Let's start simple. We got these players under contract. If we don't trade anybody, you can see our 5-6-7-8 hitters would still look fairly weak. Even at up to a $150 million payroll. It can't really be helped when over $31M goes to non-active players and a few pitchers have basically hit market value.
- "Cheapest" would still be lucky to squeak 4 runs/game avg with Sanchez and Posey. That's because we don't have a great lead-off hitter to get on base and be driven in. And the rest of our lineup isn't deep enough to sustain big rallies IMO.
- FA upgrade #1 might scratch 4 runs/game avg but we'd likely still have lots of close games. The matrix of things is quite complicated. Do we have a good hitter up in situation at-bats? Odds don't favor it. You can figure Wilson would be supremely valuable still. If we have droughts where we are held scoreless for 5+ innings, any lead we get calls for a great closer.
- When you look at FA upgrade #2... All I can wonder is "why are we spending $150 million this way?" I'll show you a lot of ways it could be better spent.
Now we’re talkin’. All that gibberish about using Zito’s salary productively is at work here. You can read about my 3-team trade here. You can read my review of possibly moving Zito to the White Sox in the same post link. Another option is sending him to the Red Sox. I can’t say how ‘feasible’ any of these scenarios are. But the more options we ‘shop’, the more likely we would be to find a taker. And actually, it just might work out for all parties. Who knows?
- 3-Team Trade: we get a poorly performing utility man that was a shortstop in Figgins. Maybe he can get back towards being a .300 avg hitter or speedy base stealer. Maybe not. We are getting enough offense here that our bench players could start to be more specialized- like Torres as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. Belt & Pill for big situational double-switches.
- Zito to Chi Sox gets interesting. Ain't no way I figure a career bomber like Dunn is off-loaded after one horrible year due to his large contract. Not for Zito anyways. But say we'll take Peavey off their hands too, and his big contract? Well, a pitcher who ain't pitching well after a serious lat-muscle separation... Just maybe we get a deuce for an ace? Or uhhh, not-really-an-ace. ha ha. I'd hope we get $12M cash (8, 2, 2) to pay down the $19M difference, heck, they're also clearing TWO roster spots. And we know from this year how valuable those are (just ask Clayton Tanner, for instance).
- Zito for Figgins I ain't crazy about. But seriously? Seattle might be the only team in baseball that would welcome a chance to try-out Zito for two years. I've written about how Figgins isn't even on their depth charts for any of the multiple positions he plays. They're over $100M in payroll, never get 20,000 attendance for games, and can't move him anywhere else. We'd need to pay down the $29M difference, but I figure we might get away with paying only 8.5 + 8.5 + 5 = $22M over three years. $22 million and a breathing player sounds better than $46M to me.
Here’s where we really can shine in creative problem solving. Bust a $140M payroll budget and we could really get things done now. A great thing is we could be less reliant on having a top-tier closer. It would be much easier to trade Brian Wilson. If we are in a close game, odds are we can still add a run or more. Just as good as any team we are facing I’d say. Probably better. Maybe much better.
I’m not getting stuffy or arrogant, these lineups would produce offense. Maybe top-6 in MLB offense. Maybe better than most AL teams. I'd figure 4.5+ runs/game. $140-150 million really gets it done. And after 2012, Huff and Rowand come off book, so we could stay around $135-140 million through 2015.
- IDEAL 3-Team Trade is likely one of my top choices. We get a balance of lead-off, avg, power, and speed. I see a line-up that could sustain some major rallies. I see a bench that would work for defense, speed, and power. Posey’s off-days wouldn’t worry me in the least. Even if it is a full off day, not playing first. Joel Pinero would make a great 5th starter on the cheap IMO. Give one of our prospects a bit more time to be ready. This is the kind of team we should build.
- Zito to Chi Sox #2: I’m not sure we can get Aybar, so I give an option here with possible free agent Rollins. We’d be very left-handed bat heavy in this lineup, that’s a small issue to me. But since most teams carry less than 30% lefty arms, it should work out alright. Pill would platoon well, and we got three switch hitters in the starting lineup (Rollins, Sandoval, Crisp). Plus, Belt and Fontenot have shown they can hit lefties well.
- Zito for Lackey #2 makes a lot of sense in some ways. But a soft-tossing fly-ball pitcher (like Zito can be) going to Fenway probably ain’t ever gonna happen. Even if the Sox would love to be rid of Lackey. The nice advantage of this deal is we aren’t restricted to a specific hitter. We can acquire who fits best and is available. This is how Beltran could potentially stay here. If we have a chance to acquire FOUR bats, I don’t mind at all if Torres is the fourth of those. Not great for a third bat, but here? He’ll come cheap, and he just might be great without a lot of pressure. His speed and defense make him valuable enough. If he can hit even .230 and get a few walks, he’d be fine on this team.
- Zito for Lackey #3: here’s about the most massive lineup we can create for $150M. Unless we can get Matt Kemp. This lineup is better than our lineup would be with Pujols. And it can fit our long-term plans for Brown and Panik to be slotted right in. We are on the hook with Lackey for three years, so it might become another Zito issue though.