not. Every year, the Brewers pin their hopes on what a healthy Ben Sheets can do, which is exactly like Nepal dreaming of what a yeti could do for their Olympic weightlifting team.
Instead, construct the roster - and the rotation - to maximize Sheets' occasional contributions. Leverage the depth in the rotation to coddle Sheets to make sure he makes as many starts as possible, and don't get caught flat-footed every year when he strains his medial collateral frammistat in the sixth start of the season.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Get value for vets
The one thing that Dave Little field did well as GM was stockpiling flippable veterans that could, in theory, be traded for useful prospects at the trade deadline. Of course, then he forgot to trade them.
Right now, the Pirates are loaded with slightly-above-average players - Wilson, LaRoche, Sanchez and more. Most of them had off years last year, diminishing their trade value. Most of them really don't have that much of a prime left, and are signed to affordable contracts. That makes them trade bait as soon as they go on a hot streak. If the team's willing to live with a few months of the Nyjer Morgans and Brian Bixlers of the world, they could move a lot of useful pieces. Think the Yankees couldn't use Adam LaRoche? Think they'll revisit that right around the time Jason Giambi's annual mystery illness pops up? I do.

St. Louis Cardinals
End the Tony LaRussa era
He drives off big players. He questions players when they are obviously injured. He got nailed for a DUI while managing a team that now has a drunk driving death on his resume. He oversaw the steroid-laden Bash Brothers era in Oakland, and his denials of any knowledge of wrongdoing sound a little weaker each time around.
So now's the time for Tony to step down gracefully. Let someone else do the messy rebuilding this franchise needs to do, let someone else suffer through the seasons until the Colby Rasmuses of the world are ready to win some games in St. Louis again. Take the heat off the franchise, save the remainder of the legacy, and let Cardinals fans move on.
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