The bidding forbig-ticket free agents such as first baseman Mark Teixeira and the trade marketfor righthander Jake Peavy will dominate the early hot stove headlines, butteams willing to explore radical moves--such as the Rays' swap of Delmon Youngto the Twins for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza a year ago--could earn a bigpayoff in 2009. What kind of creative deals might we see this off-season?Baseball Prospectus offers these five proposals:
Minnesota tradesFrancisco Liriano to Texas for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, HankBlalock and Omar Poveda. The Twins weathered the loss of Johan Santana byreplenishing the rotation from their deep farm system, and more live arms(Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson, Jose Mijares, Yohan Pino) are on the way.Now, they can deal the lefthanded Liriano, 25 (above), while his value is highto improve their anemic offense, especially on the left side of the infield.Andrus, 20, is a long-term solution at shortstop; Saltalamacchia, 23, a catcherwho can DH; and Blalock, 27, an inexpensive short-term play at third. TheRangers, in turn, add the young ace (under team control through '11) thatthey've lacked since, well, forever, as they wait for Derek Holland and NeftaliFeliz to develop.
Cincinnati signsDerek Lowe. The Reds aren't often thought of as players in free agency, butthey could be an NL Central sleeper in '09; Lowe, 35 (right), would make them abona fide contender. He's a durable righthander who may be the safest bet in adeep free-agent pitching pool. His ability to induce ground balls is a hugeasset in tiny Great American Ballpark, and his signing would allow Cincinnatito keep Homer Bailey, 22, in long relief as he adjusts to the majors, or todeal Bronson Arroyo for a quality infield glove.
The Angelsrelease Gary Matthews Jr., and the Dodgers release Juan Pierre. Both SouthernCalifornia clubs need to come to their senses. Two winters ago they eachentered into an outlandish five-year deal with a free agent who is now an extraoutfielder at best. Rather than waste a roster spot--or, heaven forbid, alineup spot--on a player who isn't worth one and who won't be happy if he's notstarting, the teams need to cut their mistakes and move on. Don't let the firstbad decision lead to more bad decisions.
The Orioles moveBrian Roberts from second to shortstop. Roberts, playing his walk year in 2009,was Baseball America's National Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop incollege. The O's didn't have a reliable shortstop in 2008, and given their farmsystem and the players on the market, they aren't likely to have one in '09.Roberts (right) would be better than the available options and allowBaltimore--which is closing in on respectability--to sign one of many stopgapsecond basemen (such as Ray Durham and Mark Grudzielanek). If successful, themove would give Roberts even more trade value, something the team needs tomaximize.
The Mets followthe Rays' lead in building a bullpen. Fans and insiders alike expect New Yorkto go hard after Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes in free agency. As TampaBay has shown, though, putting together a good bullpen doesn't require makingexpensive long-term commitments. You have to trust your scouts and stat guys toidentify the players to acquire--before they become worth $12 million a year.Among the candidates to step forward in 2009 are righthanders Chris Britton(Yankees), Jason Bulger (Angels), Francisco Cruceta (Tigers) and FernandoCabrera (free agent). You've never heard of them--which is exactly the point.They can pitch, and they can fix the Mets' pen if the team looks pastexperience to skills and track record.
JOELLE WIGGINS (LIRIANO); CHUCK SOLOMON (LOWE); PORTER BINKS (ROBERTS)