Let’s have a look at the National League contenders, what they need to improve and whom they should target.
The word “contender” is defined by teams that I think are contenders based on current position and whether they can make a legitimate run towards the playoffs. Being over .500 or overachieving based on pre-season predictions (my own included) are not factored in.
What they need: Bullpen help; a versatile defender/bat, preferably right-handed.
There are the popular bullpen names like Heath Bell. Bell’s going to get traded. Kerry Wood, Grant Balfour, Mike Gonzalez, Jon Rauch and Hong-Chih Kuo could be had; the Mets wouldn’t hesitate to trade Francisco Rodriguez anywhere and they’d give him away.
They’ll get bullpen help from somewhere.
For a bat, if Casey Blake is healthy he’s a veteran righty bat who can play multiple positions; he’s got a team option for $6 million with a $1.25 million buyout at the end of the year and might be rejuvenated by a shot at a ring.
What they need: A bat.
Chipper Jones is out for at least a month after knee surgery and center field has been a toxic wasteland.
The A’s are going to clear out the house so that makes Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus available. The aforementioned Blake could be acquired cheaply; they could go after Carlos Beltran who would undoubtedly love to go to the Braves.
The Padres’ Chase Headley plays third and has played the outfield before. Aramis Ramirez has said he’s not waiving his no-trade clause, but I’m not buying it. Why wouldn’t a veteran player want to go to the Braves?
The question with Beltran is whether he can play center field for a couple of months or if the Braves felt comfortable shifting Jason Heyward over from right for the remainder of the season.
What they need: A good fielding shortstop; a lefty for the bullpen; an extra outfielder who can play center field.
There was talk about J.J. Hardy being reacquired, but he wants to stay with the Orioles.
Jason Bartlett would be perfect.
Would they make a move on Beltran? GM Doug Melvin has been super-aggressive in the past and with Prince Fielder halfway out the door as a free agent and their brilliant starting pitching, the Brewers have to win now.
St. Louis Cardinals
What they need: Pitching.
They need a starter and could use bullpen help.
The Cardinals are in a bit of a box as to what they can do both practically and financially. They don’t have many prospects to deal for a Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins; nor do they have the money to fit Ted Lilly or Wandy Rodriguez into their long-term payroll.
If they felt confident that K-Rod wouldn’t reach his 2012 incentive based on appearances, they could get him for almost nothing.
They’d probably be better off leaving the rotation as is rather than do something stupid; I’d go after a Balfour, Fuentes or Bell.
What they need: A power bat.
If I’m the Pirates, I say screw it and go for it. Now.
The division is winnable, they’ve hung around with pitching and defense, but can’t hit.
Throw the bomb, Pirates. Why not?
What they need: Starting pitching a shortstop bat.
They need to watch the Marlins to see if they’re going to sell. Nolasco and Sanchez would help the Reds drastically. The Cubs’ Ryan Dempster has a $14 million player option that will undoubtedly scare off the majority of the league.
Rafael Furcal has a $12 million club option and a limited no-trade to certain teams. Ask about Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins might’ve had it with him and be willing to drop a bomb in the clubhouse for a lot of pieces.
San Francisco Giants
What they need: A bat. Any bat.
They’re linked with Beltran, but this concept of it being fait accompli that he’s going to San Francisco is stupid.
The Giants were supposedly after Jose Reyes, Reyes is on the disabled list and not getting traded.
How about Hanley Ramirez? They have the prospects to get him and he’s signed.
They could use a catcher, but there aren’t any available. One thing I was thinking the other day was if the Rockies fade, why not ask about Chris Iannetta?
What they need: A first base bat; bullpen help.
They could trade for Aramis Ramirez and shift Ryan Roberts to first base.
Bell, Wood, Fuentes, Balfour—the usual bullpen suspects should be considered.
Here’s an interesting thought: K-Rod. It’d be a role reversal from the grand plan of the Mets in 2009 with J.J. Putz as the set-up man and K-Rod as the closer and they wouldn’t have to worry about the contract kicker if K-Rod is setting up for Putz.
What they need: A starting pitcher.
Once they’re healthy, the Rockies will hit enough and the bullpen is okay.
Their starting rotation has been hurt badly in losing Jorge de la Rosa. It’s doubtful they have the money for Wandy Rodriguez or Lilly, but if the Marlins sell, Nolasco and Sanchez are targets. Jason Marquis isn’t any better than what the Rockies currently have, but he’s a functioning arm—for what that’s worth.