By The Common Man
(Note: this post continues yesterday’s series, looking at what would happen if the MLB expanded this offseason to 32 teams. Our introductory post is here, so that you can get a better sense of the overall project, and our Round 1 picks are here. Bill’s post on the Portland roster is here.)
First of all, The Common Man agrees with Keith Law’s assessment that Bill did a better job in stocking his team with young players with upside. Keith seems to think that TCM’s options for trading players like Upton, Correia, Nunez, Lilly, and Karstens are limited. And he may be right. But in a world where Matt Capps can net Wilson Ramos and Tim Collins can be acquired for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth, TCM will live in hope.
In all, he’s pretty pleased with his roster (which you can see in full here). Here’s what the starting lineup (as it’s currently constructed) probably would look like, though that would be subject to change based on who TCM can reasonably deal:
2011 Hipsters Starting Lineup:
C Tyler Flowers
2B Johnny Giavotella
3B Ian Stewart
SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka
LF Ben Revere
CF BJ Upton
RF Wil Venable
DH Mat Gamel
C Jesus Flores
IF DJ LeMahieu
IF Chris Johnson
OF Ben Francisco
The Common Man is very confident, for instance, in his second baseman (Johnny Giavotella) and that one of his 3B (Chris Johnson or Ian Stewart) will hold down the hot corner, especially given how weak the 3B crop is this coming offseason. TCM also is very comfortable at catcher, where Tyler Flowers or Jesus Flores should be able to keep the position warm for Austin Romine. The outfield is set with an alignment of either Revere/Upton/Venable (with Morse as the 4th OF/DH) or with Morse/Revere/Venable. And starting pitching, with the combination of Phil Hughes, Ted Lilly, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, and Neil Ramirez looks solid until TCM starts trading players.
The team’s strength in 2012 is definitely its outfield defense, which may be the best in baseball. Even swapping out Upton for Morse downgrades it only to excellent. The bench has good depth and the starting pitching looks very stable. The club is most obviously weak at 1B, and lacks anyone capable of putting up a good OBP high in the lineup. It also lacks the kind of 30 homerun power that would sustain an offense that will have trouble stringing a rally together.
TCM also hopes to use the team’s home to its utmost advantage. The Common Man chose to locate his expansion team in Brooklyn for several reasons. First and foremost is that Brooklyn is historically a vibrant baseball community. As such, it is both personally appealing to TCM as an amateur baseball historian and as a potential team owner. After all, having a vibrant baseball history on which to draw can be strong marketing resource.
However, it’s also important to note that this move (from a league-perspective) is designed to cut into the Yankees’ financial advantage somewhat, so as to alleviate some of the concerns of the Orioles, Blue Jays, and other AL clubs that the Yankees’ competitive edge has grown too much in recent years. As a club in the New York-area, TCM doesn’t mind taking on higher-salaried players, especially if there’s a chance that they could get moved for prospects later on. The Hipsters, as TCM has decided to call them, could easily support a payroll in the $70-$80 million range in its opening season. Perhaps even more. For one thing, as a division rival, the club will have multiple opportunities to sell-out with the Yankees coming to town. Likewise, a new stadium will certainly help to drive attendance in the short term as we build a winning ball club.
Speaking of which, our hope is to be competitive in year two through run prevention and free agent acquisition. Given our payroll flexibility, and that we’ve added somewhere between $55-60 million in salary through the expansion draft (before anyone gets traded) we’ll definitely go strong after some big names.
Prince Fielder will be high on our list, as we hope to bring him in for 6 years and $120 million. This will cover Prince’s prime seasons, but will conch out before he hits 35 years old. We anticipate that we’ll be bidding against the Angels, Cubs, Nationals, and maybe the Brewers (though that seems unlikely). We’ll be willing to go as high as $24 million, but will not budge on the years we offer Prince. Albert Pujols, while a better player than Prince, will likely prove too expensive for our blood.
If he does not sign an extension and if he stays healthy, we will also pursue SS JJ Hardy, a good hitter and fielder with the chance to maintain his success. We’ll offer him a two year deal for $14-16 million. Given his injury history, it will be important not to go too long on Hardy, especially as Tim Beckham looks like more and more like a long-term solution. If we fail to sign him, we can hope that Tsuyoshi Nishioka is capable of holding down the position for a season and focus on bringing in a longterm solution via trade or the draft. Given his injury history, somewhat spotty track record, and his probable salary demands, Jose Reyes is probably not a player we will be seriously pursuing unless it looks like we will lose out on Fielder.
If the Cardinals do not pick up his option (but they will) we will also kick the tires on Adam Wainwright, hoping to get him locked into a four year, $65 million contract because of his injury status. There doesn’t appear to be any other major free agent pitchers on the market worth paying the going rate for. As insurance, we may as well bring in Chris Young and/or Chien Ming Wang in the hopes that they’ll be healthy.
Assuming that we find an acceptable deal for BJ Upton, we could probably use some extra help in the outfield, where Grady Sizemore might prove a good LF partner for Mike Morse, if we can convince him to take a one year, make-good deal with a team option. Barring that, we have some needs in the bullpen that can we’ll need to address. There’s no need to sign typical bullpen arms to long deals, however, so we’ll focus on picking up cheap relievers on one-year deals, like Hideki Okajima, Joel Zumaya, or one of the other pitchers who gets non-tendered this fall. We’ll develop our own elite bullpen arms, rather than overpay for them on the open market.
After 2012, we’ll likely back the money truck up for a starting pitcher, someone like Shaun Marcum, Jared Weaver, or Zack Greinke. We’ll also look into Scott Baker (assuming the Twins don’t pick up his option) for at least $10 mil per over 4 seasons, because he’s better than the Twins seem to think he is.
If you want to look at Bill’s roster, his assessment of it, and his plans for the Portland Webfoots’ first offseason, click here.