Yes, we had an almost unimaginably good year.
Our First EVER NL Pennant.
Great pitching, both starting and relief, and lousy bats.
Like I’ve always said, sometimes you good. Sometimes you lucky. And we were good and lucky. Winning a pennant after being shut out 17 times in the regular season. Whoa.
But the truth is that even when a WS winning team keeps the entire team intact, there are NO guarantees that the team will repeat the next year – see 2002 Angels.
This year, we have 5 free agents:
Roger Clemens, SP ($18,000,000) (will be 44 next August)
Brad Ausmus, C ($3,000.000) (will be 37 in April)
Russ Springer, RP ($550,000) (will turn 37 next week)
Orlando Palmeiro, OF ($800,000) (will be 37 in January)
Jose Vizcaino, IF ($1,250,000) (will be 38 next March)
(click here for complete list of ML FA)
We also have 7 guys who are arb eligible:
Mike Lamb (2) IF ($1,300,000) – will be 31 in August
Brad Lidge (1) RP ($500,000) – will be 29 in December
Brandon Backe (-1) SP ($350,000) – will be 28 in April
Dan Wheeler (1) RP ($365,000) – will be 28 in December
Raul Chavez (1) C ($360,000) – will be 33 in March
Morgan Ensberg (1) 3B ($450,000) – will be 31 in September
Adam Everett (1) SS ($445,000) – will be 29 in February
(Mike Gallo, 28 in April, ML minimum, Jason Lane, $345,000 and Eric Bruntlett, 28 in March, $335,000 are eligible next year)
Willy Taveras, Wandy Rodriguez and Ezequiel Astacio will basically make the ML minimum each, $310,000 – maybe 10 or 20,000 more – chicken feed.
Now, keep this in mind – this team has already committed $65 million to five players – Jeff Bagwell (18 M)Craig Biggio (4 M) Lance Berkman (15 M) Roy Oswalt (11M) and Andy Pettitte (17 M).
The team has said that they don’t want to raise payroll “much” (meaning over 85 mill) and this year’s payroll is 76 mill. So no Roger at 18 mill again…
First, the FA:
I know one thing fer SHER – if Brad Ausmus isn’t back, Roger won’t be back. Not that I expect Roger to be back anyhow. (Although it IS baseball and youneverknow, he might could take some very backloaded deal…)
We had an EXCELLENT bullpen this year – Wheeler, Lidge, Qualls, Gallo (Harville – he DID get us out of more than a few BAD jams without giving up any runs and I’m sorry he gone for nothing in return – the Red Sox grabbed him after we stupidly put him on waivers) and Springer. Springer, although not exactly ace-like, was a teacher and mentor to the young guys and as far as I’m concerned, was worth every penny. You DO need a mop up guy and if he’s very useful in a second role, good. He un-retired to join the Astros and I have no idea whether or not he wants to re-retire.
IF you wanna get rid of Palmeiro, an EXCELLENT lefty bat off the bench, who’s gonna replace him? Luke Scott, I luuuvvvv the boy, but he gotta prove he can hit ML breaking stuff first. Don’t see nobody out there on that FA list who is a good lefty bat off the bench who is younger and at LEAST as good. And Palmeiro does play at least a league average RF or LF (center? shudder – I’d rather use Bruntlett.)
IF you wanna get rid of Viz, our ONLY lefty option in the IF, who gonna replace him?
As for Brad Ausmus, who are the replacement options?
Bengie Molina? 3 mill this year, .705 lifetime OPS, but he hits BEST with RISP with 2 out!!!!! – won’t walk
Ramon Hernandez? $4,312,500 this year age 30 in May – .742 OPS, won’t walk – hits a teeny bit better with runners on, but lower with RISP or RISP and 2 outs than he does with bases empty. UGH
Or we might as well use Humberto Quintero – he can’t hit, but he’s cheap. Spend the money on???
Arb eligible guys: (click here for the ML complete list)
First, Ida wanna throw Lidge under the bus just yet. I have a feeling he’s hurt – remember he was out for 2 weeks in July before the ASB. So I WOULD re-sign him. I think it’s a reasonable gamble that he doesn’t end up ruined like Mitch Williams, who was a ticking time bomb anyhow, or Donnie Moore or BK Kim, who can’t even LOOK at a Yankee without freaking out. If he looks bad next year and he is NOT hurt, well, then it was just a year contract and he can be non-tendered.
Second, Ida wanna hear ONE freaking word bout how Mo Ensberg is a choker and needs to go or some such &*%^$^##@! Yep, he sure nuff DID have a TERRIBLE playoff after the first game in Atlanta. Picked a bad time to have a slump. But if you look at the playoff stats of, say Bagwell (97, 98, 99) or Biggio (before this year – scroll down to playoff stats) they’re even worse and I didn’t hear nobody demanding that the team give them the heave ho.
I am very suspiscious that Morgan was more hurt than he let on from that HBP on September 5 and that it is something he needs to fix or let heal in the offseason. But to say that he is now worthless is crazy – he was our best hitter, next to Lance, and one of the few with any plate discipline.
OK now, the rest:
Mike Lamb – a decent lefty who can play first decently and third in a pinch. I can go along with the current rotating trio of Burke or Berkman on left and Berkman or Lamb at first. Now I don’t know what’s gonna happen if Bagwell insists on coming back and playing first full time because I just don’t know if Drayton McLane will make Phil play him, no matter whether or not he can throw or hit at a ML level. If Bagwell gonna play first all year, well, I’d wonder about keeping Lamb as a purely bench guy since we already got Palmeiro… If Palmeiro doesn’t come back, then DEFINITELY keep Lamb. Like I said abaout Palmeiro earlier, if you think he should be replaced, I’ll ask for who and how much will he cost.
Brandon Backe – and HOW many pitchers pitch BETTER in the post season than the regular season? He’s very popular (especially with us chicks – hehhehheh – there are more Backe jerseys than Berkman jerseys)and I think it would make a LOT of sense to buy out his arb years. He may not be the second coming of Roy, I mean, who is, but he STILL a good, reliable 3rd to 4th guy and they don’t grow on trees. ESPECIALLY local guys who want to play with the team and the fans LUUUVVV and aren’t real too expensive.
Dan Wheeler – maybe even better than Brad Lidge – 2-3 with 2 BS and 3 saves – 2.21 ERA over 73.1 IP with 79 K, 19 BB and 7 HR. What I’m saying is that we need to re-sign this guy. (And Ida wanna hear bout how he sucked in Game 2 so he no good – BAH!)
Adam Everett – AKA gimme good gloving. I’ll be the first to admit that he doesn’t walk – 26 in almost 600 PA and 103 K. He only GIDP 5 times though, and he’s great base stealer and bunter. He’s not a heavy hitter fer SHER – .364 SLG. But, you gonna replace him with, who? Bruntlett – also has a great glove, but he can play every position except catcher and pitcher and play it VERY well. I’d hate to lose such a versatile guy – and it’s not that he’s A-Rod with the bat, neither. We have no good hitting shortstops in the minors that I can find. (I actually think that Bruntlett is a MUCH better CF than Willy Taveras, but I’m not running the organization, am I?) And I have no idea whether or not Burke can play short very well. I wouldn’t be surprised – he picked up a LF glove this spring for the first time and the next thing you know, was league average defense out there… I hate to see him rotting on the bench, but that’s where he probably gonna be.
There ARE a few FA SS out there – Rafael Furcal, a switch hitter, is the big star this year. I hear tell the Cubs want him and that he might could get JD Drew money – 11 mill/year for 5 years. I have this feeling that we not gonna go after him at that price, but youneverknow. He’s a leadoff guy, don’t know if he’d agree to hit second – the Cubs fer SHER would want him leadoff. Unless Willy gets over his little problem about hitting with MOB, he’s gotta stay at leadoff. Furcal is a good basestealer and you KNOW if he got on second, no one would IBB Willy to get to Barrykman…) Aand of course, I don’t know where we’d put Biggio in the lineup. Becuase unless he breaks a bone, he gonna be out there mostly every day.
Of course, there’s Nomar, now with the Cubs at the end of a 1 year contract. Got hisself a bad rep of being a bad clubhouse guy when he was still with the Sox – with Lucchino, who knows what was true, but he DO deserve his rep of getting hurt all the time over the last few years (guess he shouldn’t have been “insulted” by the Sawks offering him 60 mill over 4 years – doubt he gonna even sniff that kind of $$$ again – not that he’s starving, mind you…) Still, he’s a good hitter, certainly bettern Adam, even though his glove is kinda lead-like and we gonna have trouble with defense up the middle with 40 year old Biggio (and his noodle arm) and Willy with his difficulty coming forward to get balls and his allergy to hitting the cutoff man. I would guess that if we signed Nomar, we would non tender Adam because we already have Bruntlett, an EXCELLENT glove for late inning DR. Problem is, we need a lefty bat and Nomar is yet another righty.
Raul Chavez – well, it’s either him or Quintero, and to me it’s 6 of one, half a dozen of the other – neither can hit and they can both throw. So whoever’s cheaper. Chavez was on the postseason roster as insurance only, because they wanted someone who had actually caught someone besides Roy and Astacio if Brad Ausmus got hurt or if we had another 18 inning game like we did with Atlanta….
So there you have it.
Yall KNOW we need another good bat – any suggestions?
And remember, we are set with Bagwell, Biggio, Ensberg, Lane, Taveras and Barrykman.
So we are talking SS and catcher. Unless Purpura swings some kind of interesting trade. I will be VERY unhappy if they trade Burke. They better get like Pujols for him is all I can say.
But absolutely, guaranteed, Biggio, Barrykman and Bagwell are most DEFINITELY set in stone. If you gonna ask me whether or not the team should, um force Baggy to sit out next year on the DL to collect insurance money (like 17 mill) to pay for a FA all I can say is that from what I can tell, McLane will order Phil to play him even if he can’t hit MY weight or throw 30 feet. So at this time, let’s just assume Baggy gonna be at first full time.